What is the significance of the Indian Removal Act?

Expert Answers
askteacherz eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Perhaps another arena to explore in regards to the Indian Removal Act is the legal perspective of it. The Cherokee Nation that resided primarily in the state of Georgia at the time was led by Chief Ross, a Native American that was partially white and educated in the US. He led the Cherokee Nation to seek their legal opportunities available them (or he thought) and as a result the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling titled the Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia. Therefore, the challenge of the Cherokee Nation about the legality of the Indian Removal Act ended up setting precedent for the fate of ALL Native American culture in the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall led the US Supreme Court's ruling that declared that Native Americans were "domestic dependent nations" and as such they were under the rule of US law as dependents to the nation. This ruling then set in play the subsequent Trail of Tears as well as countless other Native American tragedies, such as the Black Hawk War. Therefore, in summary, the Indian Removal Act while not only giving the Federal Government the power to remove, displace and put Native Americans into an Indian Territory it also, through the Judicial Process, came to place the legal title upon ALL Native Americans for centuries to come as "dependent subjects" and "not truly American citizens;" perhaps one of the greatest hypocritical scenarios in of nations history.
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830 and signed into law by President Andrew Jackson which mandated the removal of Indians, primarily the Cherokee and other members of the Five Civilized Nations from lands in Georgia and other areas. Indian land was increasingly appealing to settlers in the Eastern United States, and a proposed "final solution" was proposed, whereby the Indians would be moved to the West, an area known as the Great American Desert. The Cherokee resisted attempts to be moved; they adopted western clothing and customs, even settled down to farm and owned slaves. This was to no avail.

Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcester vs. Georgia held that the Cherokee were a "distinct dependent nation," and entitled to some degree of sovereignty. Andrew Jackson did nothing to enforce the decision, and the Cherokee had no choice but to move to lands west of Arkansas. This was the famous "trail of tears." Those on the journey were treated cruelly by the soldiers who accompanied them as well as whites they encountered on the way. When there, they were not accustomed to plains living, and also encountered hostile Indians already there.

Some Cherokee managed to escape. One group settled in the mountains of North Carolina and became the Eastern Band of the Cherokee; others travelled to the Florida Everglades and called themselves Seminoles

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Indian Removal Act was a law that was signed by Pres. Andrew Jackson in 1830.  It is signficant because it led to the eviction of Native Americans from their lands in the Southeast.  It also led to them being forced to go to what is now Oklahoma in a movement known as the "Trail of Tears."

These Indians were known as the "Five Civilized Tribes" because they had relatively sedentary and agrarian societies.  They had built mills and churches and had plantations.  Many of them were so "civilized" that they owned slaves.

Even though these ways of life would have seemed to be compatible with white settlement, the whites wanted the Indians removed so that they could have the Indian land.  This proves that the whites did not want Native Americans around even if the Native Americans were assimilating into American society.

The Indian Removal Act, then, is significant because it forced the Indians off their lands and it caused the Trail of Tears to happen.  It is also significant because it proves that Americans did not simply remove Indians whose nomadic hunting lifestyles were incompatible with white settlement.  Instead, it shows that the Americans wanted to get rid of any Indians who had land the whites wanted.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question