Trail of Tears
In the landsof modern day Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, andGeorgia, there lived around 125,000 Native Americans at the beginningof 1830s. The ancestors of the Native Americans had occupied theselands for generations where they cultivated and reared animals.However, by the end of the decade, only a few Native Americansremained in these lands. The United States government had forciblyevacuated the Americans Indians from southeastern United States. TheFederal Government had forced the Native Americans to evacuate in theinterest of the White Settlers who required land to grow cotton. Themost viable and readily available lands for these plantations werethe lands occupied by Native Americans. The Federal Government forcedthe Native Americans to leave their ancestral lands and walk to alocation designated as the Indian Territory. The Indian Territory waslocated Across the Mississippi River. This challenging and deadlyjourney known as presented the Native Americans withmany hardships and loss of their ancestral lands (Kidwell). The had significant effects to the American society andunderstanding its background is applicable in determining if it wasnecessary and the possible outcomes if it did not happen.
There was astrenuous relationship between Native Americans and White Americans.The White Americans who occupied the western frontier were veryaggressive towards the Native Americans because they were alien andunfamiliar people occupying land that the whites desired. The whitesalso believed that they deserved the land that the Native Americansoccupied. Some federal government officials such as President GeorgeWashington, the first president of the United States believed thatthe solution to co-existing with Native Americans was to civilizethem. This had the objective of Americanizing the American Indians,make them literate, and convert them to Christianity. The otherobjective was to ensure that the American Indians adopted theEuropean approach to economic practices including individualownership of property and land and engage in slavery where AmericanIndians obtained the opportunity of owning slaves. Some Native tribesaccepted this civilization process including Cherokee, Creek,Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. For this earned the name FiveCivilized Tribes (Basso 5).
The lands occupiedby the Native Americans were valuable and the whites coveted the landas they migrated to the region. Most of the white settlers whoflooded the region had the desire of making fortune throughestablishing cotton plantations in the lands occupied by the AmericanIndians. In their desire to make fortunes, they disregarded the factthat the Native Americans had become civilized. All they wanted wasthe land and they were ready to do whatever it took to earn the land.This marked the start of the bad relationship between the whites andNative Americans. The whites looted and burned towns and houses andsquatted on Native American’s lands (Casebeer 1).
The atrocitiescommitted towards the Native Americans by the whites got the supportof the government. The state governments joined in the effort ofdriving Native Americans out of the south. To achieve these, a numberof states enacted laws limiting the sovereignty of Native Americans.The laws also allowed the whites to encroach on Native American’sterritory. However, the Supreme Court tried to protect the NativeAmericans in a few cases such as Worcester v. Georgia (1832)and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). The rulings in thesecases indicated that native tribes were sovereign nations and thestates’ law had no force on these nations. Despite these courtrulings, the maltreatment did not stop. Andrew Jackson stated in 1832that if there was no one interested in enforcing the court rulings,then the court decisions were still born. The southern states had thedetermination of taking ownership of the lands and were ready to doanything to acquire the territory (McLoughlin 56).
One of the notablefigures in the Indian removal was Andrew Jackson. Jackson had alwayssupported the concept of Indian Removal, a factor attested by thefact that as an Army General he had been involved in brutal attacksagainst the Seminoles in Florida and Creeks in Georgia. These brutalattacks had culminated with the transfer of thousands of acrespreviously occupied by Indian nations to white settlers. He ascendedto the presidency where he continued his crusades against IndianNations. In 1830, he used his influence as the President to sign theIndian Removal Act, which empowered the Federal Government toexchange lands from the Indian Nations that was very fertile forcotton cultivation. The land that the Indian Nations received inreturn was located across the Mississippi River. This land waslocated in a region referred to as the Indian Colonization Zoneacquired by the United States during the Louisiana Purchase. The lawrequired the execution of treaties to have the characteristic ofpeace, voluntary, and fair. The government and state governments didnot have the power to coerce the Indian nations to give up theirland. However, the government and state government grossly ignoredthe letter of the law (Basso 5).
In 1831, theChoctaw were the first Indian nation expelled from their land underthreat of military attack. The journey to the Indian Territory was onfoot with some Native Indians marched under chains without suppliesand food resulted with the death of many Native Americans. The Indianremoval continued and in 1836, the Creeks were the next to evacuatetheir lands where 3,500 Creeks died during the journey. The Cherokeetribe could not agree on the best move against the determination ofthe government. Some Cherokees proposed to stay and fight whileothers wanted to exchange their land for concessions and money. Thisresulted with the Treaty of New Echota where the Cherokee received $5million for their land. They also received compensation andrelocation assistance. Some members of the Cherokee felt betrayed onthe basis that the representatives did not consult the nation’sgovernment or other people. The Nation Principal Chief, John Rosspetitioned the government although congress went ahead and approvedthe treaty. The Cherokees resisted the moved and this led toPresident Martin Van Buren sending General Winfield Scott toaccelerate the removal process. Scott went with 7,000 soldiers andforced the Cherokees to vacate the land. During the journey, theNative Americans got infected starved and infected with cholera,dysentery, typhus, and whooping cough. This resulted with the deathsof more than 5,000 Native Americans (Kidwell).
Trial of Tears haddiverse impacts on the American society. These impacts have continuedto affect the society particularly in terms of demographic. Forinstance, the loss of large number of Native Americans was avoidableif the white settlers did not resort to removing the Indians fromtheir ancestral lands. It is also imperative to note that there isdocumentation of tragic loss of homelands on the part of AmericanIndians. However, it is also important to note that if did not happen, the American economy, particularly on the southernstates could not have thrived as it did due to economicalcontribution of the cotton plantations. However, the government couldhave implemented better policies that could have resulted with thewhites and Native Americans coexisting and contributing positively tothe economy without subjecting some of the members of the society tomisery and hardships.
Basso, Andrew R. "Towards a Theory of Displacement Atrocities:The Cherokee , The Herero Genocide, and The PonticGreek Genocide." Genocide Studies and Prevention: AnInternational Journal 10.1 (2016): 5.
Casebeer, Kenneth M. "Subaltern Voices In The Trail Of Tears:Cognition And Resistance Of The Cherokee Nation To Removal InBuilding American Empire." U. Miami Race & Soc. Just. L.Rev. 4 (2014): 1.
Kidwell, Clara S. The Effects of Removal on American IndianTribes. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Retrieved on April 2, 2017 fromhttp://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntecoindian/essays/indianremovalf.htm.
McLoughlin, W. G. (2014). After the : The Cherokees`Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880. UNC Press Books.
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