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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 Tecumseh+s 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 wasn+t 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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