Indian Removal Act
What is the Indian Removal Act?
The Indian Removal Act was a law that was put into place by President Andrew Jackson in the year 1830. The act stated that the government had the right to negotiate treaties created by the Native Americans regarding going west. Jacksons goal was to relocate the Native Americans to the Northwest Territory which will then be renamed the Indian Territory. Why? because when Jackson was going into the election he promised the Americans that he would get rid of the uncivilized Native Americans, so the farmers in the south could expand their cotton fields.
What did the Native Americans do to avoid being relocated?
Many tribes who lived on the east of the Mississippi River were moved to the west,but one tribe known as the Cherokee who lived in what is now Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and some parts of Georgia, didn't want to move and wasn't going to go down without trying to save their land. The Cherokee decided to alter their culture and become a little bit more like the American people, by dressing like them and even creating their own form of a constitution. This act of the Indians creating their own form of government inside the nations borders really push the Americans into making their decision final. In addition to that, gold was found in the Cherokee land and the Americans deeply wanted it, but couldn't get it until the Cherokee left.
The Cherokee being very protective of their land they decided to take this matter to the Supreme Court. The first trial with the Cherokee in the Supreme Court was known as Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia which happened in 1831 a year after the law was initially created. The court didn't want to hear the claim of the Cherokee and ruled against them. The following year the Cherokee again wanted to try and keep their land by fighting for it in court. This time the court ruled in favor of the Cherokee people, John Marshall reviewed the situation and agreed that it was unconstitutional and against prior treaties made.
What did Andrew Jackson do?
Andrew Jackson was very unhappy with the decision made by John Marshall, because now getting rid of the Cherokee was going to be more difficult. The only way Jackson would be able to remove the Natives would be by getting them to sign a treaty, and thats exactly what he did. In the year 1835 a small group of the Cherokee known as the Treaty Party broke off the original group and behind the Cherokee's back signed a treaty called Treaty of New Echota, the Chief of the Treaty Party got 16,000 signatures from their people who were opposed of the move. The treaty was then ratified by the U.S. senate and it was official the Cherokee could be removed.
Trail of Tears
In the winter of 1838 the Cherokee Indians set off with General Winfield Scott and many other troops on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee packed up their belongings and were removed from their land, they where then put on wagons and steamboats and started their journey to the new land. The trip on the Trail of Tears was very terrible for the Cherokee and about 4000 died during the trip to the Indian Territory from the cold, disease, exhaustion, and starvation. The Trail of Tears gets it name from the many tears that were shed from the Cherokee from the lost of their land and loved ones on the way to the Indian Territory.
What happened to the Treaty Party?
As you can see in the picture above, the Cherokee were relocated to what is know Oklahoma. The following leaders of the Treaty Party were killed immediately because of their foolish acts against the Cherokee, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boundinot. The careless act of the three of these Cherokees cause the Cherokee people to be divided for many years.
I found it quite amazing how the Cherokee didn't give up in trying to save their land. I think that changing their culture and creating a Constitution so that they could be like that Americans was very interesting to learn about. It is very unfortunate that in the end the Cherokee Indians were not able to keep their land and that so many died in the process in relocation. It is also fascinating to me that three members of the Cherokee had to turn on the other tribe of Cherokees like they did. Overall it was fun learning new facts that I didn't know about the Indian Removal Act.
- American History, McDouglas Little