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Indian Removal Timeline

late 1780's

U.S. officials urge the Cherokees to abandon hunting and their traditional ways of life and to instead learn how to live, worship, and farm like Christian Americans. Many Cherokees embrace this "civilization program."

Nov. 28,

Hopewell Treaty with the Cherokee
Georgia officials initiate agreements with the Cherokee Indians that began the ultimate disposession of the Iindian's claims to the land. The treaty was named beacuse of the site - Hopewell, Georgia. The treaty established boundaries for Cherokee hunting grounds, erected limitations on culturally significant land.

If any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian, shall attempt to settle on any of the lands westward or southward of the said boundary which are hereby allotted to the Indians for their hunting grounds, or having already settled and will not remove from the same within six months after the ratification of this treaty, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Indians may punish him or not as they please...

Article V

In the treaty's conclusion, “the hatchet,” is said to be “forever buried” and peace and friendship re-established.

Read this Treaty


Holston Treaty with the Cherokee
This treaty further designates boundaries and began the progressive erosion of Cherokee land rights on non-hunting grounds. This treaty is remarkable for its aggressive language, the Cherokees “agreed” to “relinquish and cede” all lands residing outside the established demarcation line and permitted citizens of the United States access to a road running through Cherokee lands, as well as navigation of the Tennessee River.

It is agreed on the part of the Cherokees, that the United States shall have the sole and exclusive right of regulating their trade.

The United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokee nation, all their lands not hereby ceded.

If any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian, shall settle on any of the Cherokees' lands, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Cherokees may punish him or not, as they please.

No citizen or inhabitant of the United States, shall attempt to hunt or destroy the game on the lands of the Cherokees; nor shall any citizen or inhabitant go into the Cherokee country, without a passport first obtained from the Governor of some one of the United States, or territorial districts, or such other person as the President of the United States may from time to time authorize to grant the same.

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1800 As the 19th century began, land-hungry Americans poured into the backcountry of the coastal South and began moving toward and into what would later become the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Indian tribes living there are the main obstacle to westward expansion.
1802 Compact of 1802
Federal government agrees to extinguish the Indian land title and remove the Cherokees from the state. In return, Georgia gives up claims on western lands.
1803 The purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 gave U.S. president Thomas Jefferson an opportunity to implement an idea he had contemplated for many years—the relocation of the eastern tribes beyond the Mississippi River. There, Jefferson suggested, Native Americans could acculturate at their own pace, retain their autonomy, and live free from the trespasses of American settlers. Although most Cherokees rejected Jefferson's entreaties, small groups moved west to the Arkansas River area in 1810 and 1817-19.
The state of Georgia holds a total of eight lotteries to distribute land seized from the Cherokees and Creeks.

Major General Andrew Jackson led an expedition against the Creek Indians climaxing in the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend (in present day Alabama near the Georgia border), where Jackson’s force soundly defeated the Creeks and destroyed their military power. He then forced upon the Indians a treaty whereby they surrendered to the United States over twenty-million acres of their traditional land—about one-half of present day Alabama and one-fifth of Georgia.

Read more about the Creek indians:

1817 Treaty of Cherokee Agency
This treaty marked the beginnings of a new campaign designed to divide the Cherokee nation with an ever-present eye on the ultimate goal of mass removal. Although extensive land seizure was included as part of the treaty, the nature of the government’s grand strategy could be seen by 1817.
1817- 1827 The Cherokees effectively resisted ceding their full territory by creating a new form of tribal government based on the United States government. Rather than being governed by a traditional tribal council, the Cherokees wrote a constitution and created a two-house legislature. In addition to this government, Cherokees learned to speak English and created a written language and adopted Christianity, becoming one of the "civilized" tribes that adopted features of white culture in place of their own.
Mar. 3, 1819

An Act Making Provision for the Civilization of the Indian Tribes Adjoining the Frontier Settlements
Congress passes an Act Regarding the Civilization of the Indian Tribes intended to prevent any further decline in the Indian population. However, the provisions outlined in this Act had the opposite effect. The President was given authority and funds to take any actions that he saw fit to make the Indians more civilized.

the President of the United States shall be, and he is hereby authorized, in every case where he shall judge improvement in the habits and condition of such Indians practicable, and that the means of instruction can be introduced with their own consent, to employ capable persons of good moral character, to instruct them in the mode of agriculture suited to their situation; and for teaching their children in reading, writing, and arithmetic and performing such other duties as may be enjoined...

Congress authorizes an annual sum of $10,000.00 as a "civilization fund" to teach agriculture, reading, writing, and arithmetic to American Indian people, in hopes that they will adopt the ways of white society.

May 6,

An Act to Abolish the United States Trading Establishment with the Indian Tribes
This act, passed by Congress, allowed all excess materials collected through the termination of trade with the Indians to be at the President's disposal. He was given the authority to sell them as he saw fit, and to use the profits to carry out this act.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States shall be, and hereby is, authorized and required to cause the business of the United States’ trading-houses among the Indian tribes to be closed, and the accounts of the superintendent of Indian trade, and of the factors and sub-factors, to be settled...

Feb. 28, 1823

Supreme Court Case: Johnson v. McIntosh
The Supreme Court held that private citizens could not purchase lands directly from Native Americans. The Court determined that the United States government had acquired fee title to the land based on the longstanding practices of European colonization, and therefore Native Americans could sell their land only to the U.S. government.

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President Monroe announced to Congress that he thought all Indians should be relocated west of the Mississippi. Monroe was pressured by the state of Georgia to make his statement because gold had been discovered on Cherokee land in Northwest Georgia and the state of Georgia wanted to claim it.

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1837 The Cherokees adopt a written constitution, an act that further antagonized removal proponents in Georgia.

Cherokee nation elects John Ross as their Chief

Read more about John Ross:

May 6,

Treaty of Washington
This treaty addressed members of the Cherokee nation west of the Mississippi, guaranteeing them seven million acres of land and a “perpetual outlet” west as far “as the sovereignty of the United States,” extends. Such agreements set the stage for the justification of mass removal. is further agreed, on the part of the United States, that to each Head of a Cherokee family now residing within the chartered limits of Georgia, or of either of the States, East of the Mississippi, who may desire to remove West, shall be given, on enrolling himself for emigration, a good Rifle, a Blanket, and Kettle, and five pounds of Tobacco: (and to each member of his family one Blanket,) also, a just compensation for the property he may abandon, to be assessed by persons to be appointed by the President of the United States. The cost of the emigration of all such shall also be borne by the United States, and good and suitable ways opened, and provisions procured for their comfort, accommodation, and support, by the way, and provisions for twelve months after their arrival...

Dec. 20, 1828 The state of Georgia, fearful that the United States would not affect (as a matter of Federal policy) the removal of the Cherokee Nation tribal band from their historic lands in Georgia; enacted a series of laws which stripped the Cherokee of their rights under the laws of the state, with the intention to force the Cherokee to leave the state. The Georgia legislature annulled the Cherokee constitution and ordered seizure of their lands.
January, 1829 John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation tribal band, led a delegation to Washington in to resolve disputes over the non-payment of annuities to the Cherokee, and to seek Federal sustainment of the boundary between the territory of the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation's historic tribal lands within that state. Rather than lead the delegation into futile negotiations with President Jackson, Ross wrote an immediate memorial to Congress, completely forgoing the customary correspondence and petitions with the President.
April, 1829 John H. Eaton, secretary of war, informed John Ross that President Jackson would support the right of Georgia to extend her laws over the Cherokee Nation
late 1829

North Georgia is flooded by thousands of prospectors lusting for gold. Niles' Register reported in the spring of 1830 that there were four thousand miners working along Yahoola Creek alone. A writer in the Cherokee newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, said,

Our neighbors who regard no law, or pay no respect to the laws of humanity, are now reaping a plentiful harvest by the law of Georgia, which declares that no Indian shall be a party in any court created by the laws or constitution of that state. These neighbors come over the line, and take the cattle belonging to the Cherokees. The Cherokees go in pursuit of their property, but all that they can effect is, to see their cattle snugly kept in the lots of these robbers. We are an abused people. If we can receive no redress, we can feel deeply the injustice done to our rights.

Cherokee Phoenix and Indians' Advocate, Wednesday, May 27, 1829

Jan. 1, 1830 With a force of some 30 Cherokee and the permission of federal government, Major Ridge evicts whites who have illegally settled Cherokee land along the Georgia-Alabama border about 30 miles southwest of present-day Rome, Georgia. The act infuriates Georgia politicians.
May 28, 1830 Indian Removal Act
Authorized the federal government to negotiate treaties with eastern tribes exchanging their lands for land in the West. All costs of migration and financial aid to assist resettlement are provided by the government.
Mar. 18, 1831 Supreme Court Case: Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia
Chief Justice John Marshall declared that “the Indian territory is admitted to compose a part of the United States,” and affirmed that the tribes were “domestic dependent nations” and “their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian.” Marshall denies Indians the right to court protection because they are not subject to the laws of the Constitution. He says that each Indian tribe is "a distinct political entity...capable of managing its own affairs."

Choctaw Removal

Alexis De Tocqueville was visiting Memphis when the Choctaw arrived on their way west. He wrote:

" The wounded, the sick, newborn babies, and the old men on the point of death...I saw them embark to cross the great river and the sight will never fade from my memory. Neither sob nor complaint rose from that silent assembly. Their afflictions were of long standing, and they felt them to be irremediable."

Read more about the Choctaw removal:

Mar. 3,

Supreme Court Case: Worcester v. Georgia
Supreme Court ruled that the federal government, not the states, has jurisdiction over Indian territories. The case concerned a missionary living among the Cherokees, Samuel A. Worcester, who was jailed for refusing to comply with a Georgia law requiring all whites residing on Indian land to swear an oath of allegiance to the state. In ruling against Georgia's actions, Chief Justice John Marshall writes that Indian tribes must be treated "as nations" by the national government and that state laws "can have no force" on their territories. Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was entitled to federal protection over those of the state laws of Georgia.

The Court ruled “the Indian nation was a “distinct community in which the laws of Georgia can have no force” and into which Georgians could not enter without the permission of the Cherokees themselves or in conformity with treaties. Defying the court, Georgia kept Worcester in jail, and President Andrew Jackson, when asked to correct the situation, says, "The Chief Justice has made his ruling; now let him enforce it."

An outraged President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the ruling. Instead, Jackson used the funding from his newly created Indian Removal Act of 1830 to forcibly remove the recalcitrant tribes.

1832 Removal of Chickasaws & Creeks
1833 The Choctaw complete their forced removal to the West under army guard.
1834 Congress restructures the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the Department of Indian Affairs, expanding the agency's responsibilities to include both regulating trade with the tribes, as before, and administering the Indian lands of the West.
1832- 1833

The Seminoles signed treaties but refused to let them be carried out. They fled to the swamps of Florida where, aided by run-away slaves, they carried out a guerilla warfare against the U.S. government until the 1840's. After the death of resistance leader Osceola, who was captured under a flag of truce and died in jail in 1838, most of his followers then surrendered & moved west. A remnant remained in Florida.


The Treaty of New Echota was made by a small contingent of Cherokees led by Major Ridge against the wishes of the majority of the tribe and its leader, Chief John Ross. They give up their lands in Georgia for territory in present-day Oklahoma.

Read more about Major Ridge:

1836 Texas wins independence from Mexico.
Texans assert that Indians have no right to possession of Texan land.
May 17, 1838 General Scott addresses his troops regarding the removal of remaining Cherokee Indians residing in the Southeast.
1838 Trail of Tears begins
U.S. president Martin Van Buren orders the U.S. Army into the Cherokee Nation. The army rounded up as many Cherokees as they could into temporary stockades and subsequently marched the captives, led by John Ross, to the Indian Territory. Under the guns of federal troops and Georgia state militia, the Cherokee tribe made their trek to the dry plains across the Mississippi - over 800 miles to the Oklahoma Territory. Scholars estimate that 4,000-5,000 Cherokees, including Ross's wife, Quatie, died on this "trail where they cried," commonly known as the Trail of Tears.
1839 Cherokee Act of Union
In response to their unfavorable treaties with the United states, along with the forced removal form their land, the Cherokee nations of the East and West united.
1851 Indian Appropriations Act consolidates western tribes on agricultural reservations to enable westward migration of non-Indians and to facilitate the transcontinental railroad.



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