book report: Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep (2015)

The subtitle is important to appreciate Inskeep's aspiration, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. It's a good reality check to read American history. Dirty politics? Check. White privilege? Check. Abuse of minorities? Check. Broken promises? Check. Political doublespeak? Check.

The Cherokee Trail of Tears was caused by the implementation of Andrew Jackson's first political policy when he became President in 1828, get them out of Georgia. Did the Cherokees have treaties signed by the federal government protecting the right to their land? Yes. Did Georgian land speculators want the land in order to line their pockets? Yes. Did Georgia threaten nullification if the federal government stepped into their constitutionally proper role? Yes.

Am I asking to many rhetorical questions? Yes.

Jackson campaigned with a platform of limited government, not unexpected for a slave owner. Georgia was able to throw that in his face, despite explicit delineation of the federal role in India relations.

In the meanwhile, the Cherokees "civilized" themselves, became agrarian, developed an alphabet, printed a daily newspaper, Christianized, made their own Constitution modeled after their invaders. But white settlers kept invading their land. The Feds under Jackson would not enforce the law forbidding white encroachment. The Feds stopped paying the Cherokees their negotiated monetary dividends. When the Cherokees tried to enforce it, they faced angry Georgia militias. Eventually, they gave up and took an offer from the Feds to move west, to Arkansas, where they were promised to never be dislodged again, until they were.

The Cherokees chose peaceful resistance. The Creeks and Seminoles chose armed resistance. They all met the same fate, dislodgment from the land they had inhabited for centuries, because white is right.

It is still happening today. Wealthy American corporations are still encroaching on reservations. There are bright spots. Not ironically, our country's first minority president has canceled oil drilling leases on Blackhawk land issued by Reagan 30 years ago. That's quicker than other tribal experiences. Ironically, much of the land taken from the Creeks and Cherokee in the early 1800's are forestland again. If only white men took a long view of history and culture.


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