Indian Removal Act The trail of tears

On May 28 1830 it was announced that the Indian removal act had been passed and that two major tribes had agreed to the eviction. President Andrew Jackson began his second annual address speech with "it gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond white settlements, is approaching happy consummation.

Andrew Jackson

The Indian Removal Act stated that all Native American tribes were to be moved out of settled "white" land and across the Mississippi into Indian territory, through use of force if necessary. This meant tens of thousands were uprooted from their ancestral homes and thrown into other tribes territory. The main reason President Jackson did this is because he desired the rich lands the Native Americans claimed ownership to, and thought that if he moved them out of the current United States then all future conflict would be resolved. Andrew Jackson considered hundreds of people simply as savages because they lived differently from him and was hoping that if forced off their lands they would have to adapt to his way of life. Many farmers and rich plantation owners wanted the large Native American territories for planting crops, and began pressuring Andrew Jackson even more to take them off of the lands they wanted.

One of the tribes most resistant to their transfer to Oklahoma was the Seminole, who fought the U.S. army and the garrisons of Alabama and Georgia for control of their land. When they were demanded to make a migration to a empty prairie were they didn't know how to survive the Seminole looked to their Chief Osceola for guidance. For quite some time the Seminole resisted various pressure tactics aimed at making them sign the removal treaties, but eventually declared war on the United States to retain their freedom. For twelve years they fought the U.S. for control of Florida and after twelve years of a violent guerilla war the U.S. finally gave up and ceded the Florida territory to the Seminole, at least for the time being. They still live and thrive there today.

The Seminole lived in present day southwestern Florida in homes called Chickees, log cabin type structures with palmetto thatching and a cypress log frame. Chickees originated as a living structure because of a Seminole need to move, the Chickees were easily disposable and lasted about ten years before they needed rebuilding. When Andrew Jackson sent troops to remove the Seminoles they had to constantly relocate to avoid them. The Seminole clothing consisted of long floor length skirts, a blouse, and glass bead necklaces for the women and a "long shirt" ( a colorful coat with beads and ruffles ) for the men. Much of Seminole fashion had been influenced by colonial ideas, and incorporated colonial designs. The Seminole ate flat bread made from grain acquired by the grinding of Zamia plant roots into grain, they drank sofk a drink made from roasted corn. The Seminole made sweetgrass baskets from dried palmetto leaves weaved together. The Seminole had clans, family groups that children were born into characterized by an animal who shared a family trait. There are currently eight clans, though many have gone extinct.

Red is Cherokee territory blue is Creek

Another tribe very resistant to their removal were the Cherokee, they lived in northern Georgia and northwestern Alabama, with some in southernmost parts of North Carolina. They in a long and tiring legal battle and won their freedom to be an autonomous nation living in their own territory under their own laws. However Andrew Jackson had different ideas, he desired the rich lands the Cherokee occupied and wanted to kick them out. Despite the president's opinion the Supreme Court ruled and Georgia agreed that the Cherokee were to be allowed to remain in their homes and not be forced to the Indian territory. Andrew Jackson ignored the ruling of the Supreme Court and sent his troops to forcibly remove the Cherokee despite the treaty stating otherwise. Still the Cherokee resisted their removal stoutly until 1835 when a few hopeless Cherokee agreed to sign away their land and gave President Jackson legal rights to remove the entire nation with the full force of his army. This began the trail of tears as thousands were forced through the wilderness without adequate supplies or support, many dying from disease, and starvation along the way.

Above is a Cherokee basket, typically made out of cane, white oak, hickory bark, honeysuckle, and dyed with black walnut or butternut mixtures. Such baskets were an important part of Cherokee culture, and are still important today. Another part of Cherokee culture that is still important today is their fashion, particularly clothe and hairstyles. Cherokee women often favored tear dresses, whose name is derived from the Trail of Tears. Tear dresses are ragged edge calico print fabric, often embroidered with geometric designs. Cherokee men often wear ribbon shirts, which have a design similar to tear dresses, but are instead decorated by manly ribbons. Men of Cherokee tribes also are known to wear calico turbans as well. Currently Cherokee eat a variety of traditional dishes, along with more modern food. Some of the traditional Cherokee meals include barbecued fish, bean bread, and Kanchui. Currently Cherokee live in modern homes with Cherokee decoration.

Despite popular belief Cherokee actually lived in log cabins instead of teepees. They were forced out mainly because gold was found on their land and President Jackson wanted it. Much of Cherokee culture that we have record of was influenced by the white settlers and may be historically inaccurate. However we do know that they are and were a very spiritual and religious tribe. They developed many legends about nature and their world focusing on the holiness of owls and cougars, often concerning the numbers four or seven. The Cherokee used large marbles to play a game called di ga da yo s di, where opposing teams would throw their marbles in holes to complete a course. Cherokee towns were divided into groups by clan.

The Creeks originally lived in an area including parts of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina. Today there are about 20,000 living in Oklahoma. Previously the Creek people lived in thatched huts plastered with clay, arrayed in large villages surrounding a central square and town hall. When a Creek village got to big it would split into two self sufficient villages with close ties. This is how the vast confederacy of the Muscogee expanded. In the past the Creek people governed themselves in seperate tribes lead by hereditary chiefs combining under a single leader when necessary. They now have a government system similar to that of the United States consisting of three similar branches and a MCN court . The Creek are also known as Muscogee which can be spelled many different ways, all Muscogee tribes are descended from a vast confederacy of tribes spanning the entire southeastern half of North America. They wore very decorative and complex clothing with intricate stitching and beadwork. In 1814 Andrew Jackson signed the treaty of Fort Jackson which forced the entire Creek nation off their lands and on a long hard trail to Oklahoma. This is where almost all of Creek descent now live, but there is another band of Poarch Creeks living in old Creek territory.

There were two general white distinctions of the Creek, the Upper Creek who lived above the Tallapoosa River, and the Lower Creek the ones who lived Chattahoochee river. The distinction was purely geographical but ultimately was their downfall. When gold was discovered on lower Creek land, greedy settlers wanted to kick the Creek of and steal the gold. Andrew Jackson ended up kicking the lower Creek out into Oklahoma, and disbanded the Upper Creek into various smaller and less threatening Muscogee tribes. The Creeks were forced to abandon their homes, their traditions, their lives, and left to live in the rather harsh empty plains of Oklahoma. All the bands of Muscogee eventually either withered away or joined the group in Oklahoma.

President Jackson wanted to have security for his country and considered the Native nations a threat. He desired their rich lands for the planting of crops and the robbing of resources. He wanted more power, more money, more slaves, and he got his opportunity in the Native Americans. He thought if he could turn public opinion against the people who had aided their enemies in war and who were thought of as savages, he might be able to pass legislation to force them of their lands. So he campaigned and got barely enough support to kick out thousands and seize their lands to boost his economy. In increasing his cotton production Andrew Jackson became the first president to obtain no debt. But at what cost?

Credits:

Created with images by TradingCardsNPS - "Trail of Tears for the Creek People" • Sh4rp_i - "Andrew Jackson Macro Portrait $20" • Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL - "Map of the province of West Florida" • Boston Public Library - "Seminole Indian squaws, Florida" • danielthornton - "Museum of the Cherokee Indian, NC" • BFS Man - "Black Kettle" • gadgetdude - "Creek" • Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL - "Map of the state of Georgia"

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