1780s - The "Civilization Experiment"
When Europeans and Native Americans came into contact during colonial times, or in the early United States, most Europeans felt their civilization to be superior.
Their solution was to forcibly 'share' their civilization with the Native Americans, so they would adopt European civilization.
This acculturation was originally proposed by George Washington.
First, they would have to convert to Christianity and abandon pagan practices.
They would also have to learn to speak and read English, although there was a small interest in creating a writing and printing system for a few Native languages.
The Native Americans had to adopt monogamous marriage and abandon non-marital sex.
Finally, they had to accept the concept of individual ownership of land and other property.
The "Civilization Experiment" was considered successful with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole, who were considerd the Five Civilized Tribes and had been established as autonomous nations in the southeastern United States.
Trade and intermarriage between the Americans and these Native Nations was becoming common.
Thomas Jefferson's policy was similar to Washington's:
respect the Indians' rights to their homelands, and allow the Five Civilized Tribes to remain east of the Mississippi provided that they adopted behavior and cultural practices that were compatible with those of the European Americans.
Jefferson believed in and promoted a society based on agriculture.
1800s - Greedy Land Buyers and Andrew Jackson
However, wealthy land buyers were seeking to procure the fertile lands that were in possessed by the Native Nations.
This, along with General Andrew Jackson's conflicts against the Seminoles in Spanish controlled Florida, started the First Seminole War, during presidency of James Madison and continued through that of James Monroe.
In the 1823 case of Johnson v. M'Intosh, the United States Supreme Court decided that Indians could occupy and control lands within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands.
However, by 1823, with James Monroe still president, The United States government had already begun "treaties" that would force the Natives to "trade" their land, be removed from the Southeast, and be sent to reservations in the midwest.
Jackson opposed Washington's policy of establishing treaties with Indian tribes as if they were foreign nations. Thus, he believed that the creation of Indian jurisdictions was a violation of state sovereignty under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution. Jackson thought that either Indians lands comprised sovereign states (which violated the Constitution) or they were subject to the laws of existing states of the Union. Jackson urged Indians to assimilate and obey state laws and felt that he could only accommodate the desire for Indian self-rule in federal territories, which required resettlement west of the Mississippi River on federal lands.
The Removal Act was strongly supported in the South, especially in Georgia, which was the largest state in 1802 and was involved in a jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokee. President Jackson hoped that removal would resolve the Georgia crisis.
Besides the Five Civilized Tribes, additional tribes affected included: the Wyandot, the Kickapoo, the Potowatomi, the Shawnee, and the Lenape.
1830 - Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act
In 1829, Soon after Jackson the Indian fighter and leader of the Democratic Party became Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States, he pushed through Congress an Indian Removal Act
Andrew Jackson sought to renew the policy for the removal of the Natives from these lands and worked toward enacting a law for Indian removal.
In his 1829 State of the Union address, Jackson called for Indian removal.
The Indian Removal Act was put in place to give the Southern states the land that belonged to the Native Americans. The law authorized the president to 'negotiate' with southern (including Mid-Atlantic) Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for the American settlement of their ancestral lands. The Act was strongly enforced under Jackson's administration and that of his successor, Martin Van Buren, which extended until 1841.
The Act was supported by southern and northwestern populations, but was opposed by Native tribes and the Whig Party (later Republican Party).
The Indian Removal Act was controversial. Although many Americans favored its passage, there was also a significant opposition. Many Christian missionaries protested against it. Most notable of which was missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts. In Congress, New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett spoke out against the legislation.
After a bitter debate in Congress, The Removal Act was passed.
On April 24, 1830, the Senate passed the Indian Removal Act by a vote of 28 to 19.
On May 26, 1830, the House of Representatives passed the Act by a vote of 101 to 97.
On May 28, 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson.
The Indian Removal Act agreed to divide the United States territory west of the Mississippi River into districts for tribes to replace the land from which they were removed.
With the advancement of settled life and the decline of tribal nations in the American northeast, Jackson saw the demise of Indian tribal nations as inevitable. He called the Northern critics hypocrites, given the North's history regarding tribes within their territory.
Jackson stated that:
"progress requires moving forward.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country and philanthropy has long been busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth...
But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another...
In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes...
Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers.
What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?"
According to historian H. W. Brands, Jackson sincerely believed that his population transfer was a "wise and humane policy" that would save the Indians from "utter annihilation". Jackson portrayed the removal as a generous act of mercy.
1835 - Native Revolt and The Second Seminole War
The Cherokee people worked together to try to stop this relocation, but were unsuccessful.
Eventually, they were forcibly removed by the United States government in a mass exodus march to the west, that later became known as the Trail of Tears.
Some tribes began signing the treaties and moving West.
However, the Seminoles and other tribes did not leave peacefully, as they resisted the removal, along with fugitive slaves.
This led to the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842 and resulted in the government allowing them to remain in the south Florida swamplands. Around 3,000 were removed in the war and only a small number remained.
[Contributors: Jason Brown]
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