Immigrant and Ethnic History Essay

Pages: 6 (1962 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans

Ethnic Studies -- Indian Removal Issues in American History

Describe the way of life of the Choctaws and the Cherokees in early 19th century America society. What were the Advantages and the Disadvantages in 19th century American society? Had they not been removed, is it likely they would have prospered on their lands.

Before the Indian Removal era, the indigenous American Indian tribes lived on vast, wide-ranging plains of territory with most of the respective Indian tribes respecting the boundaries of one another's territory. There exceptions, such as the longstanding antagonism and outright violent conflict between the Pawnee and Sioux (Takaki, 2008). Before the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was implemented, both the Choctaws and the Cherokees had traditionally relied on the natural resources on their respective territories. When U.S. authorities began pressuring the Indian tribes to relinquish their ancestral territories east of the Mississippi, some tribes cooperated (although reluctantly) more than others. The Sioux, for example, engaged in fierce armed resistance throughout much of the rest of 19th century before being vanquished by superior firepower, numbers, and the technology of war perfected since the Civil War era (Takaki, 2008).

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Meanwhile, the Choctaws and Cherokees recognized the apparent futility of trying to resist U.S. military force and negotiated treaties that compensated them in cash and in territorial rights to lands to the east of the Mississippi, before they were ever referred to as the Great Plains and known instead as "Indian Country" (Takaki, 2008). Nevertheless, some Cherokee and Choctaw were eventually evicted forcibly, but the Cherokee Nation had actually managed to secure legal victories from the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with white settlers' illegally occupying Indian land. As a condition of resettlement, the Cherokee Nation received five million dollars, plus another third of a million dollars for land improvement expenses, and large tracts of land that U.S. authorities never imagined would be useful to the American nation (Takaki, 2008).

Essay on Immigrant and Ethnic History Assignment

The Cherokee (in particular) thrived on the wild herds of buffalo that roamed the Great Plains until white settlers again began encroaching onto the land over which they had been expressly awarded sovereign rights in connection with their resettlement throughout the 1830s. Gradually, it became apparent that "Indian Territory" was not as inhospitable to human development and cultivation as had been assumed when it was ceded to the indigenous Indian tribes in conjunction with the Indian Removal Act (Takaki, 2008).

In part, this was attributable to the newly expanded transportation technology after Reconstruction, when the national railroad system provided the 19th century equivalent of contemporary "globalism" within the boundaries of North America. Likewise, the discovery of oil, minerals and other natural resource reserves throughout Indian Territory and of gold deposits in California inspired many white Americans to whittle away the very territories they had granted to the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes and, in many cases, to simply violate or ignore formal treaties altogether (Takaki, 2008).

Even if the Indians had not been overpowered by U.S. military forces, the environmental changes imposed by the new westward migration patterns of Americans during the last third of the 19th century likely would have ended the traditional way of life for the Indian tribes anyway. As it was, the eradication of large numbers of buffalo herds across the Great Plains and in the west and southwest by railroad companies accelerated the demise of the native Indian tribes purely from a natural resource perspective (Takaki, 2008). Ultimately, the technological advances (particularly in railroad transportation) and the new availability of energy to fuel the industrialization of the United States would have eventually made the traditional Indian way of life impossible to maintain even without their forced removal and subsequent victimization by treaty violations (Takaki, 2008).

2) Describe the racial laws in 19th century America. Which groups were affected by them, and in what ways? Were there differences between the laws and their application to different groups?

In the 19th century, especially after the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment that finally outlawed slavery in the U.S., American law began to shift toward more social equality. However, for the rest of the century, the principles and rights supposedly guaranteed by constitutional law and the decisions of the Supreme Court existed largely in name only (Gjerde, 1998). Black Americans in particular suffered from extensive abuse through segregation, racist vigilantism that often enjoyed either tacit or overt support from state and local law enforcement authorities, and from legislative manipulations expressly designed and intended to deprive them of their rights as granted in law and recognized by the Supreme Court (Gjerde, 1998).

In that regard, Jim Crow laws and redistricting practices were imposed throughout the southern states to prevent black Americans from exercising their right to vote (Gjerde, 1998). Typically, such efforts included voter eligibility literacy requirements that neither many whites nor blacks could actually satisfy; however, in conjunction with grandfather clauses to exempt any voter whose father had voted or who had voted himself previously had the (intentional) effect of barring only black voters, since none of them could ever possibly have voted before their right to do so was recognized by federal law (Gjerde, 1998).

Native American Indians also suffered from discrimination despite benefiting from laws that technically recognized their rights as citizens (Gjerde, 1998). Most of them were eventually restricted to life on government reservations where they could not continue their traditional way of life because of the limitations of their territory. They became increasingly dependent on government assistance for survival. Within white society, Indians were discriminated against and typically faced with the decision either to assimilate into white society completely and abandon their ancestral way of life altogether or to exist on the fringes of American society in the reservations without much hope of any kind of meaningful life. Even when they attempted to assimilate, Indians discovered that white America largely regarded them as an inferior race of people and in some cases, as complete savages (Takaki, 2008).

In general, the more recent immigrants to the U.S. were victimized by the less recent non-native inhabitants of the North American Continent, despite the fact that all of them were also either first-generation immigrants or descendants of first-generation Americans (Gjerde, 1998). Unlike contemporary U.S. society, there were absolutely no prohibitions about racial and ethnic exclusion; in virtually any American city with a large influx of immigrant populations, it was perfectly routine to see shop windows with signs reading "Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply," "Help Wanted: No Jews Need Apply," and "Help Wanted: No Italians Need Apply." This pattern of racial and ethnic discrimination would continue almost unabated through the rest of the 19th century, notwithstanding isolated legal victories. It would actually continue (particularly in the case of black Americans) for almost a full century after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 until its principles and intent were finally implemented in any meaningful way during and after the civil rights era of the 1960s (Gjerde, 1998).

3) Write 2 editorials, one arguing for and the other arguing against the removal of the Cherokees, using laws, constitutional principles, and prior government policies and actions to justify either course.

Editorial in Favor of Indian Removal

Currently, this great nation of intellectuals and great engineers has the capacity to greatly expand the wealth and prosperity of the entire national population. An extremely large portion of the North American territory is undeveloped despite abundant evidence of rich natural resources and vast plains of harvestable land that could accommodate millions of hard-working American people.

However, this great destiny of the American people is being challenged and threatened by the invalid claims of a primitive peoples who have traditionally insisted on solely occupying tremendously and absurdly large territories in relation their number. Relatively small numbers of people comprised by the so-called "Cherokee Nation" have already extorted vast sums of money from our government in return for territory to which they had no right to occupy to the extent that occupation meant excluding others from enjoying its benefits. Because they rely on primitive resource cultivation techniques, they claim that they require extremely large territories that are simply unreasonable when we have offered to share our superior knowledge about farming, especially. It is, therefore, their rejection of our magnanimity that is the reason they still require such large territory to support their small number.

It is true that some of the Great Plains were once ceded to the Cherokee and other primitive peoples. However, that was before their true value became apparent. Now, we are faced with blind adherence to treaties executed in error that provided unconscionable and inequitable benefits to people unqualified to develop those benefits to their true potential. If this nation is to develop in the same fashion as other great powers, certainly, we have a right to cultivate our natural resources within our borders. Britain, France (and other nation) have unapologetically expanded their territories far beyond their natural borders, in some cases, wiping out indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, in this nation, we have already… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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