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 another list of Natives who could take Jackson’s place on the $20 bill. Who do you think it should be?
Chief Pontiac, who was born in 1720 in the territory that would become present-day Detroit, became an ally of the French to stop British colonists from moving in. To that end he formed an alliance of tribes to resist the British, which became known as Pontiac’s Rebellion.
Quanah Parker, was a Comanche leader—born about 1845—who was equally adept at negotiating deals with Texas cattle barons as he was with conducting Native American Church meetings. He was the son of Comanche warrior Peta Nocona and white captive turned Comanche Cynthia Ann Parker, and he led his people into the reservation and post-reservation period.
Wilma Mankiller, who was born in 1945 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation in modern times. Her leadership on social and financial issues made her tribe a national role model. She served as principal chief of the Cherokee from 1985 to 1995, and during that time tripled the tribe’s enrollment, doubled employment, and built new housing, health centers, and children’s programs in northeast Oklahoma. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 by President Bill Clinton and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
Chief Seattle, who was born in 1780, was the chief of the Duwamish Tribe. The tribe’s ancestral land included the area known today as the City of Seattle, which was named after him. According to CaliforniaIndianEducation.org, he was a devoted ecologist who pursued a path of mutual respect and cooperation with white settlers.
Billy Frank Jr., who was born in 1931, was a citizen of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and a leader of the northwest “fish wars.” He was called a living legend, a visionary leader, a hero, a warrior, revolutionary, peacemaker, and a seminal figure in the northwest coastal tribes’ struggle to protect their sovereignty and assert their treaty fishing rights.
For those interested, see below for our first round of Natives who should replace Jackson on the $20 bill.