A People's History of the United States Questions and Answers
by Howard Zinn

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Reflect on Chapter Seven, "As Long as Grass Grows of Water Runs," in Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

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Chapter Seven of A People's History of the United States deals with the troubled relationship between the United States and Native peoples. Its specific topic is, as Zinn writes, "Indian removal, as it has been politely called." Analytically, Zinn wants to show how the removal of Native peoples east of the Mississippi was essential to American expansion. Thus the growth of the United States and the development of Jacksonian Democracy that accompanied it was contingent upon the oppression of other peoples. This policy had the support of both ordinary whites and wealthy Southern planters, both of whom benefited from it. The focal point of the chapter is the removal of the Southeastern Indians, especially the Cherokee. These peoples, who had in many cases adopted some cultural and political practices of white society, were nevertheless forced off of their lands by Jackson and his followers, who Zinn portrays as relentless in their greed and racism. The consequences for the Cherokee, in particular were tragic, as thousands perished on the "Trail of Tears" to Indian Country in modern Oklahoma. Zinn cites estimates that over 4,000 died, and sums up Indian policy in the following way:

The Indian, not needed--indeed, sometimes an obstacle--could be dealt with by sheer force, except that sometimes the language of paternalism preceded the burning of villages.


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