SECTION 8 JACKSON'S INDIAN POLICY As a frontier settler, Andrew Jackson had little sympathy for American Indians. During his presidency, it became national policy to remove Indians who remained in the East by force.
White settlers had come into conflict with Indians ever since colonial days. After independence, the new national government tried to settle these conflicts through treaties. Typically, the treaties drew boundaries between areas claimed for settlers and areas that the government promised to let the Indians have forever. In exchange for giving up their old lands, Indians were promised food, supplies, and money.
Despite the treaties, American Indians continued to be pushed off their land. By the time Jackson became president, only 125,000 Indians still lived east of the Mississippi River. War and disease had greatly reduced the number of Indians in the East. Other Indians had sold their lands for pennies an acre and moved west of the Mississippi. Jackson was determined to remove the remaining Indians to a new Indian Territory in the West.
Most of the eastern Indians lived in the South. They belonged to five groups, called tribes by whites: the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole. Hoping to remain in their homelands, these Indians had adopted many white ways. Most had given up hunting to become farmers. Many had learned to read and write. The Cherokee had their own written language, a newspaper, and a constitution modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Whites called these Indians the “Five Civilized Tribes.”
While the Five Civilized Tribes may have hoped to live in peace with their neighbors, many whites did not share this goal. As cotton growing spread westward, wealthy planters and poor settlers alike looked greedily at Indian homelands. The Indians, they decided, had to go.
Black Hawk is an Indian. He has done nothing for which an Indian ought to be ashamed. He has fought for his countrymen, the squaws [women] and papooses [young children], against white men who came, year after year, to cheat them of and take away their land. You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it.