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Indian Removal Act of 1830

Indian Removal Act of 1830

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Indian Removal Act of 1830

Guide to the Indian Removal Act of 1830


The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was an act passed on May 26, 1830 by the 21st Congress of the United States. The 1830 Indian Removal Act was the signed in law on May 28, 1830 by President Andrew Jackson after four months of tedious debate.


The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was very strongly supported in the South, where the relevant states were more than eager to gain power to the lands that were inhabited at the time by the Five Civilized Tribes (the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw). More specifically, Georgia, who was the largest state during that time, was extremely involved in a combative jurisdictional dispute against the Cherokee nation. Former President Jackson had hoped that the Indian Removal would help resolve the crisis in Georgia. The 1830 Indian Removal Act was also very controversial. While in theory the Native American removal was supposed to be completely voluntary, in practice there was great pressure placed on the leaders of the Native American tribes to sign the removal treaties. Many observers quickly realized that the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act meant the inescapable removal of the majority of Indians from the states. Some of the leaders of the Native American tribes who had previously fought against the removal now started to reexamine their positions, particularly after President Jackson's 1832 landslide re-election.


Many European Americans preferred the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, although there was significant opposition to the act as well. Many Christian missionaries, including the noted missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts, objected to passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Future United States President Abraham Lincoln also strongly opposed the 1830 Indian Removal Act. In the United States Congress, Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Congressman Davy Crockett of Tennessee vocally spoke out against the Act. The 1830 Indian Removal Act was ultimately passed after strong and bitter debate in Congress.


The1830 Indian Removal Act cleared the way for the hesitant—and often forceful—emigration of tens of thousands of Indians from their homes to the West. The very first removal treaty signed after the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek which was signed on September 27, 1830. Here the Choctaws located in Mississippi ceded their land east of the river there in exchange for land in the West and payment. Thomas Harkins or Nitikechi, a Choctaw chief was quoted in the newspaper as saying this removal Choctaw removal from their homes was a "trail of tears and death". Another treaty was the Treaty of New Echota, which was signed in 1835, which called for the removal of the Cherokee tribe on the Trail of Tears. Unlike these two tribes, the Seminoles did not leave their land as peacefully as the others. They resisted the removal and resulted in the Second Seminole War which was from 1835 to 1842. It ultimately resulted in the removal of a small number of remaining Seminoles.


Background of the Indian Removal Act of 1830


Early in the 1800’s before the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when the quickly-growing United States moved down into the lower South, white settlers quickly faced what they considered an inconvenient obstacle. This land was home to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chicasaw, Seminole, and Creek nations. These five nations, according to the settles and other white Americans, were blocking the way of progress in the United States. Settlers strongly pressured the federal government to somehow acquire the Indian territory in order for the land to be used for cotton growth.


Andrew Jackson, who was from the South, was a very forceful proponent of the removal of the Indian Nations and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1814, Jackson commanded the United States military forces that resulted in defeating a faction of the Creek Indian nation. As a result of this defeat, the Creek Indians lost approximately 22 million acres of land in what is now central Alabama and southern Georgia. The United States acquired even more land in 1818 after Jackson’s troops attacked Spanish Florida as a way to punish the Seminoles Indians for their habit of harboring fugitive slaves.


Between 1814 and 1824, Jackson was key in negotiating 9 out of 11 treaties which took Eastern lands from the southern tribes of in exchange for western lands. These tribes agreed to accept the treaties mostly for strategic reasons. The tribes hoped to appease the United States government and hoped to retain some of their land while protecting themselves from white American harassment. As a result, the United States easily gained control over nearly three-quarters of Alabama and Florida, along with areas of Mississippi, Kentucky Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. This time period was one of voluntary Indian migration, but only a small amount of Choctaws, Creeks, and Cherokee actually migrated to the new lands.


In 1823, the Supreme Court of the United States gave a decision which read that American Indians could occupy the lands within the country, but they did not have the right to hold the title to those lands. The reasoning behind this judgment was because the Indian’s right of occupancy was secondary to the right of discovery by the United States. In response to the threat of this judgment, the Chicasaw, Creeks, and Cherokee introduced policies of limiting land sales to the United States government. These tribes wanted to strongly protect what left of their land before they lost all of it.


Although the five Indian nations of the area had made previous attempts at resistance against the government, many of the strategies they used were non-violent ones. An example of a non-violent method was to take up white American customs like Western education, slave-holding, and large-scale farming. Doing this earned these Indian nations the title of the "Five Civilized Tribes." These nations adopted the policy of assimilating in an effort to coexist with the white settlers while warding off hostility from them. However, doing this only made whites more resentful and jealous.


Other attempts of non-violence included giving portions of their land to the United States government with the intention of keeping control over some parts of their territory, or control of the new areas they were given in exchange. Some of the nations also refused to leave their territories, particularly the Seminoles and the Creeks. They both waged war in order to protect their land. The First Seminole War resulted from this and was from 1817 to 1818. The Seminoles were helped by fugitive slaves who they had taken in and provided protection for years.  Seeing the fugitives supporting the Seminole upset the white planters and powered the white planters’ desire to win against the Seminoles.


The Cherokee nation used legal means in their efforts to safeguard their rights and lands. The tribe looked for protection from white settlers, who often harassed the tribes by stealing livestock, burning towns, and squatting on their land as an attempt to drive the tribes off. In 1827 the Cherokee nation adopted a written constitution which declaring themselves as a sovereign nation. The tribe based this on the policy in the United States. Former treaties showed Indian Nations being declared as a sovereign in order allow the tribe to properly cede their lands. The Cherokee tried to use this new status, the Georgia did not recognize this status, and instead saw the Indians as tenants who lived on state land. The Cherokee nation took their legal case to the Supreme Court, where they lost the case.


The Cherokee nation went to the Supreme Court for a second time in 1831. This time, the Cherokee based this legal appeal on the Georgia law of 1830 which banned whites from living on Indian Territory at any time after March 31, 1831, without having an issued license from the state of Georgia. The state legislature had created this law to specifically justify displacing white missionaries who were trying to help the Indians resist removal from their lands. The Supreme Court were in favor of the Cherokee the second time. The court felt that the Cherokee nation had a right to self-government, and thus acknowledged that Georgia's extension of state law over the Cherokee nation to be unconstitutional. However, the state of Georgia did not abide by this decision and President Jackson also refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling.


President Jackson's attitude toward the Native American tribes was patronizing and paternalistic. He often described the tribes as young children who needed guidance. He felt that Indian removal policy was beneficial not only to the white settlers, but also to the Indians. Many white Americans felt that the United States would never go beyond the Mississippi. Removing the Indian tribes from the lands and relocating them would save them from the destruction of whites, and new areas would allow the tribes to govern themselves easily and with peace. However, many white Americans saw this move as a reason for an inhumane and brutal course of action, which resulted in strong protest against the removal.


 Full Text of the Indian Removal Act of 1830


The Indian Removal Act of 1830


CHAP. CXLVIII.--An Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That it shall and may be lawful for the President of the United States to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi, not included in any state or organized territory, and to which the Indian title has been extinguished, as he may judge necessary, to be divided into a suitable number of districts, for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside, and remove there; and to cause each of said districts to be so described by natural or artificial marks, as to be easily distinguished from every other.


SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to exchange any or all of such districts, so to be laid off and described, with any tribe or nation within the limits of any of the states or territories, and with which the United States have existing treaties, for the whole or any part or portion of the territory claimed and occupied by such tribe or nation, within the bounds of any one or more of the states or territories, where the land claimed and occupied by the Indians, is owned by the United States, or the United States are bound to the state within which it lies to extinguish the Indian claim thereto.


SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That in the making of any such exchange or exchanges, it shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them; and if they prefer it, that the United States will cause a patent or grant to be made and executed to them for the same: Provided always, That such lands shall revert to the United States, if the Indians become extinct, or abandon the same.


SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That if, upon any of the lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged for, there should be such improvements as add value to the land claimed by any individual or individuals of such tribes or nations, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement or otherwise, and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements. And upon the payment of such valuation, the improvements so valued and paid for, shall pass to the United States, and possession shall not afterwards be permitted to any of the same tribe.


SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal.


SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such tribe or nation to be protected, at their new residence, against all interruption or disturbance from any other tribe or nation of Indians, or from any other person or persons whatever.


SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to have the same superintendence and care over any tribe or nation in the country to which they may remove, as contemplated by this act, that he is now authorized to have over them at their present places of residence.


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