Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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What was President Jackson's Indian policy? I would like to know how Native Americans fared under his administration.

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Andrew Jackson's policy toward Native Americans has been viewed skeptically by historians. It is best known for the Indian Removal Act, which was first proposed by Jackson during his 1829 State of the Union address and later championed through Congress by him. Jackson signed the act into law on May 28, 1830.

Prior to the Indian Removal Act, George Washington had treated Indian nations as sovereign states with whom treaties had to be negotiated, a policy more or less followed by his successors. This changed with the passage of the Indian Removal Act. While the act, officially, permitted the president to barter with Indian tribes for lands in the unsettled West if the tribes would cede more desirable eastern territory, Jackson's use of the military to coerce resettlement saw 100,000 Native Americans compelled to relocate, in some cases leading to open conflict, such as during the Seminole Wars in Florida.

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It's no exaggeration to say that Andrew Jackson's tenure as president was an unmitigated disaster for Native Americans. Jackson shared the widespread racial prejudice of the day toward indigenous peoples and believed that they should be forced to vacate their ancestral lands to make way for the white man, their supposed racial superiors. To that end, Jackson embarked upon a policy which today would be described as ethnic cleansing: that is to say, forcibly removing a specific racial group from a particular territory and replacing them with those of a different race or culture.

To that end, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which gave him widespread powers to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for native lands within existing state borders. Some tribes went along with the policy, albeit reluctantly. However, many more defied the new legislation—most notably the Cherokee, whose resistance was broken by armed force. In the ensuing forced removal of the Cherokee to the west of the Mississippi, something like four thousand men, women, and children perished on the long, hard march, leading to this shameful event in American history being christened the Trail of Tears.

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Not to be contrite, but some might say that Jackson's policy toward Native Americans was "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." Next to Custer, Jackson is probably the best known anti-Indian historic figure.

While he spoke of his love and respect for the American Indian officially, his actions did not reflect his words. Jackson was a main mover and shaker in the trend toward "reservations" and other areas that isolated the Native Americans in the same way that segregation kept African-Americans isolated pre-1960s. In fact, it was Jackson who passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. These facts combined with his personal beliefs make him one of the most notorious anti-Indian presidents in American history.

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Although Andrew Jackson professed love for the "Indian people," they did not fare well under his administration.  He had been intimately involved in Native American issues for the ten years before his election in 1828, and after being elected, he passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.  This focused on moving the "Five Civilized Tribes" from the Southeast part of the US west of the Mississippi.  The lands that these tribes occupied were coveted by white Americans living in the Southeast (especially Georgia).  Native Americans who were supposed to be able to choose to remove themselves to new reservations, were instead pressured to go.  The areas set aside for Native American use were mainly in Oklahoma, which has a very different environment than the lands these people traditionally occupied.

More than 45,000 Native Americans were forced to remove themselves from their tribal lands under Jackson's administration.

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