A Shameful Moment
The first "people's president," Andrew Jackson, didn't care about the rights of some of the peoplethe Native Americans . They weren't considered citizens. The new Americans wanted Indian land and they didn't know a fair way to share it. Promises and treaties were almost always broken. The problem with the Indians, said many white men and women, was they were "savages" and "uncivilized." They meant that the Indians did not do and think as the white people did. Jackson wrote: "Those tribes cannot exist surrounded by our settlements. They have neither the intelligence nor the moral habits…. Established in the midst of a superior race, they must disappear ."
The Cherokeeswhose land stretched across the southern Appalachian Mountains in a semicircle that reached from Kentucky to Alabamaconfounded the whites. Many of them did live as the whites did. They farmed, built schools, formed a government, and built a capital city. They became prosperous. But the wealthier the Cherokees became, the more anxious other people were to have their land .
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. That law made it legal for the president to throw the natives off their land and move them west. In Georgia, the government held a lottery and gave the Cherokee land to white settlers. President Jackson said there was nothing he could do about it. The truth was, he didn't want to do anything about it.
Many Indians had seen what was coming. In 1805, the great orator Chief Red Jacket of the Iroquois spoke to a delegation of Christian ministers. He said: "Brothers, our seats were once large and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us…. Brothers … we only want to enjoy our own."