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"These lands are ours. No one has a right to remove us because we were the first owners. The Great Spirit above has appointed the place for us, on which to light our fires, and here we will remain."

Tecumseh, Native American chief, in a message to Pres. James Madison, 1810

One of the strategies developed to deal with the conflict between white American settlers and Native Americans was to negotiate treaties, in which the Native Americans "voluntarily" exchanged their lands in the east for lands west of the Mississippi. The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminoles, also known as the “Five Civilized Tribes,” negotiated approximately thirty treaties with the United States between 1789 and 1825.

At the time Andrew Jackson became president in 1829, 125,000 Native Americans still lived east of the Mississippi River. Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Indians - 60,000 strong - held millions of acres in what would become the southern Cotton Kingdom stretching across Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The political question was whether these Indian tribes would be permitted to block white expansion.

By 1840, Jackson and his successor, Martin Van Buren, had answered this question. All Indians east of the Mississippi had been uprooted from their homelands and moved westward, with the exception of rebellious Seminoles in Florida, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, and small numbers of Indians living on isolated reservations in Michigan, North Carolina, and New York.

In this exploration, you will critically examine the assumptions that defined American Indian policies, why Jackson introduced the Removal Policy, and the human meaning of removal.

Guiding question:

How did the federal policy toward Native Americans change between the times of the Washington and Jackson presidencies?

Indian Removal Timeline

Resources:

 

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