Spotted Elk (Bigfoot), WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE, Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 29 December 1890
THE NECESSARY ENDING OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN By James Ryan
They have proclaimed their malefactions. For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak With most miraculous organ.
The American Indian lived in the animal world, a wilderness, an environment entirely hostile in the perception of the European colonizers. Fueled and often inflamed by biblical rhetoric with its stress on prophecy fulfillment (the idea of the New America as the New Israel) the American Indians were doomed to be little but animals themselves. “The men who have fallen below the condition of animality can be slain with impunity,” notes scholar Edward Dudley in his book The Wild Man Within. Thus then, now, and sadly, perhaps always, will prevail the need to develop the rationalizing prop of the “monstrous races” as Pliny did in the first century. As Stannard observes, “once integrated into Christian thinking, the monstrous races came to be associated with the lineage of Cain.” Those whom governments oppose must first be demonized and slandered.
The fairy tales arising from the perfumed mythology of the Plymouth Colony days about friendly Indians, turkeys, the bashful John Alden, the hapless Miles Standish form the bedrock of that quintessential celebration of American rapacity called Thanksgiving. While Americans reveling in self-justification gorge themselves comatose, the other perspective, the view from the Indian angle, as history wrought their doom, is far less comforting. As Cathy Davidson, expert in the early American novel, noted in her book, Revolution and the Word, “No Native American would see the landing of the Mayflower as the beginning of anything except, perhaps, the end.”
The Indians were doomed by their sensitivity to the land, their acutely developed sensory acuity, and their innate sense of honor. Extraordinarily aware of every attribute of their natural landscape, the land itself was their spriritual essence, their religion. Black Hawk, Sauk-Fox war chief, who fought against the US over land cessions in Illinois and Wisconsin, had something to say about the white man’s religion.
If I have been correctly informed, the whites may do bad all their lives and then if they are sorry for it when about to die, all is well! But with us it is different; we must continue throughout our lives to do what we conceive to be good. 
And the land was fully theirs; they were born, lived, and the same land received them back in its eternal embrace. In life, the Indian trod on paths that their ancestors had trod, trails over the earth that held their bones. The land was sacred, familial, a living presence that held their dead. No need for churches or temples, no need for a deed of ownership. They owned the land as they owned their marrow, as they owned the rain that fed their crops. And anyway how could anyone own the world? That was no more rational than owning the air. The Indians loved the land deeply, deeper than any legal document could attest. They cared for the land as Christians cared for their relics.
Discovery and Destruction And Chitto Harjo, a Creek, had an opinion about just who discovered whom.
Away back in that time – in 1492 – a man by the name of Columbus came from across the great ocean, and he discovered the country for the white man... What did he find when he first arrived here? Did he find a white man standing on the continent then... I stood here first, and Columbus first discovered me. 
Indeed, the Indians discovered Columbus, their first white man, a dubiously ‘civilized’ white man given what would follow. In all, the first gaze seems to lack any aspect of the white man’s inherent right of ownership, as has been ruled legal by the US Supreme Court. Indeed Chitto Harjo could just as easily claim credit for discovering Spain, in that according to later expansionist logic, the ship could be construed a floating piece of Spain.
Unlike the white man, nature was the Indian’s friend, a true community of all creatures. Consider the vast forests that had to be destroyed to deliver civilization to the ‘savages.’ Everything had to be conquered, the Indians and the Indian world. And it was a vast destruction. The Indians lived in the open as did the animals that nourished them, clothed them, and sheltered them. The Indian responded to the exigencies of the natural world with the same innate sensitivity as its animal denizens. So close did these worlds interlock that they drew their personal identity, their very names, from nature and its animals: Little Crow, Rain-in-the-Face, Black Hawk, Kicking Bear, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull. Nature was respected, its animals revered for providing the Indian with all the requisites for survival. How could a natural world that so cared for the Indian be any less than a god itself? How could it belong to anyone else? Particularly those who raped and pillaged and destroyed? The land was a living, thriving shrine to Indian survival and regeneration. And their past generations lay beneath their feet. Their homeland was sanctified, replenishing ground, hallowed by the remains of ancestors, inhabited and reified by a vast range of spiritual energies that the Indian communed with every waking hour. From all this, the eastern Indians were driven—by death and dispossession—to a place as alien to them as the dark side of the moon. As Indian scholar, Dale Van Every, noted in Disinherited, his classic book on the dispossession of the American Indian: "In the long record of man’s inhumanity, exile has wrung moans of anguish from different peoples. Upon no people could it have fallen with a more shattering impact that upon the eastern Indian." 
To the first colonizers the frontier was the rock-bound east coast. Densely forested, ominously quiet, it rendered haunting intimations of prehistory and danger. Frederick Jacson Turner simply, yet tragically, describes the consequence of such a first impression. “The first ideal of the pioneer,” he wrote, “was that of conquest.” And the symbols for that initial impulse was “the rifle and the axe.” It was a one-two punch knock-out blow. One destroyed the American Indian, the other, the American landscape. The compellingly destructive and literal truth of his observation was ever-present in the classic five-novel work of James Fenimore Cooper, The Leatherstocking Tales, as the rifle slaughtered game and Indian alike and the axes of Hurry Harry, Ishmael Bush, and so many others of their ilk hewed civilization out of the primal forest of Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook. “And yet the wind seldom blows from the east,” said the now aged Natty, “but I conceit the sounds of axes, and the crash of falling trees are in my ears.”
The Thirteen Colonies in America
Already Gone In 1790 two-thirds of the white population in America lived within fifty miles of the Atlantic ocean. Indeed, the frontier was yet the thinnest of slivers of the North American continent, merely a beachhead. The accompanying graphic shows the extent of the soon-to-be United States of America in 1794. As the Indians were driven west, their land was seized, cleared, and cultivated. By the end of the seventeenth century most of the Indians had gone, either by the deadly hands of white men, or their devastatingly fatal breath. In fact, the majority of the Indian population by then had died from disease epidemics.  Thus twenty five years after America declared its independence in 1776, almost all the northeastern Indians had been pushed west of the Mississippi River. By 1840 almost five million more Americans had crossed the Appalachian mountains in the relentless push west. Michael Rogin, author of Fathers and Children, the seminal account of Andrew Jackson’s usurpation and destruction of the southern Indians, asserts that “Indian dispossession is part of the history of American capitalism[....] Indian destruction defines for America the stage of primitive capitalist accumulation.”
I more than agree with Rogin. So I want to push the argument further, to push the American nose into the muck it has created, and allow it, as TS Eliot wrote, “to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” The destruction of the Indians was necessary for economic growth and geographical expansion. In other words, it had to be done to make America a contender in the great power game called international affairs. But it is the brazen immorality of the act that gnaws. And it is this immorality, unaddressed by the nation’s inert collective conscience that has provided the equally unexamined grounds for the killings, and burnings, and relocations of Native Americans, Phillippinos, Vietnamese, Palestinians, and Iraqis.
The Indian Removal The removal of the American Indians, as in extirpation, as in relocation, as in destruction, opened the way for the greatness of America. It was a logical consequence of Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803 that doubled the size of the fledgling nation. It was inevitable. France needed money. Selling its vast tract to the United States after a quick flip from Spain solved a problem. And Jefferson realized his agrarian dream, all for fifteen million dollars.... 530 million acres, about three cents an acre. And it sealed the fate of the eastern Indians. One myth was fulfilled, the emerging destiny westward, one was dashed...the idea that there was a great desert (appropriate for banishing the eastern Indians) west of the Mississippi, for Lewis and Clark had proven otherwise.
In addition to the size of the acquisition, one can note the enormous strategic difficulty of the Spanish claim to what would later prove to be Texas. Indeed the Spanish land farther westward is a literal salient that, absent an enormous Spanish military effort, would also easily fall under the aegis of the United States. The expansion westward seems predestined, even from a cursory inspection of the map. It was. Less than thirty years since independence, the completion of the United States was a fait accompli, triggered by the boldness of vision of Thomas Jefferson. At about the same time, Jefferson sketched out his Indian policy in a letter to William Henry Harrison, Indian fighter and 11th president of the United States. It is interesting to note the psychological workings of Jefferson’s analysis. In effect, he felt that the key to Indian pacification resided in allowing and encouraging assimilation. This may have worked, but the odds were against it. Jefferson had failed to consider the white man’s greed for vast acreages to support the land-depleting southern style of agriculture. Jefferson’s use of indebtedness to grab land from impoverished Indians is particularly odious. Such was Jeffersonian democracy, to which he had sworn in the Declaration of Independence his life, fortune and sacred honor.
The decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient, we wish to draw them to agriculture, to spinning and weaving. The latter branches they take up with great readiness, because they fall to the women, who gain by quitting the labours of the field r those which are exercised within doors. When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests, and will be willing to pare them off from time to time in exchange for necessaries for their farms & families. To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare and we want for necessaries, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.
What the oft-considered noble Jefferson was proposing was a bait-and-switch shell game to distract Indian attention under false pretenses. It was also reminiscent of a company store whereby workers purchasing goods are satisfied by the employer’s store at inflated prices, hence the term, debt bondage. After the Civil War, ex-slave sharecroppers often fell victim to these practices, essentially existing in peonage. Such were the morally bankrupt, duplicitous notions of the erudite Jefferson. But he was not the only Founding Father to be so disposed. The ever practical Benjamin Franklin went him one better. He knew how to really deal with “these Savages.” With alcohol!
And indeed if it be the Design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for Cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that Rum may be the appointed Means. It has already annihilated all the Tribes who formerly inhabited the Sea-coast.
John Adams, first vice president and second president of the United States, collaborator with Franklin and Jefferson on the Great Seal Design, had, perhaps, the most dismissive attitude of all toward the American Indians. A noted attorney and scholar of the law, he also astonishingly missed the point of who actually inhabited and owned the land. He likened the white man’s invasion to a good will mission to share hunting and fishing tips, a sort of quail shoot with Dick Cheney. Blissful (and wishful) ignorance, like possession, is nine-tenths of Jackson’s law. In a letter to Jefferson he wrote:
Shall we say that a few handfulls of scattering tribes of savages have a right of dominion and property over a quarter of this globe capable of nourishing hundreds of millions of happy human beings? Why had not Europeans a right to come and hunt and fish with them?
And by these glorious pen strokes, rendered by the best and the brightest thinkers of America, the Founding Fathers opined that the American Indian was, and should be, doomed. The “happy human beings” had already, and would continue to deliver millions of American Indians to the happy hunting ground. The rest would starve, contract white man’s diseases, stay drunk with white man’s whiskey, and slowly be extinquished in honor of God’s direction to white men to till the soil.
Sharp Knife Jackson And there would be no one better equipped to follow those directions than Andrew Jackson, called Sharp Knife by the Indians. It was his life’s calling. Jackson, land speculator (as were Jefferson and Washington) and a slave trader, was “the single figure most responsible for Indian destruction in the pre-Civil War America.”  And this destruction defined America, regarding its economic needs and ambitions, as well as the overwhelmingly self-satisfied spirit of nationalism that defines the country to this moment. The economic life of the nation depended on foreign trade, as did its security. The founding fathers, James Madison in particular, saw that security resided in expansion and dispersion. “Extend the sphere,” he said, “and you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.”  Madison’s notion of “sphere” was not solely in the political realm. Geography, economics, and international relations had important, if not primary roles to play. As William Appleman Williams, noted scholar on American aspirations for empire, observed:
Madison himself had clearly understood that foreign markets were part of the sphere that had to be enlarged to insure the continuation of republican institutions and of prosperity.
And not having factories, America’s natural and competitive advantages resided in land, and the wealth upon and within it. The pressures for land and markets were two sides of the same coin, both interdependent engines of growth and expansion, And the land was fertile and free, setting aside the moral problems of disenfranchisement and honor. James K. Polk of Tennessee (1795-1849), 11th president of the United States, solved these moral problems by rationalizing all that had been, and all that would be done. He warned European nations not to meddle in American affairs. The United States will annex Texas and has an inherent right to Oregon and California, he said. Not only is additional colonization forbidden, but the United States will annex the remaining European footholds in North America. All this would be done under label of “expansion of free principles,” a variation on the Jacksonian theme of “extending the area of freedom,” and, of tragic late, the theme of “spreading democracy.”
The rapid extension of our settlements over our territories heretofore unoccupied, the addition of new states to our confederacy, the expansion of free principles, and our rising greatness as a nation are attracting the attention of the powers of Europe, and lately the doctrine has been broached in some of them of a ‘balance of power’ on this continent to check our advancement. The United States, sincerely desirous of preserving relations of good understanding with all nations, cannot in silence permit any European interference on the North American continent, and should any such interference be attempted will be ready to resist it at any and all hazards. 
Polk, an ardent expansionist, rallied the country to annex Texas. The land was ample and free and Polk would dole it out to “patriotic pioneers” who would forge ahead, through, over, and past the “savage tribes inhabiting the vast wilderness.” Texas was vital for reasons beyond mere geography. Williams reminds us that since the War of 1812 Jefferson’s agrarian majority had an increasing aggressive influence on US foreign policy. They demanded the removal of the Indians, the seizure of Florida and Canada, and immediate and stern action to rescind any attempts by Europe to control entry to American markets. Free market access was “an essential ingredient of American development and an inherent aspect of American freedom,” wrote Williams.  Thus the farm was tied to world markets through exports, and that meant cotton, tobacco, and foodstuffs. The original idea of expansion that Madison posed in the Federalist Papers had come to mean expand-or-else. Prosperity and freedom depended on it. And so did political fortunes in America. In 1844, fervor grew to immediately annex Texas. The Tyler administration felt that without Texas the south would not be able to sustain itself. What this meant, according to Williams, was that the southern culture and lifestyle, so dependent upon the infringement of rights of black people, needed even more land beyond the Mississippi. Thus slavery was extended into Texas “producing a cotton crop that dominated the world market.” .
And with the combined goods of the commonweal, the nation, and the south at stake, what moral point could stand against it? Certainly not slavery, nor the troublesome savages, whose ranks were already thinned by disease and the white man’s sharp aim. And Europe was calling. England, too. The former for food, the latter, bygones being bye-bye-gones, needed cotton, and thus the son received the full measure of the father’s transgressions.
By dispossessing the Indians of their land, and clearing the land for cotton and more slavery, Andrew Jackson began the second American revolution. Jackson’s ruthless policies created a market rather than a family-based society. In the process he defied congress and the supreme court, both. But he got his way, and he was right, dollarwise. Westward expansion and the American economy grew enormously. And the great biblical god Mammon smiled down benificently as he saw what was being done in his, and the other, “true” God’s name, both partners in a crime against humanity.
Grain and cotton, “King Cotton” being the largest export, soared. This in turn produced a boom in land prices. The more cotton grew, the more the need for land, for cotton grievously depleted soil nutrients. Michael Rogin noted that “the cotton kingdom, expanding to the southwest, provided the key impetus to the market revolution.” 
And the more the need for land, the more the need for slaves. Contemporaneously came a transportation revolution: canals, rivers, roads, ports, and thence, railroads. What was NOT needed were the “unfortunate sons of nature,” as John Quincy Adams had called the Indian in 1802. Andrew Jackson declared for America what the British government declared for England in the middle of the eighteenth century when private profit and economic development became “the supreme objects of government policy”  And what happened next was the hammer stroke that chimed the beginning of rapacity and the ending of freedom.
Economic production soon outpaced domestic consumption. In the case of England’s economic base, the textile mills of Manchester wove goods for the world. And therein diplomacy and the British navy had to secure these markets lest the economic structure come tumbling down. Under Jackson, America had become the primary supplier of cotton for the British mills, and foodstuffs for an arable-land-limited Europe. America’s bountiful ability to grow things beyond its own internal needs, its dependence on foreign markets, heaved itself headlong into its ımperial career. This is what J.A. Hobson in his classic book, Imperialism, called the “economic taproot of Imperialism” and it was established, fed, and protected by Andrew Jackson. As Hobson said about the America of the very early 1900s:
Imperialism is thus seen to be, not a choice , but a necessity. [....] The spirit of adventure, the American “mission of civilization,” were as forces making for Imperialism, clearly subordinate to the driving force of the economic factor.
Riding with the Cossack cavalry into Poland in 1920, Isaac Babel described enroute “the highroad from Brest to Warsaw built by Nicholas I upon the bones of the peasants.”  In America, the road from liberty and sacred honor to wealth and power was built upon the bones of the Indians, lubricated with the sweat of slaves. Murder and extortion, dispossession and dehumanization, marked the quintessential essences of the evolving American dream-fantasy to be “like a city on a hill.”
The Road to Infamy During the first half of the nineteenth century the insatiable demand for raw cotton for the “satanic mills” of England caused land mania of “epic proportions.”  It was tantamount to the California gold rush of 1849, and today’s oil grab frenzy in the Middle East. To keep the mills (and the British Empire) rolling ever onward it was imperative to clear the fertile coastal plain land in the lower southern states, particularly Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the soil-rich “black belt.” And this meant get rid of the Indians. The overriding agricultural problem was to increase the supply of cotton to keep pace with demand. For the states of the Lower South “this phase of the Industrial Revolution represented virtually unlimited demand for their cotton fiber.”  By 1840 the South grew 60% of the world’s cotton and supplied over 70% of the raw goods required by the British textile industry. Not surprisingly, England supported the Confederacy during the US Civil War. The southern planters enlarged their cotton acreage, reduced production of foodstuffs, and bought additional slaves. The headcount of 700,000 slaves at the beginning of the nineteenth century grew to a population of almost 4 million by the beginning of the Civil War in 1860. Foodstuff producing states (primarily rice in South Carolina) and tobacco growers (Virginia, Kentucky) experienced a draw-down of slaves (out-migration) to the newly cleared Indian lands in the Lower South.
Between 1833 and 1837 an enormous land rush into northern Mississippi brought more that 100,000 slaves in the region recently vacated by the removal of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, and these black newcomers were set to work hacking farms and plantations out of virgin forests. 
This horde of slaves transformed primeval, towering woodland, into vast open acreage for cotton in less that 10 years. And the black men and women and children then picked that cotton for the great state of Mississippi and their distinguished planters. All the wealth arose from the rich earth holding the bones of generations of Indians, watered by the sweat, tears, and blood of their slaves. In February 1836 the state legislature divided the phoney Chickasaw Land Cession in northeastern Mississippi into thirteen counties. One of them was named Chickasaw County. That is as close to ‘remembering’ that the state of Mississippi has ever come. Red, White and Black An examination of the following table of cotton and tobacco exports, the major cash crops produced by enslaved field workers, will give a sense of the enormous importance of the former Indian lands. Note the tremendous cotton boom beginning in 1820 and carrying through to the onset of the Civil War. Cotton exports grew by an astounding factor of 14 times over the next forty years. The explosive growth in cotton production was from the lands of the Lower South, the former Indian lands.
TABLE 1 Tobacco and Cotton Exports Year Cotton ExportedDollar ValueTobacco Exported Dollar Value (pounds) (hogsheads)
1810 93,000,000 $15,000,000 64,000 $5,000,000
1820128,000,000$22,000,000 84,000 $8,000,000
1830 298,000,000 $30,000,000 84,000 $6,000,000
1840 744,000,000 $64,000,000 119,000 $10,000,000
1850 635,000,000 $72,000,000 146,000 $11,000,000
18601,768,000,000$192,000,000 167,000 $21,000,000
(Source:Clayton F. Jewett, Slavery in the South: A State-by-State History. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2004, p. 286.)
Indeed cotton was king. A British visitor to Alabama in 1858 described Mobile as a city
where the people live in cotton houses and ride in cotton carriages. They buy cotton, sell cotton, think cotton, eat cotton, drink cotton, and dream cotton. They marry cotton wives, and unto them are born cotton children. In enumerating the charms of a fair widow, they begin by saying she makes so many bales of cotton. It is the great staple – the sum and substance of Alabama. It has made Mobile, and all its citizens. 
Cotton was sum and substance of much more than Mobile, Alabama. It was the warp and woof of the southern states, as well as the north. It was the living and growing manifestation of the Jeffersonian dream of agrarian democracy. It was the economic engine of America. It showed how a young country could be a dominant power in world markets. And it would provide the inspiration for generations of American thinkers regarding the use of power in international affairs. And it all began with—and then ‘without’—the American Indians.
The following table and maps tell the full story of the impact of dispossessing the Indians from their southern land. The number of slaves doubled from 1830 to 1860, from two million to four million. This period spans from the end of Jackson’s presidency to the beginning of the Civil War. One can easily see by inspecting the map of the areas of greatest slave density (the blackest black) that slave density coincides perfectly with the location of the appropriated Indian lands. The ethnic cleansing of the southern Indian tribes commenced in 1830. By 1860, the beginning of the American Civil War, the number of slaves had doubled.
TABLE 2 Slave Population Growth
Year# Slaves#Total Black Total US Population% Black of Total
Removal of Indian tribes (ethnic cleansing) from southern states to west of the Mississippi River The Trail of Tears. 1830-1842
The following map shows the slave density by region and was compiled from 1860 census data. It clearly demonstrates the congruence of the above map's depiction of the forced evacuation of lands (1830-40) with the dramatic influx of two million additional slaves over the subsequent decades.
DENSITY MAP SLAVE POPULATION OF THE SOUTHERN STATES OF THE UNITED STATES, 1860
Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States. Compiled from the census of 1860. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_item.pl
Great Brutal White Father All this darkess was the result of a determined, entrenched national policy. If one man deserves responsibility it is President Andrew Jackson. Like an avenging angel, Andrew Jackson visited terror, destruction, and death upon the American Indians. The southern tribes, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole suffered most under his relentless hand. A colonel in the Tennessee militia during the War of 1812, he concentrated much of his military efforts against the Creek and Seminole tribes. The latter tribe, actually dispossessed Creeks who had left their native lands in Georgia and Alabama, were called “siminoli” (wanderers). The so-called Creek War was conveniently labeled as a military theater in the War of 1812 against the British. Destroying Creek towns in pursuit of the elusive Red Eagle, chief of the militant and mystical Red Stick Creeks, the fight was eventually joined along the Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama in March 1814. It marked the slaughter of 800 of the 1000 Red Stick Creeks. Dead Creeks had their noses clipped off by Jackson’s Tennesseans. Legs were flayed “from the hips down” for bootlegs. Suitable strips of Creek skin were excised for bridle reins for Jackson’s not-so-gallant cavaliers. Jackson was assisted in this massacre by Cherokees who believed they were fighting outlaws and that Jackson, a driven, relentless man, would reward them. As Gloria Jahoda notes in her classic book of the Cherokee diaspora, The Trail of Tears, “Jackson turned Indian against Indian in his determination to subjugate every red man in the United States.”
The Cherokees got their reward from Jackson, many of them eternally. Fifteen years later, as President of the United States, Jackson removed them beyond the Mississippi River, to Oklahoma, Choctaw words for okla (red) houma (people).
In campaign worthy of the Old Testament, Jackson razed Creek villages.
Tallussafatchee: 186 warriors killed, plus women and children.
Artussee: 200 Creeks burned alive, including women and children.
Ecunchate: the Creek holy city symbolizing “every other inch of Creek soil where the Creeks hunted or tilled.” Most of the people escaped the wrath of Jackson but the city was destroyed.
In August of that year Jackson compelled the Creeks to sign a peace treaty that provided for 23 million acres of Creek land to be ceded to the United States government. As Rogin writes, “Jackson had demonstrated his power over the Creeks, and won their birthright,” that is their ancestral lands. In gaining “the cream of Creek country,” Jackson “had supplied the expanding cotton kingdom with a vast and valuable acreage.” One can readily note by referring to the previous Slave Density map the congruence of the Creek lands and the areas of densest, darkest slavery. It was only the beginning.
Over the next ten years (1814-1824), Jackson was the impetus behind the removal of the southern Indians. Having obtained vast tracts of Creek land, the subsequent treaties were marked by coercion and bribery. As Rogin tersely put it, “Jackson practiced extensive bribery.” Those treaties would push the Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, and Chickasaws out of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Thence, Jackson turned again to Florida to rid the peninsula of the Seminoles under the quaintly modern alibi of ‘self defense.’ The American Conquistador, Andrew Jackson purged the land, making it safe for both democracy and land-grabbers. Pity the Seminoles who believed the proposition that all men are created equal. They were accused of giving safe harbor to runaway slaves, and attacked for it. For the likes of a slaveholder like Jackson, this was indeed a treachery that deserved punishment. When Jackson became governor of the Florida territory he completed the racial clearing of land. He pushed the Seminoles either into the happy hunting grounds, or deep into the swamps. Afterwards, he commenced to give business advice, about real estate, of course.
Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans combined with his vanquishing the Indians made him a popular hero. There is nothing like causing chaos and destruction that benefits the American people that better insures a successful political career. Even today he remains a paragon of democracy, a man of the common people. And not so common people too, for many made millions from Jackson’s banking and economic policies. No one who “mattered” cared very much that the President of the United States was a primary destroyer of the American Indians. This may sound disturbingly similar to the recent man-of-the-common-folk who occupied the White House. His blood-for-oil program has killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. As historian Howard Zinn observes:
The leading books on the Jacksonian period, written by respected historians, do not mention Jackson’s Indian policy, but there is much talk in them of tariffs, banking, political parties, political rhetoric. If you look through high school textbooks and elementary textbooks in American history you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people—not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.
Regardless, Jackson was elected President in 1828, an event that marked the end for the southern Indians. Two years later he signed into law one of the most shameful of US legislative proposals: The Indian Removal Act of 1830. It provided for the forcible removal of all Indians beyond the west bank of the Mississippi River. Since the state of Georgia was then involved in a jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokees, this act was purported to solve some sort of internal security problem.
Cherokee Tragedy After demonizing the Indian to serve the white men’s dark purpose, they rendered them children, “unfortunate children of the forest” as John Quincy Adams pegged them. Such patronizing carried over into government and into the perception of the judiciary system under John Marshall, and prevails today. Incompetent, incapable children, stunned and needing protection, that’s how the government viewed the Indians. When the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh (1768-1813) was not appropriately impressed by being summoned by his ‘father’ in Washington, DC, he demonstrated clearly that he needed no such protection.
When Tecumseh met with William Henry Harrison, Indian fighter and future President, the interpreter said: “Your father requests you to take a chair.” Tecumseh replied: My father! The sun is my father, and the earth is my mother; I will repose upon her bosom.
Jackson took office in 1829. Soon thereafter gold was discovered on Cherokee land, a devilish duo indeed for the Indians. After that came the deluge as hordes of gold-bug whites overran their territory. Ordered to stop mining, the Cherokee tribal structure began to deteriorate due to harassment, starvation, and alcohol use. Laws were passed—a few years later declared unconstitutional—that abolished the tribe as a legal unit, thus emasculating the powers of chieftains. Meetings were outlawed and due process for the redress of grievances was denied. Strong-armed into signing treaties, the Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw lands passed to white hands under the usual influences: alcohol, lack of food, and military incursions. Some, like the Chickasaws, sold out quickly and left. They were the exception. Most Indians stayed to resist Jackson’s land grab. “Brothers!” said an old Creek named Speckled Snake, then over one hundred years old, “I have listened to a great many talks from our great father. But they always began and ended in this—‘Get a little further; you are too near me’.” The Indian tie to their tribal soil can be expressed no more powerfully than did the Seminole leader, Tuckose Emathala. A spokesman for his tribe, he said, “Here our navel strings were first cut in Florida and the blood from them sunk into the earth, and made the country dear to us.”
Nothing could or would make a difference. Go west, Indian! was the epithet of those days. West of the Mississippi, away, away, away from our Dixieland! It was out of control. Or, perversely from the Jacksonian perspective, it was perfectly under control. According to Dale Van Every, Indians and whites had lived in harmony after the War of 1812. It was not until Jackson’s election as president that all hell broke loose. I don’t agree with Van Every’s ‘harmony-argument,’ but I do agree that Jackson was an unmitigated (and little acknowledged) moral disaster for America. Yes, whites and Indians had often lived near each other, traded together, and even had social relationships. And yes, American folk heroes of the frontier, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett had spent significant time living among the Indians. When Crockett was elected to Congress he was a champion of protecting Indian rights and voted against Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. The forces afoot to extirpate the southern Indians came from the nature of the new country. And that nature demanded more! More for industry! More for commerce! And services, for there was an enormous inflow of immigrants. And more for the structural amenities that slashed the terrain like a rapier: railroads, bridges, turnpikes, and always the need for more, more, more. As Howard Zinn relates:
Out of that frenzy the Indians were to end up dead or exiled, the land speculators richer, the politicians more powerful. As for the poor white frontiersman, he played the part of a pawn, pushed into the first violent encounters, but soon dispensable.
The Cherokees, debunking the popular hue and cry that uncivilized, ignorant savage Indians could not assimilate and must be removed, fooled everyone. They assimilated…or tried to. They farmed, owned property, became carpenters, masons, and blacksmiths. Their chief, Sequoyah, developed a written language which was learned by many of them. Because of their genetic gift of observation, they learned it quickly, in three years. They established a government, had a constitution, conducted elections, and began a newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, printed in both English and Cherokee. “In one generation,” wrote Dale Van Every in his classic book, Disinherited, “they advanced what would have taken other peoples centuries.” But this was not good enough. The mandate for removal had been rendered. Yet the once fierce warrior Cherokees would still fight, but in a new, modern way. They were striving mightily to be good citizens. As Van Every indicates:
In their ancient homeland in northern Georgia, northeastern Alabama and southeastern Tennessee they tilled their fields, tended their flocks, schooled their children, attended their churches and asserted their rights to be considered citizens of the republic.
Yes, the Cherokees would fight…and they would do it in the courts.
Marvelous to say, the American conscience had stirred. Then aroused. Many northerners now considered the Indian to be an oppressed minority, now that the north was rid of them. Most southerners, not surprisingly, felt quite differently. Georgia had deprived the Cherokees of due process, even denied them the right to appear in court in their own defense. The state had disallowed all assemblies or meetings and even divided Indian property among white claimants. It became a prominent issue in the election of 1832. And it went to the Supreme Court.
But under the Relocation Act all eastern Indians had to go to the western plains, an environment completely alien. The Indians had done everything the white man had demanded. They no longer had any military power and thus posed no physical threat. They were tilling the soil of an increasingly diminishing plot of earth. In fact, the Cherokees had become too civilized. Commissioners sent from Washington were confounded. Told that they, the Cherokees, had too much land in relation to white Georgians, and that God had not intended such inequality between races, the Indians responded in kind. Admitting that they did not know the intentions of God in this particular matter, they countered with their own confusion as to why “the laws of civilized and enlightened nations allow a man to monopolize more land than he can cultivate, to the exclusion of others.” Insightful, ironic arguments did not please the commissioners from Washington, DC. “Consternation increased,” wrote Weinberg in his exhaustive study entitled Manifest Destiny, “when their leaders showed greater dialectic skill than the emissaries of civilization.” But that too would make no difference to the doomed Cherokees. The southern soil was destined for tilling, not by the Reds, but by the Blacks under the lash of the Whites. All the rest was just talk.
The Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek saw that reality quickly and elected, grudgingly, to go. They were driven like sheep. They had lost their ancestral lands and would soon lose one-third of their population to hunger, disease, alcohol, and exertion. The Seminole chose to fight and conducted a guerrilla war from the swamps of the Everglades.
But the Cherokee had grounds. The Treaty of New Echota signed in 1833 was bogus; the signers were not the recognized leaders of the Cherokee nation. As Rogin notes, “virtually the entire Cherokee tribe stayed away from New Echota.” But they did show up later, to protest. Cherokees, 15, 000 of them, led by John Ross, signed the petition. But the Supreme Court ignored their demands and ratified the treaty in 1836. The tribe was given a two-year window in which to depart. If not, force would be used. By the deadline, only 2000 had left. 16,000 remained, hoping against hope.
In Concord, Massachusetts, on April 23, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an impassioned letter about the dire plight of the Cherokee Nation to President Martin Van Buren. Emerson’s writing proceeded with great philosophical logic and moral fervor. It represented a rare direct literary response of that time to this most grave, criminal issue.
The interest always felt in the aboriginal population—an interest naturally growing as that decays—has been heightened in regard to this tribe. Even in our distant State some good rumor of their worth and civility has arrived. We have learned with joy their improvement in the social arts. We have read their newspapers. We have seen some of them in our schools and colleges. In common with the great body of the American people, we have witnessed with sympathy the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race. […] Out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States chooses to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and is proceeding to execute the same. Almost the entire Cherokee Nation stands up and says, “This is not our act. Behold us. Here are we. Do not mistake that handful of deserters for us;” and the American President and the Cabinet, the Senate and the House of Representatives, neither hear these men nor see them, and are contracting to put this active nation into carts and boats, and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. […] Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made. Sir, does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? […] We only state the fact that a crime is projected that confounds our understandings by its magnitude, a crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokees of a country. For how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more? You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world. […] On the broaching of this question, a general expression of despondency, of disbelief that any good will accrue from a remonstrance on an act of fraud and robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel. Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill?-- We ask triumphantly. Our counsellors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world. […] I write thus, sir, to inform you of the state of mind these Indian tidings have awakened here, and to pray with one voice more that you, whose hands are strong with the delegated power of fifteen millions of men, will avert with that might the terrific injury which threatens the Cherokee tribe.
It was eloquent but it was not enough. Probably nothing would have stayed the hand of a president who had so long ago laid the plans to uproot the Indians. Emerson wrote with the clarity and force of an honest man. He skewered the perfidious behavior of Jackson as a shame on the office of the presidency, one that would cause the nation to “stink to the world.” Emerson asked the question: Will the government of the United States lie, steal, and even kill? Today these same questions are again asked of American presidents. And now, as with the Cherokee Nation, the escalation of government policy continues unchecked in “fatally quick time.”
“Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill?” asked Emerson. The answer? There was no answer, in words. The entire reprehensible decision was irreversible.
Thirteen days before Emerson sent his letter, the president of the United States ordered General Winfield Scott accordingly, “Get the Indians out of Georgia, sir!” Scott proceeded with the roundup, deploying 7000 troops who gathered the Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point. White settlers immediately occupied their land and homes, looted their cemeteries. On October 1, 1838, the first contingent of 17,000 Cherokees set out, at bayonet point, for Oklahoma, a journey of 800 miles called ‘The Trail of Tears.’ It would take them six months and a quarter of them would die from cold, hunger and disease.
The government of the United States systematically sent virtually all of the eastern Indians to what was then called “The Great American Desert,” the area beyond the Mississippi River. No one was expected to survive there, except perhaps displaced Indians. Despite the Lewis and Clar expeditions the American desert myth was widely believed. One can see evidence of this every time an opera company performs Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. First performed in 1893, the last act takes place just outside New Orleans, west of the Mississippi River. There, heroine and hero, Manon and Des Grieux are in—unnaturally enough—a desert. “Sola, perduta, abbandonata in landa desolata,” they sing—“lone, lost, abandoned in deserted land.” And so they die in the blazing wasteland. 
The so-called desert west of the Mississippi River was already occupied by even more Indians. But that was another set of problems, to be worried about later or not at all. Not surprisingly, Indians would soon fight each other as the great compression continued and starvation set in. But the important deed was done. The Indians had been sent away. It mattered little where, as long as they were gone, and that made most people happy, in particular President Van Buren. On December 3, 1838, with the Cherokees still slogging their way west, Van Buren congratulated himself and his government on the Cherokee relocation:
The wise, humane, and undeviating policy of the government in this most difficult of all our relations foreign or domestic, has at length been justified to the world in its near approach to a happy and certain consummation. 
Eight years earlier, Andrew Jackson had been even more dismissive of his extermination of the eastern Indians chalking it all up to some broad, vague, historical imperative.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and Philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections. But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another. In the monuments and fortifications of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated to make room for the existing savage tribes. Nor is there any thing in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion? 
Almost two centuries later an ‘unhappy’ person could counterpose a similar question to President Andrew Jackson.
Sir! What good people would have preferred to see their government act honorably and compassionately to its fellow man? What good people would prefer not to have such a dark and deceitful episode stain their nations soul? What good people would wish good riddance to the blessings of your style of liberty, civilization, and religion? What good people would prefer to cry out that your deceitful policy toward the American Indians indeed stinks to the world?
Elizabeth "Betsy" Brown Stephens (1903), a Cherokee Indian who walked the Trail of Tears in 1838
End Notes Chapter
 Edward J, Dudley, The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism, p. 14.
 David E. Stannard, American Holocaust, p. 167.
 Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word – The Rise of the Novel in America, p. 86.
 Gloria Jahoda, The Trail of Tears: The Story of the American Indian Removals 1813-1855, p. 117.
 Ibid., p.1.
 Dale Van Every, Disinherited, p. 10.
 Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History, p. 269.
 James Fenimore Cooper, The Prarie, p. 24.
 Gorden M. Sayre, Les Sauvages Americains, p. 6.
 Michael Rogin, Fathers and Children : Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian, p. 13.
 T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding,” p. 59.
“We shall not cease from our exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”
 William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) spent his early years fighting Indians and wangling their land for his own personal aggrandizement in his home state, appropriately named, Indiana. He vanquished Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 to great popular acclaim. A tale emerged thereafter that Tecumseh (for some reason) had delivered a curse that all presidents elected in a year ending in zero (occurring every twenty years) would die in office. The curse has been fulfilled for Harrison himself, elected in 1840, and for the next six eligible presidents: Lincoln (1860), Garfield (1880), McKinley (1900), Harding (1920), Roosevelt (1940), and Kennedy (1960). It missed Reagan (1980) and, so far, Bush (2000).
 Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Henry Harrison, February 27, 1803. Jefferson Papers first series, vol. 9 no. 208, p.
 Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, p. 199.
 Lester J. Cappan, The Adams-Jefferson Letters, p. 76.
 Michael Rogin, op. cit., p. 13.
 James Madison, The Federalist Papers, p. 78.
 William A. Williams, The Roots of Modern American Empire, p. 8.
 James K. Polk, Message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1845. Encyclopedia Britannica.
 Williams, op. cit., p.53.
 Ibid., p. 79.
 Rogin, op. cit., p.252.
 Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848, p. 31.
 J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, pp. 71, 74.
 Isaac Babel, The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, p.41.
 John H. Moore, The Emergence of the Cotton Kingdom in the Old Southwest, p. 287.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Ibid., p. 89.
 Hiram Fuller, Belle Brittan on a tour at Newport and Here and There, p. 112.
 Jahoda, op. cit., p. 15.
 Ibid., p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Rogin, op.cit., pp. 158-159.
 Ibid., p. 173.
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, p. 130.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 Ibid. p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 132.
 Ibid., p. 136.
 Dale Van Every, Disinherited, p. 12.
 Albert Weinberg, Manifest Destiny, pp. 85-86.
 Rogin, op.cit., p. 227.
 Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Letter to President Van Buren.” The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson - Volume XI – Miscellanies, p. 252.
 Jahoda, op.cit., p. 228.
 Giacomo Puccini, Manon Lescaut,
 Martin Van Buren, Second State of the Union Address, Dec. 3, 1838.
 Andrew Jackson, Annual Message, December 6, 1830.