Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Indian Removal Act of 1830:
Ethnic Cleansing American Style

This week marks the anniversary of one of the darkest chapters in American history. Moving the Five Civilized Tribes (or trying to) west of the Mississippi river was nothing short of ethnic cleansing. Not genocide per se (though that would happen later in the West), but an organized government effort to remove an entire ethnic group from an area. An area where they had lived for generations.

Indian Removal Act of 1830: Passed by Congress on May 26, 1830, called for the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the East, and resulted in the creation of the Trail of Tears.

It was all about land grabbing and prejudice. Mostly it was about land grabbing. The Cherokee nation held large amounts of land in Georgia, and that land was becoming more valuable as the white population of the state increased. The Choctaw nation held land in Mississippi, the Seminole in Florida, etc. The act mandated that the tribes be moved to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee nation fought in the courts, and eventually won a ruling that maintained their rights to the land, but President Martin Van Buren sent in the army and had them forcibly removed anyway.

The forced removal of Cherokees from their lands (known as the Trail of Tears) began in 1838, and moved on through 1839. Approximately 4000 men, women and children died along the way. Removal of the Choctaw nation from Mississippi proceeded during the early 1830s.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 should serve as a reminder that "it CAN happen here." It already has.

[If cleanliness is next to godliness, then ethnic cleansing is next to genocide. So that is how I have categorized this post.]

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