In 2012, we spotlighted Andrew Jackson as our top pick for worst U.S. president—because he earned his “Indian Killer” nickname. He was a major proponent of Indian removal, his first effort was waging a war against the Creeks. The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery.
He would recommend that troops systematically kill women and children to complete the extermination of Indigenous Peoples. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act, which legalized ethnic cleansing. Within seven years 46,000 indigenous people were removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi. Their removal gave 25 million acres of land “to white settlement and to slavery,” according to PBS. The area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations. In the Trail of Tears alone, 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.
So why would this country pay homage to such a man on its currency. Jackson has graced the $20 bill since 1929, replacing 24th President Grover Cleveland.
So we’ve compiled a list of just 10 Natives who could take Jackson’s place on the $20 bill. Who do you think it should be?
Sequoyah, born in Tennessee sometime between 1760 and 1780, was a skilled blacksmith, silversmith and engraver who wanted a way to sign his name on his work. By 1809, he was working on a written syllabary—or a symbol for every Cherokee word. He soon turned to phonetic symbols that represented the 85 distinct syllables in the Native language.
Osceola, born around 1804 among the Creek Indians in Georgia, he was a Seminole leader who fought against Andrew Jackson’s forces during the first Seminole Wars of 1817-1818. Fighting with fierce guerrilla tactics against government troops, Osceola later plunged his knife into a treaty he was asked to sign that would have moved his people. Osceola’s action precipitated the second Seminole wars that lasted seven years. Osceola later was tricked into talking peace and was captured in 1837 while carrying a white truce flag.
Sitting Bull, born around 1831, became a legendary Lakota warrior and leader against white encroachment. He fought in his first war party at the age of 14. He is known as the architect in the defeat of General George Armstrong Custer, even though he himself did not fight in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Geronimo, born in 1829, was a member of the smallest band of the Chiricahua Apache, the Bedonkohe. He spent his life resisting the colonization of his homeland in the Southwest. After his mother, wife and three children were murdered by Mexican soldiers, Geronimo spent the next 10 years taking revenge on the Mexican government.
Tecumseh, born in 1768, was a Shawnee leader who tried to unite all Native Americans so they could defend themselves against the growing United States.
Red Cloud, born in 1822, was an Oglala Lakota war leader, chief and worthy opponent against the United States Army. He led the successful campaign known as Red Cloud’s War (1866-1868) over control of Powder River Country in northeast Wyoming and southern Montana.
Cochise, born in 1805, was Geronimo’s father-in-law, and served as principal chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache. He led an uprising against Americans that began in 1861.
Chief Joseph was known to have been one of the first Nez Perce Indian chiefs to convert to Christianity. Chief Joseph worked to forge a new treaty and a new reservation in hopes of making peace with European settlers. After gold was discovered in Nez Perce lands the U.S. government took back millions of acres from Joseph and his people.
Chief Joseph denounced his white friends, destroyed his bible and refused to sign off on the new boundaries. When clashes caused the death of white settlers, Joseph led his people on what is considered one of the most remarkable military retreats in history. After a 1,400-mile march to Canada, victories against U.S. forces numbered more than 2,000 soldiers.
Kintpuash (Strikes the Water Brashly) or Captain Jack, born in 1837, he was the Chief of the Modoc Tribe and leader during the Modoc War. In 1864, with the influx of settlers, the Modoc were forced to move to the Klamath Reservation. Treated poorly, Captain Jack led his people back to the Modoc territory on the Oregon-California border. Though the Army forced them back, Captain Jack again moved about 180 back to their ancestral lands.
The Army again tried to gather the Modocs to which Captain Jack resisted in the Battle of Lost River and eventually settled in what is now known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold, an area with caves and trenches in today’s Lava Beds National Monument. When the Army attacked, 35 soldiers were killed with no Modoc casualties.
In attempts to negotiate, Captain Jack and others met with a Federal Peace Commission, to which Captain jack and others fired pistols killing leaders of the commission. He was eventually captured after fleeing and was hanged on October 3, 1873, only one of three Indian combatants to be convicted as war criminals in American history.
Hiawatha, or Aiionwatha, meaning “he makes rivers,” was born into the Onondaga Nation in the early 16th century and adopted into the Mohawk Nation later in life. He and the Peacemaker convinced the five nations to join and form the Iroquois Confederacy, which was the basis for the joining of the 13 colonies and the United States Constitution.