Throughout the 19th century Native Americans were treated far less then respectful by the United States’ government. This was the time when the United States wanted to expand and grow rapidly as a land, and to achieve this goal, the Native Americans were “pushed” westward. It was a memorable and tricky time in the Natives’ history. The US government made many treatments with the Native Americans, making big changes on the Indian nation. Native Americans wanted to live peacefully with the white men, but the result of treatments and agreements was not quite peaceful.
In this essay I will explain why and how the Native Americans were treated by the United States’ government, in which way were the treaties broken and how the Native nation were affected by the 19th century happenings. I will focus mostly on the Cherokee Indians. During the 1750s and 1760s there were several conflicts between the British and French nations. This Great War of Empire or the Seven years War took place in the Carolinas and it was known as the Cherokee War between 1756 and 1763.
Europeans were struggling for North America in the 18th century, and each of them controlled a land in America: Florida was controlled by the Spanish, Canada and Louisiana was occupied by the French, and the British held the Atlantic seaboard. Europeans wanted to convince Indians to help them with the fight for North America, especially British and French competed for Cherokee allegiance. It turned out that Cherokees were helping the English at the beginning of the Seven Years War. In this way, the Cherokees were continually attacked by the French allies: the Choctaw and Iroquois.
Because of these attacks, Cherokees asked the British to protect their families and homes by building forts. In 1756 Governor Glen of South Carolina agreed to build two forts for the Cherokees: the first one built on Savannah River is Fort Prince George, and the second one is Fort Loudoun built in eastern Tennessee. There was built a third fort in northern Tennesee by the Virginians and it is called “the Virginia Fort”. Virginia settlers attacked the Cherokees on their way to Chota, and killed some of them in brutal way.
Then they took the scalps to Governor Dinwiddie. This attack was a mistake made by the Virginians, so Dinwiddie and the Virginians who had killed the Indians, apologized for their action. The Cherokee leader, Ada-gal’kala also sent apologies to the governors because of the Virginia and North Carolina happenings. In this way, in November of 1758 in Charlestown party chiefs met with the governor and some officials, and “peace was officially declared”. After the Seven Years War hunger and disease decreased Cherokee population to one-half.
Many treaties and agreements between Europeans and the Cherokees, the Indians has lost and sold the majority of their lands and they were moved westward. Many Europeans married Cherokee women, and created mixed-blooded families. The French and Indian War’s conclusions led to the American Revolution, which began in 1763. In 1765 the British Parliament imposed direct taxes on the British American colonies. These taxes helped paying the troops in North America after the Seven Years War, but the colonists didn’t sent representatives to the British Parliament, because they considered it a violation of their rights.
This meant the beginning of the American Revolution. The Cherokees allied with the British in the American Revolution for several reasons. One reason was that the British stopped their colonists to settle beyond the Appalachian Mountains, and the Indians considered this “as an attempt by the Crown to prevent mistreatment of native peoples”. In 1776 the Cherokees took over the frontiers of Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas. The American soldiers didn’t forget the thing that Cherokees were very close to win the Seven years’ War; so they wanted to revenge it.
The Cherokees wanted to retake their land what was taken by white settlers through unfair treaties. The American Revolution has started in 1776, and it was a chance for the Cherokees to regain its land. While the Cherokees were uprising with the British, the commander of North Carolina troops, general Griffith Rutherford attacked the middle towns of the Cherokee nation. Soldiers killed every men and women on their way or they were taken as prisoners, and about 30 Cherokee towns were left without any supplies. This was known as the Cherokee Campaign.
The American Revolution ended with peace agreements with the Cherokee Indians, and they gave up all the lands in the east of the Appalachians. Between 1776 and 1794 there were several treaties, campaigns, frontier battles of the Cherokees during and after the American Revolution against the American frontiersmen. This period was called the Chickamauga Wars which was a guerrilla-style war. . In November 1794 the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse was signed and this meant the end of the Chickamauga Wars. The blockhouse ran until 1807 and its purpose was to keep the peace between the nearby Overhill Cherokee towns and the Euro-American settlers.
In 1827 they proposed a written constitution which was adopted by the Cherokee National Council and it was the creation of the Cherokee republic. According to this Constitutional Convention the Cherokee tribe and the whites should adopt peace in terms of self government. The Cherokee republic had great effect on the US government putting it in crisis. The Cherokees created a state within a state which means violation of federal US law. Thus, they opened the Indian land to white settlers by letting the state governments to promote the removal of all Indian nations to the west of the Mississippi River.
Throughout decades of treaties and negotiations, the Cherokees faced many challenges and disputes over land with the US government. After the “civilization” program, “many Cherokees who opposed peaceful relations with the United States moved west into present-day Texas and Arkansas”. Other Cherokees made peace with white Americans and started to live together. There were Cherokee traditionalists from the East who actively opposed assimilation with white people. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Cherokees were going through a time of rebirth and regeneration.
After the American Revolution the Cherokees confronted with economic depression. They gave up their homes, villages, towns and hunting grounds to white Americans. Many Cherokees adopted customs, beliefs and lifestyles of white Americans; they profoundly assimilated White culture because in this way they hoped could survive as a nation in their homeland. In 1819 Georgia appealed to the U. S. government to remove the Cherokee from Georgia lands. When the appeal failed, attempts were made to purchase the territory.
Meanwhile, in 1820 the Cherokee established a governmental system modeled on that of the United States, with an elected principal chief, a senate, and a house of representatives. Because of this system, the Cherokee were included as one of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes. The other four tribes were the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and the Seminoles. In 1832 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Georgia legislation was unconstitutional; federal authorities, following Jackson’s policy of Native American removal, ignored the decision.
About five hundred leading Cherokee agreed in 1835 to cede the tribal territory in exchange for $5,700,000 and land in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Their action was repudiated by more than nine-tenths of the tribe, and several members of the group were later assassinated. In 1838 federal troops began forcible evicting the Cherokee. Approximately one thousand escaped to the North Carolina Mountains, purchased land, and incorporated in that state; they were the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Band.
Most of the tribe, including the Western Band, was driven west about eight hundred miles in a forced march, known as the Trail of Tears. During the warfare of the 18th century and in the early 19th century beside the Cherokee culture and lifestyle, the Cherokee policy also has changed. Europeans wanted desperately to have Cherokee warriors in their military campaigns. To succeed this need, Europeans offered and gave gifts for the Cherokees: guns, ammunition, tools, textiles and other goods.
Fighting together and sharing the goods with each other, the Europeans and the Cherokees formed mix-blooded families, making the first steps to change the Cherokee culture. Europeans recognized Cherokee leaders as chiefs, and step by step they started to exercise the European power along in the Cherokee society. In time the Cherokee Indians signed many treaties, fought in many wars along the British and other Europeans because they hoped to get protection in change. Some of the Cherokees gave up their freedom and independence for the protection of their homeland and families.