Removal of the Cherokee
In The Cherokee Removal, Perdue and Green show the trials that the Cherokee faced in the years from 1700 to 1840. This book shows how the Americans tried to remove these Indians from the southeastern part of the United States. The Cherokees tried to overcome the attempts of removal, but finally in 1838, they were removed from the area.
The Cherokees lived in the valleys of rivers that drained the southern Appalachians (Perdue, 1). The British first came into Cherokee country in 1700. They came for two major reasons: deerskins and war captives. They brought guns and ammunition, metal knives, hoes, hatchets, fabrics, kettles, rum, and trinkets. They took the Cherokee and made them slaves. The British built two forts to protect the Cherokees while they were fighting the enemies of the British. The Cherokees entered the French and Indian War on the side of the British (Perdue, 6). Attacks on Cherokees by white frontiersmen and duplicity by colonial officials caused the Cherokees to shift their allegiance to the French. During the war, the British destroyed many Cherokee towns.
The war the American Revolution caused many British settlers to push westward. These settlers began to compete with the Cherokees for land. The Cherokee were glad when the Proclamation of 1763 was put into effect. This prevented settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Most of the settlers became enemies. The settlers attacked the Cherokees, destroying many towns and killing many people. This attack caused the Cherokees to end their participation in the American Revolution. The American colonist continued to take over the Cherokee land.
In 1783, the American Revolution ended. Since most of the Cherokees helped the British in the Revolutionary War, the Americans needed to make peace with them. Then in1785, the treaty of Hopewell was signed (Perdue 8). This was a peace treaty between the Cherokee and the Americans. This treaty defined the Cherokees’ boundaries and it gave them the right to get rid of unwanted settlers. The states of Georgia and North Carolina ignored this treaty. The people of these states expanded into Cherokee land, and the Cherokees continued to resist.
The Americans needed to come up with another system. Henry Knox was gave the task to come up with this new system. Knox came up with a system that would make expansion possible without detriment to the Indians (Perdue 10). Knox hoped to end the fighting between the Cherokees and the Americans that was caused by expansion. Knox, along with George Washington, believed that the Indians were uncivilized. However, this lack of civilization was cultural, not racial. They thought that the Cherokees could become civilized if they were taught how to become civilized. They also believed that the United States should buy the land that the settlers illegally took from the Indians, and strictly obstruct further encroachment. This new system was called the Treaty of Holston (Perdue 11). It went into effect in July 1791. This treaty called for the civilization of the Indians. The civilization program was a major part of this new treaty.
The Cherokee culture went through some drastic changes. Schools were set up to instruct the Indians. Men farmed instead of hunting. They established some of their own laws. In 1827, the Cherokees wrote a constitution that provided for a bicameral legislature, a chief executive, and a judicial system (Perdue 13). The Americans tried to make the Indians become Christians. They developed their own writing system. They even began to publish their own newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix (Perdue 14). The Cherokees became more civilized than in the past. The Cherokees tried to become civilized to make their relationship with the Americans better.
American views on the Indians changed. They became racially prejudiced against the Cherokee. They now thought that Indians could never become fully civilized. The Americans thought the Cherokees had no place in the American society. The Americans wanted to justify removal of the Indians to lands in the west. This would make more room for the increasing population of the Americans’. The Americans insisted that the Indians sell their land. Most of the Cherokees refused to sell their land, but a small number of Cherokees accepted the offer and moved west. Since the Cherokee refused to sell the land, the Americans thought the only way to get rid of them was to remove them. When Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828, he begged Congress to adopt the removal plan. There was no other way to take control of the Cherokee land. The law stated that land could be purchased only by treaty. The Cherokee did not agree to sell their land through a treaty. So the Indian Removal Act was passed on May 28, 1830 (Perdue 18).
The Cherokees would not go down easily. They went to the United States’ Supreme Court to protect their rights. In Worcester v. Georgia, the Court ruled in favor of Cherokee sovereignty (Perdue 19). Georgia went ahead and established a land lottery. This allowed citizens to take over Cherokee land. This only caused more trouble between the two cultures. The Cherokees began to have mixed feelings about removal. A group of Cherokees called the Treaty Party wanted to negotiate a treaty for removal. In the spring of 1836, the Treaty of New Echota was ratified (Perdue 20). It gave them two years to prepare for removal. Many of the Cherokees, led by John Ross, protested this treaty. However, in the winter of 1838-1839, all of the Cherokees headed west toward Oklahoma. This removal of the Cherokees is now known, as the Trail of Tears was a very gruesome event. During the trip from the southern United States to current day Oklahoma, many of the Cherokees died. Shortly after their arrival in Oklahoma, they began to rebuild. They began tilling fields, sending their children to school, and attending Council meetings (Perdue 170).
The Cherokees were very civilized in dealing with the trails of removal. These people endured more than any other group of people throughout history. They played within the rules in their struggle. They did not want to start a war with the Americans. The Cherokees resisted removal and took it to court. Despite all of their tries to keep their land, they were removed.
Green, Michael D., and Theda Perdue, eds. The Cherokee Removal: A brief
History with Documents. New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s