Chapter Six: Relocations and Removes

Chapter Six

Relocations and Removes



Native peoples confronted a new national government led by men who hoped to bring to them the benefits of American civilization and Christianity.  The Americans believed that in so doing, they offered native peoples an opportunity for progress, to be like them, and to become fully human. The harsh realities of governing the Anglo-American frontier, however, always tempered and warped that benevolence.  The new United States government, after all, remained a fragile thing in the 1790s and beyond. While George Washington lamented frontier disorder, American settlers relentlessly pressed upon Indian lands. They provoked conflict and extraordinarily violent warfare.  In the wake of these conflicts, native peoples and the United States entered into treaties, through which the United States attempted to secure peace but also to acquire native land.  American officials, regardless of the depth of their benevolence, always assumed that their settlements would advance as native peoples retired.  Whether Indians accepted the civility offered by the agents of the new American empire, or fell victim to its Long Knives, the rise of the United States meant the dispossession of native peoples and aggressions upon their culture.  And with every defeat and every cession, every relocation and every remove, native peoples faced the prospect of carving out new homes and living their lives within an ever-tightening circle.


To Learn More

The best work covering the New England Indians during these years has been done by Daniel Mandell.  See Tribe, Race, History: Native Americans in Southern New England, 1780-1880, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) and “Shifting Boundaries of race and Ethnicity: Indian-Black Intermarriage in Southern New England, 1760-1880,” Journal of American History, 85 (September 1998), 466-501.  Jean M. O’Brien’s Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010) is also useful.  For the experience of the Brothertowns, see David Silverman, Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in early America, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010) and his fantastic article, “The Curse of God: An Idea and Its Origins among the Indians of NewYork’s Revolutionary Frontier,” William and Mary Quarterly., 66 (July 2009), 495-534.  Patrick Frazier, The Mohicans of Stockbridge: (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), is also useful for following the history of the Mohegans into the nineteenth century.  Tribal historian Melissa Jane Fawcett produced a slim volume that is also worth a quick look.  See The Lasting of the Mohegans, Part I: The Story of the Wolf People, (Ledyard, CT: Pequot Printing, 1996).

For discussions of Thomas Jefferson’s interest in the Indians, see Bernard Sheehan, Seeds of Extinction: Jeffersonian Philanthropy and the American Indian, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1973); Brian Dippie, The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy,(Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1982); Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981) and Anthony F. C. Wallace, Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans, (Cambridge, 1999).

A large body of highly important and creative research has explored the reasons behind the rise of Tenskwatawa and his better-known brother Tecumseh in the early nineteenth century. See Patrick Bottinger, “Prophetstown for their Own Purposes: The French, Miamis, and Cultural Identities in the Wabash-Maumee Valley.” Journal of the Early Republic 33 (Spring 2013), 29-60; Alfred F. Cave, “The Shawnee Prophet, Tecumseh, and Tippecanoe: A Case Study of Historical Myth-Making.” Journal of the Early Republic 22 (Winter 2002), 637-73; James A. Clifton, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665-1965, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998); Gregory Evans Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: The Indians Great Awakening, 1745-1815, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992); R. David Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983); William Franz, “’To Live by Depredations’: Main Poc’s Strategic Use of Violence,” Journal of the Illinois Historical Society 102 (Fall-Winter 2009), 238-247.

For the spread of the Gaiwiio, the good news preached by the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake, the most important work remains Anthony F. C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, (New York: Knopf, 1970).  Also worth reading is Matthew Dennis’s Seneca Possessed: Indians, Witchcraft, and Power in the Early American Republic. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010). Important context is provided by Laurence Hauptman in Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999).

Dennis, Wallace, and Hauptman all discuss the efforts of the Ogden Land Company to dispossess the Seneca Indians.  Also important is the under-appreciated doctoral dissertation by Mary Conable, “A Steady Enemy: The Ogden Land Company and the Seneca Indians,” Ph.D. Diss., University of Rochester, 1994).

On Jacksonian Indian policy in general, see Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005); John P. Bowles, Exiles and Pioneers: Eastern Indians in the Trans-Mississippi West, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Dippie, Vanishing American; Hauptman, Conspiracy; Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father, 2 vols., (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) and American Indian Policy in the Formative Years: The Indian Trade and Intercourse Acts, 1790-1834, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962; and Ronald N. Satz, American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1975).  The ill-informed but still powerful fascination of President Trump with Andrew Jackson might make for a good student research paper.

On the Brothertown migration to Wisconsin, see James W. Oberly, A Nation of Statesmen: The Political Culture of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, 1815-1872, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005) and Michael Leroy Oberg, Professional Indian: Eleazer Williams’s American Odyssey, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

The Creek “Red Stick” Rebellion is covered by Dowd, in Spirited Resistance, and by Michael D. Green, The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982). See also Frank L. Owsley, Jr., Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans.(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1981); and Claudio Saunt, A New Order of Things: Property, Power and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Cherokee resistance to the state of Georgia and then the administration of Andrew Jackson has been covered in many works.  Of this large literature, see the following noteworthy volumes: John A. Andrew, From Revivals to Removal: Jeremiah Evarts, the Cherokee Nation, and the Search for the Soul of America, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992); Tim Alan Garrison, The Legal Ideology of Removal: The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002); William G. McLoughlin, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986); David Andrew Nichols, “Land, Republicanism and Indians: Power and Policy in Early National  Georgia, 1780-1825”Georgia Historical Quarterly, 85 (Summer 2001), 199-226; and Theda Perdue, “Clan and Court” Another Look at the Early Cherokee Republic,” American Indian Quarterly, 24 (2000); Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835, (Lincoln:University of Nebraska Press, 1998); and “The Conflict Within: The Cherokee Power Structure and Removal,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, 73 (1989), 467-91. See also the book Perdue co-wrote with Michael D. Green, The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears, (New York: Penguin, 2007) and Mary Young, “The Cherokee Nation: Mirror of the Republic,” American Quarterly, 33 (Winter 1981), 502-524, an old but very useful essay.

For the Supreme Court’s role in defining Indian land rights and the place of native nations within the constitutional order, see, Banner, How the Indians Lost their Land; Joseph C. Burke, “The Cherokee Cases: A Study in Law, Politics, and Morality,” Stanford Law Review, 21 (February 1969), 500-531 and Blake A. Watson, Buying America from the Indians: Johnson v. McIntosh and the History of Native Land Rights, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012).

On the Cherokee “Trail of Tears,” their removal in 1838, see the works listed above, as well as Matthew T. Gregg and David M. Wishart, “The Price of Cherokee Removal,” Explorations in Economic History 49 (2012), 423-442; Gary E. Moulton, John Ross: Cherokee Chief, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978); Theda Perdue, “The Legacy of Indian Removal,” Journal of Southern History 78      (February 2012), 3-36; Gregory D. Smithers, The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015); and Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987) and  “Cherokee Population Losses during the Trail of Tears: A New Perspective and a New Estimate,” Ethnohistory, 31 (Autumn 1984), 289-300.

For the Potawatomis and the “Trial of Death” they followed to new homes in the west, see Jeanne P. Leader, “The Potawatomis and Alcohol,” Kansas History, 2 (1979), 157-165; and the books by Bowles and Clifton, cited above.

The Senecas’ removal is covered by Hauptman and Conable, both of whom are cited above, but see also Claudia D. Haake, “’In the Same Predicament as Heretofore’: Proremoval Arguments in Seneca Letters from the Buffalo Creek Reservation in the 1830s and 1840s,” Ethnohistory 61 (Winter 2014), 57-76 and Oberg, Professional Indian.

For the Caddos’ experience in Texas, see Gary Clayton Anderson, The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005); Brian DeLay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the US-Mexican War, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) and F. Todd Smith, The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empire, 1542-1854, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995) and The Caddos, the Wichitas, and the United States, 1846-1901, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996).

For the Chumash, see Deana Dartt-Newton and Jon M. Erlandson, “Little Choice for the Chumash: Colonialism, Cattle, and Coercion in Mission Period California,” American Indian Quarterly, 30 (2006), 416-430; John R. Johnson, The Chumash Indians after Secularization, (Santa Barbara: California Mission Studies Association, 1995). More generally on California Indians during these years, see Sherburne F. Cook, The Conflict Between the California Indians and White Civilization, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); Steven W. Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of St. Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Albert Hurtado, Indian Survival on the California Frontier, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Robert H. Jackson, “The Population of the Santa Barbara Channel Missions (Alta California), 1813-1832,” Journal of California and Great Basis Anthropology, 10   (1990), 268-274.



Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to advocate for Indian removal.  His letter to Indian territorial governor William Henry Harrison in 1803 illuminates the fundamental duplicity of his practices.  The letter he wrote late in life to William Ludlow expressed his beliefs in the advance of civilization. Students will find much to discuss in his 1806 address to the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation.

There were always native leaders willing to accommodate themselves to what they perceived as the greater power of the United States.  Black Hoof, the Shawnee leader, offers one example.  Hendrick Aupuamut, another. Some of his writings can be found online through the Dartmouth College library, others at the Papers of the War Department online resource.  Students will understand the complexity of the positions these leaders took.  But many others resisted, like Main Poc and, most importantly, Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, and his brother Tecumseh.

The Senecas’ lost much of the land guaranteed to them in Canaandaigua at the 1797 Treaty of Big Tree.  The Gaiwiio, or the Code of Handsome Lake, spread throughout the Iroquois communities in the years after this massive cession. Arthur Parker’s version is here and Jemmy Johnson’s here, in Book 2, Chapter 3, of Lewis Henry Morgan’s League of the Hau-den-o-sau-nee.

For the origins of the policy of removal, Jefferson’s writings are essential.  John C. Calhoun, who served as Secretary of War under Presidents Madison and Monroe, also was an important architect of the program.  His writings in the American State Papers series are a vital source.  Andrew Jackson was the policy’s most aggressive advocate. He was known for his Indian fighting, especially the victory at Horseshoe Bend. The National Park Service has prepared a lesson plan on the battle with some excellent resources.  It is available here.  For Andrew Jackson’s first and second annual messages, click here and here. There is a large amount of material on the web related to the Cherokee Removal.  Some of it is quite good, much of it derivative and unimaginative.  Students might find useful the National Park Service brochure for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.  Additional documents can be found in the Southeastern Native American Documents Section of the Digital Library of Georgia, 2000 in all, dating from 1730 until 1842, housed in a number of repositories.  The Library of Congress has placed online a collection of documents illuminating the debate over the Indian Removal Bill in 1830, that can expose students to the terms of debate about Indian relocation. The Cherokees fought removal in the Courts.  Students should understand the basic issues before the Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Samuel A. Worcester v. Georgia (1832).  These efforts ultimately failed, and the Cherokees relocated. In 1835, a small rump of Nation leaders signed the Treaty of New Echota.  Three years after that, removal along the Trail of Tears followed.

As the textbook makes clear, the Cherokees were not the only native nation to suffer from removal. To read about the Potawatomis’ “Trail of Death,” see this website.  The Senecas’ experience can be viewed in the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, 1838, and the Compromise Treaty of 1842.  The corrupt practices employed to achieve the Buffalo Creek Treaty are highlighted in investigations compiled by the Senecas’ Quaker allies. Those reports can be read here and here.

For the Texas Revolution and the Caddos, check out the Texas Beyond History website here.  The American Commissioners of Indian Affairs were well aware of the problems they faced in keeping order on the frontier. Their annual reports are worth reading, and excerpts can easily be incorporated into class assignments. Those reports can be accessed here. For nearly all the events described in this and the following two chapters, these Annual Reports will be of use.


Assignments and Study Questions

  1. People, Peoples, Places and Things

Indian Treaties                                                            Brothertown

Mahicans                                                                     Samson Occom

Mohegans in Connecticut                                           Sarah Huntington

Tantaquidgeon Family                                                Thomas Jefferson

William Henry Harrison                                              Cornplanter

Allegany Reservation                                                  Society of Friends

Hendrick Aupuamut                                                   Black Hoof

Five Medals                                                                Topnebi

Winamec                                                                     Main Poc

Tenskwatawa                                                              Wapakeneta

Trout                                                                           Prophetstown

Tecumseh                                                                    Fort Wayne Treaty, 1809

Battle of Tippecanoe                                                   Five Medals

Little Turtle                                                                 Battle of Moraviantown

Red Jacket                                                                  Handsome Lake

Robert Morris                                                              Holland Land Company

Big Tree Treaty, 1797                                                 Gaiwiio

Ogden Land Company                                               Jasper Parrish

John C. Calhoun                                                         Morris Miller

annuities                                                                      Indian Removal

Andrew Jackson                                                         Great White Father

“Compact of 1802”                                                     Battle of Horseshoe Bend

George Guess (Sequoyah)                                          Cherokee Phoenix

White Path                                                                  Cherokee Constitution (1827)

Indian Removal Bill                                                    Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831)

Worcester v. Georgia (1832)                                       Chief Justice John Marshall

Treaty of New Echota (1835)                                     John Ridge

Elias Boudinot                                                                        Thomas L. McKenney

“Trail of Death”                                                          Trail of Tears

Osage River Reservation                                            Prairie Band of Potawatomis

Treaty of Buffalo Creek (1838)                                  1842 Supplemental Treaty

Indian Territory                                                           Sam Houston

Mirabeau Lamar                                                          Robert Neighbors

Pio Pico                                                                       William Medill


  1. Discussion Questions and Writing Assignments
  1. “Indian Removal” took many forms, as the stories in this chapter attempt to make clear. Students should be able to describe the differences in the experiences of native peoples during this era of “ethnic cleansing,” American-style.  Why did they differ? What did they share?
  2. Many students will associate the policy of Indian removal with Andrew Jackson, but its origins are found in the earliest years of the American Republic, and the policy remained in effect after Jackson left the presidency.  Why did advocates of removal support the policy?  On what ground did the policy’s opponents object?  What beliefs did supporters and opponents of Indian removal share?
  3. The religious movement headed by the Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa was a force of great significance in Native American history and in the larger history of the United States during the years of the early American republic. In A Spirited Resistance, historian Gregory Evans Dowd differentiated between accommodationists—men like Black Hoof and Cornplanter—and militants like Tenskwatawa and the Potawatomi Main Poc.  What did the prophets want? What did militant leaders like Tenskwatawa and Main Poc hope to achieve? What obstacles stood in their way, and how significant were these obstacles?
  4. Using some of the treaties and documents identified in the Resources section, or readers like those edited by Michael D. Green and Theda Perdue on Indian Removal, or Francis Paul Prucha’s collection of documents on United States Indian Policy, describe the goals of American Indian policy between 1790 and 1846.  What did American policy-makers hope to achieve? How and why did their policies evolve over time?  How well did they achieve their objectives, and how do you account for their successes and failures?  Students can use collections like the American State Papers and Kappler’s Treaties to reconstruct the context for a particular treaty, and explore how “Removal” worked in close compass.














A Discussion Forum for Teaching and Writing Native American History