Indian Removal Act

Indian Removal (Zinn Chapter 7)
Once the white men decided that they wanted lands belonging to the
Native Americans (Indians), the United States Government did everything
in its power to help the white men acquire Indian land. The US
Government did everything from turning a blind eye to passing
legislature requiring the Indians to give up their land (see Indian
Removal Bill of 1828). Aided by his bias against the Indians, General
Jackson set the Indian removal into effect in the war of 1812 when he
battled the great Tecumseh and conquered him. Then General, later to
become President, Jackson began the later Indian Removal movement when
he conquered Tecumsehs allied Indian nation and began distributing
their lands (of which he invested heavily in). Jackson became the leader
of the distribution of Indian lands and distributed them in unequal
ways. In 1828 when Jackson was running for President his platform was
based upon Indian Removal, a popular issue which was working its way
through Congress in the form of a Bill. Jackson won a sweeping victory
and began to formulate his strategies which he would use in an “Indian
Removal campaign”. In 1829, upon seeing that his beloved Bill was not
being enforced Jackson began dealing with the Indian tribes and offering
them “untouchable” tracts of lands west of the Mississippi River if they
would only cede their lands to the US and move themselves there. Jackson
was a large fan of states rights-ism, hence he vetoed the charter for
the Bank of the United States, and when faced with two issues concerning
states rights (one with South Carolina regarding succession, one with
Georgia regarding the Indians) he went with the suppression of South
Carolina and gave Georgia all out support. When faced with the decision
of Union or Indians he went with the Union and oppressed the Indians.
The Executive branch wasnt the only part of government which suppressed
the Indians, the Legislative branch also suppressed them. In 1828
Congress passed the Indian Removal Bill which forced the Indians in the
south to relocate or “be subjected to state laws.” This Bill was
strongly opposed by the north while it was supported by the south. The
Bill, which barely passed it both House and Senate, was a support for
the popular distribution of fertile Indian lands. The United States
government was lured into the relocating of the Indians because it
offered more farmland for southern farmers. As far as the actual
relocation went, the task of relocating the Indians fell into the hands
of the Army, who then mostly signed the task off to contractors. Indian
attempts at conforming were futile and quickly crushed. When the
Cherokees Americanized their tribe and converted to “the American Way”
the state of Georgia quickly went in with militias and forced them along
their way. Various tribes of Indians fought on the side of the United
States against their Indian brothers in return for promised protection
against removal, government promises proved to be false. The government
(behind the lead of Jackson) sent a sign that it wanted the Indians to
leave, and not conform. The US government was quick, behind its powerful
Executive, to turn an eye. In 1832 militia regiments from Georgia went
onto Cherokee lands and imprisoned 4 missionaries whom they later
released upon them swearing oath to the state of Georgia. Later, the
same militia imprisoned 10 missionaries and sentenced them to four years
hard labor. Their case (based on a treaty with the Cherokee years prior)
was appealed to the US Supreme Court where John Marshall upheld their
case (see Worcester v. Georgia). The state of Georgia never released
them from imprisonment and Jackson never intervened. The government also
turned a blind eye when dealing with treaties that were previously
agreed to with the Indians. In 1791 the Cherokee nation acknowledged
themselves to be under the protection of the United States and no other
sovereign, also an agreement was made that white men could not be on
their lands without passports. Jackson himself offered false promises to
the Indians that they would have the lands west of the Mississippi “as
long as Grass grows or water runs.” These lands were taken away barely
50 years after they were assessed. The United States government played a
cruel game when it relocated its Indian population (some could argue
this as survival of the fittest, evolution). They turned a blind and
mostly bias eye when it came to Indian politics and treaties they had
made twenty years prior. They made promised that were going to be
broken, and which there were no way of avoiding. In short, the
government in a way did the same thing to the Indians that Jackson did
to the Bank: extirpation.


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