Native Peoples Forced out of the Southwest

President Jackson Pushes Removal
The Cherokee Nation, 1835

The Cherokee people have finally given in to the federal government.  They will follow the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creeks, and most of the Seminoles from the lush hill country of the Southeast (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) to their new home, the “Indian Lands” to the west of Arkansas.  This new “Indian Land” is identified on maps as part of the Great American Desert.

The forcing of these people into the west is President Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy.  President Jackson believes that the resettlement of Indians is a “just, humane, liberal policy.”  Upon his request, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.  The federal government negotiated ninety-four removal treaties.  Most of the tribes, weakened in numbers, signed treaties without a fuss.

The Sauk and Fox under Chief Black Hawk, however, rebelled against their treaty and returned home to Illinois.  They could grow no corn on the Great American Desert and were facing starvation.  In 1832 the Illinois militia and the U.S. Army drove them back across the Mississippi, killing many women and children.

Some Seminoles continue a guerrilla war in Florida, refusing to leave their homeland.

The Cherokee, relying on their treaty rights, had adopted a constitution in 1827 and proclaimed that they were not subject to state or federal laws.  Georgia, however, extended its laws to the Cherokee people.  The Cherokee Nation took the State of Georgia to court.  The Supreme Court in 1832 ruled that the Cherokee Nation was “a distinct political community” and that Georgia law could not be extended to the Cherokee peoples.

President Jackson, however, has refused to enforce the decision.  The Cherokee people reluctantly have signed a removal treaty.  They have given up their home in exchange for land in Indian Territory (west of Arkansas), $5,000,000, and expenses for transportation.

President Jackson and Congressional leaders believe that the removal policy will solve what they call “the Indian problem.”  They are certain that no white would ever want land west of the Mississippi—“a land of horned toads and rattlesnakes.”

When asked to comment on the new Indian lands, Major Stephen Long, who has explored much of the region, told The North Star Dakotan, “We do not hesitate in giving the opinion that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence.”  Such is the condition of the new Indian Territory.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change