Friday, June 9, 2017

Sharp Knife and the Indian Removal Act of 1829

While my daughters and I are out cruising through the Badlands of South Dakota, checking out Indian Reservations, and passing through endless rolling plains and amazing landmarks like:  The Crazy Horse Memorial and the Wounded Knee Museum... I can't help but think about Andrew Jackson.  Yeah, the guy on the twenty dollar bill.  I know, that seems strange, but Jackson and the fate of the American Indians are forever linked.  
Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1845) was the 7th American President and served in office from 1829 - 1837 which is known as the Jacksonian Era.  He was a Democrat and went against the grain of political conventions of his time.  After his victory in the Battle of New Orleans, he pledged his own money to finance troop supply lines as they marched along the Natchez Trace back to Tennessee.  His determination, combined with a willingness to suffer alongside his men, earned him the nickname: 'Old Hickory.'  The Native Americans knew him by a different name, due to harsh treatment during negotiations of peace. They called him: 'Sharp Knife.'
During his Presidency in 1830, Jackson created: The Indian Removal Act, which was formally entitled: 'An Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.'
The Indian Removal Act gave the federal government the power to force the relocation of any Native American Indian living east of the country to specially designed areas west of the Mississippi.  This forced migration of 60,000 mostly Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole and Chickasaw Indians between 1830 to 1840 is known as the Trail of Tears.
The Indian Removal Act was lauded by the American public and vaulted Jackson to re-election in 1832.  The Removal Treaties included:  'Treaty of Dancing Rabbit,' Choctaw, 1831; 'Treaty of Payne's Landing,' Seminole, 1832; 'Treaty of Washington,' Creek, 1834; 'Treaty of Pontotoc,' Chickasaw, 1837; 'Treaty of New Echota,' Cherokee, 1838.  
Native Americans that refused relocation were forced out.  More than 10,000 died on the trail of disease, starvation, and exposure.  Yet Andrew Jackson's legacy is still solid and unbreakable as a stick of hickory.  There's probably a piece of legacy in your wallet.  Well... at least for now.  Last year, I found the news that Andrew Jackson's face on the twenty dollar bill would be replaced by Harriet Tubman to be a sharp and satisfying cut.... but honestly, I think Sitting Bull's mug could have helped to heal a more deeper wound.  

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