White-Indians Relations and the Treaty of New Echota

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The relations between Europeans and Native Americans have been extremely uneasy from their very beginning, and can indeed be called one of the most difficult and violent relations in human history. Over the course of these White-Indian interactions, Natives were mostly treated by Europeans like people who were “better suited to be ruled than partnered with” (Textbook, p. 21). Obviously, they mainly confronted each other fighting for land control. Numerous measures were taken by the Europeans and then particularly by the English in order to force Indians to move from their lands or simply eliminate them. In the following discussion, the Treaty of New Echota will be analyzed as an example of such measures being illegal, and the Cherokee letter that protested the treaty will be examined as a response to it.

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From the moment of the first colony’s foundation in 1607 to the end of the 19th century there were many violent conflicts over land control. Some of the most devastating conflicts include the Indian massacre of 1622 (Textbook, p. 41), the Pequot War (Textbook, p. 66), and the Beaver Wars (Textbook, p. 57), and King Philip’s War (Textbook, p. 66). Indians were treated like slaves by many English settlers: “whole villages of Indians were pressed into service in the mines” (Textbook, p. 25). According to The Cherokee Chief John Ross, by 1836 Indians had been “harassed by a series of vexations” (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p. 1). Thus, by 1877 White-Indian relations had become quite complicated by the U.S. Government’s attempts to remove the Indians from their ancestors’ lands.

However, these measures were not always military: the government took steps to address the problem at the legislative level, which included the Indian Removal Act passed by President Andrew Jackson’s administration (Textbook, p. 197). Southern states wanted to appropriate Indian lands and force Indians to move, and Andrew Jackson approved of it. The bill was intended to “forcibly move Indians from their homelands to lands beyond the Mississippi River” (Textbook, p. 197). There were some tribes who reacted peacefully, but the majority of the Native Americans were devastated and reacted violently. John Ross described his people as being “overwhelmed, with sickening hearts and paralyzed utterance” (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p. 1). To justify the forced removal, the Treaty of New Echota was signed by the U.S. officials and several hundred representatives of the Cherokee nation. Therefore, one of the main issues revealed by the Chief’s letter is the fact that the U.S. Government often disregarded the interests of the Indian population (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p. 1). This issue affected current relations between the parties in a way that still makes many present-day Native Americans feel the sense of injustice done to their nations by the U.S. Government.

The Chief’s letter was the Cherokees’ main attempt to prevent the removal. In his letter, John Ross stated that the United States had used dishonest means to secure the treaty, because “the legal and accredited Delegation of the Cherokee people” was supplanted by a “spurious Delegation”, which made “important alterations” to the original provisions of the treaty (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p. 1). The letter reflects the deep sense of frustration and disappointment in the fact that the treaty was “ratified by the Senate, and approved by the President” against the consent of the Cherokee nation’s legitimate representatives (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p.1). He describes the signing of the treaty as “an act of injustice and oppression”, and claims that “the makers of it sustain no office nor appointment” in the Cherokee Nation (Cherokee Letter Protesting, p.1). Thus, another issue presented by the letter is the problem of illegitimate means used by the government to achieve its goals. Such practice has diminished appreciably but resulted in the lack of trust that the Indian population still expresses towards the U.S. authorities.

Further attempts to relocate the tribes continued during the presidency of Martin Van Buren. Aware of the Cherokees’ refusal to leave their lands, he proposed to extend the period when they could leave the territories, and the Cherokees were allowed to move within two years. However, by 1838 only 2,000 Cherokee members had moved voluntarily (Textbook, p. 197). In the spring of the same year, more than 7,000 soldiers were sent to force the remaining Cherokees to leave. In October of 1838, they had no other choice but to begin their painful journey. It is estimated to have lasted six months, causing the death of approximately 20 percent of Indians due to “exposure, disease, and exhaustion” (Textbook, p. 197). Due to the relocation that John Ross tried to prevent by his letter, the Cherokee nation faced numerous challenges and is now considered to be endangered. A severe decrease in population caused the decline in the usage of Cherokee languages and their syllabic system, bringing the culture closer to the brink of extinction.

To conclude, it can be stated that the history of Native Americans is an essential part of American history. Praising the principles of democracy, the U.S. Government did not always act in accordance with those principles, and there appeared to be multiple limitations to the concept of democracy that was used. Signing the Treaty of New Echota was an example of that. It can be considered a disgraceful act because it was secured in a dishonest way and violated the Indians’ right to live on their ancestral land. Nevertheless, there are possibilities for further research to focus more on solving the problems that the nation is currently experiencing due to the difficulties it encountered in the past.

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