“Indian Lives Don’t Matter” by Channel Gilsaint
Textbooks have been known to portray Andrew Jackson as a “man of the people,” when in reality he was a land speculator, merchant, slave trader, and quite possibly the biggest enemy of native populations in early American history.
Andrew Jackson was a notable hero of the War of 1812. Purportedly a just battle against England for survival, it really amounted to a war for expansion into Florida, Canada, and Indian territory.
From 1814 to 1824, in a series of treaties (in which Jackson played a key role) with the southern Indians, whites took over even more land. These land grabs laid the foundation for the cotton empire’s slave plantations.
Jackson then became governor of the Florida Territory after serial raids and land seizures that have been sanitized on maps as the “Florida Purchase of 1819.” And later, when Jackson took the office of President in 1829, Indian Removal became business as usual, despite a surprising amount of dissent among white Americans as well as Americans of color.
Before Jackson became president, Southern Indians and whites had actually settled down, often very close to each other, and were living peacefully in a natural and bountiful environment. Friendships developed. White men visited the Indian communities and Indians often were invited guests in white homes.
The forces that led to Indian removal came from industrialization, the explosive growth of populations, railroads and cities, the greed of businessmen, and most of all from governmental policy.
Counter speech in the perspective of a removed Native American by Julia Cohen
When Jackson says “Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal” he is wrong. We did not simply accept to be “removed.” My people were forced to move or to die. Also, there were no advantages given to us. Jackson is lying when he says “It is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.” We were not “a few savage hunters” occupying “large tracts of country.” We were not taking up much land at all and the newcomers could have immigrated to all the unoccupied land. This act did not “free [the Indians] from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way.” The U.S. government very much still had power over us and there was no way for us to pursue happiness. Jackson said “What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages.” We were not savages. The Europeans just didn’t recognize us and immediately decided we were a threat. Jackson continued with “To our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute.” We had clans and families and farms, Jackson was wrong in believing we had no culture or way of life. Later on in his speech Jackson said “The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.” There are many things wrong with what he said. First of all, the removal of us Indians was at no expense to the United States. Second of all, Jackson wanted us gone forever, the last thing he wanted is for our existence to be perpetual. Jackson also tried to compare the immigration of the Europeans to us being forcefully removed from our native land; “Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing?” We were forced to move, the Europeans wanted to explore more land. Jackson later said “Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode?” The U.S. government had complete control over what happened, and they gave us no money or support when we left. “He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population.” Native Americans were here first. Why should we have to obey the newcomer’s laws? “To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.” To save us from “utter annihilation?” The U.S. government were the ones killing us.
On Indian Removal by Fiona Lawson
The white man says he is going to make our home land filled with white people. He is going to push us out. He says he is replacing us, a few hunters, with millions of people. We are millions, too. The white man does not see that. He says he will let us pursue happiness in our own way. Under our own, seemingly rude, customs. He does not understand. He will never understand.
He says interesting and civilized means living like them. We do not mean harm. We only want to keep our braids and our songs. He asks, who would prefer a country with savages over happy whites? We are not savage. We are only different. We are not like you, and it does not mean we are underdeveloped.
He says it is a fair exchange. I do not understand, does he think the benefit of them and of us are equal?
He asks, does humanity weep when taken away from the things you love? Of course you would. We do, at least. We do not understand your white customs, but we will not ridicule them. We will not call you savages. We will not try to drag you off of your homes, because then we would be no better than you.
This government says it is not cruel to steal from us our homes and our lives, our customs, our fires, our dances, and place us in small, damaged, dark houses with hardly any jobs or food. They say they will support us a year. But, a year will not make up for the millions of years of our past we will lose.
They say we will be grateful. They say we will smile with joy. But why? You are stealing from us the one thing we ever owned. We are not greedy. We are not selfish. We just want to live in our homes.
They say the white would have missed their home better than us. The white man knows not of his own desire to go, anywhere and everywhere. They say they will miss their homes more, but this argument would not be needed if it was not them in the first place that wanted to take our land!
He says we are unwilling to submit to their customs. Yes, we do not want to be forced into anything. But even if we did go quietly, we would still be forced to be like them to get by.
“The evil, Sir, is enormous; the inevitable suffering incalculable. Do not stain the fair fame of the country. . . . Nations of dependent Indians, against their will, under color of law, are driven from their homes into the wilderness. You cannot explain it; you cannot reason it away. . . . Our friends will view this measure with sorrow, and our enemies alone with joy. And we ourselves, Sir, when the interests and passions of the day are past, shall look back upon it, I fear, with self-reproach, and a regret as bitter as unavailing.”