Jackson...  The Great Father or the Great Menace?

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 Jackson claimed to be a man of the people.  But, was he really?  If you were to ask a Native American he would tell you no and bring up Jackson’s Native American policy.

 

            Jackson wanted a land of powerful white men and minimal Native Americans and unfortunately, that’s what he got.  Jackson was a major fan of unity and the Native Americans difference of ways was just not acceptable to him.  Jackson told the Native American tribes that they better change... or else.  The Cherokee decided to heed his warning and realized they had to adapt to avoid this threat. 

 

The Cherokee people adapted by:

 
   Starting an agricultural lifestyle,

   Making/growing things for sale instead of for consumption,

   Sending their children to “boarding school” to become “civilized,”

   (And some even) started owning slaves.


            One man, Sequoia, even created a written alphabet and soon after the Native Americans began creating a newspaper in English and Cherokee.  Later, the Cherokee even wrote a constitution to establish a court system and written laws. 


            Andrew Jackson wanted the Cherokee to call him “Great Father,” but instead, he was called “Jacksena” or “Jackson the Devil.”
 

           Unfortunatly, Jackson didn’t really care about getting the hearts and minds of the people.  All he cared for was the land.  Even though the Cherokee sacrificed so much to stay, Andrew Jackson realized the land they inhabited was perfect for cotton growth so the Native Americans had to go by his watch.  He passed a law that told the Native American tribes that they were being moved to a new land and wouldn’t be bothered by white men again.  This law was called “the Native American Policy.”  Unfortunately, he “forgot” to mention the fact that the tribes would be compacted together and have to completely adapt to the new environment. 
 

            The Cherokee disapproved of this and went to the Supreme Court with this argument.  “The Cherokees are not foreigners, but the original inhabitants of America...  They now stand on the soil of their own territory.”  Surprisingly, the Supreme Court agreed and told the Cherokee they need not leave.  But, unsurprisingly, Jackson ignored the courts decision and made sure the Native Americans left.  The movement of the Cherokee, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles took a total of 7 years to relocate and the relocation movement was called the trail of tears.

 

            Before the U.S. Declaration of Independence was written (before 1776) there were about 2 - 8 million Native Americans in North America.  But so many died.   During the Trail of Tears, 16,000 Cherokees had to march non-stop, through snow and rain and even in sickness.  About 2,000 Cherokee died of sickness and more from other tribes too.  This was truly one of Americas worst moments.


By Julia Spielman