How did westward migration impact American Indians living in the Ohio Valley and Mississippi Territory?

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skm4266548 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Westward migration of European Americans to the western part of the United States in the late 1700s and into the 1800s was terrible for American Indians living in the Ohio Valley and Mississippi territory. European Americans believed they had a more advanced society than the American Indians' societies. As a result, they forced American Indians out of their land using legislation and violence.

For example, in 1823, the Supreme Court agreed that American Indians did not truly own their land and therefore could not sell it themselves, even though they had been living there for decades. Then, in 1830, President Andrew Jackson wanted Congress to pass an act called the Indian Removal Act, which would force all American Indians to give up their land and migrate west of the Mississippi River. The plan was to have them live on so-called Indian Reservations: plots of land reserved for American Indians. The government offered small sums of money called annuities in exchange for the move, which were not always paid on time.

Once this bill was proposed, various Cherokee tribes came together to protest the legislation. They supposedly won the fight in 1832, but some tribes still signed contracts allowing the government to "help" them move westward. Then, in 1838, when the deadline for removal of American Indians was supposed to happen, European American soldiers moved west anyway and removed the Indians by murdering, raping, and imprisoning them.

Those who made it out alive were captured, imprisoned, and forced to walk one thousand miles west toward their new western territory. This walk is now called the Trail of Tears, as over four thousand American Indians died during the inhumane trek. As you can see, westward expansion was more like an American Indian genocide than a positive move for America. Unfortunately, we often still fail to recognize the horrible ways in which European Americans developed the country on the backs of American Indians and African American slaves.

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