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The Cherokee Indians and the Expanding Republic Essay

The early decision to allow more white settlers in the boundaries of the borders of the Cherokee nation coupled with President Jackson’s bias against Native Americans led to the expulsion of the Indians from their tribal domain. At the start of the relationship between the Native Americans and the Europeans who migrated to the “New World”, it was one characterized by friendly and mutually beneficial give and take. However, as time went on, and more and more white settlers came into the Native American landscape, the population of the Indians were almost decimated by exposure to various “white man’s diseases”.

The Native Americans also did not have any potable weapon to ward off white settlements and their tribal forms of governance were much too small in numbers as against the burgeoning white man’s population (Brinkley 2-3). The relationship with the white settlers was further complicated by the British-American war that started in 1775 (Brinkley 70 &138) Some Native American tribes sided with the British while others tried to remain neutral or sided with the revolting Americans.

The Cherokee people belonged to the five (5) tribes that were considered “partially” civilized as they had had decades of trade and intermarriage experience with the white settlers particularly in the state of Georgia. The other four tribes were the Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws and Choctaws (Brinkley 138). There are also differing opinions on treatment and/or recognition of the Indians nations, specifically the Indian as an autonomous nation from the American nation.

The early generals and officers of the new Republic like George Washington and his secretary of War, Henry Knox, campaigned with the slogan “expansion with honor” (Denson 16). This phrase called for the unimpeded growth of the white settlement while treating the Indian groups as separate nations with defined borders, according to Peace Pacts signed by both parties. The goal was to allow the growth of white settlements while maintaining peace at the frontier and its borders (Denson 16).

The other line of thinking was the removal of Indians from their original tribal domain to less hospitable lands (or to be more accurate, less fertile with minimal resources). This was to allow for the unimpeded growth of white settlements and to maximize the use and excavation of valuable natural resources and minerals found in the native American’s tribal domain. This line of thinking was eventually adopted when President Jackson came into office in 1828 (Hatley 67).

There were also varying expectations from both sides (Hatley p. 67 to 119). The initial relations of the American government and the Cherokee nation followed the “expansion with honor” model. However, what was not expected by the Cherokee nation’s leaders was that for each change of administration in the US government side, a change of interpretation of the relationship between the US government and the Indian nation as a whole also changes (Denson 18-19 and Brinkley 138-140).

When the tribal leaders of the Cherokee nation signed the “expansion with honor” treaties, they ceded a large portion of their tribal domain and promised to maintain friendly relations only with the United States government and no other foreign government for the duration of the treaty. In return, the members of the Cherokee nation wouldl receive annual payments, land allocation and a “qualified affirmation” of their tribal sovereignty (Denson 17).

Arguments and counter arguments arose during the deliberations prior to the infamous “Trail of Tears”. The main contention was – can the white men continually treat the Cherokee Indians as an autonomous nation with their own tribal domain? If so, can they accept the result of which would limit the expansion of the “white” nation? In keeping with the principles advocated by George Washington and his secretary of War, Henry Knox, Thomas Jefferson and his “Virginia boys” had also regarded the Native Americans as “noble savages”.

During his two terms of office, Thomas Jefferson and his “Virginia boys” (so called because they all came from the state of Virginia) honored the agreements and treaties signed by his predecessors. As Thomas Jefferson left office, his influence and line of thinking also left the office of the presidency. The next president who would eventually cause the removal of the Native Americans from their tribal domain was former general Andrew Jackson. Earlier on, even while the treaties with the Indian nations had been followed, attempts had already been made to educate and assimilate representatives from the different Indian nations.

This was more in keeping with the earlier treatment of Thomas Jefferson of the Indians as a whole – as “noble savages” (Brinkley 138). These attempts came in the form of the establishment of white schools to “civilize” them in the hopes of merging their culture into the white man’s culture. They also forcefully changed the Indian names of these boys into white man’s names (Denson 195). The first of the major blows dealt to the Cherokee nation and other Native American Indian tribes came during the term of President Andrew Jackson.

His strong sentiments against the Indians as a group of people branched from his days as a commanding general to ward off Indian attacks on white settlers and push them back from white settlement areas (Brinkley 139). Jackson, as frontier general also was tasked by then President Monroe to defend the border in Florida, and there, Jackson expelled not only the Seminole Indians in the First Seminole War but also expanded US territory by annexing Florida from the British and unseating the Spanish governor in Pensacola, Florida (Presidential Profiles).

President Jackson’s popularity with the common white man eroded the initial thoughts of “noble savages” of the Native Americans. Instead, when Jackson called for the outright removal of the Cherokee Indians and the other four “civilized” tribes, he had the support of the army and the people. The Cherokees tried to stop the state of Georgia from implementing their removal and forcefully moving them West through an appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rulings in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia and Worcester vs.

Georgia ruled in favor of the Cherokee nation. When President Jackson heard of the event, he stated “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it” (Brinkley 138). In 1835, the government extracted a treaty from the minority faction of the Cherokee nation that would exchange their land in the state of Georgia for a sum of $5 million dollars and land reservation west of the Mississippi. The majority of the Cherokee nation did not recognize this treaty. However, Jackson forcefully removed them by sending an army under General Winfield Scott.

Thus, more than 1,000 Cherokee Indians fled to North Carolina where they were eventually given a small reservation in the Smoky Mountain that still remains to this day. The majority made a forced long journey to what was referred to as the “Indian territory” and what is now known as Oklahoma. This journey will go down in history as the “Trail of Tears” because of the immense hardships and number of casualties borne by the Cherokee nation and the other Indian nations forcefully ejected from their tribal domain to give way to white settlement and “progress” (Brinkley 139).

In closing, it can be deduced, that the primary reasons for the expulsion of the Cherokee nation from their tribal domain is because of the white settler’s continuing expansion and President Jackson’s determined aggression against the Indian nations. III. Epilogue or post conclusion. Decades later, the Cherokee nation and people eventually “adapted” and imbibed economic skills necessary to succeed as an independent people. To start with, the members of the tribe had long assimilated and accepted “mixed” ancestry and marriages between British traders and Cherokee women.

Since the tribe’s kinship base was matrilineal, the children of these marriages are considered fully Cherokee. It was also considered that since the fathers of these children were of white ancestry, they could help the tribe assimilate and be educated in the ways of white men, so the entire nation could better adapt to the changing times (Denson 20-23). Because of this “openness” and civility, the Cherokee nation survived as a people and was able to maintain their cultural ties and ways of life while adapting their economic and language skills to further their economic cause and needs.

Works Cited: Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation. 2-3; 138-140; Cherokee Indians Smoky Mountain Mall website. Sourced from : http://www. smokymtnmall. com/mall/cindians. html Denson, Andrew. Demanding the Cherokee Nation [electronic resource] : Indian autonomy and American culture, 1830-1900. University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 111-119, 295-327. Electronic access: http://www. netLibrary. com/urlapi. asp? action=summary&v=1&bookid=118204 Johnson, Michael P. Selected Historical Documents from 1965. August 2001. Bedford/Saint Martin’s. 65-99.

Hatley, Thomas M. The dividing paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the era of revolution. 1995. Oxford University Press. 229-320. And Electronic access: http://www. netLibrary. com/urlapi. asp? action=summary&v=1&bookid=143582 National Humanities Center website: Sourced from: http://nationalhumanitiescenter. org/pds/amerbegin/index. html And http://nationalhumanitiescenter. org/pds/amerbegin/alltextschrono. html Presidential Profiles: White House website. Sourced from: http://www. whitehouse. gov/about/presidents/andrewjackson/

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