Before the arrival of the white settlers, the Cherokee Nation, one of the
five civilized

tribes that included the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and the Seminoles, was
a dominant

force in the southeast. These agricultural people built many small farms on
highly fertile land

and their nation thrived. Their mannagement of territory disproved the
notion that Indians were

incapable of managing their own territory, and therefore must give it to the
United States. The

Cherodee Nation, like the other Civilized tribes with the exception of the
Seminoles, tried to
assimilate with white culture, even going as far as to shape a government and
a society that
matched that of the United States. They ceded lands in futile attempts to
appease white
pressure and to remain in their ancestrial homelands. With increasing
pressure from the
expanding white population, the southern states, and Andrew Jackson, the
Federal Government
compelled the five tribes to sign away their ancestrial homelands for unknown
territory to the
west of the Mississippi River. Unable to change the governments course of
action through
diplomacy, the legal system, and warfare the five civilized tribes ultimately
accepted the removal
to preserve their culture and people.

Government Policy

The pressures of white expansionism led the United States Government to find
wasys to
remove the Native Americans from their fertile lands. Spurred by this
pressure, and the need to
fulfill his campaign promise to open indian land for settlement, Andrew
Jackson pushed thru
Congress the Removal Act. The Act allowed the government to negotiate
treaties with the
various Native American tribes, pay them for their lands, relocate them to
western lands, and
support the tribes for one year after removal.
President Jackson, more than anyone else, was responsiblefor the fate of the
civilized tribes of the southeast. When the state of Georgia annexed the
Cherokee Nation's land
within Georgia territory against all treaties the Federal Government had with
the Cherokee
Nation, Jackson support it, even going as far as to ignore the Supreme Court
when it ruled the
Georgia annexation unconstitutional and the Cherokee Nation as an Independant
Nation. In another era Jackson's actions would have been deemed treasonous
and a total abuse
of executive power but in the 1830's, the growing population, the need to
expand to accomodate
this growth and perhaps Congress' reluctance to submit the country to a
Constitutional debate of
power led to the removal of the indians.

Indian Reaction

The leaders of the Cherokee Nation and other tribes knew that fighting the
white settlers
would gibe the national and state governments an excuse to send in troops and
take away land.
The Cherokee nation responded with diplomacy. Several chief went to
Washington to plead
their case, pointing out the legal treaties between the Cherokee Nation and
the United States
gauranteeing them their land. The removal issue was hotly debated in
Congress. Support for
the tribes by Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Daniel Webster and other prominent
statesmen feel on
deaf ears.
The issue was also being fought in the legal system. In Worcester vs.
Georgia, Chief
Justice John Marshall ruled that the laws of Georgia were invalid in Cherokee
land and that the
Cherokee land belongs to the Cherokee. The ruling was not enforced by the
Executive branch
wiht President Jackson refusing to do so.
Dishearten and divided the Cherokee Nation broke into two factions, for
removal or
against. John Ross, Cherokee Nation chief, led the larger group against
removal while Major
Ridge led the smaller group for removal. Major Ridge and his faction sighned
a treaty with the
United States Government for five million dollars. The government was fully
aware that ridge did
not represent the mojority of the Cherokee Nation, but they validated the
treaty anyway. With
this, the fate of the tribe was sealed.
Several of the other civilized tribes were removed ahead of the Cherokees.
Choctaws removal was tragic. The journey west was badly planned and badly
carried out. An
enormous number of indians died in their removal. The Cherokee's removal was
just as trajic
culminating in the death of over four thousand Cherokees in what has come to
be known as the
trail of tears.
Reasons for such a tragic outcome are numerous. Contaminated food and water
supplied by government contracters accounted for a large portion of the death
toll. The
government and the contractors were, as always, motivated by economic
variables. The cost of
the removal was first and foremost on their agenda. Fatigue, poor logistical
planning, to outright
negligence are also contributing factors. The United States removed the
first few thousand
Cherokees by boat, but that proved to be so tragic that John Ross convinced
the government to
allow the tribe to manage the removal themselves and to allow them to make
the journey across
land. This proved not to be the answer as thousands more died of starvation,
illness, and the
elements as the U.S. Army marched them across the western