Use this link ONLY if you are having trouble understanding what happened to the Native Americans, including before the Jacksonian Era.

Summary of Indian Policy and the Issue of Indian Sovereignty

1789-1800: Continuing the violence between Indians and whites in the American Revolutionary War, Indians in the Northwest (Miami Indians) fought whites and won in 1791, but were later defeated in 1794 (Mad Anthony Wayne, Battle of Fallen Timbers). In the treaty, Indians exchanged land for an agreement that they were sovereign—that is, a nation.


1800-1828: President Jefferson’s policy was assimilation, with missionaries’ educational programs matching that. On the other hand, the Indiana Territory Governor William Henry Harrison’s policy was to force Indians out, including by provocation.


Indian leaders included Tecumseh, who tried to unite the Indians of Mississippi valley so they would not be picked off tribe by tribe. In this period, British hostilities to Americans gave the Indians a possible ally. Harrison attacked in 1811 (Battle of Tippecanoe). Tecumseh later became a brigadier general for the British in the War of 1812 and was killed. In this same period, whites attacked Spanish Florida to stop the Indian raids from there (with the additional appeal to them that Florida had ports on the Gulf of Mexico that they wanted). As with the American Revolutionary War, this war resulted in further losses for the Indians.


1828-1840: The Supreme Court made several decisions on Indians and US power. In brief, Indians were a quasi-sovereign group under the US government as “wards” or as nations that were dependent on the US and only the US government (not the states) could take their lands. The Indians in these cases—as the name “5 Civilized Tribes” reflects—were assimilated. For example, the Cherokee were settled and had a government, written constitution, and language. The cases are moot because Andrew Jackson would not stop Georgia from removing the Indians, with Jackson saying, “John Marshall has made his decision. Let him enforce it.” For the record, Georgia was not the only state removing the Indians and federal policy was for removal. Before 1840, most Indian groups from east of the Mississippi were forced west.


The chronology below shows how fast these changes occurred.



Event¾Quick Reference Information (Partly in Sentence Fragments)


Cherokee—gold discovered on their lands


Congress¾sets up removal


Waves of forced migration to Indian Territory, Indians—beginning¾Mississippi/ West Alabama—Choctaws


Black Hawk War (Black Hawk = leader)

Location: Illinois

Cause: Indians viewed treaty as illegal

Indians: Sac (Sauk) and Fox


Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worchester v. Georgia (1832)

Marshall: only national government (not states) can take land from Indians

Jackson: he won’t enforce Marshall’s ruling.


Cherokee—Minority agreed to a US treaty trading their rights for $5M + place west of Mississippi

17,000 Cherokee did not recognize that treaty. Andrew Jackson sent an army of 7thousand (General Winfield Scott). 1,000 hide in North Carolina Smokey Mountains.


Seminole, Osceola chief—did resist with guerrilla warfare in swamps. War continued to 1842.


Waves of forced migration to Indian Territory, Indians—East Alabama, West Georgia—Creeks


Waves of forced migration to Indian Territory, Indians—N Mississippi—Chickasaw


Waves of forced migration to Indian Territory, Indians completed

Georgia Cherokees—forced trek to Indian Territory—called “Trail of Tears,” with approximately ¼ of these people dying on this forced march.



Tribes forced to trade 100M acres of good land in TN for 32M acres in inhospitable land in Oklahoma + $68M (to be used in their behalf¾a failed process¾by the government)


Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2003-2014


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