FREEDOM FROM … PAYING TO LIVE
During the nineteenth century the American concern for equality in opportunity and protection of democracy had major blind spots. The Indian nations, in addition to other groups including African’s, were not considered worthy of protection or concern. The war of 1812 ended in defeat for the Native Americans in the South in their struggle against westward expansion. During Andrew Jackson’s administration, almost all of the Natives living in the South and Northwest were dispossessed and driven out of their homes and off their land. They were forced to move west of the Mississippi river to “Indian Country” which was a vaguely defined region that was then thought to be a desert and useless for white settlement.
About 53,000 Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws lived in the South when Jackson took office. Although the Natives had already given up their land and moved farther and farther into the periphery in order to make room for white settlers, Americans still weren’t happy. White farmers, gold seekers and land speculators pressured state governments to force the Indians off their lands. These whites argued that all Indians were “savages” who did not cultivate the land and who blocked the progress of civilized people.
In 1838 the U.S. army removed the Cherokees from Georgia and placed them in detention camps. Then, 15,000 men, women and children were forced to march westward, mostly on foot, to what is now Oklahoma. Of these, an estimated 4,000 died on the brutal journey due to starvation, exhaustion, exposure and racism en route on what is known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees were a model for subsequent removals of other Indian tribes, resulting in similar death tolls. After the Indians had been placed in Indian Country they were promised stipends by the government, however, federal agents in charge of the reservations often pocketed the money giving the Natives a “starvation stipend” contributing to more death and disenfranchisement of the Natives.
This image of the Indian as a hunter-savage was so convenient that people refused to give it up even in the face of reality
Andrew Bartzis, the Galactic Historian, talks about the past life of a volunteer of the audience about her past live at the Trail of Tears.