Treaty of New Echota

Instructor: Michael Knoedl

Michael teaches high school Social Studies and has a M.S. in Sports Management.

History shows that the U.S. government of the past did not protect the rights of the Native American tribes. Learn here about the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the Trail of Tears.

Definition

The Treaty of New Echota was signed between the United States government and a group of Cherokee in 1835. It contained several articles, but was in general an agreement that the Cherokee would remove themselves from their land and take up new land in the West. Before we go into further detail about the Treaty of New Echota, you should first have an understanding of the relationships between white settlers and Native American peoples during that time, as well as the treaties that came before.

Cherokee Relations

The Cherokee peoples first came in contact with white Europeans in the mid-1500s when Hernando DeSoto traveled through their territory (in what is now the Southeastern region of the United States). DeSoto's expedition left the Cherokee with small pox and decimated their population.

In the mid-1600s, English entrepreneurs from the East Coast began trading with the Cherokee, and the Cherokee quickly developed a love of European luxuries. The Cherokee would trade food, slaves, and fur for kettles, tools, and alcohol. As trade and relations with the whites grew, the Carolinas grew. In 1721, the Cherokee Treaty would become the first concession of Cherokee land to whites, but it would not be the last.

Treaty of Hopewell

In 1785, the Treaty of Hopewell was the first treaty signed between the U.S. government and the Cherokee. It acknowledged that the Cherokee and the U.S. had boundaries and that the U.S. would protect the Cherokee from whites trying to take their land. The Treaty also allowed for the Cherokee to send a deputy to speak to Congress on their behalf and established a peace between the 'states.'

From the Treaty:

ARTICLE 12

That the Indians may have full confidence in the justice of the United States, respecting their interests, they shall have the right to send a deputy of their choice, whenever they think fit, to Congress.

ARTICLE 13

The hatchet shall be forever buried, and the peace given by the United States, and friendship re-established between the said states on the one part, and all the Cherokees on the other, shall be universal; and the contracting parties shall use their utmost endeavors to maintain the peace given as aforesaid, and friendship re-established.

Though the treaty calls for 'peace' between the Cherokee and the United States, the peace would not last.

Cherokee Advancement

The Treaty of Holston, in 1791, called for the United States to advance civilization of the Cherokees. Between 1791 and 1828, the Cherokee would create larger and better producing farms, a constitution, branches of government, a Cherokee alphabet and school system, a State Capital at New Echota, Georgia. It also stated that they would elect John Ross as the Cherokee Principal Chief. They would become arguably the most Americanized tribe in the United States. They believed this would help the whites see the Cherokees as equals. However, the 1828 discovery of gold on Cherokee land would prove to the Cherokee that whites would never see them as equals.

Indian Removal

In the late 1820s, the State of Georgia voted to abolish the Cherokee government and take authority of their lands. John Ross pleaded with Congress and President Andrew Jackson, but the government sided with Georgia.

The Supreme Court decided to hear Worcester v. Georgia, which was the Cherokee case against Georgia for violating the Treaty of Hopewell. The Supreme Court agreed that Georgia had violated the Treaty of Hopewell and were to immediately remove any restrictions and whites from Cherokee land.

President Jackson, however, refused to enforce the Supreme Court's decision. Jackson had also pushed the Indian Removal Act through Congress in 1830, which allowed the president to negotiate with any tribe living east of the Mississippi River. The Indians were to voluntarily give up their land in exchange for new land west of the Arkansas Territory in modern-day Oklahoma. Many tribes agreed to move, but the Cherokee tribe did not.

Treaty of New Echota

The Cherokee were growing tired of losing legal battles with the United States government and knew that they would eventually be forced to leave their land. Major Ridge, a member of the Cherokee Council, believed that his sons John and Buck would be the future leadership of the Cherokee. John and Buck saw the Cherokee movement west as the only option that would allow the Cherokee to have peace. On December 29, 1835, Major Ridge and a small group of Cherokee decided to sign the Treaty of New Echota.

Summary of the Articles of the Treaty of New Echota:

Article I: Cherokee will be compensated $5 million for land and additional compensation for the U.S. violating previous treaties.

Article II: Set boundaries for new territory.

Article III: U.S. keeps the right to build roads and posts in Cherokee land.

Article IV: U.S. will pay the Cherokee for Osage half-breed indians living on Cherokee land.

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