Cherokee Chief John Ross Fought Against Migration
In 1830, a year after he took office, President Andrew Jackson (see 7/8/10 post) pushed a piece of legislation called The Indian Removal Act through Congress. The Act authorized Jackson to grant unsettled land in the west to Indians living in the east.
In his message to Congress, Jackson said: “It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.”
Though a few tribes migrated peacefully, many did not want to leave their lands. Jackson’s “happy consummation” came to a head during the winter of 1838 – 1839 when 4,000 Cherokees died on a forced 1,000-mile march to Indian Territory called “The Trail of Tears.”
Cherokee Trail of Tears
Map of Trail of Tears, courtesy National Park Service
Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson
The U.S. government never hesitated to relocate Native Americans when it decided white people needed their land. In 1814, U.S. military commander Andrew Jackson (later, 7th president of the U.S.) divested the Creek nation of 22 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama after its defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Jackson’s troops later invaded Spanish Florida and took land from the Seminoles in 1818. He was ruthless in battle and was known as Sharp Knife by the Seminoles.
From 1814 through 1824, Jackson helped negotiate nine treaties that gave the government substantial Native American land holdings in the eastern United States. In exchange, tribes were given land in the west. Many of the treaties were little more than sanctioned arm-twisting. Tribes agreed to their terms because they wanted to appease the U.S. government and protect what little land they had left.
Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend, courtesy National Park Service