Indian Removal Act
The greatest onslaught of discrimination towards a group of non-resisting people occurred in 1830, when President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act; Jackson passed this act in order to further expand the country into lands east of the Mississippi River.
For a group of people willing to assimilate, there still was a severe expulsion from their native lands when there really didn’t have to be. “In 1830 the United States Congress passed . . . a statute authorizing use of military force to compel the relocation of all indigenous peoples east of the Mississippi River to points west (Ward, 144. ). ” Jackson was ruthless when it came to the enlargement of his country, and would stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
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Although Jackson was set on his plan of action, the previous years’ presidents had not had the same fundamental opinions upon the subject as he. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Cree, and Seminole Indians were all indigenous to southeastern territory in the States; these five tribes were recognized to be the “Five Civilized Tribes” due to their acceptance of acculturation that George Washington had proposed to them (Perdue, 51).
Following George Washington’s acceptance of the Indians, Jefferson agreed that it was only correct to allow the tribes to remain on their homelands; he also had a policy that they would be tolerated, and supported from the American government and be allowed to remain east of the Mississippi as long as they agreed to assimilate to Americanized culture. Jackson didn’t agree with that at all. Prior to Jackson, the main objective of the presidency was to guide the United States toward a mass agriculturally based lifestyle, and develop a nation that could be self sufficient and provide for itself (Jefferson).
The Jackson-Era developed a new path for the nation, with one of its biggest stains being the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Jackson’s folly as a President was his discrimination against the Indians and bias toward the land in which he was raised, the south. He greatly let these key concepts of his own personal life help guide his judgment and persistence while running the country. The southerners immensely wanted the Indian’s lands to themselves; they sought the rich fertile ground in which they could farm and develop their agricultural businesses.
However, the Indians would not budge from their native lands. In order to appease the south, Jackson pushed congress to pass the Indian Removal Act rigorously. “In engineering removal, Jackson not only disregarded a key section of the Indian Removal Act, but also misused the powers granted to him under the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1802. Furthermore, he failed to honor promises made in his name in order to win congressional support of the removal, and he broke a number of federal treaty commitments to Indians, including some that he had personally negotiated (Cave). Jackson chose to ignore all of the promises made by his forefathers and predecessors to the Indians. Washington, Jefferson, and the other great impactors in history had reassured the Indians that as long as they were peaceful and willing to assimilate, they would not meet harsh repercussions or maltreatment. Also, he chose to dismiss the fact that there were treaties passed acknowledging the Indian’s right to their land within the states, allowing them to remain due to the fact that they settled it previously and had established their own life upon said land.
Although the act did not authorize a forced relocation and explicit treatment along the way, both occurred and with little attention paid by the government and United States citizens. Instead of trying to help the Indians and remain on certain understandable terms with them, he simply exiled them and forgot them. Jackson and the government did not put any effort forth to help the Indians settle their new land. They were sent away with nothing, to try and make the best out of a land that was nothing. The Indians were all but forgotten once they were forced to abandon their lands.
The Indian Removal Act stated: “Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal (“Indian Removal Act Of 1830”). ” Jackson failed to meet this aspect of the Act.
He simply denied the occurrence and moved on to different obligations. Section 5 of the Indian Removal Act clearly states that the President must provide aid and assistance as necessary to the removed party. Jackson did neither; instead, he further decreased their numbers with the way that the Indians were transferred from their homelands. The expulsion of the Indians showed how little effort and thought had actually gone into the plan after achieving his goal of approval to remove them. Volunteers gathered tribes, mass amounts of thousands at a time, and began to walk them to their new lands west of the Mississippi.
Although the treaty states that Jackson should have provided aid and assistance, he did not. He ostracized the Indians and then left them to suffer on their own with no help from the very government that sent them away with promises to help for the first year. The journey which prevailed for the Indians was one of heartache, loss, and disease. The Choctaw Indians were the first to be removed; they began their walk in 1831, followed by the Creek in 1834. The Chickasaw occurred in 1837, and finally, the Cherokee in 1838. The removal of these groups of people surmounted to 46,000 Indians from southeastern states.
Thus, opening around 25 million acres of land for excessive white settlement and inhabitance. (“Indian Removal”). The journey in which very few prevailed unscathed was torturous. Some treks involved over three thousand people, to which only two thousand survived the initial travel. With that extreme amount of people, there was no way the Indians could live with a great deal of hygiene at all. From the moment they arrived, another one thousand were believed to have passed due to disease, weather, or malnutrition. This did not have to come about, to a group of people who were already willing to assimilate. Those who survived called this ordeal “Nunahi-duna-dlo-hilu-i”” or the trail where they cried. Today we know it as the trail of tears. ” (Stewart, 13) The trail of tears was the undeniable, indirect murder of thousands of Indians sent away from their homelands. They were given no choice whether to stay or go; Death was inevitable. If they stayed, greedy southerners from Georgia and surrounding squatters were guaranteed to kill whichever Indians were left on their original land in order to plunder it and begin to cultivate it as their own agricultural business.
The trail of tears was one of the most momentous events for Indian culture, and more specifically for the Cherokee tribe. “Between June and December 1838, more than 15,000 Cherokees were forced to depart their homes in the southern Appalachians and walk more than a thousand miles to Indian Territory. Between 4,000 and 8,000 Cherokees died on “Nunahi-duna-dlo-hilu-i”, the Trail Where They Cried (“The Museum of the Cherokee Indian”). ” This specific journey was the most unbelievable. Although there were other walks occurring by different tribes, the Cherokee’s was an abomination.
As referred to by Alfred Cave, the Cherokee’s walk to their new homes was a “genocide” performed by the American government (Cave, 65). Once again, proof that Jackson was way too stubborn and strict to hear out the group that was willing to work with them, like the past presidents were. The trail of tears was awful mainly due to the poor evaluation by the government. The expedition occurred in the middle of winter, and thus during the coldest of seasons, with the most unforgivable weather. “Poor planning by the government, disease, a lack of provisions, and harsh weather created a disaster along the trail of tears.
Approximately one third of those who started the journey did not live to see their new home. (Stewart, 14)” The Cherokee’s march across the Midwest in 1839 has also claimed reference as a “death march” (Jahoda). The trail of tears due to the Indian Removal Act was practically a death sentence for those who could not escape and find their way back east. As the trek carried forth, provisions became scarce, weather fought against the little hope that was left, and disease ran rampant throughout the groups of travelers. There was no escaping pain, physical or emotional.
Eye witness accounts to this journey that the Indians were forced to embark on are startling. They provide evidence into the truth that occurred on this walk. Alexis de Tocqueville was in Tennessee at the time of the march, and witnessed it first hand. “They possessed neither tents nor wagons, but only their arms and some provisions. ” “I saw them embark to pass the mighty river. Never will that solemn spectacle fade from my remembrance. No cry, no sob, was heard among the assembled crowd; all were silent” (Tocqueville )
The accounts of De Tocqueville and Indians who managed to escape and find their way back to what was left of their land in the east reported the true solemnity that occurred on the trail. There was no hope, or positivity irradiating from anyone on the walk. Instead, a somber journey, reminding them the whole way of the oppression and unimportance to the government which previously promised them tolerance. The Indians had nothing to them but what they could carry. They had nothing but each other, and while the trip became prolonged, the numbers of people still alive on the journey began to dwindle.
Thus, the Indians who actually survived were left with close to nothing at all. Charles Hicks once said “We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth… it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood… we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear. ” The Indians wanted nothing but to live peacefully upon the land that they had inhabited from the beginning of their existence. The abuse of power exhibited by Andrew Jackson during his presidency was atrociousness.
The Indians who were content in abiding by their agreement with past presidents, such as Washington and Jefferson, to assimilate and westernize, were not met with the same respect by President Jackson. Instead, Jackson pressured congress to pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which ultimately annihilated majority of the Indian population during, and after the relocation. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the Indians to relocate to areas west of the Mississippi which had not been inhabited previously, and would require much time and effort to cultivate and make usable. To the Indians, this surprise attack from Jackson spelled out the answer to the question, was the government a friend, or a foe? The Indian Removal Act confirmed the answer of foe.