Indian removal was a
nineteenth century policy of the government of the United States to relocate Native American tribes
living east of the Mississippi
River to lands west of the river.
The Indian Removal Act
, part of a United
States government policy known as Indian removal, was signed into
law by President Andrew Jackson
on May 26, 1830.
Since the presidency of Thomas
, America's policy had been to allow Native Americans
to remain east of the Mississippi as long as they became assimilated
." His original plan was for Natives
to give up their own cultures, religions, and lifestyles in favor
of western European culture, and a sedentary agricultural
Jefferson's expectation was that by assimilating them into an
agricultural lifestyle, that they would become economically
dependent on trade with white Americans, and would thereby be
willing to give up land that they would otherwise not part with, in
exchange for trade goods. In an 1803 letter to William Henry Harrison
To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which
they have to spare and we want, for necessaries, which we have to
spare and they want, we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to
see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt,
because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the
individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a
cession of lands....
In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe
and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate
with us a citizens or the United States, or remove beyond the
The former is certainly the termination of their
history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of
this, it is essential to cultivate their love.
As to their fear, we presume that our strength and
their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to
shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them
proceed from motives of pure humanity only.
Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the
hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe,
and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of
peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our
There was a long history of Native American land being purchased,
usually by treaty and sometimes under coercion. In the early 19th
century the notion of "land exchange" developed and began to be
incorporated into land cession treaties. Native Americans would
relinquish land in the east in exchange for equal or comparable
land west of the Mississippi River. This idea was proposed as early
as 1803, by Jefferson, but was not used in actual treaties until
1817, when the Cherokee agreed to cede two large tracts of land in
the east for one of equal size in present-day Arkansas. Many other
treaties of this nature quickly followed. The process culminated in
the idea of exchanging all Native American land in the east for
land in the west, which became law with the Indian Removal Act
Indian Removal Act
Routes of southern removals.
In 1830, some of the "Five
" — the Chickasaw
, and Cherokee
— were still living east of the
Mississippi, while others had already moved to the Native American
Territory. They were called "civilized" because many tribesmen had
adopted various aspects of European-American
. The Cherokees had a
system of writing their own language, developed by Sequoyah
, and published a newspaper in Cherokee and
In spite of this acculturation
acceptance of the law, the position of the tribes was not secure.
Many white settlers and land speculators simply desired the land
that was occupied by the tribes. Others believed that the presence
of the tribes was a threat to peace and security, based on previous
wars waged between the United States and Native Americans, some of
whom had been armed by enemies of the United States, such as Great
Britain and Spain.
Accordingly, governments of the various U.S. states desired that
all tribal lands within their boundaries be placed under state
jurisdiction. In 1830, Georgia passed a law which prohibited whites from living on
Native American territory after March 31, 1831 without a license
from the state.
This law was written to justify removing
white missionaries who were helping the Native Americans resist
organizer Jeremiah Evarts urged the
Cherokee Nation to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
ruled that while Native American tribes were sovereign
nations (Cherokee Nation
, 1831), state laws
had no force on tribal lands (Worcester v. Georgia
, 1832). President Andrew
Jackson is often quoted as having responded to the court by
defiantly proclaiming, "John Marshall has made his decision. Now
let him enforce it!" Jackson probably did not say this, although he
was criticized (then and since) for making no effort to protect the
tribes from state governments.
Andrew Jackson and other candidates of the new Democratic Party
Native American Removal a major goal in the campaign of 1828. In
1830, Congress passed the Indian
over the opposition of Theodore Frelinghuysen
Jackson signed it into law. The Removal Act provided for the
government to negotiate removal treaties with the various tribes.
Treaty of Dancing Rabbit
Creek with the Choctaw was the first such removal treaty
implemented; while around 7,000 Choctaws ultimately stayed in
Mississippi, about 14,000 moved along the Red
Other treaties, like the dubious Treaty of New Echota
with the Cherokee,
followed, resulting in the Trail of
result, the five tribes were resettled in the new Indian Territory in modern-day Oklahoma and parts of
Some Native Americans eluded removal, while
those who lived on individually owned land (rather than tribal
domains) were not subject to removal. Those who stayed
behind eventually formed tribal groups including the Eastern Band
Cherokee, based in North
the Seminoles refused to leave Florida, leading to
the Second Seminole War.
The most important leader in the war was Osceola
, who led the Seminoles in their fight
against removal. While based in the Everglades of Florida, Osceola and his band used surprise
attacks to defeat the U.S.
Army in many battles. In 1837,
Osceola was seized by deceit upon the orders of U.S. General T.S.
Jesup when Osceola came under a flag of truce to negotiate peace.
He died in prison. The Seminoles continued to fight. Some traveled
deeper into the Everglades, while others moved west. The Second
Seminole War ended in 1842.
Many figures have been rounded.
||Population east of the Mississippi before removal treaty
|Years of major emigration
||Total number emigrated or forcibly removed
||Number stayed in Southeast
||Deaths during removal
||Deaths from warfare
||19,554 Foreman, p. 47 n.10 (1830 census).
+ 6000 black slaves
||7,000 Several thousand more emigrated West from 1844-49;
Foreman, pp. 103-4.
||22,700 + 900 black slaves Foreman, p. 111 (1832
||19,600 Remini, p. 272.
||3,500 (disease after removal)Russell Thornton, "Demography of
the Trail of Tears", p.85.
||? (Second Creek War)
||4,914 + 1,156 black slaves
||a few from disease
+ 2,000 black slaves
||20,000 + 2,000 slaves
||5,000 + fugitive slaves
||2,833 Prucha, p. 233.
||250-500 Low figure from Prucha, p. 233; high from Wallace, p.
||700 (Second Seminole
Native American Removal in the North
Tribes north in the Old Northwest
far smaller and more fragmented than the Five Civilized Tribes, and
so the treaty and emigration process was more piecemeal. Bands of
signed treaties and relocated to the
". In 1832, a Sauk
chief named Black Hawk
led a band
of Sauk and Fox back to their lands in Illinois. In the Black Hawk War
, the U.S. Army and Illinois
militia defeated Black Hawk and his army.
- Prucha (1994), pp. 146-165.
- Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars,
- Lewis, James. " The Black Hawk War of 1832," Abraham Lincoln
Digitization Project, Northern Illinois University, p. 2D.
Retrieved 20 September 2007.
- Anderson, William L., ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and
After. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press,
1991. ISBN 0-8203-1482-X.
- Ehle, John. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the
Cherokee Nation. New York: Doubleday, 1988. ISBN
- Foreman, Grant. Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five
Civilized Tribes of Indians. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press,
1932, 11th printing 1989. ISBN 0-8061-1172-0.
- Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States
Government and the American Indians. Volume I. Lincoln,
Nebraska: University of
Nebraska Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8032-3668-9.
- Prucha, Francis Paul. American Indian Treaties: The History
of a Political Anomaly. University of California Press, 1994.
- Remini, Robert V. Andrew
Jackson and his Indian Wars. New York: Viking, 2001. ISBN
- Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian
Era. Originally published Lincoln, Nebraska: University of
Nebraska Press, 1975. Republished Norman, Oklahoma: University of
Oklahoma Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8061-4332-1 (2002 edition).
- Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival:
A Population History Since 1492. Norman, Oklahoma: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8061-2074-6.
- Wallace, Anthony F.C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew
Jackson and the Indians. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. ISBN
0-8090-1552-8 (paperback); ISBN 0-8090-6631-9 (hardback).
- Zinn, Howard. "A People’s History of the United States:
American Beginnings to Reconstruction". Vol. 1. New York: New,
2003. ISBN 978-1-56584-724-8.