During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, one of the greatest tragedies in American history occurred: the development and implementation of his Indian removal policy. Presented to the U. S. Congress in December of 1835 during his annual presidential message, the plan called for the moving of all Native Americans west of the Mississippi River. However, this need to move them stemmed from nothing more than greed, ignorance, and personal animosity.
Having acquired a vast amount of territory through the Louisiana Purchase of 1815, as well as removing all British control of the United States through the American Revolution, it was believed that the land was now fair game for those who wanted to settle it. Furthermore, many Americans had personal dislike of Native Americans, particularly Jackson. They viewed Native Americans as inferior; therefore, it made little difference to the white settlers or to Jackson himself, if they were pushed off the lands that many had been living on for generations.
According to the plan Jackson developed, each tribe that was to be moved west would receive a parcel of territory to live on. All the expenses for the migration would be paid by the U. S. government. They would also provide the Native Americans with “supplies of clothing, arms, ammunition, and other indispensable articles” (Jackson, 260). These provisions would continue to be supplied for a year following their arrival at their new home. In some territories, council houses, churches, mills, and homes for the chiefs would be built.
Money was to be set aside for the maintenance of the poor. Arrangements for schools would be implemented. Also, there would be the introduction of what was considered “the most necessary mechanical arts” as well as the purchasing of farming tools, animals, and tools for making clothes. Each member of the various tribes was to be given an annuity. Finally, an interpreter would be provided, and as a perk, the interpreter position would first be offered to a Native American. All this was done with the belief that it was beneficial for the Native Americans.
They were provided with what Jackson felt they needed to survive out in the west, as it was believed they could not live in harmony among the allegedly civilized whites. Yet, the experience of the Cherokee Nation proved that the Indian policy designed by Jackson was not beneficial to anyone involved. According to Dale Van Every, the removal of the Cherokee Nation was one filled with great sorrow. Despite the mandate by Jackson that the removal go in a smooth manner, with as little violence as possible, the soldiers in charge of moving the Cherokee to their assigned territory utilized violence whenever they saw fit.
The brutality of the soldiers resulted in over 17,000 Cherokees being rounded up in a matter of days. Once this was accomplished, they were kept in unsanitary conditions in makeshift stockades until it was time for their migration, which occurred in two waves. Over 4,000 Cherokees died, either in the stockades or while on migration. Every makes it quite clear that the gross mistreatment of the Cherokee, and of the Native American in general, was a huge stain of the pages of American history.
The principles on which the nation was founded were completely ignored with regard to Native Americans, and what made it worse was that people across the board condoned it, regardless of their personal disapproval in how the situation was handled. Thus, the nice and neat picture that Jackson presented to the Congress during his annual message was completely different from what actually happened. The massive death toll seen among the Cherokee nation during their migration served as ample evidence that the Indian removal policy was anything but just. The Indian removal policy thus remains a shameful episode of America history.