American atrocities against the Cherokee nation

As before, this is part of my blog-a-book series on Ben Kiernan's Blood and Soil. Here is an example where even Christian conversion, financial participation with the U.S. economy, and special pleas from U.S. citizen missionaries could not prevent the greed, expansionism, and racist hatred of a "Christian" nation.

However, in 1817 the 15,000 Cherokees remaining in the southeastern United States established their own bicameral legislature and an executive, judiciary, and army. The legislature outlawed further land sales to the United States and in 1827 adopted a written constitution and bill of rights modeled on that of the United States, declaring the Cherokee nation “sovereign and independent.” They set up five schools, while the 30,000 Choctaws and Chickasaws in Mississippi and Alabama ran 13 more. In 1821, Sequoyah invented the Cherokee writing syllabary, into which parts of the Bible were translated, and in 1828 the bilingual weekly Cherokee Phoenix began publication. Cherokee farmers raised large herds of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs; grew corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, tobacco, and indigo; and exported cotton to New Orleans. According to Anthony F. C. Wallace, whites in Georgia came to fear that the Indian, “if left in place to govern himself in his own territory would beat the white man at his own game – raising cotton- and prevent forever the further acquisition of Indian land…It was not the ‘savagery’ of the Indians that land-hungry whites dreaded; t was their civilization.’” Yet U.S. federal courts denied Indians, until 1847, equal recognition as witnesses competent to testify.
The pressure rose. As nominee of the Democratic Party, Jackson won the 1828 presidential election. Georgia quickly passed legislation applying the state’s legal and police powers to the Cherokee territory. In his inaugural address in March 1829, ackson called for federal Indian Removal Act. He told Choctaws that United States “would be obliged to sustain the States in the exercise of their right.” In the congressional debate that followed, one speaker remarked, “What is history but the obituary of nations?”
In May 1830, Congress passed the removal bill, which Jackson signed into law. The removal was to voluntary, yet most Indians would leave only under threat and harassment. Jackson fired the superintendent of the Indian Office, who had favored voluntary removal but opposed harassment, and sacked half of his experienced field staff. The federal government began withholding its payments of existing agreed annuities for acquired Indian land until the Indians had migrated west. The sate governments of the South abolished tribal governments and laws, banned tribal assemblies, imposed taxes and other obligation on Indians, denied them the right to vote or testify in court, encouraged white land-grabs, and sold off Indian lands. Wallace writes: thousands of intruders swarmed over the Indian country in a frenzied quest for land and gold, destroying Indian farms and crops.” Missionaries attempting to defend Indian interests were arrested and jailed, but two appealed their convictions. The Supreme Court found, in their favor, that Georgia had no right to override U.S. authority over Indians and could not legally assert sovereignty over the Cherokees. But in a second case, the Supreme Court found against the Cherokees on the technicality that, as a “domestic dependent nation,” the Indians lacked the legal standing to bring a suit before it. Their “guardian,” the United States, refused to intervene to protect its “ward” nation. (331-2)

The forced migration became known as the Trail of Tears due in part to the high mortality rate during the forced march.


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