Indian Removal Act – Summary

After the independence of the United States, the desire of Americans to expand the territory had scaled; not just only expansionism was sought but also clearing of the already sovereign American territory from Native Americans pursued. In this regard, the Indian Removal Act (1830) was enacted by Congress, which aimed to displace the resided natives from the American lands.

Historical Background:

Native Americans were indigenous people, inhabiting long before the arrival of outsiders. Natives had their own unique and distinct culture unbecoming what non-natives brought. However, when colonies achieved independence from Britain, natives tried to adopt the practices of white people. Most of them learned to speak English, embraced Christianity, and enslaved people just as white people. Out of all native tribes, Cherokee reached the acme of adopting the white culture. For example, in 1828, the Cherokee tribe began its newspaper named “The Cherokee Phoenix.” However, all such things could not ease the growing aversions and resentments of Americans towards natives.

There were five Indian tribes: Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee, located in the territory of Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, which had nearly adopted the Anglo-American culture. They were also called Five Civilized Tribes owing to their changed lifestyle aligned to white Americans.

Why did Americans want to forfeit Natives from their land?

Natives owned the copiously enriched land in some American states. For instance, the Cherokee tribe held agricultural land in Georgia, which was supposedly enriched with gold. Therefore, the desire of Americans to unearth reserves compelled them to vacate territories from natives. Moreover, the stereotyped notions that natives could not ever be melted in American culture led many people to favor the act of removal of natives.

Andrew Jackson Anti-Native policies and Indian Removal Act:

Jackson had animosity toward natives which turned into an anti-native aggressive stance. After the passing of the Indian Removal Act, Jackson got a chance to translate his enmity into forceful action. Earlier, he also had fought the wars against Creek in 1813 and the Seminole in 1817. Therefore, it could not be assumed that Jackson would give any kind of leverage to the natives.

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia Case:

Just after the enactment of the Act, the American military started forcing natives to migrate from territories to the west. Almost all the tribes decided not to resist except Cherokee. They looked to deal with the matter through legal means, and for that, Cherokee tribes went to the Supreme court of America; thus the case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia held in court.

There were some members of the congress (Henry Clay and Daniel Webster) who were anti-Jackson and against his policies. Therefore, they supported the natives against the Indian Removal Act of 1830. A former attorney general William Writ was called to fight in favor of the natives.

The objection raised against the Act is that it is a violation of the right of any sovereign nation as though Cherokee fits into the category of the independent nation. However, the Supreme Court did not hold its decision in the favor of the tribe claiming that according to rules Cherokee is not an independent nation; therefore Indian Removal Act cannot be annulled.

Later on, Jackson ordered military actions against the Cherokee. Resultantly, a massive migration of Indian tribes took place in which almost fifteen thousand Indian tribesmen were subjected to forced migration. This event is also known as the Trail of Tears. Those who showed resistance were suppressed through military action wherein nearly four thousand native people died.

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