Indian Removal

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A policy of the US Government to move the Native Americans of the Five Civilized Tribes from their homelands in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory, far to the west of the Mississippi river. This was a distance of from a few hundred to 1000 miles depending on the starting location of the tribe. This occurred largely during the 1830s under president Andrew Jackson, who had been a notable military campaigner in a war against the Creek.

The number who died during forced relocations is estimated at around 4000. Some, such as the Seminoles, engaged in lengthy warfare to resist removal. Especially vulnerable were the old, the sick, and the young. There are horrifying stories carried down to this day by the descendents of the trailwalkers about brutal treatment by government soldiers, the horrible starvation and cold, and disease and death.

Strangely enough, some escaped removal. For example, the Choctaw Nation of Mississippi is one of the state's largest employers in its gaming casinos. Many individuals and small groups escaped from the process, forming, among others, the Eastern Band Cherokee, based in North Carolina.

The Indian Removal was declared illegal by the United States Supreme Court, but the US government ignored the court's decision. After the decision was handed down by Chief Justice John Marshall, President Andrew Jackson famously said:

"John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it."

The horrible mistreatment of the indigenous population and the practice of slavery are considered two of the largest stains on the history of the United States.

See also cultural imperialism, genocide.


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