So in History we’ve started a new unit. We’ve finished Madison’s Presidency, War of 1812, Industrial Revolution, and Monroe’s Presidency. Now, we’ve started Jackson’s Presidency. We’ve only just started the unit, so I’m still learning. However, we did a brief insight on what the unit covers. One of the things that stood out to me- well two- were the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears.
The Indian Removal Act authorized President Andrew Jackson to negotiate land-exchange treaties with tribes living east of the Mississippi. The treaties enacted under this act’s provisions led to the reluctant-and often forcible- emigration of tens of thousands of American Indians to plots of land west of the Mississippi. This is more commonly known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Indians, and many other tribes, were forced to leave their lands and travel from North Carolina and Georgia through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. More than 800 miles ( 1,287 km)- to the Indian Territory. It’s said that President Jackson did so for the good of the Natives, and so they would be able to live away from the colonies and not be affected by them. However, if that was the intention, then why couldn’t the Natives be transported by train or cart? We had just gotten out of the Industrial Revolution at that time, and had developed all these amazing, efficient ways to travel yet we forced the Indians to travel by FOOT on a 116 day journey, and on which more than 4,000 out of 15,000 Cherokees died of cold, disease, and lack of food? We were doing this for their better good, yet we ended up killing a fourth of their population! And for what? The land we promised them, eventually was taken away. Again! By the US! Couldn’t we have provided them with food or clothing or even better transportation in order to help them safely reach their destination? It’s called the Trail of Tears because of the tears shed for the loved ones lost from this journey. However, this is only one event.
In the past, the Treaty of Hopewell was signed in Georgia, protecting Cherokee Native Americans in the United States, yet we sectioned off their land. Then there’s the Treaty of Houston, in which all of their land outside of the borders previously established is given up. All within 6 years.
The Battle of Timbers was the last major battle over the Northwest territory following the American Revolution. Then we have the Louisiana Purchase. France pretty much just sold it to us without caring about who lived there or not.
In 1814, US forces and Native American allies attacked Creek Indians who opposed American expansion and encroachment of their territory. The Creeks cede more than 20 million acres of land after their loss.
After President Jackson, President Martin Van Buren did a similar thing. In order to speed up the process of the Cherokees leaving their land, he enlists 7,000 troops to hold them at gunpoint and marches them 1,200 miles. GUNPOINT! Firstly, we strip them of their own land without their consent and force them to walk 800 miles to new land. Then, because there are still some left and we want to speed it up, we ( the US) decide to make them march 1,200 miles at gunpoint. How absurd is that?!
Daily living on the reservations was difficult. It was almost impossible for tribes to maintain their culture and traditions inside a confined area. Not only that, feuding tribes were carelessly thrown together, and Indians who once were hunters, struggled as farmers. They were forced to get out of their spiritual beliefs by converting to Christianity, learn English, and wear non-Indian clothing.
Although the intention of this was to help the natives improve their quality of life by assimilating into white culture easier and faster, it really didn’t do anything. As the land owned by the Indians grew smaller and smaller, more land was opened to white settlers and railroads. Much of the reservation wasn’t even good farmland, and many Indians couldn’t afford the supplies needed to reap a harvest.
After all this, in 1934 a new act was passed. The Indian Reorganization Act. It was passed with the goals of restoring Native American culture and returning surplus land to tribes. It also encouraged tribes to self-govern and write their own constitutions and provided financial aid for any reservation infrastructure.
Today, modern Indian reservations still exist, and fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA is a United States federal agency within the Department of the Interior, and is responsible for implementing federal laws and policies related to American Indians and Alaskan Natives. It works with tribal governments to help administer law enforcement and justice; promote development in agriculture, infrastructure, and the economy; enhance tribal governance; manage natural resources; and generally advance the quality of life in tribal communities.
Despite that this is meant to help the Natives, I can’t help but feel it’s ironic. I mean, before they literally pushed the Natives as far as they could to help the US develop and expand, and this led to the reason they suffered and could barely survive. They did this without caring about the conditions there or how it could affect their lifestyle, and now they have an entire agency that helps advance the quality of their life. It’s basically like, okay we’re gonna take all your land despite the kindness you’ve shown, expand our own country and develop it first, and then we’ll create this agency to help you have a better life and help take care of your tribe. If only we had never pushed the natives, we wouldn’t be like this.
Even though we have an agency that helps the tribes, living conditions on the reservations aren’t ideal and are often compared to that of a third-world or try. Housing is overcrowded and often below standards, and many people on the reservations are stuck in a cycle of poverty. Health care is provided on reservations, but it’s underfunded and, in some cases, practically non-existent. I get that the BIA may be doing as much as it can to help the natives, but this is really ridiculous.
We’ve pretty much forced them to adapt and live in a home smaller than what was theirs, and get used to our modern society while they’re still struggling to survive and improve their living conditions. While it’s a good thing that we’re trying to fix our mistakes by helping them, it really just seems a bit ironic to me.
Another thing I want to add is the Worcester v. Georgia case. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee nation was a “domestic dependent nation” with no rights binding on a state. That being said, they should be able to do what they want, right? Well, no. Even though they lost in court because they were ruled as a distinct nation, they were never treated like one. They were practically treated like animals as they were forced to move and give up their land. The land that was rightfully theirs first.
But why would this have happened? Why is it that now we started caring instead of back then? Well, the same reason why slavery existed. Because of the race and color. The Europeans fought with each other for territory. They didn’t just take it and say, oh this is mine now. Why? Well because they were mostly of the same color. They looked similar. They were white. But when they come to the New World and see the natives of a different color ( darker than them) they think it’s okay for them to ignore the natives. The color isn’t the same, so why should they care? It’s because they’re different that settlers pushed them back. If the natives weren’t, most likely there wouldn’t have been the same problems as there were in history.
But, even after all the problems and challenges they’ve had to go through in the past and even now, the natives continue to hold onto their heritage and thrive as a community. I admire that. Although they’ve experienced pain, and suffering, and gone through so many hardships, they continue to persist and pass down their traditions and beliefs. They continue to, and forever will. They’ve never given up, and that’s truly remarkable.