Why was there no northern Trail of Tears?
June 26, 2012 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Indian Removal Filter: why didn't the US government attempt to remove American Indians from the northeastern US?

The Indian Removal Act forced Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole people from their lands in the South and compelled resettlement in the West. Though morally repugnant, the Act was effective and produced the intended results.

So why didn't Andrew Jackson try the same thing in the Northeast?
posted by workerant to Law & Government (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Most of them were already dead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on June 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

The British/Colonial and French governments had already done a pretty good job of displacing and dispossessing Native populations in the northeast. By the time Jackson was in office, most Native nations' land claims had long been severed.

Look at the history of the Seneca Nation to see how they were harried off their original lands to less desirable territory by 1784.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:16 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

why didn't the US government attempt to remove American Indians from the northeastern US?

They did. Northeastern Lenape tribes were removed to Oklahoma, as well. Jackson simply focused on the strongest, most organized tribes at the time whose land he wanted. His success showed that it was possible to continue this policy, so his successors continued to do so with other tribes.

Exceptions like the Abenakis existed because they were not federally recognized tribes. Other New England tribes didn't end up facing removal because they were extremely minor players.
posted by deanc at 6:17 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's some info on what happened to the various Iroquois Confederacy tribes, the Seneca being one of them.

There are some tribes still living in the northeast like the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha's Vineyard.
posted by mareli at 6:22 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The occupation of the Northeastern United States by Europeans began on a small scale in the late 1600s and native tribes, with some exceptions, retreated slowly over time as more and more of the new "settlers" arrived.

By 1845 Jackson was trying to take control of much larger regions and he was having to deal with a Supreme Court decision which held that private citizens were not entitled to buy land from native Americans. This decision recognized aboriginal rights and defined the relationship between the Federal government and the tribes as one of independent nations.

Also by 1845 the tension which led to the American civil war was increasing. Political control over the South was very much a goal of the Federal government and the native tribes complicated this for Jackson.

Given this plate of beans, dispossessing the natives of their land - en masse - was a straightforward and effective policy if you wanted control over the territory.
posted by three blind mice at 6:31 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I gave kind of a flip answer, sorry.

A lot of northeastern tribes actually died off from a smallpox epidemic right before settlers even showed up (some early Colonists took it as divine intervention - "hey, look, here's all this land that was cleared by the Indians who were already here, but then they all conveniently died right before we showed up so we wouldn't have to deal with them and could just take over. Awesome!"). Then tribes were further weakened by a series of wars in the 1600's.

In Southern New England, most tribes were too weak to really do much after that; a lot of people surrendered to the Colonists in exchange for their lives, and sadly were shipped to the Caribbean as slaves. A few other tribes moved further north, to what is now Maine and Maritime Canada, and allied with the French for a few other wars during the 1700's. Then the English won the Seven Years' War in Europe - which was called "The French and Indian War" in North America - and Britain got control of that part of Canada, and enslaved those tribes and evicted French settlers to Louisiana.

So by the time Andrew Jackson came along a hundred years later, there simply wasn't much of a tribal presence in the northeast any more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

As deanmc suggests, look at the Lenape or Delaware. They had already been pushed into Ohio by the time of the Revolutionary War. By 1829, many of them were being moved from Missouri (where they'd been moved from Ohio) into Kansas. Later, there was a removal from Kansas into Oklahoma. Some also went to Ontario following the Revolutionary War. So, the removal from the Northeast started long before Jackson was President, but continued during and after his terms in office. Today, there are recognized Delaware tribes in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario, and unrecognized communities in several other locations.
posted by Area Man at 6:57 AM on June 26, 2012

Because Henry Knox beat him to it.

Knox, a Boston bookseller who became a hero of the American Revolution, and the nation's first Secretary of War, was an enlightened man - he believed that the Native American tribes were sovereign nations, and that the Federal Government was the only entity entitled to deal with them, as opposed to the states. Furthermore, he believed they had a right to their land, they could not be dispossessed of it except by consent, or by right of conquest in a just war.

So he concocted a few "just wars" to kick them out - the Chickamauga and the Northwest Territories war, specifically. He also did his best to trick them into "deals" where they'd move off of their ancestral lands for a few trinkets and some livestock.

To be fair, he found the whole deal distasteful, and wanted a better policy towards interacting with the indians than just plotting to take their land - but to be honest and fair, he still carried out those distasteful policies with the same skill and intelligence he showed during the Revolution.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:07 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

By 1845 Jackson

Andrew Jackson was president from 1829 to 1837, and died in 1845.

Besides the Johnson v. M'Intosh case cited earlier, another important case (which Jackson ignored) was that of Worcester v. Georgia (1832).
posted by dhens at 7:17 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Native peoples of New England were devasted by disease in the 17th century, and further by wars in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the Pequot War and later wars.

Tribes further inland were pushed on by settlers. The American Revolution was not just about taxes -- it was also about the Ohio Valley and whether white settlers would be allowed to move there. The British government had decided to leave it to the Native Peoples; this is why the Mohawk and other Iroquois sided with the British during the Revolution. After the rebellion's success, the Mohawk had to leave their lands and resettle in Canada (where white Canadians would chip away at their lands until they had almost nothing).

The conflict kept going -- though the British treated them badly, Native groups continued to ally with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812, in the hopes of holding back American settler expansion. They also tried to fight back on their own - thus the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.

The whole 200 years between c1600-1800 is a Trail of Tears in the NE United States and modern Eastern Canada.
posted by jb at 8:53 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Some of the Podunk and other New England tribes did end up in mission towns/refugee camps in and around the Adirondacks - a friend of mine is writing a native history of that region. But, sadly, this disruption largely destroyed their cohesion and culture. Most of the native people in that area identify as Iroquois (especially Mohawk) and Western Abenaki.
posted by jb at 8:57 AM on June 26, 2012

Well, there was the Potawatomi Trail of Death in 1838. The Lenape had already been pushed out of Indiana by 1820, and the Miami were forced west a bit later in 1846. [Personal opinion: William Connor was an asshole.]
posted by worldswalker at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2012

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