When the British arrived to establish colonies in North America, they viewed Indians as barriers to their concept of civilizing the wilderness. As they did with their treatment of the native Irish when they established their plantations in Ireland, the British wanted to remove the Indians. With the establishment of the United States in 1776, the British idea of Indian removal was adopted by the Americans. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the removal of Indian nations from the United States was being discussed by politicians. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson had signed the Georgia Compact in which the United States agreed to extinguish Indian title to land in Western Georgia. The Cherokee, whose land was affected by this promise, were neither consulted nor told of the deal.
By the end of the eighteenth century, some bands of Indians were moving to lands to the west of the Mississippi River, outside of the jurisdiction of the United States and away from American greed, racism, and genocide. Then the United States purchased the right to govern the lands west of the Mississippi from the French and Americans increased their pressure on Indian nations to move west. Briefly described below are a few of the removal activities of two centuries ago, in 1820.
In Mississippi, the state legislature proposed that the United States purchase Choctaw lands for “a small consideration.” Newspapers reported that the governor, the legislature, and the people of Mississippi (meaning Euroamericans) were greatly annoyed with the Choctaw and felt that Choctaw land ownership was a great detriment to the state.
The Wea relocated from Illinois to Missouri, west of the Mississippi River.
The Missouri Territorial Assembly passed a resolution calling for the removal of all Indians from Missouri Territory. There were no dissenting votes.
In Indiana, the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) prepared to leave for new lands west of the Mississippi River where they might live in peace. Disease struck the family Olumpees, the record-keeper. An American physician, Dr. Ward, managed to cure the patient and in return he was given the wooden records containing the symbols of the Wallam Olum or Red Record, the recorded history of the Lenni Lenape.
Congress bought land from the Menominee in Wisconsin for the resettlement of the New York tribes. Some Oneida moved from New York to Wisconsin with the idea of establishing a western Iroquois empire. Among those who helped with the negotiations was the Oneida runner Daniel Bread.
By 1820, some of the Eastern Indian nations, such as the Cherokee, had already established new settlements west of the Mississippi River. This brought the Cherokee into conflict with the indigenous tribes of the area, particularly the Osage.
In Arkansas, a group of Osage warriors under the leadership of Skitok killed three Cherokee hunters.
In Missouri, the United States arranged a peace agreement between the Osage and the Cherokee. The Cherokee were to return four Osage prisoners and the Osage were to turn over to the Cherokee the men who murdered some Cherokee hunters. The exchange, however, did not take place, and hostilities between the two nations continued.
In Ohio, Shawnee leader Captain Lewis (Quitewepea), for whom the village of Lewistown was named, quarreled with his relatives and traveled to Missouri to meet with the Shawnee who were living there. He then traveled extensively through Missouri and Arkansas, making friends among the Cherokee.
Twice each week, Indians 101 looks at different American Indian topics. More 19th-century history from this series:
Indians 101: American Indians 200 years ago, 1820
Indians 101: Indian treaties 200 years ago, 1820
Indians 101: Imposing Laws on the Nez Perce
Indians 101: The Early Years of the Coast or Siletz Reservation
Indians 101: The Cherokee Trail of Tears
Indians 101: The Russians and the Tlingit
Indians 101: The American Indian Liberation Army
Indians 101: The Lame Cow War