The Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830, by United States President Andrew Jackson. The law authorized the president to negotiate with southern Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for white settlement of their ancestral lands.The act authorized the president to grant Indian tribes unsettled western prairie land in exchange for their desirable territories within state borders (especially in the Southeast), from which the tribes would be removed. In theory, the Indians would be paid a small sum for their land but this soon became a moot issue as many of the tribes in the South and Southeast refused to move from thei ancestral lands. Although a number of the Northern tribes accepted the bargain and left, in the Southeast, where members of what were known as the Five Civilized Tribes (Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, Cherokee, and Creek) refused to trade their cultivated farms for the promise of strange land in the Indian Territory with a so-called permanent title to that land. Many of these Indians had homes, representative government, children in missionary schools, and trades other than farming.
On December 6, 1830, in his annual message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress on the progress of the removal, stating, “It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.” By the end of Jackson’s Presidency, his administration had negotiated almost 70 removal treaties. These led to the relocation of nearly 50,000 eastern Indians to the Indian Territory—what later became eastern Oklahoma. It opened up 25 million acres of eastern land to white settlement and, since the bulk of the land was in the American south, to the expansion of slavery.
By the 1840s, nearly all Indian tribes had been driven west, which is exactly what the act intended to accomplish.Perhaps the most well-known treaty, the Treaty of New Echota, ratified in 1836, called for the removal of the Cherokees living in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. The treaty was opposed by many members of the Cherokee Nation, and when they refused to leave, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott was ordered to push them out. He was given 3,000 troops and the authority to raise additional state militia and volunteer troops to force removal. Despite Scott’s order calling for the removal of Indians in a humane fashion, this did not happen, and during the fall and winter of 1838-39, the Cherokees were forcibly moved from their homes to the Indian Territory—some having to walk as many as 1,000 miles over a four-month period. Approximately 4,000 of 16,000 Cherokees died along the way. Some 100,000 tribesmen were forced to march westward under U.S. military coercion in the 1830s; up to 25 percent of the Indians, many in manacles, perished en route. The trek of the Cherokee in 1838–39 became known as the infamous “Trail of Tears.” Even more reluctant to leave their native lands were the Florida Indians, who fought resettlement for seven years (1835–42) in the second of the Seminole Wars.
Andrew Jackson had had a long history of oppressing Indians. In 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson led an expedition against the Creek Indians climaxing in the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend (in present day Alabama near the Georgia border), where Jackson’s force soundly defeated the Creeks and destroyed their military power. He then forced upon the Indians a treaty whereby they surrendered to the United States over twenty-million acres of their traditional land—about one-half of present day Alabama and one-fifth of Georgia. Jackson particularly disliked the Cherokee who had adapted to the new realities. The Cherokees effectively resisted ceding their full territory by creating a new form of tribal government based on the United States government. Rather than being governed by a traditional tribal council, the Cherokees wrote a constitution and created a two-house legislature. In addition to this government, Cherokees learned to speak English and created a written language and adopted Christianity, becoming one of the "civilized" tribes that adopted features of white culture in place of their own.
In 1822 Congress passed An Act to Abolish the United States Trading Establishment with the Indian Tribes. This act, passed by Congress, allowed all excess materials collected through the termination of trade with the Indians to be at the President's disposal. He was given the authority to sell them as he saw fit, and to use the profits to carry out this act. In February 1823 the Supreme Court Case Johnson v. McIntosh held that private citizens could not purchase lands directly from Native Americans. The Court determined that the United States government had acquired fee title to the land based on the longstanding practices of European colonization, and therefore Native Americans could sell their land only to the U.S. This was important because in 1825 they discovered gold on Cherokee land in Northwest Georgia and the Georgians wanted the land for themselves. The federal government said it had priority. In May 1828 the federal government passed the Treaty of Washington with the Cerokee nation west of the Mississippi, guaranteeing them seven million acres of land and a “perpetual outlet” west as far “as the sovereignty of the United States,” extends. Such agreements set the stage for the justification of mass removal.
...it is further agreed, on the part of the United States, that to each Head of a Cherokee family now residing within the chartered limits of Georgia, or of either of the States, East of the Mississippi, who may desire to remove West, shall be given, on enrolling himself for emigration, a good Rifle, a Blanket, and Kettle, and five pounds of Tobacco: (and to each member of his family one Blanket,) also, a just compensation for the property he may abandon, to be assessed by persons to be appointed by the President of the United States. The cost of the emigration of all such shall also be borne by the United States, and good and suitable ways opened, and provisions procured for their comfort, accommodation, and support, by the way, and provisions for twelve months after their arrival...
The state of Georgia, fearful that the United States would not affect (as a matter of Federal policy) the removal of the Cherokee Nation tribal band from their historic lands in Georgia; enacted a series of laws which stripped the Cherokee of their rights under the laws of the state, with the intention to force the Cherokee to leave the state. The Georgia legislature annulled the Cherokee constitution and ordered seizure of their lands.The Georgians acted on their own to deprive the Cherokeee of their rights. Georgia was flooded by thousands of prospectors lusting for gold. Niles' Register reported in the spring of 1830 that there were four thousand miners working along Yahoola Creek alone. A writer in the Cherokee newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, said,
Our neighbors who regard no law, or pay no respect to the laws of humanity, are now reaping a plentiful harvest by the law of Georgia, which declares that no Indian shall be a party in any court created by the laws or constitution of that state. These neighbors come over the line, and take the cattle belonging to the Cherokees. The Cherokees go in pursuit of their property, but all that they can effect is, to see their cattle snugly kept in the lots of these robbers. We are an abused people. If we can receive no redress, we can feel deeply the injustice done to our rights. "Cherokee Phoenix and Indians' Advocate, Wednesday, May 27, 1829"
The mayhem and strife over the Georgian gold findings gave the, now President, Andrew Jackson, his chance to get rid of the Indians and cmpel their move to the West. On May 28, 1830 they passed the Indian Removal Act and the driving out of the Indian population began. A Day of Infamy for America and a wound which has never healed.