The struggle for land is as old as history.  The forcible removal of the losers in war or their enslavement by the victors are hardly unique events.

In America, however, a truly original innovation in this time honored tactic was developed.  Indeed, it could be considered a form of "Yankee ingenuity".  This involved the execution of  some of the world's most brutal policies of racial and ethnic imperialism under the guise of promoting "freedom" and "democracy".  As in all frauds and deceptions in history this had an element of truth to it.  For white Americans this policy did produce "freedom" to gain land stolen from native Americans at a very cheap cost.  Our report on the "Homestead Act" shows what a great deal this was for whites who wanted land. However, for the native people's the process of being "liberated" from their ancestral lands was not such an enjoyable process.

A particularly vicious aspect of all this hypocrisy and deceit was the use of legal strategies to give the whole process an aura of legitimacy.  Americans pride themselves in believing that they live in a country in which the "rule of law" reigns supreme.  Democratic values upheld by well-reasoned legislation are considered to be the cornerstone of the enlightened political system of the United States.  They are part and parcel of the national mythology and unquestioned belief that the United States of America is home to people of unimpeachable moral character.

If anything, the history of the removal of Native Americans from their lands in the southeastern U.S. proves that the rule of law does indeed reign supreme.  However, these episodes are an abject lesson, as is incidentally legislation on slaveholding, that the "rule of law" does not necessarily mean justice is done or that human rights and dignity are protected.  Rather, they illustrate that laws are only as good and as just as the people who make them.  The simple truth is that if a culture is racist then this will be reflected in the laws of that culture. 

In the 1830s unjust and blatantly racist laws on both the state and federal level were enforced at the point of a bayonet to evict as many as 50,000 native peoples from their lands in the American southeast.  This removal of a native population represented one of history's largest forced emigration operations.


These policies greatly inspired Adolf Hitler to develop a similar strategy for his plans to conquer European Russia.  Hitler once said  "There is only one task: Germanization through the introduction of Germans [to the area] and to treat the original inhabitants like Indians." (See our material on General Plan East).

The following material really speaks for itself.



As the population of the United States grew in the early 1800s, immigrant settlers, land speculators, and large land owners began lobbying the federal government to remove Native American tribes from lands east of the Mississippi River.  This pressure to remove Native Americans was exerted in the newly annexed territories of the southeast in particular.

In the 1830s the "anti-Indian" lobby found a sympathetic ear in President Andrew Jackson.  Originally from the Carolina colonies, Jackson eventually settled in Tennessee.  Early in his career, Jackson made a reputation for himself as a bitter enemy of American Indians.  And by the time he entered the White House in January 1829, Jackson had participated in several wars against native tribes as an officer in the U.S. Army.


In 1813-1814, Jackson commanded troops in the Creek War (this took place during the War of 1812).  His victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend led to the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson in which the Creeks were forced to cede between 20 and 22 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama to the United States.  Three years later Jackson would once again command U.S. troops in the First Seminole War, which ended in the defeat of Black Seminole warriors and the decisive occupation of eastern Florida (territory claimed by Spain) by the United States. 

Jackson also pursued diplomatic negotiations with a large number of native tribes, all with the goal of removing them from their lands.  Unfavorable treaties between the U.S. and the Creeks, Cherokee, and Choctaw tribes were signed during this period.  As a result of these treaties, the United States took control over most of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


By the mid-1820s native tribal leaders decided not to participate in land sales to the U.S. any longer, in an effort to retain what little land they still possessed.  Native efforts to retain their lands by legal means were severely undercut by a 1823 Supreme Court decision in the case of  Johnson vs. McIntosh.  This decision stated that Indians could occupy lands within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands, specifically because in the days before the U.S. was created, "Discovery [was] the foundation of title, in European nations, and this overlooks all proprietary rights [of] the natives."  In short, because Europeans had "discovered" and conquered North America native peoples were not recognized as "independent" or "sovereign" nations.  A host of legal documents already in existence which acknowledged the subjected state of native peoples confirmed, so the court argued, that they could not hold title to lands which they had not properly purchased.  Thus the racist legislation and treaties of the past were now cited by the court as the basis for continuing to divest Native Americans of their lands.

Rather than fight bloody wars they could not win, the Cherokee tribe attempted several times in the late 1820s to fight for their lands via the state supreme court in Georgia.  Basing its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court decision, however, the state of Georgia would not recognize the Cherokees' sovereign status.  Then, in 1831, the Cherokee won a case in the Supreme Court stating that the Cherokee had the right to self-government.  Subsequently the court declared Georgia's extension of state law over them to be unconstitutional.  The court's decision proved hollow though as the Georgia refused to abide by the Court decision and President Jackson refused to enforce the law.

Therefore, in a nation which prides itself on being governed according to the "rule of law," the law was used as a weapon to deprive native people of their lands.  Subsequently, when the law did not prove so effective a weapon, it was simply ignored by state authorities and the President of the United States.


Upon assuming office in 1829, President Jackson was determined to continue his campaign against the native tribes of the southeast.  His weapon this time would be the legal authority of the executive office.  In 1830, Jackson pushed legislation through Congress called the "Indian Removal Act".  In a tip of the hat to treaties he had "negotiated" with native tribes during his military service, Jackson's Indian Removal Act gave him the power to negotiate removal treaties with native tribes living east of the Mississippi.  According to these treaties, the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west.  Native peoples who desired to stay in the east were required to become citizens of their home state.  Their independent status as native people was denied.

Among the tribes of the southeast, the Choctaws were the first to sign a removal treaty.  A segment of the Seminole tribe signed a removal treaty in 1833, but after a majority of Seminoles refused to leave the Second Seminole War (1833-1842) erupted.  This was eventually followed from 1855 to 1858 by the Third Seminole War in which the remaining Seminoles were subdued by the U.S. Army and forced to move west

As for the other tribes in the region, they met similar fates.  The Creeks signed a removal treaty in March 1832.  Those who had no moved by 1836 were forcibly evicted on orders from the Secretary of War.  The Chickasaws moved in 1837-38.

The fate of the Cherokee, however, proved to be the most tragic of all.  When several members of the Cherokee tribe were tricked into signing a removal treaty in 1833, the recognized leaders of the Cherokee nation, and more than 15,000 Cherokees (led by Chief John Ross) signed a petition in protest.  The Supreme Court ignored their demands and ratified the treaty in 1836.  The Cherokee were given two years to migrate voluntarily, at the end of which time they would be forcibly removed.  By 1838 only 2,000 had migrated; 16,000 remained on their land.  The U.S. government sent in 7,000 troops, who forced the Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point.  They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, whites looted their homes.  Then began the march known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the west.

Thus by the end of his second term in office, in 1837, President Jackson had overseen the removal of as many as 46,000 Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi.  The rule of law had opened tens of millions of acres to white settlement and the spread of slavery deep into the interior southeast.


[This was the Jackson-era legislation authorizing the president to transfer Eastern Indian tribes to the western territories promised (falsely) "in perpetuity". The actual relocation culminated in the 1838 "Trail of Tears" forced march, one of the most shameful occurrences in the history of federal domestic policy.]

An Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That it shall and may be lawful for the President of the United States to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi, not included in any state or organized territory, and to which the Indian title has been extinguished, as he may judge necessary, to be divided into a suitable number of districts, for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside, and remove there; and to cause each of said districts to be so described by natural or artificial marks, as to be easily distinguished from every other.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to exchange any or all of such districts, so to be laid off and described, with any tribe or nation within the limits of any of the states or territories, and with which the United States have existing treaties, for the whole or any part or portion of the territory claimed and occupied by such tribe or nation, within the bounds of any one or more of the states or territories, where the land claimed and occupied by the Indians, is owned by the United States, or the United States are bound to the state within which it lies to extinguish the Indian claim thereto.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That in the making of any such exchange or exchanges, it shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them; and if they prefer it, that the United States will cause a patent or grant to be made and executed to them for the same: Provided always, That such lands shall revert to the United States, if the Indians become extinct, or abandon the same.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That if, upon any of the lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged for, there should be such improvements as add value to the land claimed by any individual or individuals of such tribes or nations, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement or otherwise, and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements. And upon the payment of such valuation, the improvements so valued and paid for, shall pass to the United States, and possession shall not afterwards be permitted to any of the same tribe.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such tribe or nation to be protected, at their new residence, against all interruption or disturbance from any other tribe or nation of Indians, or from any other person or persons whatever.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to have the same superintendence and care over any tribe or nation in the country to which they may remove, as contemplated by this act, that he is now authorized to have over them at their present places of residence.

Source: Indian Removal Act of 1830


Information on Indian Removal

President Jackson's Case for the Indian Removal Act
The text of Jackson's speech to Congress, December 8, 1830

United Native America