No Matter Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2441 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Native Americans

American Indian Studies

The Cherokee nation was removed from its native lands in 1838 - at the command of President Andrew Jackson and the United States government. The removal of the Cherokee was simultaneously an effort to neuter the most powerful of all of the native American peoples, but also to seize their land. Jackson's eyes were on the lands of Florida, for white farmers and investors. The land that had been in Cherokee hands for several thousand years, upon which the culture grew and thrived and demonstrated an exceptional sophistication was stripped from them and the survivors were put on a forced march during which nearly half of all the men women and children on the trail died. This death march to lands completely unfamiliar in geography, geology, biology and population (Oklahoma) led them to lands where virtually none of their traditions could continue, their way of live utterly destroyed. This singular event is so significant to not only Native American culture, but is so typical of the manner by which the Native Americans have been treated since the first European whites set foot in Jamestown. This provides fascinating subject matter for the student of history. Knowing the motivation, the point-of-view of the Cherokee as well as the U.S. government and its entire failure to set policies in regards to race and resulted in the destruction of a people, its culture, and it's land.

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The Cherokee nation had, at one time, spanned the territories now known as the Carolinas to Florida and West to Mississippi. Over the course of several millennia, the Cherokee had banded together five tribes all of whom took place in a relatively democratic political structure, where respect for the rule of law was absolute, and their culture significantly advanced. Education was paramount, they maintained a very solid and reliable economy, and they maintained the belief that they could successfully co-exist with the Americans. This, of course, would prove to be exceptionally naive when it came to Jackson. Where he had failed in his youth, he was certainly able to get back at the Cherokee decades later.

TOPIC: Term Paper on No Matter Assignment

Jackson's treatment of the Native Americans from the South during the eight years of his Presidency (comprised of the Cherokee of North Carolina, the Seminoles of Florida, the Creeks of Georgia, the Chickasaws of Tennessee, and the Choctaws of Mississippi) would be considered by most modern observers to be an attempted Genocide. The result was an absolutely broken nation who was able to mount a few attempts at general resistance, but failed to regain their once-dominant power. While it was Jackson's successor, Martin Van Buren, who would set the order for the forced march that became known as the "Trail of Tears," the policies that led to the forced removal had begun in 1830 under Jackson with the Indian Removal Act. The forced march that began in 1838 and ended more than a year later resulted in massive deaths. Over the course of just one sixteen day period, more than four-thousand Cherokees died.

The troops moving the people along would not stop, they would not allow rests, they provided nearly nothing in the manner of food or water, and made absolutely no provision for the sick, wounded, old, infirm or dying - those who collapsed were simply left on the side of the trail to die, or were shot or beaten to death. Families were separated, Cherokee nation customs and power structures were given no respect, and upon arrival in Oklahoma, the Cherokee found themselves throw into the same land as other tribes similarly forced to leave their homes for the newly set up Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Once there, the infighting, the struggle for food and shelter, the impossible to bear grief that struck led to massive deaths and occasional attempts to strike back - all of which were brutally suppressed. It was one of the largest forced relocation in modern history, and all of those people were rounded up and put on a path toward obsolescence and death.

In the face of very real and vocal opposition to the policy, President Martin Van Buren ordered the U.S. Army to start sweeping the Native Americans out of the American South in May of 1838. That month, it was the Cherokees who were first forced to leave their homes and move into temporary holding areas. In June, the march of nearly thirteen-thousand effectively imprisoned Cherokees was to start, but severe drought in the region caused a delay and nearly two-thousand Cherokee died over the course of the next three months of captivity. The Indians were without adequate food, had no real shelter, and were treated worse than animals. Those people who stood against the forced move were able to get some limited supplies of food and clothing into the camps in September. However, regardless of opposition, in October, the Cherokee were moved.

As they passed through Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois, additional smaller groups of Native Americans were swept up in the exodus and also forced to leave their homes and families. The cold of winter came on hard that year and the marchers were forced to halt along the banks of the Mississippi which had become impossible to navigate due to massive floating ice-flows. As they waited, the Seminoles, Creeks, Chickasaws and others were rounded up as well - all were put together, side by side with traditional enemies and friends alike. Just as had been the case in the Carolinas, conditions here were marked by a lack of adequate clothing and shelter, and very little food. This time, however, very little was able to be delivered to the native Americans by those sympathetic to their situation and hundreds more died over the next two months of waiting. The journey began again in January of 1839 finally ending in September of that year. It took more than a year and the deaths of more than seven-thousand people for the Trail of Tears to finally end - in Oklahoma where the Cherokee were to attempt to rebuild their nation scratched out of the dust and arid flatness of Oklahoma.

The impetus for this genocidal effort began fifty years prior to the march. Andrew Jackson, then a Colonel, had led a small division of mixed Calvary and infantry against the Cherokee in an attempt to seize their land. This effort was taken up without the consent of the Federal Government and Jackson, attempting to make a name for himself (then only in his early 20's) seized on a moment of confusion over a claim of a white settler in the area that a band of Cherokee had attacked him to use that excuse to launch an attack. His effort then, however, was ill planned, poorly supported, and resulted in failure.

This initial defeat had brought Jackson's star a bit lower in the sky and while it did not ultimately hurt his career or his path to power, it had made him very angry and inclined to view the Cherokee Nation as an impedance to the progress of the United States (a sentiment that was the center of the Monroe Doctrine with its center of Manifest Destiny). The Cherokee nation had not only defeated Jackson, it had also made numerous successful defenses in the courts against intrusions on their claim of sovereignty. In 1829, gold was discovered in Georgia and by early 1830, that state had changed its laws so that it could legally usurp the land upon which the gold had been found (Cherokee land).

The subsequent legal fight over the taking of Native American lands ended up in the Supreme Court which, predictably, ruled that the Cherokees were not sovereign and thus were not entitled to the same kind of binding legal treaty status a sovereign nation would have. This decision allowed the then President Jackson to draft legislation that would set the stage for the Trail of Tears. With their legal status as a sovereign nation being redacted, the Cherokee nation had no longer any real hope for survival against a determined President and a gold and land-hungry United States. The lands south of Virginia were to be the Americans and the Indians would have to simply get out of the way.

The first real successful effort at accomplishing the goal of removing Native Americans from their homes came in 1830 with the signing of the Indian Removal Act (McLean, 27). This law give the President the authority to negotiate treaties with Native American tribes that would result in the purchase of those lands and the eviction of the Native Americans. Not surprisingly, that law resulted in significant follow-up challenges by the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee leadership proved itself to be of a formidable intellect and made the argument that since the United States had negotiated contracts with the Cherokee previously to 1830 in which they were clearly designated as a sovereign nation - the Georgia state laws that allowed for the taking of Indian land were struck down… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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