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Removal Of The Indians History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The election of Andrew Jackson in 1829 and his stubborn support of Indian removal provoked controversy not only in the Indian tribes, but also among the American community. Jackson’s refusal to respect the independence of the Cherokee tribe, allowed the state of Georgia to assert its jurisdiction over the Cherokees. With Andrew Jackson’s assistance, Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed which authorized the relocation of eastern Indian tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River. President Andrew Jackson was the main supporter of the removal of Indian tribes in order to give their lands to whites. Cherokee Nation was forced from its land, mainly as a result of the discovery of gold within their territory. Both the white Americans and the Cherokees had various opinions on Indian removal – some opposed and many supported it with a range of different arguments.

Insatiable craving for foreign soil remained the primary cause, even though many people believed that the removal of Indians was the only way to save them from the extinction. While the Indians lived in close proximity to whites, they died as a result of diseases, alcohol and poverty. Some white Americans believed that resettlement could save Indian tribes. Others thought it was just a way to get their land. The desire to relocate the Cherokees increased when gold was found on their land. During the exploration of the Americas, Europeans thought that most of the Indian lands are free. Because Native Americans did not improve their land with fences, wells, buildings and cities, Europeans felt that they have the full right to plow the Indian lands. Three times, the Cherokee Nation voluntarily migrated toward the west, but they were immediately surrounded by white settlers, forcing them to move even further to the west. An agreement with the U.S. government, guaranteed them that lands of northern Georgia and western North Carolina will never be taken away, but the displacement of Native Americans continued. Consequently, in 1830 the United States passed the Indian Removal Act – “an act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.” The U. S. government promised that the Indians’ new land will always be safe and protected. [1] President Andrew Jackson described the Indian removal as a “fair exchange” and best thing for his Indian “children.”[2]

Another noticeable person supporting removal of the Indians was Lewis Cass who became a governor of Michigan Territory in1813. He held this position for 18 years and had a great control over Indian affairs. He opposed the missionaries’ program to “civilize” Native Americans. [3] However, he blamed not only them for the “unsuccessful and unproductive efforts,” but also “the habits or temperament of the Indians, which has heretofore prevented, and yet prevents, the success of these labors…” Cass stated that the Indians didn’t use the land for purposes established by “Creator”: the earth should be “cultivated” and “that the human race should spread over it…” According to Cass, they “have a very imperfect possession of the country.” In Cass’s opinion, there are only two solutions for the Indians: give up their land or surrender to state and federal laws. [4]

Among white Americans who opposed Indian removal, most prominent were Jeremiah Evarts, Catherine Beecher and following her American women. Jeremiah Evarts was a missionary, activist for the rights of Indians in the United States and a leading opponent of Indian Removal Act. He wrote twenty four essays and published them under pseudonym of William Penn. [5] In one of his essays, Evarts stated that “the Cherokees have a perfect right to retain the possession of their country as long as they please” and could lose their land only if they “voluntarily surrendered” it. He believed that the Cherokees could maintain the right of their homeland because of the birthright – the ancestors of the Cherokee Nation occupied their land long time before the first European colonists arrived. Another argument in support of the Indian rights was based on the Constitution. Evarts wrote that any effort to remove the Cherokees from their land without a treaty would be “entirely unjustifiable” according to natural rights and the United States law. [6]

Similar to Jeremiah Evarts, Catherine Beecher stood up against Indian removal. During that time, role of women was very limited to any kind of social activities. However, Beecher and other women, inspired by Evarts’s essays, decided to take an action. Moral and ethical aspects were added to their opinion to the defense of the Indians’ independence. [7] She believed that the civilization program had significant achievements in Indian society. It had “persuaded the Indians to forsake their savage life, and to adopt the habits and pursuits of civilized nations.” In addition to that, Beecher wrote that Indians cannot be removed from their land because otherwise they would face their “final annihilation.” [8]

Ironically, there wasn’t an absolute agreement among the Cherokees also – not all of them were against removal. Some of the Cherokees were in favor of removal to the new land. Although they didn’t represent all of the Cherokee Nation, a small delegation of Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. They agreed to give up all lands east of the Mississippi and move out within two years. In return, the United States guaranteed to “protect and defend them in their possessions and property,” “to remove them comfortably,” and that their new land will never “be included within the territorial limits or jurisdiction of any State or Territory.” [9] Later on, as we know from the history, these and other promises were violated by the U.S. government. Elias Boudinot, a supporter of that treaty, argued that the only solution for the Cherokees was removal. On the other hand, John Ross, the principal chief of the Cherokees, strongly believed that the compensations outlined in the treaty were fabricated and the treaty itself was an obvious fraud. Ross saw two possible outcomes which could happen to the Cherokee Nation despite the treaty signed with the U.S. government. First, The United States can later pass a law that “necessarily destroys the character of the Cherokee nation as a distinct community; the nation becomes legally extinct; the lands revert to the United States, and the Cherokee people are bound.” Second possible result, Texas and Arkansas, neighbors of their new land, can as well as Georgia threat Cherokees’ sovereignty afterward. [10]

Despite all the battles over the Cherokees’ removal issue, Treaty of New Echota, signed by small party with the U.S. government, had a great impact on the entire Cherokee Nation. Now, the United States could legally force them to give up their land and move to the Indian Territory west of Arkansas. The government used its troops to remove peaceful Cherokees from their homes and force them to walk to their new land in horrible conditions, insufficient food. Due to that, a great number of the Cherokees died during the journey. This shameful moment in the history of America, later became known as the Trail of Tears.

The history of Native Americans is unique, tragic and at the same time full of optimism. It is unique because the Indians were the original inhabitants of America and have survived all the stages of its settlements since the first European colonies in the 17th century and ending with the expansion to the western border by the end of the 19th century. It is tragic because the conflict between Native Americans and white Americans is a repetition of the experience of other nations whose traditions have come into conflict with the development of industrializing society. The story at the same time full of optimism because, even though Native Americans deprived most of their ancestral lands in the 19th century, have survived and managed to establish themselves in their political and economic rights. They have preserved their national identity and culture in spite of the invasion of modern civilization.

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