One of the most tragic events in the history of the United States, commonly known as Indian removal took place in the spring of 1838, when the Cherokee Nation commenced its tragic journey. In the perception of White settlers and their political representatives, removal of Native Indians was a prerequisite for a territorial expansion and taking advantage of enormous mining and forestry resources. 'Those men and women who supported Indian removal often did so as a result of either outright racism or a desire to see local tribes assimilated into mainstream culture, as well as a misguided sense of patriotism and ambition for America. There is no sense or honor in pretending that the actions of the U.S. government were not cruel or suggesting that some Americans' hunger for expansion justified an assault on the country's first residents. '(Marsico, 2010, pp. 6,7)
1.1. Famous Indian tribes and their culture
In this section I will discuss Native Indian tribes, commonly known as 'civilized tribes'. The Civilized Tribes is a group of five tribes: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. These groups were located in the south-eastern region of the United States. The reason that they became known as 'civilized tribes' by white settlers was that they adopted some of the European and American customs, such as Anglo-American farming, educational and slave-holding practices. As a result of this, a term "Civilized Tribes" was coined by the whites.
The tribe consisted of seven clans and a village was governed by two distinct political entities; the red and the white government, 'which respectively maintained power in times of war and times of peace.' (Marsico, 2010, p. 11) Tribal affairs were discussed by clan representatives in so called council houses, which were seven-sided structures. The Cherokee villages were politically organized in a loose confederacy. The village was governed by two chiefs. The White Chief, also called the Most Beloved Man, supported the villagers on issues related to farming, law-making, and disputes among individuals, families, or clans. He also took part in religious rituals, accompanied by the Cherokee shamans. The Red Chief had advisory role on warfare issues. The Cherokee territory was in the southern part of the Appalachian chain. Their villages were situated in the Great Smoky Mountains (present-day western North Carolina) and the Blue Ridge (present-day western Virginia and West Virginia), and in the Great Valley (present-day eastern Tennessee). Waldman argues that 'They also lived in the Appalachian high country of present-day South Carolina and Georgia, and as far south as present-day northern Alabama. Cherokee people also probably lived in territory now part of Kentucky.' (WALDMAN, 2006, p. 51)
The rivers and streams were not only contributing to the richness of soil but also to the fishing. Cherokee were skilled fishermen who used spears, traps, and hooks. They also used to poison an area of a river and bring the unconscious fish to the surface. The Cherokee hunting skills were also impressive. They used bows and arrows for hunting deer and bear. 'To get close to the deer, they wore entire deerskins, including antlers, and used deer calls to lure the animals to them. The Cherokee hunted smaller game, such as raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, and turkeys, with blowguns made from the hollowed-out stems of cane plants. Through these long tubes, the hunters blew small wood-and-feather darts with deadly accuracy from as far away as 60 feet.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 52) The pray was used for clothing, as well. The wild plants had also significant role in their nutrition, as well as berries, cherries, grapes, walnuts and chestnuts. The Cherokee were also known as craftsmen. They made plaited basketwork and stamped pottery. 'They also carved, out of wood and gourds, Booger masks, representing evil spirits.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 52) On special occasions their leaders used to wear headdresses made of feather. Ceremonies were held inside council houses. Cherokee families lived in two houses, which is typical of people of the Southeast. There were a summer house and winter home. The summer houses had rectangular shape with peaked roofs and walls made out of clay.
Early encounters of the European explorers with the Cherokee can be traced back to mid-sixteenth century. In 1540, Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer, who travelled throughout much of the Southeast, was the first European to come into contact with the Cherokee. Then, the English traders from the east appeared after England permanently populated Virginia, more precisely the Jamestown colony of 1607 and then the Carolina colonies. De Soto was in his pursuit of gold. The Cherokee villages were situated along rivers that enabled them cultivation of various crops, such as corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, and tobacco, which afterwards resulted in exchange between settlers and Cherokees. The Europeans introduced Cherokees with trade. They traded, in exchange for food iron, liquor, rifles, and gunpowder. Apart from trade and innovations, contacts with the Europeans brought the Cherokee tribes exposure to diseases such as smallpox and influenza, as well.
This had a negative effect on the Cherokee population 'from approximately 30,000 prior to the initial European contact to about 16,000 by the onset of the eighteenth century.' (Marsico, 2010, p. 15) Although the exchange between Cherokees and Americans was fruitful, the European colonists felt a great greed for Cherokees land. The French and Indian wars lasted from 1689 to 1763. The Cherokee took side with the British against the French. Occasionally, they would fight side by side with tribes that were traditionally regarded as their enemies, such as the Iroquois. The turning point took place in 1760, during the Cherokee War. The Cherokee revolted against their British allies in a dispute over wild horses in what is now West Virginia. 'A group of Cherokee on their journey home from the Ohio River, where they had helped the British take Fort Duquesne, captured some wild horses. Some Virginia frontiersmen claimed the horses as their own and attacked the Cherokee, killing 12. Then they sold the horses and collected bounties on the Cherokee scalps, which they claimed they had taken from Indians allied with the French.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 53) As a result of this the Cherokee bands, led by Chief Oconostota, began raids on non-Indian settlements. The war ended after two years. The British troops burned their villages and crops. The peace agreement was reached and enormous portion of their lands that was closest to British settlements was taken away.
Despite of the Cherokee War, the Cherokee took side with the British against the rebels in the American Revolution of 1775'83. Most of their support consisted of sporadic attacks on outlying American settlements. 'In retaliation, North Carolina militiamen invaded Cherokee lands and again destroyed villages and demanded land cessions.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 53) They allied with the Americans, fighting with them under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813. Cherokee chief Junaluska deserves all the credit for saving Jackson's life from a tomahawk-swinging Creek warrior at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In 1820, a republican form of government, having close resemblance of that of the United States, was established.
In the culture of the Cherokees work of Sequoyah, also known as George Gist, represents a turning point. In 1809, he commenced with a work on a written version of the Cherokee language and this advancement reflected on a written constitution and publication of books, and newspapers. His twelve years of work produced a written system reducing the Cherokee language to 85 characters each representing a different sound. Years later, in 1827, the tribe wrote a constitution. 'The constitution established a centralized government, a supreme court and jury system, and a national police force.' (Bowes, 2009, p. 22) The first Cherokee newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, was published in their language in 1828.
The Chickasaw ancestors lived in present-day northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, and eastern Arkansas. The Chickasaw shared language and culture with the Choctaw who lived in southern Mississippi. Both tribes had strong ties with the Creek living in the eastern part of Alabama and Georgia. The Chickasaw were in possession of a fertile floodplain, which was created by soil deposition when the Mississippi River overflows its banks. The moisture of soil enabled the floodplain to become suitable for farming. The area was rich with wildlife. The Mississippi and its tributaries provided the Chickasaw with fish. Their villages were built to keep them safe from floods. They planted corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and melons. The Chickasaw practiced so called 'the law of hospitality.' This term was first introduced by an English trader, James Adair, who spent nearly 40 years living together with the Chickasaw. In the 1700s, he wrote: 'The Spanish had early contacts with the Chickasaw. Hernando de Soto led his expedition into their territory in 1541. True to the 'law of hospitality,' the Chickasaw let the outsiders live among them. But de Soto tried to force the tribal chiefs into providing 200 bearers to carry his supplies.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 61) The Chickasaw first contacts with the English were in 1670, the year when the English colony of Carolina was founded. Those contacts enhanced trade of various goods between two nations. However, trade was extended beyond goods. Indian captives were sold to the English. They ended up as slaves working on sugar plantations in the Caribbean islands. By the 1690s, the Chickasaws became fully equipped with English guns. Those guns were used against their southern neighbors, the Choctaws. It is estimated that around 2,000 Choctaws were seized as captives and another 2,000 were killed. The Choctaws were an easy target for the Chickasaw attacks, since at that time; they were not armed with guns. This initiated a series of conflicts between Chickasaw and Choctaw. In the French and Indian wars, the Chickasaw took side with the British. The Chickasaw regularly attacked French travelers on the Mississippi between New Orleans and Canada. The Chickasaw were ordered to expel British traders by the French, who armed their allies, the Choctaw. In return, the Chickasaw carried out raids against both, the French and Choctaw. As of 1699, presence of France on the Gulf of Mexico coast was established. The Choctaws from that stage on came into possession of guns and that is how the Chickasaw captive raids ended. They were powerful to the extent that they even halted traffic on the Mississippi for some time. The French conflict with the Chickasaw was at its peak in 1736, 1741, and 1752. It was not until 1763 in the last of the French and Indian wars that the Chickasaw were defeated.
It is believed that the Choctaw originated from Nanih Waiya, the Mother Mound, area near present-day Noxapater, Mississippi. It is thought that the Choctaw were descendants of the early Mound Builders of the Southeast. The Choctaw were one of the largest tribes living in southern and central Mississippi, with some bands in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana as well. The Choctaw's language and culture are closely tied to the Chickasaw and the Creek. In contrast to other southeast Indians, the Choctaw had a more democratic system of governance, similar to the one of northeast Indians. Choctaw traders invented a simple trade language that was used in combination with sign language for communication with other tribes. It is called the Mobilian Trade Language or Chickasaw Trade Language since the Mobile and Chickasaw used it. Villagers built winter and summer houses. 'To keep the winter houses warm families built fires, and to keep them moist they poured water over heated rocks.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 69) Turkey feathers were used to make threads to weave blankets. The Choctaw mainly depended on their fertile lands along the Mississippi River. Basic crops were corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and melons. Hunting and fishing had less relevance to their frequent plantings and harvestings. The Choctaw were skilled craftsmen. They used to carve dugout canoes for fishing, and trading trips. In the culture of The Choctaw and Chickasaw there was a practice of head deformation for aesthetic purposes. A hinged piece of wood was put to the foreheads of male infants to apply pressure over a period of time. Choctaw men let their hair grow long. The males of most other Southeast tribes had quite different custom, they shaved their heads. The Chickasaw name for them was Pansh Falaia, meaning 'long hairs.' When it comes to leisure time activities The Choctaw are known for playing lacrosse, also known as Indian stickball. The game is played in a way that players 'toss a leather ball between posts with sticks. Touching the ball with the hands and using the sticks to fight were forbidden, but just about everything else was fair play.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 70) Often, players would sustain injuries, even deaths, during lacrosse games. Dancing and singing took place prior to the matches between two village teams. Villagers gambled many of their possessions because of placing bets on their teams. Song competitions were held, too. Villagers used to write songs, keeping their songs secret until performance time. A 'song thief' was name for those who spied on songs of another tribe. The Choctaw had a ritual of so called 'cry-time'. This tradition involved placing the deceased on a scaffold. On that occasion family members went into retreat and mourned. The Choctaw tribal members practiced fasting. Once the corpse dried out in the open air, tribe members 'officially appointed as bonepickers, scraped the flesh away with their extra-long fingernails. Then the bones would be buried.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 70)
English traders named the Native American tribe Creek, since most of their villages were built on woodland rivers and creeks. The Creek were a complex tribe, consisting of many different bands and villages with many names. The majority of their villages were situated along the banks of the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Flint, Ocmulgee, and Chattahoochee Rivers. Their ancestors inhabited majority of territory of present-day Georgia and Alabama and small parts of northern Florida, eastern Louisiana, and southern Tennessee. Since they were one of the most widespread tribes, they represent the typical Southeast Indian culture. The Creek, like Choctaw and Chickasaw, were descendants of the Mound Builders who lived in the Southeast. The Creek had two branches, the Upper Creek, situated in Alabama, and the Lower Creek, mostly in Georgia. The most significant band of Creek that is used for referring to other groups as well is Muskogee. Muskogean language family was named after term Muskogee. Among Muskogean-speaking tribes belong the Alabama, Coushatta, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, too. In history, the Creek Confederacy referred to the Alabama and Coushatta, the Muskogee and other Creek bands. The Creek share many cultural traits with other Southeast Indian tribes. The Creek villages were situated by the rivers and streams. Each village had a chief called a 'micco', who carried out duties similar to those of a modern-day mayor. In making decisions he relied on a council of elders and the Beloved Men. So called town crier was in charge of announcing the decision to the other villagers. Each village consisted of 'red towns' and 'white towns.' 'In the 'red towns' lived the warriors who launched raids for purposes of honor and revenge; ceremonies such as war dances were held there. In the 'white towns' lived the peacemakers who kept track of alliances and gave sanctuary to refugees; ceremonies such as the signing of treaties were held there.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 84) Villages had a town square with earthen banks for spectators to sit. The ceremonies and games were held there. Their villages had a central circular house with clay walls and a roof about 25 feet high, the ceremonial lodge, and a shelter for the old and the homeless. The houses were organized in clusters. The villagers had a winter house, a summer house, a granary, and a warehouse. Each clan was named after an animal. Clan membership was determined by the mother. It was forbidden to marry someone within the same clan. The Creek like many other tribes were skilled farmers and hunters. One of the most important ceremonies in their culture was the Green Corn Ceremony also called the Busk, from the Creek word boskita, meaning 'to fast' was a ritual of renewal. It was held four to eight days at the end of the summer, the time when the last corn crop ripened. The shamans, elders and warriors all fasted. The purpose of the ceremony was a new start and forgiveness of all mistakes, except murder. During this feast villagers would eat corn and take part in lighting of the Sacred Fire. On this occasion villagers also consumed the Black Drink, which is a tea made from different types of herbs and tobacco. Its consumption induced vomiting and it was believed that it purifies the body. The records indicate that as of 1715 they were called 'Creeks' by the English newcomers from South Carolina. Their population at that time numbered about 10,000 in the Deep South. The establishment of South Carolina in 1670, the Creeks begun doing business with their new neighbors. The new form of business was capturing and selling Florida Indians. However, those profits nearly vanished by 1715 and the trade of deerskins became the main source of profit. Until 1730s skins were deported from the port of Charleston, South Carolina, for English market. In exchange for deerskin, the Creek obtained kettle, guns, and rum.
The name Seminole is derived from the Spanish word cimarr??n, meaning 'wild' or 'runaway.' Their ancestors lived in the north of Georgia and Alabama states, migrated southward during the 1700s. Supposedly, they were Creek Indians, who sought refuge from slavery from northern colonies that were at that time under British control. Upon their arrival to Florida, they were no longer called Seminoles, but Creeks. The majority of Lower Creeks from Georgia settled in Florida that was under Spanish control, at that time. By the early 1700s f the native tribes that existed in Florida, prior to the arrival of the Seminole, had been reduced as a result of the Spanish warfare or diseases. Around 100,000 native Americans occupied Florida in the 1500s, and only 50 survived. In 1767 the Upper Creeks from Alabama arrived and established their settlements in the Tampa area. Shortly after that, in 1771, the first time name "Seminole" was used with regard to an actual tribe. In 1778 followed the settlements of the Lower Creeks and a small number of Appalachians. Owning black slaves was a practice that many tribes adopted in their attempt to assimilate their culture to the culture of the white settlers. However, the Seminoles never did and Africans slaves who escaped the Carolinas and Georgia built settlements along with the Seminoles in Florida, became known as the Black Seminoles. Both, the Seminoles and Africans were united by their fear of slavery.
2. BACKGROUND CONTEXT
2.1. The Creek War
In the colonial period, the Creek allied with the British in the French and Indian War of 1754'63. Creek warriors attacked the Choctaw, allies of the French. They fought against the Cherokee, too. Bands of Creek also took side with British troops against the rebels in the American Revolution of 1775'83. As a consequence of that, huge portions of their lands in Alabama and Georgia were ceded by the United States in 1790. Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee, counted on the British support in recovering possessions lost to settlers. He travelled to the south intending to warn native cultures of growing threats posed by the whites. This led to formation of a group, within the Creek, so called the Red Sticks. 'The increasing divisions in Creek society led to bloodshed in 1812 when the traditionalists retaliated against the National Council's attempt to punish Creeks involved in attacks against settlers. A Creek civil war erupted, with Red Sticks (as the traditionalists were called) launching attacks on the towns of Creeks friendly to white settlers.' (The Editors of Salem Press, 1995, p. 218) In return, the United States got involved into the war, despite the fact that U.S. was already at war with Great Britain. The Southern states roused to take revenge for the Fort Mims Massacre. The army of 5,000 militiamen, aided by Cherokees, and Creeks, under command of General Andrew Jackson destroyed completely two Indian villages: Tallasahatchee and Talladega. The Red Sticks were first defeated at Fort Mims, in 1813, and then in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in March 1814. The same year Treaty of Fort Jackson forced Creek chiefs to give away 23 million acres of land that was in possession of both the militant Red Sticks and the peaceful White Sticks. Some of Red Sticks managed to escape and settle in Florida. Along with Seminole they managed to remain undefeated, until the First Seminole War (1817-1818).
2.2. The Seminole Wars
The aftermath of American Revolution brought even deeper division between the Seminoles and the United States. Many Seminoles relied on Britain for support. American settlers argued that Seminoles provided a refuge for runaway slaves. The Seminole became friends with escaped African-American slaves. The slaves were given shelter among Seminole families. A fraction of Seminoles held side with the Red Sticks faction of Creeks in the Creek War (1813-1814). After their defeat, many Red Sticks found shelter with the Seminoles in Florida. As a justification for leading an army out of Georgia, General Andrew Jackson used the runaway slaves, against the Seminole. This event initiated the First Seminole War of 1817'18. Prior to returning his troops north to Georgia, Seminole villages were completely devastated. When Jackson was elected president, he intended to send the Seminole to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Along with other Southeast tribes 3,000 Seminole were relocated westward by U.S. soldiers in the 1830s. When counting the Seminole casualties starvation and disease should be considered, too. Those who survived were not even allowed to stop and bury their dead. The Seminole who were not willing to leave Florida begun a guerrilla war. The name for their resistance was the Second Seminole War of 1835'42. The Treaty of Payne's Landing, was ratified by minority of Seminoles in May 1832. Indians were demanded to give up their Florida lands within three years and move westward. The U.S. Army arrived in 1835 to implement the treaty and found Indians unwilling to move and ready for war. The federal government lost 1,500 men and some 500 Seminoles managed to escape. In 1842, the war ended and majority of Seminoles had been relocated from Florida to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. A Third Seminole War (1855-1858) was based on disputes, largely over land, between whites and Seminoles who remained in Florida. Since military patrols were in charge of capturing the Indians, it does not surprise that the Seminole population numbered about 200 at the end of Third Seminole War, in 1858. The Third Seminole War represents the last attempt of forced removal. 'Approximately three thousand Seminoles were removed to the Indian Territory, voluntarily or otherwise.' (The Editors of Salem Press, 1995, p. 469)
3. SOCIO-POLITICAL ASPECT OF THE INDIAN REMOVAL ACT
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 paved the way for the removals of Indians that would follow. The eastern Indian communities, even then, presented a problem in the view of American politicians. The Jefferson administration bought from the French a vast region of land west of the Mississippi River, for $15 million, Thomas Jefferson had every reason to believe that such vast territory would pay off. Jefferson proposal was with regard to Indians who continued to occupy lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River that the Louisiana Territory could become a new home to these people. Even public, was misguided into thinking that the federal government would be helping the Indians, and that the Indians and their culture would eventually disappear, if they remained exposed to the whites. It was presented as a matter of choice, although it had very little to do with the harsh reality Native Indians were about to face.
3.1. The Indian Removal Act
The settlements of both the Europeans and the Americans from the early 1600s to the early 1800s were pushing the boundaries of the Indian territories further inland. Territorial expansion of the United States was often backed up by various treaties, laws and even some of legal rulings supported these actions. From 1780's the U.S. Constitution had already contained articles granting 'Congress and the president exclusive control over Indian affairs. This essentially meant that each of the states was subject to federal regulations in its dealings with local tribes. ' (Marsico, 2010, p. 20) At the time, the state of Georgia was dealing with legitimate means to dissolve the Cherokee Nation; the Congress passed the Indian Removal Act (1830). It was Andrew Jackson who signed it into law on May 28, 1830. 'This act granted the executive the authority to negotiate land-exchange treaties with native nations residing within the boundaries of the United States. Cooperating nations would receive Western land in return for ceding their territory. Thus ''Indian Territory'' in present-day Oklahoma was born.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 37) Even though the Indian Removal Act contained clauses regarding the protection of the tribes that were subject to removal, it was carried out without this clause being enforced. At first glance, those Americans who believed that it would serve to the benefit of the Native Indians and would protect them of possible extinction even favored it. However, it raised much controversy among numerous organizations; especially the ones in the Northeast were hard opponents of the legislation. Some of the statesmen and senators opposed to the notions of removal. Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey was among the loudest opponents: 'We have crowded the tribes upon a few miserable acres on our southern frontier,' he proclaimed.' (Bowes, 2009, p. 19) In spite of the opposition efforts, the passage of the Indian Removal Act in the House of Representatives was ensured by a vote of 102 to 97. 'In the succeeding ten years the Atlantic and Gulf states were cleared of the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles. Some went resignedly, others at bayonet point.' (McNickle, 1973, p. 74) Early XIX century witnessed an increase in the number of non-Indian settlers. In 1820s, a number of the Choctaw migrated west of the Mississippi. However, the majority was not willing to leave their homeland. The reason that some left voluntary was the, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek that was signed between the Choctaw negotiators and the government representatives Colonel John Coffee and Secretary of War John Eaton, on September 27, 1830. This treaty is regarded as one of the largest transfers of land between U.S. Government and Native Americans. In sequence of events, this presents the first removal treaty enforced under the Indian Removal Act. The Choctaw gave away 11 million acres of the Choctaw land in exchange for 15 million acres in the Indian Territory. The U.S. Congress ratified the Treaty in 1831. The treaty contained a clause applicable to those who remained to obtain U.S. citizenship. Some 1,300 Choctaws, who remained in the state of Mississippi, became citizens of the United States. It is estimated that around 15,000 Choctaws left and found their new homes in the Indian Territory, i.e., state of Oklahoma. The word Oklahoma is of Choctaw origin, meaning "red people". On the grounds of the Curtis Act, their government was disassembled, as it was a precondition for acknowledging the Oklahoma status of a state. Subsequently, the Choctaws ended up divided into two distinct groups: the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians that gained federal recognition in 1945. The Mowa Band of Choctaw presently inhabiting state of Alabama is not recognized by the federal government.
3.2. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was seventh President of the United States. He was born in 1767 in Waxhaw, South Carolina. He studied law. In 1788 he moved to Nashville. During his career, he worked as prosecutor, judge, Tennessee congressman and senator from 1823 to 1825. He fought as general in the War of 1812 defeating the Creek Indians in 1814 and the British at New Orleans in 1815. Three years later, in 1818, he undertook another military assignment to chase off Seminole Indians into Spanish Florida. John Quincy Adams won the presidential elections of 1824. Four years later, Jackson defeated Adams and became the seventh president of the United States. Jackson was a founder of the Democratic Party. He supported extension of slavery into the West. He was a political opponent of the Whig Party and Congress on matters such as the Bank of the United States. He was known for his rage. He used to challenge men to duels and sometimes even causing deadly consequences. During his military career, he fought against the Red Stick Creeks and Seminoles, and the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans; he earned a status of a national hero. 'Jackson cultivated his military reputation as an ''Indian fighter.' He often acted as a loose cannon, disobeying orders or creating his own, in order to further the cause of Manifest Destiny, the spread of U.S. control over the North American continent.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 85) In Jackson's perception the greatest threat to settlement and expansion of the United States, was the question of Native Indians. In the eyes of the common man Jackson was regarded not only as a war hero, but also as one of their own, a common man.
His presidential career, in two subsequent terms, lasted from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837. Jackson is perhaps best known for providing the environment and tracing the route for the Trail of Tears through the Indian Removal Act. The 'Indian fighter' ratified nearly seventy removal treaties. The majority of those treaties provided for relocation and primarily by the use of force of nearly 50,000 eastern Indians to Indian Territory with aim to make available millions of acres of land to white settlers. 'Although the Trail of Tears itself did not occur until the administration of Martin Van Buren, Jackson's former vice president and hand-picked successor, Jackson was responsible for providing the key ingredients necessary for removal to take place.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 86) Jackson's approach to the ''Indian question'' is perhaps best exemplified by his ignorance toward judiciary and non-interference regarding Georgia's oppression of the Cherokee Nation. 'Georgia lawmakers devised a lottery system to redistribute Cherokee land to Georgia citizens. The Cherokees appealed to the national government, claiming that the Georgia state laws, by violating the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, also violated international treaties that the United States had made with the Cherokees.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 87) According to John Marshall in case of Cherokee Nation versus Georgia, in 1831, the treaties with the Cherokee Nation were not to be regarded in terms of international treaties, instead native nations were to be regarded as ''domestic dependent nations.'' Further on, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction over this matter since the Cherokee Nation was not a foreign nation. Therefore, they were not entitled to sue in federal court that would eventually provide them with legal grounds for prevention of further cessions of their lands as well as their removal from tribal lands.
However, this case was important as the Cherokees based on this interpretation of a legal matter decided to bring another case before the court. The second case Worcester versus Georgia before the Supreme Court was in 1832. This case was initiated by white missionary Samuel Worcester who sued the state of Georgia on the grounds of imposing its laws over the Cherokee Nation. 'Georgia had passed an act that required all whites who lived within the Cherokee Nation to apply for a state permit and swear an oath of allegiance to Georgia.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 87) Worcester was a minister within the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. His non-compliance with the Georgia act resulted in subsequent arrest. He was tried and sentenced to four years of hard labor in a Georgia court. According to Marshall the relations with native nations were within a jurisdiction of the national government, therefore Georgia State was not entitled to intervene into an issue involving 'a group the United States had already recognized and agreed to protect.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 87) The state of Georgia refused to release Worcester. 'President Jackson, the so-called old Indian fighter, is reported to have said in response with reference to the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it (Mooney, 1900: 114).' (Russell, 1987, p. 116) However, none of the cases tried before the U.S. Supreme Court served its purpose and the Trail of Tears was inevitable. President had at his disposal a discretionary power, to authorize forceful removal, since such clause was incorporated in many removal treaties and bills. Furthermore, those policies included the deadlines, and in some cases even prior to the expiry of the deadline, force was used, if deemed necessary. Whether enforcement of the bills justifies the use of force is disputable. Since historical sources indicate that vast majority of Indians opposed the removals, it was obvious that if government wanted to enforce removal bills, it had to be, by force.
3.3. The Treaty of New Echota
The Treaty of New Echota was named after New Echota, the Cherokee capitol in Georgia, where it was signed. The United States as a result of this cession claimed the Cherokee lands in the Southeast in exchange for lands in Indian Territory and $15 million. 'The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota by one vote, and on May 23, 1836, President Andrew Jackson proclaimed it in effect.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 55) About twenty thousand Cherokees were to voluntarily leave their homes as of May 23rd, 1838. Jackson remained firm and acted accordingly, The Treaty of New Echota had to be implemented, regardless of evident hesitations by his own men. U.S. Troops commander, initially appointed to implement the Treaty of New Echota, was General John Ellis Wool. Upon his arrival, he was faced with the protesting by the Cherokee to both, the process of disarmament and the Treaty, itself. 'Wool asked to be relieved of his mission, and he was.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 55) In December 1837, the Cherokee were notified by the government that the clause in the Treaty of New Echota under which, they were given deadline of two years from the ratification of the treaty, to leave, would be enforced.
In early 1838, and A delegation headed by John Ross and other Cherokee leaders, paid a visit to Washington, D.C. to present the signatures of 15,665 Cherokees who were against the Treaty of New Echota, but the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs had voted and authorized the Treaty implementation. 'The U.S. secretary of war told John Ross that Jackson no longer recognized any government among the Eastern Cherokees, and neither Ross nor anyone else would be allowed to challenge further the legitimacy of the removal treaty.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 55) Approximately two thousand Cherokees, which is some 15 percent of the Cherokee Nation, acted out of their own will and joined ''Old Settlers'' in Indian Territory, along with members of the Treaty Party. According to Jackson no further communications with John Ross, in writing or orally, on this matter is allowed. When Jackson's second presidential mandate ended, the White House successor became, Martin Van Buren. He commenced his presidential duties in March 1837. Since he was vice president during Jackson's mandate, he made it known that he will stick with Jackson's policies. Out of sympathy with the Cherokee cause, citizens around the United States sent messages and petitions; however, Van Buren organized seven thousand soldiers to prepare for action. 'Time had run out. On May 23, 1838, the military roundup of the Cherokee Nation began.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 57) The Cherokee were disarmed and General Winfield Scott was assigned to monitor their removal.
'On May 10, 1838, General Scott issued the following proclamation:'
'Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me, with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the Treaty of 1835, to join that part of your people who are already established in prosperity, on the other side of the Mississippi. . . . The full moon of May is already on the wane, and before another shall have passed away, every Cherokee man, woman and child . . . must be in motion to join their brethren in the far West.' Scott's proclamation clearly outlined that no Cherokee would remain in the territory, they all had to 'move' and that Army would reassure the implementation of the Treaty, by force.
4. EXODUS OF NATIVE INDIAN TRIBES
4.1. The Trail of Tears
It took four weeks in May and June, to carry out four military operations (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama). Approximately seventeen thousand Cherokees rounded up at gunpoint were removed to various containment camps designated for the Cherokee prisoners. Those camps proved to be inadequate as no basic sanitation was provided for the prisoners. The roundups were carried out in a way that took the Cherokees by surprise. Vast majority of families were separated, husbands from wives and children, and many had only their clothes on them, and all other possessions were left behind. 'John G. Burnett, a soldier involved with the roundup, described the operation: 'Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand. Children were often separated from their parents and driven into the stockades with the sky for a blanket and the earth for a pillow. . . .' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 58) John Wool, though initially appointed as the military commander of the removal campaign was replaced by Major General Winfield Scott, also known as ''Old Fuss and Feathers,'' Scott was a renown veteran, he fought in the War of 1812, the Blackhawk War and the Seminole Wars. ' Scott looked at his mission without enthusiasm; when he realized that many of the Georgia troops seemed as interested in killing the Cherokees as removing them, he realized the extent of the challenge he faced.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 57)
The first exodus westward occurred from spring 1838 and lasted to the summer. The first groups marched the route of 800 miles. The intense heat had deadly consequences for children and the elderly. The second exodus was in the fall and winter of 1838-39. Unlike the first exodus that was in the heat, the second one was in the rainy season and for that reason the wagons sunk down in the mud, and with freezing temperatures and snow, the journey got even worse. Numerous reasons need to be taken into account when considering the Cherokee casualties, from disease, food shortages, and weather conditions to failure of the U.S. troops to protect the Cherokee from attacks by bandits.
Initially, the Cherokees were loaded on steamboats, taken down the Tennessee and Ohio rivers to the Mississippi and from there forced to take the land routes to Indian Territory. Indeed, a few thousand Cherokee were removed, as planned. Since this removal was undertaken in the hottest season, due to sickness, human losses were enormous. the Cherokee National Council, John Ross along with other chiefs made a proposal to General Scott that the Cherokee be allowed to postpone the removal to the fall, when the weather is milder, to prevent further casualties. 'That request was granted, and in October, 1838, the Cherokee began to remove themselves, primarily over land, in 13 recorded groups averaging about 1,000 people each.' (Russell, 1987, p. 117) The first and the second exodus in combination with the dreadful conditions of the confinement camps caused the deaths of nearly 4,000 Cherokee, which represents a quarter of their total number. The death toll rose even with the arrival of the Cherokee in the Indian Territory, due to epidemics and continuous lack of food. Other Southeast tribes primarily the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole shared the destiny of the Cherokee. Perhaps the closest to the exact figures of Cherokee population, which was primarily affected by the Trail of Tears, is statistical information provided by Russell Thornton. According to Thornton: 'A census of the Eastern Cherokees (sometimes called the Henderson Roll) was conducted in 1835: it enumerated 16,542 Cherokees. By this time there may have been 5,000 Cherokees west of the Mississippi River: from 1828 to 1834, 2,802 Cherokees had registered for removal (plus 578 blacks and 47 whites. Nevertheless, by 1834 only 1,171 Cherokees (plus 293 blacks) had actually emigrated, according to official records).' (Russell, The Cherokees: A Population History, 1992, p. 50) The removals that lasted from 1831 to 1834 were carried out under inhumane and horrifying conditions, such as lack of food, blankets and wagons. Sporadic attacks from ambush by bandits were not prevented by the U.S. soldiers. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the Choctaw died during the marches, while those who survived the dreadful journey, after their arrival in the Indian Territory, died as a result of various diseases and starvation.
Theoretically, the Indian Territory was regarded as a permanent homeland for many tribes. 'Originally, the promised region stretched from the state boundaries of Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa to the 100th meridian, about 300 miles at the widest point. Nonetheless, with increasing non-Indian settlement west of the Mississippi in the mid- 1800s, the Indian Territory was reduced again and again.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 54) As of 1854, the north of the Indian Territory included the territories of Kansas and Nebraska that were later recognized states status. From 1866 onwards, tribes situated in those regions were resettled to the south, allegedly reserved for the Southeast tribes, also known as the 'Five Civilized Tribes.' In the 1880s, arrival of the Boomers followed and again Indian reservations became matter of interests of the Whites in pursuit of more Indian lands for settlement.
Most of the relocations of the Five Civilized Tribes were carried out on the grounds of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The political viewpoint of President Jackson on Indian question was backed up by his own views that the 'red men' were not capable of integration into the society of the Whites, nor did they have the intelligence to coexist in the white society. Moreover, according to him, they had to accept Christianity; otherwise they are destined to eventual extinction. Further on, the government's policy was to be welcomed by the Native Indians, as it will, at the expense of the government, carry out the relocation. Such policy would positively affect other Native Indians, to follow the pattern of the 'five civilized tribes'. President Andrew Jackson' in his Message to Congress 'On Indian Removal' (1830) outlines the relevance of the government's policy, as follows: 'The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.' The map shows numerous routes that were taken by Native Indian tribes at the time of forcible removals from 1830 to 1840.
Illustration 1 - Indian Removals, 1830-1840
The Choctaw were the first tribe forcibly removed from their homeland. Non-Indian settlers had territorial aspiration toward their lands. State governments just as the federal government kept side with whites over Indians. Ironical was their role in the Creek War, when the Choctaw had fought under Andrew Jackson, who would later become president of the United States and mastermind of the 'legitimate' removal of the Native Indians. Despite the fact that the Choctaw were not represented by the majority, a few members of the Choctaw were talked into signing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, in 1830. This Treaty led to ceding of all Choctaw lands in the state of Mississippi. Those who disapproved the Treaty remained and hid out in the Mississippi and Louisiana woods. However, the vast majority were made to move westward by U.S. Army. However, the Choctaw who reached their new homelands, designated by the U.S. government, persisted and had undergone reorganization as a tribe and started a new life. They even adopted a republican form of government, modeled after that of the United States and many customs of the 'civilized' Whites, and that is how the Choctaw along with the Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole, gained a reputation as one of the 'Five Civilized Tribes' During the Creek removal of 1836 and following their arrival in the Indian Territory, out of 15,000 who were to move to the Southeast, about 3,500 died as a consequence of hunger, disease and ambushed bandit attacks. 'Pressures caused by non-Indian expansion did not cease, however. The General Allotment Act of 1887, designed to force the breakup of tribal landholdings for increased development, caused the eventual loss of much acreage. What was supposed to exist permanently for native peoples as the Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma in 1907 (Oklahoma is a Muskogean word, coined by the Choctaw Allen Wright to mean 'red people,' and first applied to the western half of the Indian Territory in 1890.)' (Waldman, 2006, p. 71)
4.3. Georgia Gold Rush
The Native Indians inhabiting the area of the Appalachian Mountains were aware of the gold resources long before the arrival of the first Spanish expeditions in their lands. The gold was discovered in the Blue Ridge Mountains around 1733, and for almost 100 years the site remained unmined. Frank Logan, farmer and prospector, takes credit for discovering gold on Dukes Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River in 1828. America's first gold rush was on horizon. Many explorers told stories of Indians wearing gold. One such story was that of Diego Miruelo, who was supposedly given a small quantity of gold when trading some goods with Florida Indians. However, Hernando de Soto is known for launching the first grand expedition in pursuit of gold in 1540. Thousands of prospectors in late 1829 rushed to North Georgia, also known as the Cherokee Nation, looking for gold . ' The sudden influx of miners into the Cherokee Nation was known even at the time as the Great Intrusion. One writer said in the Cherokee Phoenix, "Our neighbors who regard no law and pay no respects to the laws of humanity are now reaping a plentiful harvest. . . . We are an abused people." The gold was discovered in Georgia on October 27, 1828. Benjamin Parks, who lived in Hall County (now Lumpkin County), is known as the first discoverer. Among other "first discoverers" is Georgia prospector Frank Logan. Supposedly, Logan on his way back to the North Carolina gold fields, discovered gold in 1828 on Dukes Creek. The story of Benjamin Parks is considered unsubstantiated because he initially claimed he found the gold in 1827 and leased the land to mine, but he was not the owner of that land until July, 1828. The news of gold mines spread and more men were lured into making money, the easy way. 'Whispers of the gold in Georgia spread slowly, but the trickle turned to a flood when the Georgia Journal ran a story on "Gold...two mines in Habersham."'
4.4. Assimilation and Allotment
Controversial political views outlined a necessity for their removal. Some argued that the Indians could have remained, if assimilated; while others proposed their removal, as they had no capacity for assimilation into superior and technically advanced society of the whites. Either way, the choice was not to be made by the Indians. Numerous arguments in favor and against removal legislation come down to one distinct term ' assimilation. Much debate evolved around the process of assimilation. Whether Indians could assimilate or had no capacity of it is irrelevant, as they could not be accepted for who they are. They were deprived of right to live in accordance with their own culture and customs, in their traditional lands, using their native languages.
Some 50 years after the Removal of Native Indians, more precisely on February 8th, 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act (or the Dawes Severalty Act). 'U.S. law providing for the distribution of Indian reservation land among individual tribesmen, with the aim of creating responsible farmers in the white man's image. It was sponsored in several sessions of Congress by Sen. Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts and finally was enacted in February 1887. Under its terms, the president determined the suitability of the recipients and issued the grants, usually by a formula of 160 acres to each head of household and 80 acres to each unmarried adult, with the stipulation that no grantee could alienate his land for 25 years.' It also enabled the Indians who received land, to become U.S. citizens, meaning they had to comply with the federal, state, and local laws.
Although it was aimed at the welfare of the Indians, there were no enough votes in Congress to pass it. Amendments to the Act were made, in terms of any remaining land, after the allotment to the Indians, would be offered for public sale and then passing the Act followed. 'By 1889, 2 million acres had been bought from the Indians, usually at ridiculously low prices, and thrown open to non-Indian settlement. The Oklahoma Land Run took place that year, with settlers lining up at a starting point to race for choice pieces. Those who cheated and entered the lands open for settlement were called 'sooners.' In 1890, Oklahoma Territory was formed from these lands.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 54) The leaders of Cherokee and Choctaw leaders rejected allotment and decided to resolve the matter at federal courts. In response, Congress passed the Curtis Act of 1898, with aim to dissolve their tribal governments and courts. Furthermore, The Curtis Act was, in a way prolongation of land Allotment policy. The U.S. government's policies were structured around regaining Indian lands. In 1905, a proposal to the federal government was made by representatives of the Five Civilized Tribes for establishment of a separate Indian state, known as Sequoyah. 'Legislation was submitted to Congress but was not enacted. Oklahoma, all of which had once been Indian land, became a state in 1907. During this period, in 1924, the federal government passed the Citizenship Act, conferring citizenship on all Native Americans. Two states'Arizona and New Mexico' delayed giving Indians voting rights until much later. In 1934, with the Indian Reorganization Act (or the Wheeler-Howard Act), the policies of Assimilation and Allotment ended.' (Waldman, 2006, p. 54) It was not until President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his commissioner of Indian affairs, John Collier appeared on the political stage that the Native Indians would initiate the process of rediscovering their lost culture. Those who imposed the assimilation policy had intended to diminish the relevance of Indian heritage and reorganize their tribal features to fit into their own. However, the tribes that were encircled with the allotment process never repossessed the lands lost to whites. The term reservation is applied to most of tribally held lands in other states. Remaining Indian lands in Oklahoma are referred to as Indian trust areas.
5. THE TRAIL OF TEARS, WATER AND LAND ROUTES
'Various scholars have speculated that the camp conditions might have been responsible for perhaps one-third to one-half of all of the deaths associated with the Trail of Tears, though the records leave little chance for anything more than speculation. Scott divided the camps into three military districts, each with its own plan for removal to Indian Territory involving land and water routes.' (Sturgis, 2007, p. 59) The tribes were made to take two main routes to reach Oklahoma. Each route went through the Ozarks; the water route, also called the southern route went through Arkansas and the land route, also known as northern route, went through the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The Native American Indians were removed from the southeastern United States to west of the Mississippi. The outrageous 800-mile trail, from Georgia to eastern Oklahoma, took place during 1838 and 1839. The illustration presents both main routes, i.e., the land and water route.
Illustration 2 - Routes of the Trail of Tears from the National Park Service
The territorial aspirations of the Whites were fueled by the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1828, which was confirmed in 1830. President Andrew Jackson's policy on the Indian Removal corresponds to that timeframe and that same year Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and from that moment on it was 'legitimate' to remove Native Indians from their ancestral lands to so called Indian Territory or reservations. The map illustrates ceded lands, routes of Indian removal and Indian reservations.
Illustration 3 - Southeastern Native American land occupation in the early 1830's. The red indicates the path taken for the Indian Removal, and the yellow indicates the new Indian reservations
President Jackson outlined in his Second Annual Message to Congress on December 6, 1830 that: 'The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves'It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters.' '
European settlements in the Southeast of the U.S: begun with explorer expeditions in XVI century. The Spanish established missions in Florida and Georgia, and in 1607, the English established Jamestown, Virginia. Later XVII century is marked by the English who took part in Indian slavery and deerskin trade in South Carolina, and exploitation of the Mississippi River by the French. Perhaps the most genocidal event was triggered by the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Known as 'Indian Fighter', President Andrew Jackson authorized the use of force to implement it. It provided European settlers with vast regions of rich soil to establish farms on lands inhabited by the 'Five Civilized Tribes'. Namely, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole presented a role-model of successful assimilation into whites' society and it was from 1830-1839, that systematical removals were enforced upon them. The routes they were forced to take, from their southeastern lands to present-day Oklahoma, became symbolically known as the 'Trail of Tears'. According to data from 1980, 60,000 Cherokee, 24,000 Choctaw, 15,500 Creek, 6,000 Chickasaw, and 5,000 Seminole live in Oklahoma.
Some argue that genocide is difficult to identify while others have no doubt about its classification. Genocide in broader context applies to the acts 'committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group....' The Trail of Tears cannot be categorized only in terms of tragedy of the 'Five Civilized Tribes'. Modern society has name for it and this event is to be named for what it is. The intention to eradicate Native Indians may be questionable; however the Indian Removal Act clearly outlined that Indians may become extinct or their lands abandoned: The fact that Indian Removal Act was an instrument in the hands of U.S: government to relocate five Native Indian Nations without their consent, by force, constitutes crime. 'The crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action 'it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts. Intent is different from a motive. Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorial integrity, etc.,) if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.'
Bowes, John P. (2009). The Trail of Tears: Removal in the South (Landmark Events in Native American History). New York: Infobase Publishing
Marsico, K. (2010). Perspectives on the Trail of Tears: The Tragedy of American Indians. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark
McNickle, D. (1973). Indian Survivals and Renewals. New York: Oxford University Press
Rasmussen, Kent R., the Editors of Salem Press. (1995). American Indian Tribes. Pasadena: Salem Press, Inc.
Sturgis, Amy H. (2007). The Trail of Tears and Indian Removal, Westport: Greenwood Press
Thornton, R. (1990). American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492, (The Civilization of the American Indian Series, Vol. 186). University of Oklahoma Press
Thornton, R. (1992). The Cherokees: A Population History, University of Nebraska Press
Waldman, C. (2006). Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, 3rd Ed., New York: Checkmark Books
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