The forced removal of the Cherokee materialized after the passing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. However, there are several things that motivated the US Congress to pass the Act. The sequence of these events can be traced from 1814 to the 1830s, although some of them overlap…
Between 1814 and 1824, Andrew Jackson became useful in negotiating 9 out of 11 treaties whose intentions were to divest Five Civilized Tribes, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creeks, of their eastern lands in exchange for free lands in the west. As a result of these treaties, the US was able to control three quarters of Florida and Alabama as well as parts of North Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee. This was a period characterised by voluntary Indian migration. However, only a small percentage of Cherokee, Choctaws and Creeks moved to the new lands .
Around the same time, that is, during the 1820s, there was the creation of the Indian Territory which is the current-day Oklahoma. This marked the genesis of the reservation system for aboriginal Americans. In 1827, the Cherokee adopted their own written constitution declaring themselves to be an independent, sovereign nation and the Congress felt threatened by this. In 1828, there were three major things that contributed toward the creation of the Indian Removal Act. First, Andrew Jackson was elected to become the president of the US. In his campaigns, Jackson had made promises one of which was to “free land” later to be given to white settlers. The land specifically was to be in the southern frontier states. His appeal was primarily directed to settlers of Georgia. At that time, the Cherokee Indians occupied a total of 35,000 acres in Georgia.
The second contributing even in 1828 was that the Georgian legislature passed a legislation incorporating or annexing all Cherokee country within the borders of the state. The state legislature also abolished all existing Cherokee customs and laws, and commissioned surveyors to map out 160-acre land lots out of Cherokee land. These lots were to be distributed through public lotteries to white citizens residing in Georgia2. The third contributing event was the discovery of gold near Dahlonega. This was a region located in northern Georgia and it was in the middle of the Cherokee territory. This led to tensions between the residents of Georgia and the Cherokees. President Jackson used this tension to pressure the Cherokee community to sign a removal treaty34. Jackson had no desire to protect the Cherokees using the powers vested in the national government5. In his First Annual Message to the Congress in 1829, Jackson called for the displacement of the Indian community from their native lands. The same year, John Ross, who was the leader of the Cherokee, travelled to Washington D.C. in order to protest against the actions of the Georgian legislature, and plead for justice for the Cherokee community. While in Washington, Ross found sympathizers among the members of the Congress but unfortunately, most of them were anti-Jackson. Ross ...
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