Of all the oppressed people that Zinn has highlighted prior to the nineteenth century, he argues that Native Americans could be dealt with by pure force (along with temporary paternalism) because they were the most "foreign" and "exterior." Yet he argues that their oppression was central to the growth of...
Of all the oppressed people that Zinn has highlighted prior to the nineteenth century, he argues that Native Americans could be dealt with by pure force (along with temporary paternalism) because they were the most "foreign" and "exterior." Yet he argues that their oppression was central to the growth of the United States as a nation. American growth and expansion went hand in hand with the annihilation of Native Americans. It "cleared the land" Zinn writes, for American economic and territorial development:
...for white occupancy in the Appalachians and the Mississippi, cleared it for cotton in the South and grain in the North, for expansion, immigrations, canals, railroads, new cities, and the building of a huge continental empire west to the Pacific Ocean.
This chapter goes on to highlight example after example of this tragic process. The American Revolution paved the way for expropriation of Indian lands in the eastern states and along the frontier. The War of 1812 led to the defeat of Native resistance in the Old Northwest and the Old Southwest (the modern Southeast). Andrew Jackson instituted a process of Indian Removal in the Southeast that we would call ethnic cleansing today. Zion points out that Jackson's actions were even decried as racist and unjust at the time. Crucially, he argues that the forces behind Indian removal were not the settlers and small farmers who wanted frontier land –– the so-called "common man" that Jackson appealed to as President –– but in fact wealthy speculators and industrialists who stood to profit from the acquisition of what historian Frederick Jackson Turner called "free land." The tragedy of Indian removal was especially acute in what the Cherokee remembered as the "Trail of Tears," the forced march from their homeland to Indian Territory in modern Oklahoma. Thousands died on this march of disease, exposure, and exhaustion. So the central theme of Chapter Seven is the same explored throughout A People's History –– oppression based on race and class is not tangential to American history, but central to it.