|Date(s):||May 23, 1838|
|Tag(s):||Health/Death, Migration/Transportation, Race-Relations|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
On December 29, 1835, chieftain Major Ridge and his faction , only a minority of Cherokees - signed The Treaty of Removal, ceding all of their territory east of the Mississippi river for 5 million and pledging to move within two years. However, by the May 23rd, 1838 deadline, few Cherokees had actually evacuated. As a result, the United States Army forcibly removed the remaining Cherokees in what would later be referred to as the Trail of Tears.' In response, the Cherokee Council executed chieftain Ridge as a traitor. He was not the only casualty; by the end of the removal, 4,000 Cherokees lost their lives. This event is significant both in its demographic consequences, and the nation's general disregard for Native American welfare.
Ironically, a dialogue between Brigadier General Hernandez and a collection of Indian chiefs on the 21st of October, 1837, compiled in an 1838 letter from the Secretary of War, demonstrated a superficial concern for Indian welfare. The general assures the Indian chief of the safety of his captured soldiers: You are prisoners, and prisoners never suffer with us. Tell the young men not to be afraid, we do not mean to hurt them; but it is necessary that they be secured till they get in town. Nothing will happen to them.' This document captures the complexity of Indian-United States relations. Clearly a norm barring the unfair treatment of human beings existed and the Indian Removal is a demonstration of its weakness and hypocrisy.