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Indian Removal Act

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Indian Removal Act

In the 1800s, the demand for new land increased significantly. Americans were looking to expand into the south and west. What was one major obstacle to settling new land? There were already people living there. Indigenous Americans had already settled the land long ago. How did the government proceed? Read on to find out.

Native American Removal

The idea of removing indigenous people from their native goes back to the Louisiana Purchase as President Thomas Jefferson believed that the Native Americans living in the East could be removed and transported to the land in the new territory. This would free up the rich farmland that had already been settled for white frontiersmen. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 is the beginning of the era of Native American Removal.

Timeline of the Era of Native American Removal

DateEventResult
1803The Lousiana Purchase The US had acquired a large chunk of native land
1814Andrew Jackson commanded a military force that fought the Creek tribeCreeks lost millions of acres of land in Georgia and Alabama
1814-1828Voluntary migration began with small amounts of Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek people moving to new landThe US government gained control of huge portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Carolina
1818Troops invaded Seminole land in Florida as a punishment for harboring slavesThe US government acquired more native land in Florida
1823Right Of Occupancy decision made by the US Supreme CourtIt was decided that indigenous people could occupy the land, but could not claim it. Their right to occupancy was less than the white settlers' right to exploration
1824Bureau of Indian Affairs was establishedThe Bureau of Indian Affairs helped the federal government craft treaties and assimilate indigenous people
1830The Indian Removal Act was passedIndian tribes were forcibly removed and relocated
1838The Trail of Tears occurred thousands of Cherokee people were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory

Bureau of Indian Affairs 1824

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA, was originally established to help the federal government craft treaties and assimilate indigenous people. The BIA was established by former Secretary of War John C. Calhoun in March of 1824. Before the BIA was established, there was a similar agency called the Office of Indian Affairs. It was part of the Department of War.

At this point in history, the goal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to defeat native tribes and bend them to the will of the American government.

Under the BIA, the federal government would sign a treaty with a tribe, defeat them with military powers, and then relocate the tribe to a reservation.

Seal of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Native American Removal. StudySmarter.Seal of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Indian Removal Act 1830

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 created a federal law that authorized the removal and relocation of indigenous tribes. The Indian Removal Act was approved and enforced by Andrew Jackson. The act was created in order to move Native Americans from the land that they had previously settled to new land located west of the Mississippi.

Indian Removal Act:

A federal law forcing the relocation of thousands of indigenous people

Manifest Destiny:

The idea that God's plan was for Americans to take and settle new territory

The Indian Removal Act was significant to those who supported manifest destiny. As Americans tried to settle western land, they began circulating the idea that indigenous tribes prevented the settlement of new lands. White settlers sought support from the federal government in their efforts to settle land in the south and the west.

Andrew Jackson was a supporter of westward expansion, so he issued the removal act in 1830 in order to support expansion into the south. The removal act worked by allowing Jackson to issue a treaty with a tribe. If they accepted the treaty, they would be relocated onto protected, federal land west of the Mississippi. If a tribe did not agree to the treaty and refused to relocate, they would have to become American citizens. The Removal Act would allow for treaties to be offered to tribes living in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. If successful, the act would force the tribes to move to the unsettled land, leaving their land for white settlers.

However, Native Americans were strongly opposed to being rousted from their homes. This led to a series of confrontations with white settlers.

"On Indian Removal" Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress. Native American Removal. StudySmarter. "On Indian Removal" Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Indian Removal Act Facts

  • The Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830 by Andrew Jackson

  • The Removal Act gave the government the ability to make treaties with various tribes, promising them few land if they relinquish the land they already settled

  • Indigenous impacted by the act were given access to land in Indian Territory, in modern-day Oklahoma.

  • Tens of thousands of indigenous people were removed

  • Thousands of these people died along the Trail of Tears

Indian Removal Act-Causes and Effects

Causes

Manifest Destiny, the idea that God's plan was for Americans to take and settle on new territory, was one of the causes of the Indian Removal Act. As Americans attempted to fulfill God's will to settle western land, they began circulating the idea that indigenous tribes prevented the settlement of new lands.

Indigenous people had settled some of the most fertile farmland in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. White farmers wanted the land for themselves. Many of them were slaveholders, thereby expanding slavery into the south.

Americans' perception of Indians factored into this as well. White Americans saw indigenous people as being an obstacle to the progress of society. Not only were they viewed as simple, child-like, and in need of protection, but they were also seen as uncivilized.

While many indigenous tribes attempted to become civilized by learning to read and speak English, converting to Christianity, and adopting practices like land ownership, they were still viewed as being less than the white settlers.

Did you know? The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes are referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes as they attempted to assimilate into the American culture of the time.

Effects

Nearly seventy removal treaties were issued, with over 50,000 indigenous people forcibly uprooted from their homes and relocated to the Indian Territory in modern-day Oklahoma.

The Treaty of New Echota led to the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native Americans died as they were forcibly removed from their homes and marched to the new Indian Territory.

Forced removal had other costs as well. Sometimes the military had to engage in conflicts, which had a financial cost. There was a human cost as well-thousands of Native Americans died because of this policy.

Indian Removal Act: Cause and Effect. Created by the author with Canva.

Trail of Tears

The phrase Trail of Tears refers to the historical event created by the forced removal of the Cherokee people. The 1830 Indian Removal Act, in tandem with the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, gave the federal government the authority to remove the Cherokee from their native land.

The first of the Cherokee people to relocate did so on their own in 1837 and 1838. However, the majority of the Cherokee refused to leave by the given deadline.

The military then rounded up the Cherokee people into large cohorts and forcibly marched them along this physical Trail of Tears. It was a long, difficult trek from Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousands died from starvation, exposure to the weather, and illness. Many of the Cherokee who survived the Trail of Tears struggled to adjust to the new territory.

Trail of Tears Map. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Indian Removal Act-Significance

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the catalyst of nearly 70, removal treaties being signed by Andrew Jackson's administration and various Native American tribes living in the eastern and southern parts of the United States. It caused tens of thousands of indigenous people to be relocated to Indian Territory, most of them by force. The Trail of Tears led to the death of thousands of Cherokee Indians dying. A decade later, there were few Native Americans living in the south.

Native American Removal Summary

Fueled by the notion of manifest destiny, the United States began to expand westward in the early 1800s. This was hastened by the Louisiana Purchase. However, acquiring more land led to more problems. Mainly, what should be done with the people who already live there? This is the beginning of the era of removal.

American settlers looked upon the indigenous people poorly. They saw them as uncivilized people who were a roadblock to growth and development.

Over time, indigenous people lost more and more land. They also lost rights, as with the Supreme Court's Right of Occupancy decision. This case decided that indigenous people could live on land, but not claim it.

When the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in 1824, it made it even easier for the federal government to subjugate the native people. Under the guise of a treaty, the government made agreements with various tribes stating that they would move to the new territory so the government can claim their native land.

This led to mass removal and relocation, such as the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears resulted in thousands of indigenous Cherokee people dying as they were forcibly removed from their homeland.

By the 1840s, there were few Native Americans left in the south.

The Five Civilized Tribes. Native American Removal. Studysmarter. The Five Civilized Tribes. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Native American Removal 1824 - Key takeaways

  • The Era of Native American Removal began with the Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800s.
  • Some tribes began to voluntarily migrate from 1814 to 1828, but the majority did not migrate until much later.
  • The formation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1824 helped the federal government craft treaties and assimilate indigenous people.
  • The Indian Removal Act of 1830 gave the federal government the ability to use treaties to forcibly remove and relocate indigenous people. This led to the Trail of Tears.

Andrew Jackson:

Andrew Jackson was a southern army general in the early 1800s. During this time, he participated in the removal and relocation of several Native American tribes.

After he was elected president, Jackson began the process of removing native Americans and moving them west of the Mississippi. He went before congress and gave a speech discussing the importance of Westward Expansion.

In May 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. This allowed his administration to sign treaties with indigenous tribes, changing their fertile farmland for the land west of the Mississippi.

General Andrew Jackson. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions about Indian Removal Act

A federal law forcing the relocation of thousands of indigenous people

The Indian Removal Act moved the indigenous off of the fertile farmland in the south. 

Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act.

White Americans wanted the removal of the indigenous people so they could access their fertile farmland. 

  • Nearly seventy removal treaties were issued
  • Over 50,000 indigenous people were removed and relocated 
  • The Treaty of New Echota led to the Trail of Tears
  • Sometimes the military had to engage in conflicts, which had a financial cost.
  • There was a human cost as well-thousands of Native Americans died because of this policy.  

Final Indian Removal Act Quiz

Question

When was the Indian Removal Act passed? 

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Answer

1830

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Question

When was the Treaty of New Echota signed?

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Answer

1830

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Question

When did the Trail of Tears begin with the forced removal of the Cherokee people?

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Answer

1837

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When did the Trail of Tears end?

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Answer

1839

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Question

True or False: In the early 1830s there were over 100,000 Native Americans living on millions of acres in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. 

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Answer

True 

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Question

Where did the Cherokee people live before the Trail of Tears? 

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Answer

Georgia

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True or False: By the 1840s, there were very few Native Americans residing on the east coast. 

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Answer

True, the majority were relocated to Indian Territory. 

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Native Americans were seen as civilized when they 

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learned to read and speak English

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The Indian Removal Act was passed under president 

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Andrew Jackson

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True or False: The phrase Trail of Tears describes a series of forced relocations of native tribes in a twenty-year span of time between 1830 and 1850

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Answer

True

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Question

The Treaty of New Echota said that 

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the Cherokee had to resettle in the Indian Territory by May of 1838.

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Question

Which historical event can be seen as the beginning of the era of Native American Removal?

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Answer

The Louisiana Purchase 

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Question

The establishment of The Bureau of Indian Affairs was important because 

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Answer

helped the federal government craft treaties 

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Question

______________ refers to a federal bill forcing the relocation of thousands of indigenous people

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Answer

Indian Removal Act 

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Question

__________ refers to the idea that God's plan was for Americans to take and settle new territory

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Answer

Indian Removal Act 

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Question

How did the Indian Removal Act work?

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Answer

They would sign a treaty and then be relocated onto protected, federal land

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What happened to tribes that didn't want to relocate?

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Answer

They had the option to become American citizens 

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Native Americans were viewed as 

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Uncivilized 

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When was the Bureau of Indian Affairs established?

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Answer

1820

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True or False: The Indian Removal Act led to the Trail of Tears.

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Answer

True 

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Question

True or False: By the 1840s, there were few Native Americans left in the south.  

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Answer

True 

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