On May 26, 1830, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed by the Twenty-First Congress of the United States of America. After four months of strong debate, Andrew Jackson signed the bill into law. Land greed was a big reason for the federal government's position on Indian removal. This desire for Indian lands was also abetted by the Indian hating mentality that was prevalent among some American frontiersmen.
This period of forcible removal first started with the Cherokee Indians in the state of Georgia. In 1802, the Georgia legislature signed a compact giving the federal government all of her claims to western lands in exchange for the government's pledge to eliminate all Indian ownership to land within the state. But by the mid-1820's Georgians began to doubt that the government would uphold its part of the bargain. The Cherokee Indian tribes had a substantial part of land in Georgia that they had held for many generations. After hearing about the pact, they were worried about losing their land so they forced the issue by adopting a written constitution. This document proclaimed that the Cherokee nation had complete jurisdiction over its own territory.
At this time, Indian removal had become entwined with the state of Georgia's rights and the Cherokee tribes had to make their claims in court. When the Cherokee nation sought aid from newly elected president Andrew Jackson, he informed them that he would not interfere with the lawful prerogatives of the state of Georgia. Jackson saw the solution of the problem with the removal of the Cherokee tribes to lands west. This would keep contact between Indians and colonists rare. He suggested that laws be passed so that the Indians would have to move west of the Mississippi River.
Similar incidents happened between the other "civilized" tribes and white men. The Seminole tribe had land disputes with the state of Florida. The Creek Indians fought many battles against the federal army so they could keep their land in the states of Alabama and Georgia. The Chickisaw and Choctaw had disputes with the state of Mississippi. To ensure peace the government forced these five tribes called the Five Civilized Tribes to move out of their lands that they had lived on for generations and to move to land given to them in parts of Oklahoma. Andrew Jackson was quoted as saying that this was a way of protecting them and allowing them time to adjust to the white culture. The land in Oklahoma was thinly settled and was thought to have little value. Within 10 years of the Indian Removal Act, more than 70,000 Indians had moved across the Mississippi. Many Indians died on this journey which became known as the "Trail of Tears"
"The Trails of Tears"
The term "Trails of Tears" was given to the period of ten years in which over 70,000 Indians had to give up their homes and move to certain areas assigned to tribes in Oklahoma. The tribes were given a right to all of Oklahoma except the Panhandle. The government promised this land to them "as long as grass shall grow and rivers run." Unfortunately, the land that they were given only lasted till about 1906 and then they were forced to move to other reservations.
The Trails of Tears were several trails that the Five civilized Tribes traveled on their way to their new lands. Many Indians died because of famine or disease. Sometimes a person would die because of the harsh living conditions. The tribes had to walk all day long and get very little rest. All this was in order to free more land for white settlers. The period of forcible removal started when Andrew Jackson became President in 1829. At that time, there was reported to be sightings of gold in the Cherokee territory in Georgia which caused prospectors to rush in, tearing down fences and destroying crops. In Mississippi, the state laws were extended over Choctaw and Chickisaw lands, and in 1930 the Indians were made citizens which made it illegal to hold any tribal office. Also in Georgia, the Cherokee tribes were forbidden to hold any type of tribal legislature except to ratify land cessions, and the citizens of Georgia were invited to rob and plunder the tribes in their homes by making it illegal for an Indian to bring suit against a white man.
When President Jackson began to negotiate with the Indians, he gave them a guarantee of perpetual autonomy in the West as the strongest incentive to emigration.
The Five tribes gave all of their Eastern lands to the United States and agreed to migrate beyond the Mississippi by the end of the 1830's. The Federal agents accomplished this by bribery, trickery, and intimidation. All of the treaties signed by the Indians as they agreed to the terms of the removal, contained guarantees that the Indian territory should be perpetual and that no government other than their own should be erected over them without their consent.
The land retained by the five civilized tribes was known as the Indian Territory. The 19,525,966 acres were divided among the the five tribes. The Choctaws received 6,953,048 acres in the southeast part of Oklahoma; the Chickisaw received over 4,707,903 acres west of the Choctaws reservation; the Cherokees received 4,420,068 acres in the northeast; the Creeks received 3,079,095 acres southwest of the Cherokees; and the Seminoles purchased 365,852 acres which they purchased from their kin, the Creeks. The Chickisaw and the Choctaw owned their lands jointly because they were so closely related but the tribes still exercised jurisdiction over its own territory though.
Besides the land that the tribes obtained, they also received a large sum of money from the sale of their Eastern territories. This money was a considerable part of the revenue for the tribes and was used by their legislatures for the support of schools and their governments. The Cherokee nation held $2,716,979.98 in the United States trust; the Choctaw nation had $975,258.91; the Chickisaw held $1,206,695.66;the Creek had $2,275,168.00; and the Seminole had $2,070,000.00 by the end of 1894.
After the end of the Trails of Tears, the conversion of all tribes to Christianity resulted rapidly. The Seminoles and Creeks were conservative to their customs but other tribes were receptive to any custom considered superior to their own. The tribes found that Christian teachings fitted their own. The transition to white man's customs began at the end of the removal.
Andrew Jackson Gave a speech on the Indian removal in the year of 1830. He said, "It gives me great pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation with the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements, is approaching a happy ending."
"The consequences of a speedy end will be important to the United States, to individual states, and to the Indians themselves. It puts an end to all possible danger of a collision between the authorities of the central and state governments. It will place a dense population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savaged hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the Southwestern frontier and render the adjacent states strong enough to repel future invasion without remote aid."
"It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own ruled institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influences of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized community."
For two decades Fort Gibson was the base of operations for the American army as they tried to keep the peace. During the 1810's to 1830's, John C. Calhoun, James Monroe's secretary of war, tried to relocate several Eastern tribes beyond the area of the white settlements. Fort Gibson was brought up because it served as barracks for the army. The relocation area for the Eastern tribes was part of other tribes' land. The other tribes wanted to protect it so they fought for it.
The soldiers from Fort Gibson began to make boundaries, construct roads, and escort delegates to the region. The soldiers also started to implement the removal process in other ways to. The soldiers of Fort Gibson were fiercely hated by the Indian tribes of that region. Yet during the many years of the Indian removal, there was never a clash between the soldiers or the tribes. An Indian was never killed by the Army. The soldiers at Fort Gibson served as a cultural buffer between the whites and the Indians.
The Fort was established in the 1820's by General Matthew Arbuckle. He served and commanded it through most of it's two decades during the Indian removal. He wrote his last report from it on June 21, 1841.
THE CHEROKEE INDIANS
The Cherokee Indians live in many parts of the United states, but more than 100,000 live in parts of Oklahoma. Many Cherokee have moved elsewhere. In the 1800's, the Cherokee Nation was one of the strongest Indian tribes in the United States. They were part of the Five Civilized Tribes.
The Cherokee Nation began to adopt the economic and political structure of the white settlers in the early 1800's. They owned large plantations and some even kept slaves. The Cherokee Nation was a form of republican government. A Cherokee Indian named Sequoya introduced a system of writing for the Cherokee language in 1821.
White settlers began to protest the Cherokee's right to own land in the early 1800's. They demanded that the Cherokee Nation be moved west of the Mississippi to make room for white settlers. Some members of the Cherokee Nation signed treaties with the government in 1835 agreeing to move to designated areas in Oklahoma. Most of the tribe did not want to be relocated so they opposed the treaty. But most of the Cherokees, led by Chief John Ross, were forced to move to the Indian Territory in the winter of 1838-1839. More than 17,000 Cherokees marched from their homes to Oklahoma. This march was called the Trail of Tears. Many Indians died on this journey. Even though most of the Cherokee nation had been forced to move, more than a 1,000 Cherokee escaped and remained in the Great Smoky Mountains, which is in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. These tribes became known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
The Cherokee who went west reformed the political system that they had before. The Cherokee Nation set up schools and churches. But all this progress was stopped in the late 1800's. Congress voted to abolish the Cherokee Nation to open yet more land for settlement by whites. Today most of the Cherokee remain in northeastern Oklahoma, where they have reestablished their form of government.
The Chickisaw Indians were a tribe that lived in the southern United States. Their land included western Tennessee and Kentucky, northwestern Alabama, and northern Mississippi before the Indian removal. They were relocated to Oklahoma by the government in the 1830's.
The Chickisaws lived in several small villages with one- room log cabins. The people supported each other by trading with other tribes, fishing, farming, and hunting. Each village was headed by a chief.
The Chickisaw Indians were known as fierce warriors. They fought for Great Britain when they fought France and Spain for control of the southern United States. They also helped them fight against the colonists in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). And During the Civil War, the tribe fought for the Confederacy (1861-1865).
The tribe was relocated to the Indian Territory in 1837 by the National Government. They also took part in the Trail of Tears. In 1907, the Chickisaw Indian territory became part of the new state of Oklahoma. About 5,300 Chickisaw descendants live in Oklahoma. They have a Democratic government in which they elect their leaders for the welfare of the tribe.
The Choctaw tribe originates from Alabama and Mississippi. They believed in the primitive ways and hunted and farmed to support themselves. They raised corn and other crops to trade with other Indians. They celebrate their crops with their chief religious ceremony which is a harvest celebration called the Green Corn Dance. One of their legends states that the Choctaw Indian tribe was created at a sacred mount called Nanih Waiya, near Noxapater, Mississippi.
After the Indian Removal Act was passed, the Choctaw Indians were forced to move west in order to make room for more white settlers. They were forced to sign the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek after fierce fighting with the United States army. This treaty exchanged the Indians land for the assigned Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. In the early 1830's, over 14,000 Choctaws moved to the Indian Territory in several groups. Although many groups of Indians were gone, over 5,000 Choctaws remained in Mississippi.
The Choctaws who moved to the Indian Territory established their own way of life. They modernized themselves by establishing schools and an electoral form of government. In the Civil War, the Choctaw Indians fought on the side of the Confederacy and when the south was defeated, they were forced to give up much of their land. Their tribal governments were dissolved by 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. It stayed that way until 1970 when they were recognized by Congress and allowed to elect their own chief. Today, many Choctaw are farmers. About 11,000 still live in Oklahoma and nearly 4,000 still live in Mississippi as a separate tribe.
The Creek Indians a part of a 19 tribal group that once resided in much of what is now Alabama and Georgia. Today, many of the 20,000 Creek Indians live in Oklahoma. The Muskogee and the Alabama are the largest Creek tribes. Most of them live north of the other Creek tribes. They are called the Upper Creeks. The lower Creek tribes belong to either Yuchi or Hitichi tribes.
In the 1800's, the Creeks fought wars with people trying to settle on their lands. They fought in the first and second Creek Wars. They were great warriors who attacked with the element of surprise. After the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Creeks were forced to sign a Treaty that made them give up their land. In the 1830's, they were forced to move to the Indian Territory in what is know Oklahoma. Very few Indians were left behind and they ones who did leave had to leave their belongings behind. The Creeks recieved very little payment for their lands.
The Creeks were forced to live in poverty for many years. Many Creeks are still very poor today. Some struggled with crops and became fairly prosperous. Much of the land given to them was not of much value. Also in 1890, a series of laws broke up many tribal landholdings of the Creeks and they were sold to individual Indians. After this, many Creeks were forced back into poverty.
The Seminole Indians are a tribe the used to reside in Florida in the early 1800's. The Seminole originally belonged to the Creek tribe. They broke apart from them and moved out of Alabama and Georgia and moved into Florida in the 1700's They became known as Seminoles because the name means runaways.
The Seminoles opposed the United States when they came for the Seminole's land. The United acquired Florida in 1819, and began urging them to sell their land to the government and to move to the Indian Territory along with the other Southeastern tribes. In 1832, some of the Seminole leaders signed a treaty and promised to relocate. The Seminole tribe split at this time. After the Indians that agreed to move had gone, the other part of the tribe fought to keep their lands. They fled into the Florida swamps and started the Second Seminole war (1835). This was fought over the remaining land from which the Seminole had fled. It lasted for seven years. 1,500 American men died and the cost to the United States was $20 million. The Seminole were led by Osceola until he was tricked by General Thomas Jessup. Osceola was seized and imprisoned by Jessup during peace talks under a flag of truce. Osceola died in 1838 while he was still in prison. After the war, many Seminoles moved west but still a small group stayed hidden in the Florida swamps.