It was the early 1830s, and the U.S. Supreme Court made a number of decisions that stated clearly that Native American Indian nations were sovereign nations. It went on record in such decisions as Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832). And even though the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that native nations were sovereign nations “in which the laws of Georgia [and other states] can have no force,” President Andrew Jackson forged ahead with his Indian Removal policy. He forged ahead even when the Cherokee Nation attempted to deal reasonably with the U.S. government … even when they wrote a Letter Of Protest and sent it to the U.S. government.
Over the generations, history has forgotten that Andrew Jackson (who was elected President in 1828) had a negative perception towards Aboriginal peoples and, by today’s standards, he was a racist (believing that Aboriginal peoples were inferior to those with European backgrounds).
Likewise, they have forgotten that it was U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who, in 1830, ruled that the States could not assert control over the Cherokee Nation. But even with that ruling, the U.S. government forged forward with plans to disregard all such rulings and forcibly remove Aboriginal peoples from their lands.
But is it coincidental that the year the “Indian Removal Act” was pushed through Congress is the same year that gold was found on Cherokee lands? It was certainly convenient and advantageous to Andrew Jackson and the U.S. government of the day. But Andrew Jackson continued to misrepresent his policy as a benevolent government policy that benefitted the Indian Nations, rather than admit that it was a policy that subjugated and harmed the Indian Nations.
When Andrew Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, came to office, he put General Winfield Scott in charge of the operation. A blind eye was turned to the cruelty visited upon the Cherokee who were made to march the 1,200 mile long Trail Of Tears, where nearly 1 in 4 Cherokee did not survive the forced march in the dead of winter.
For whatever reason, the Americans believed that ‘right of discovery‘ superseded ‘right of occupancy‘ and the politicians, military and settlers agreed that the problem was one of the Indians’ making rather than one of their own making. Coercion and intimidation became the order of the day with the goal being of disposing of the Aboriginal peoples who lived on the land … or at least moving them much farther west onto undesirable land.
In the end, the government took the 40,000 square miles in Southern Appalachia that belonged to the Cherokee Nation. It offered to pay $500,000 USD in 1836 in addition to the land in Oklahoma to which the Cherokee Nation was forcibly relocated. And what would all that money be worth today? Well, $500,000 in 1836 works out to $12,500,000 (12.5 MILLION DOLLARS) in the current market (2013) …. plus 177 years interest compounded yearly (at 2% per annum to be on the extremely conservative side) which works out to another $1,858,575 (1.86 MILLION DOLLARS approximately). A real steal of a deal, if you’ll pardon the pun.
It’s nearly 200 years later, and in many ways, the Trail Of Tears is one that many are forced to walk every single day as the environment continues to be endangered and Indigenous Rights are disregarded. It’s time to stand up and be heard. It’s time to set things right. It’s time to remember that mistakes can be forgiven and everything can be worked out … if all parties are open to the opportunity.