Indian Removal Act of 1830: Summary, Timeline & Facts

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  • 0:01 Indian Removal Act of 1830
  • 1:56 Peaceful Exodus
  • 2:37 Resistance to Relocation
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was expected to remove and relocate Indian nations that existed in the Southern United States in order to advance white settlement. Learn about the legislation and the difficult battle that ensued between the United States and Native Americans.

Indian Removal Act of 1830

When we examine the major issues that comprised the 19th century, we find racism and white supremacy at the forefront. Many of you automatically think of slavery, which in most circumstances is very accurate. However, we often forget about other groups that faced oppression during this period: Mexicans, Asians and - maybe most importantly, yet most understudied - Native Americans. The focus of this lesson will turn from racism and white supremacy against blacks toward the abhorrent discrimination against Native Americans in the form of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Manifest Destiny, a term used to describe the mission to expand U.S. territory and settle throughout the North American continent, ran rampant throughout the United States in the 1820s. White settlers pushed further south and west, and looked to the federal government to aid their movement. However, a major obstacle stood in the way of expansion: Native American tribes. Indian nations who resided in the Southern United States included the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw.

Unfortunately for these nations, U.S. President Andrew Jackson would not have expansion halted. He, therefore, successfully issued the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This legislation allowed Jackson to mediate removal treaties with the various groups. If accepted by each respective Indian nation, the treaty allowed for their safe removal (you will come to see why this is an ambiguous term) across the Mississippi River and on to federally protected lands. If Native Americans chose not to sign the treaties, they were forced to become American citizens within their respective state. The overall goal of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 was to dispose of the remaining Indian nations in the South and make way for expansion.

Peaceful Exodus

Two of the aforementioned Indian nations, the Choctaw and Chickasaw, peacefully accepted the terms of the Indian Removal Act and relocated immediately. Both groups realized they did not have the necessary components to combat the United States federal government nor its powerful military. While most of the tribe relocated, certain Native Americans attempted to stay behind and become American citizens. Unfortunately, white settlers refused to accept their Indian brethren as equal and pursued tactics to drive them off of the land. The War Department attempted to help, but did not have the power to curb white supremacy. So much for 'safe' removal, and it only got worse.

Resistance to Relocation

Two Indian groups accepted relocation, yet the remaining three, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee, refused to move without either a physical or legal battle. Those who attempted to engage in a physical confrontation with the United States were quickly suppressed. The Creeks and Seminoles were among those who attempted to fight.

The Creeks were actually given land in Alabama. However, disgruntled white settlers decided to drive the Creeks further west. The Creeks fought valiantly against the forced removal, but by 1836 the Jackson Administration and the Secretary of War Lewis Cass drove the Creeks across the Mississippi River with military force.

The Seminoles declared the Indian Removal Act illegal and refused to accept the terms. President Jackson quickly pursued federal intervention against the Seminoles, which resulted in the fighting of the Second Seminole War between 1835 and 1842. The war resulted in thousands of Indian deaths and millions of dollars wasted. The Seminoles, however, held their ground and remained in the South. It eventually took the Third Seminole War and a hefty bribe to finally relocate the Seminoles to the Western United States.

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