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Immigration Native American
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Removing Native Americans from their Land

President Andrew Jackson offered similar rhetoric in his first inaugural address in 1829, when he emphasized his desire “to observe toward the Indian tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people.” Yet, only fourteen months later, Jackson prompted Congress to pass the Removal Act, a bill that forced Native Americans to leave the United States and settle in the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

Many Cherokee tribes banded together as an independent nation, and challenged this legislation in U.S. courts. In 1832, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokees, but some tribes still signed treaties giving the federal government the legal authority to "assist" them in their move to the Indian Territory.

In 1838, as the deadline for removal approached, thousands of federal soldiers and Georgia volunteers entered the territory and forcibly relocated the Cherokees. Americans hunted, imprisoned, raped, and murdered Native Americans. Cherokees surviving the onslaught were forced on a 1,000-mile march to the established Indian Territory with few provisions. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this “Trail of Tears.”

An audio recording of a Native American song commemorating this tragedy is available in the American Memory collection, Florida Folklife. A description of how some Cherokees settled in West Virginia can be heard in the audio recording Plateau Region as Unofficial Refuge for Cherokee from the Tending the Commons collection.

The expansion of the United States that encroached upon Native American lands occurred faster than many policymakers had predicted with events such as the Mexican-American War in 1848 placing new territories and tribes under federal jurisdiction. A government report, The Indians of Southern California in 1852, explained that many Californians believed “destiny had awarded California to the Americans to develop” and that if the Indians “interfered with progress they should be pushed aside.”



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