When Andrew Jackson became President in 1829, he wanted to end the conflict with the Indiarts. Jackson believed there could be no peace on the frontier while any Indians lived east of the Mississippi. He insisted that all eastern Indians be moved west.
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. That law gave the President power to make treaties with the Indians in order to move them. The treaties were agreements between the United States and the different Indian peoples: The United States would pay the Indians a certain amount of money for their lands, and the Indians would move to reservations in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. Those lands were called Indian Territory.
The Northern Indians
Most Indian peoples in the North signed removal treaties. Some were tricked into signing, and some were forced to sign by bands of armed frontier settlers.
In 1832, Sauk and Fox Indians in Illinois rebelled against the removal. They were led by Chief Black Hawk. The uprising became known as the Black Hawk War. Federal troops hunted down Black Hawk and his followers. The Indians saw they were trapped and waved a white flag to show that they surrendered. But the troops attacked anyway and killed all but a few of the Sauks.
The Southern Indians
Five Indian peoples lived in the South. The Choctaw of Mississippi were the first of the five to leave their homeland for Indian Territory. The Chickasaw and Creek were the next to leave. Nearly half the Creek died on the long journey to Indian Thrritory or in their first year there.
The Seminoles in Florida refused to leave their lands. For seven years, they fought federal troops in the swamps of Florida, from 1835 to 1842. That was the longest Indian war. Finally, most of the Seminoles were driven west.
The Cherokee of Georgia also fought removal. The Cherokee did not want to leave their farms and villages. They had adopted many of the ways of the settlers. A Cherokee named Sequoyah had created a written language for his people. The Cherokee printed a weekly newspaper in both Cherokee and English.
The Trail of Tears
The Cherokee asked the federal courts to protect their rights and their land. In 1832, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee should be left alone. President Jackson and Georgia settlers ignored the Court. They wanted Cherokee land.
The Cherokee were forced to leave Georgia in 1838. Those who tried to stay were dragged from their homes and loaded into wagons. On the long journey to Indian Territory, a fourth of the Cherokee died. The survivors would always remember their route west as the Trail of Tears.