Indian removal Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Indian removal resulted in European American farmers claiming and transforming the Southeast and the Ohio River Valley, instituting intensive agricultural development of those regions and increasing the agricultural production of the nation. Treaties instituting the removal granted Native American tribes ownership in perpetuity of lands that would later become the states of Kansas and Nebraska, once those agreements were broken.

As agricultural development and settlement increased in the Southeast and in the area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, settlers, farmers, and others interested in the economic potential of these lands came to resent the large number of Native Americans still occupying valuable lands in these regions. Political pressures grew to exchange government lands west of the Mississippi for the Indian lands in the East. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830Indian Removal Bill. Under this legislation, the government created the Indian Territory in the west and guaranteed it to Native Americans forever.Native Americans;forced removal to Oklahoma

Treaties were negotiated under which tribes from the East moved to lands in the central and southern plains. At the time, many believed that white farmers would never settle the semiarid plains. Although many people in the eastern states simply wanted the Indians out of the way, some missionaries and other humanitarians believed that removal was actually in the best interest of the Native Americans because it would allow for their more gradual assimilation into American culture.

Roughly sixty thousand Native Americans were moved from the Southeast into present-day Oklahoma. The so-called Five Civilized Tribes (a term used by whites because these tribes were considered more assimilated than others) included the Cherokee, the Muskogee or Creek, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, and the Seminole. Approximately ten thousand Native Americans from about twelve smaller tribes in the northern parts of the Ohio River Valley were moved into what is now Kansas. There was much death and suffering involved in these removals. Some of the suffering was caused by the fact that the government contracted with private businesses to carry out the actual removals, and in some cases the businessmen involved did not provide nearly enough supplies or equipment to carry out the task, through either ignorance, inattention, or simple fraud.

Although all the tribes moved to the west were at least partly agriculturalists, the non-Indians who replaced them farmed the land more intensively, and the economic production of the vacated lands increased dramatically after removal. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854Kansas-Nebraska Act opened Kansas and Nebraska to white settlement, and the tribes that had been promised them “forever” were moved again, into present-day Oklahoma, which remained the Indian Territory until 1898.

Further Reading
  • Joy, Mark S. American Expansionism, 1783-1860: A Manifest Destiny? London: Pearson Education, 2003.
  • Perdue, Theda, and Michael D. Green. The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. 2 vols. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Land laws

Native American trade

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