The Indian Removal Act displaced thousands of Native people from their homelands and thousands died on that journey. Andrew Jackson is the father of Native American genocide in the Southeast. We should not forget that the United States Congress passed that Act by one single vote, either. Although the concept was Jackson’s, Congress was an accomplice. Greed was behind the creation of the Removal Act.
Fifteen years after his death and after this horrendous act of genocide, the Civil War broke out.
The two bloody periods remind me of the Christian story of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and how the devil tempted Eve to take a bite of the apple. That was the first bite and look where it got them! No more Eden.
Jackson slaughtered thousands of Native families during his lifetime. He murdered men, women and children because they stood in the way of progress. Their homes were on land that was rich with resources and gold was discovered in Georgia at the time—nothing more than greed motivated this Removal Act. Now it’s oil.
Oh how history does repeat itself! In this present-day story of good and evil, the devil wins again, as good Christians take a second bite of the apple…they blindly follow the master liar and manipulator giving up their moral values. Congress once again is poised to help nightmares come true…
Andrew Jackson after all was said and done was a bottom line President. He murdered thousands of people whose crime was that they were living in their homes and occupying space.
The Trail of Tears is this monster’s legacy. Many innocent people died as a result of the Removal Act. Today’s media is not pointing this out nearly enough. This should not be ignored: There was a Native American holocaust and Jackson was the architect of it. His killed more than 30 percent of the Native population in the Southeast and forcibly removed the majority of the tribes that occupied territory there.
He was the leading advocate of an Indian Removal policy and signed that policy into law after he was elected President in 1830. The effect of this law was that the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw) could leave by treaty or by force. They were called civilized tribes because they had assimilated in many ways into white society. They had built homes and operated farms and some owned slaves. They had their own newspapers, governments and police forces. Their communities were for all intents and purposes carbon copies of the non-Native towns surrounding them.
The Choctaw were the first to be removed; their removal served as a model for the methods employed against the other tribes.
The Choctaw were moved in three phases. The first phase started in November of 1831 and ended in 1833. They were hampered by bad weather, floods and snow. They were low on food, surviving on a handful of boiled corn, one turnip and one cup of heated water a day.
When they reached Little Rock, a Choctaw Chief referred to their journey as “A Trail of Tears and Death.” Approximately 17,000 Choctaws made the trip. It is estimated approximately 6,000 died along the trails.
The Seminoles refused to leave their homelands and war was declared on them. The U.S. spent over $40 million on that war over two decades. It is estimated there were 5,000 Seminoles. The U.S. removed approximately 3,000. Many were killed, captured or starved to death, and the rest were forced to move to Oklahoma. A small band fled into the Everglades.
The U.S. gave up trying to subjugate them when they retreated into the Everglades.
The Seminole band of the Everglades claim to be the only federally recognized tribe that did not relinquished its original independent existence spiritually and politically.
The Muscogee (Creek)
In 1836, they were forcibly removed from Georgia to Indian Territory in the west. 15,000 Creeks were forced marched from their lands. 3,500 did not survive the trip to Oklahoma
The Chickasaw received financial compensation from the U.S. government for their lands. They then purchased land from the Choctaw in Oklahoma and moved in 1837. They traveled from Memphis, Tennessee with all their belongings and livestock. Three thousand crossed the Mississippi River, following routes taken by the tribes before them. Nearly 500 died from dysentery and small pox. Upon arrival, they were merged administratively with the Choctaw Nation. They have since re-established their own government now in Ada, Oklahoma.
The Cherokee were forced out after contentious legal battles. By 1838, 2,000 Cherokee had voluntarily relocated to Oklahoma. The U.S. began forcible removals that same year. An armed force of over 7,000 forced the Cherokee from their homes, often physically dragging them away onto wagons and then taking them to holding camps. Over 13,000 Cherokee people were taken from their homes and their land given away in a lottery. They were marched 1,000 miles in the winter from Red Clay, Tennessee to Oklahoma. They were not allowed to enter any villages along the way because of fear of the spread of disease. Many died from disease, others from starvation and exposure to the cold. They froze to death.
One Georgia soldier who participated in the removal said “I fought through the War Between the States and seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.” (Note this quote was made by the soldier after he had participated in the civil war from 1861-1865.)
Another soldier who participated in the removal produced a vivid account on his 80th birthday. Private John G. Burnett retold to his children his experience while in Captain McClellan’s company 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Indian Removal 1838-1839. He described how the Cherokee (some bereft of blankets and barefoot after being driven from there homes) were loaded “like sheep or cattle into six hundred forty-five wagons.” Excerpts follow:
“*In one home death had come during the night. A little sad-faced child had died and was lying on a bearskin couch and some women were preparing the little body for burial. All were arrested and driven out leaving the child in the cabin. I don’t know who buried the body.
“In another home was a frail mother, apparently a widow, and three small children, one just a baby. When told that she must go, the mother gathered the children at her feet, prayed a humble prayer in her native tongue, patted the old family dog on the head, and told the faithful creature good-bye. With a baby strapped on her back and leading a child with each hand [she] started on her exile. But the task was too great for that frail mother. A stroke of heart failure relieved her sufferings. She sunk and died with her baby on her back, and her other two children clinging to her hands.
“Chief Junaluska, who had saved President Jackson’s life at the battle of Horse Shoe, witnessed this scene, the tears gushing down his cheeks, and lifting his cap he turned his face toward the heavens and said, ‘Oh my God, if I had known at the battle of the Horse Shoe what I know now, American history would have been differently written.’”
Private Burnett continued: “At this time, 1890, we are too near the removal of the Cherokees for our young people to fully understand the enormity of the crime that was committed against a whole lot of people. Truth is, the facts are being concealed from the young people of today. School children of today do not know that we are living on lands that were taken from a people at the point of a bayonet to satisfy white men’s greed…I can truthfully say that I did my best for them when they certainly did need a friend. Twenty-five years after the removal I still lived in their memory as ‘the soldier that was good to us.’”
And then: “However, murder is murder whether committed by the villain skulking in the dark or by uniformed men stepping to the strains of martial music.
Murder is murder, and somebody must answer. Somebody must explain the streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer of 1838. Somebody must explain the 4,000 silent graves that mark the trail of the Cherokees to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but the picture of 645 wagons lumbering over the frozen ground with their cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory.
Let the historian of a future day tell the sad story with its sighs, its tears and dying groans. Let the great judge of all the earth weigh our actions and reward us according to our work.
Children—Thus ends my promised birthday story. This December the 11th 1890.”*
It is estimated that over 4,000 Cherokee lost their lives on this death march.
Over 51,000 Native human beings were torn from their homes and over 15,500 perished.
History does repeat itself and maybe this time if we take notice and pay attention we will wake up in time to stop this senseless and dangerous man from destroying our country…you listening Congress???
Donna Loring is an author, playwright, and Penobscot Tribal Elder.