The Cherokee Removal
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The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents by Theada Perdue and Michael D. Green brings up a story of the American ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee nation. The story is told through a successful combination of primary documents and the analyses done by editors. Green and Perdue start the book by telling a short history of the Cherokee nation that is sophisticated. The history addresses the issues of the interaction of the Cherokee nation with Americans up to the period when they had been expelled from such places, as North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Perdue and Green take the readers through several documents that comment on a variety of significant themes covered in the book that include the civilization of the Cherokee nation, the national debate between proponents and opponents of the Cherokees’ expulsion, the leading role of Georgia in expelling the Cherokees, and the expulsion moves are being among other themes. Considering the political, cultural, legal and socio-economic context of the issue, the Cherokee nation had to decide its best course of action judging by the situation that was in front of it in the 1830. Irrespectively of the fact that the removal of the Cherokee nation had the significant disadvantages, most importantly, the loss of its ancestral land and the removal were the best courses of acting towards the Cherokee Nation.
By 1000 A.D, the Cherokee nation had settled and had enough food that provided it with a balanced diet. On the other hand, most of the white people only had the coarse bread and ale for food. The Cherokee nation was living in a homestead that was comprised of several houses around a small plaza. These households were made up of several generations that were comprised of siblings, husbands, mothers, fathers, and their unmarried sons among other members of the extended family (Perdue and Green 3).
Leaving Georgia was the best choice for the nation to preserve its culture. Before leaving Georgia, the Cherokee nation was surrounded by the white population that would have forcibly exterminated it because it wanted the land that the Cherokee Nation had occupied. In addition, there was the rampant prejudice from the white population towards the Native America society. To make the matter more complicated, the Cherokee nation had no means of facilities to fight with the pressure that the white society had put on them. This is due to the fact that they had split into two groups based on the political parties brought by the later President Andrew Jackson for his own advantage (Perdue and Green 67).
The Jacksonians were determined to remove the Cherokees from Georgia. In order to preserve their identity, the Cherokees had to move to the west. This was the only place that could provide them with that chance. The traditional identity was the most important thing to do because the existence of their culture and values was endangered by the unrelenting pressure from the white society. When Andrew Jackson’s time ended, he had relocated all the Five Civilized Tribes. The Cherokee Nation was the only group that remained there. This meant that the environment was set for the battle and had been expected for decades. The fate of the Cherokee nation had been decided, and the removal of the other five tribes was strategic for the battle and for the administration of Andrew Jackson.
The situation had been aggravated by the tension that had grown between the federal government and the state of Georgia over the Cherokee nation. In 1827, Cherokee tribe presented the Constitution of the Cherokee nation. In this constitution, the Cherokee nation declared its sovereignty that made them the independent people that could live for free from the jurisdiction and control of the state. The state of Georgia was enraged by this declaration and the fact that the federal government had failed to enforce the promise it made in 1802, to ensure that all the title deeds given to the Indians within the state would be cancelled (Rozema 380).
In the response, the state of Georgia amended and passed a law in December 1828 that stated that all the residents of the Indian origin would be put under the jurisdiction of the state for a period of six months. Following this, the Cherokees were oppressed. Alabama and Mississippi also dealt with Choctaws in the same way. The dispute that ensued between the federal government and the state governments necessitated the removal of the Cherokees for their survival. Racism had risen beyond inconceivable doubts.
In 1830, President Jackson pushed an Indian Removal Act in the Congress. The bill was met by a strong opposition by the members of the Congress and the Human Rights groups. In fact, Henry Storrs, the later New York Congressman said, “…if this encroachments of the Executive Department are not met and repelled in these halls, they will be resisted nowhere.”(“Register of Debates” 1145). However, the bill passed on May 28 in 1830.
The bill forced the Cherokee people to make a decision on whether to move or give up their culture. If they chose to stay, they would no longer be sovereign and exempt from the laws of the state and of the federal government of the United States of America. In addition, their culture would be destroyed and forced to assimilate into the white culture. In 1830, the Cherokees wrote a letter to the Supreme Court as their last resort. The ruling favored them because it prohibited the white nation from accessing their land. All the campaigns to stay were undermined when the Cherokee tribe divided into two political parties that were the National Party and the Treaty Party. Some leaders of the Cherokee Nation considered that the ruling of the Supreme Court had no effect. They decided to negotiate a compromise for the Cherokees to shift to the western part (Rozema 342).
The opposing party continued to fight so that the US government would stay off its land. The national party was led by Principal Chief of Cherokees called John Ross. The treaty party met with the representatives of Andrew Jackson so that they could move to the west. The treaty guaranteed them five million dollars for their land to be located to the east of Mississippi. The government would finance the removal, give them the two years’ allowance, and protect their property till they had been moved. The deal was struck and was irrevocable. This treaty created a dilemma for the National Party. Humanitarian groups opposed the move by bringing the Indian Removal Act, but it was defeated in the votes that passed thirty-one to fifteen. Ross tried to petition the Treaty, but he failed. The group that signed the treaty migrated to the west. In the end, Chief Ross yielded to pressure and to prepare his people for the westwards journey. The Trail of Tears became the worst consequence of the removal. The journey was made under the rule of President Martin Van Buren in the spring of 1838. 17,000 Cherokees from Georgia were evacuated within one week. The journey cost them 4,000 lives because of the diseases, hunger, and exposure to harsh conditions (Rozema 395).
Interestingly, the Cherokee nation regained a growing economy, high standards of living and preserved its culture. The price was costly and painful; however, they managed to preserve their tribe and the cultural ways. They established the life better than the white settlers being their neighbors. Indeed, the removal would be the best course of action because they would avoid the deaths suffering, and they would have protected their culture without problems.
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