They Were Just in the Way | Indian Removal

They Were Just in the Way | Indian Removal

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Well, it’s that time of year again, the kids are back in school and are  learning about Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the founding of our nation. Growing up in the United States and then  becoming a high school history teacher, I’ve both learned and taught that story at least  a dozen times over the course of three decades. A few months ago I started calling it the  Standard American History Myth and I’ve   been slowly dismantling that story ever since. While researching my previous video on Neoslavery, I realized that I had been fed  a false narrative growing up, which I then unknowingly passed on  to the next generation of students. I had a very different  experience working on this video. When it comes to Native Americans, I wasn’t fed a false story,  I just… wasn’t fed at all.

The Standard American History Myth throws a few  breadcrumbs at you and then quickly moves on. And pretty much anytime  Indigenous people are mentioned, they’re regarded as an obstacle  or environmental hazard. These were people living in isolated   cabins at the edge of the frontier with all sorts  of threats to them. You had Native Americans, buffalo in the late part of the 18th  century. You had panthers there still.

Black bear were everywhere.  Wolves were everywhere. A few weeks back I was reading  a book in my backyard and my   elderly neighbor asked me what I was up to. After explaining Youtube to an 86 year old, I told him I was working on a  video about American Indians…   And his response unintentionally  became the focus of this video.

Oh yeah, It’s a shame what happened to them…  but you know… they were just in the way. As cringey as that sounds,   it’s not all that surprising to hear  from someone who was born in 1936. But what really stood out to me was… that’s still   how it’s basically taught in school  and even when you become an adult, the culture at large continuously  reinforces that message. It was this huge real speculative real  estate event and in order to make the   land available you had to push people  out who were there, the Native Americans.

I think it’s fair to say that most Americans  share the same sentiment as my neighbor – that   what happened to the Indians was just  part of the inevitable march of progress. [Intro music] This video was brought to you  by CuriosityStream and Nebula. I suppose I should start by clarifying  what this video is and what it is not. Doing a comprehensive history of  Native peoples would be impossible;   there are hundreds of nations spread  out across thousands of miles, all with their own unique histories and cultures. Imagine trying to make a video  covering the entire history of   every country in Europe. So instead of doing that,

we’re just going to be focusing on   the centuries-long process of  geographically, politically, and culturally erasing an entire  group of people from the continent. We’re, of course, going to talk  about the breadcrumbs you know, like the Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee. But I’ll also be filling in the  story in between those events.

We tend to talk about these things as if  they were completely separate and unrelated, but as you’ve probably  guessed, they’re all connected. I’ll also explain how reservations, treaty rights, and Indian casinos work, along with a take on team mascots you might not  have heard before. Perhaps most importantly, I hope to dispel several misconceptions – both  positive and negative – that books, movies, and even the government have convinced us of.

In short, we’re going to be learning about the  many forms of Indian Removal in the United States. From the beginning to the present day. Our long journey begins when Columbus  landed on Hispaniola on October 12, 1492 believing he had found an  island off the coast of Japan. He named the native people he encountered Indios. Later explorers would use  words like Indien, Indianer, and even peaux-rouges meaning “skin red.”

Thus began the long debate over what to  call these people - Indians, Natives, Indigenous peoples, Native Americans, American Indians, it’s all so confusing, right? I’ve made a short companion  video explaining the difference, and I’ll specifically address American Indian  versus Native American later on here. But for now, I’m going to be using all of these  terms somewhat interchangeably, mostly so that I don’t sound like a broken record. Just know that none of them are  considered to be disrespectful and   you’d probably be fine using any of  them… Except for maybe peaux-rouges, you should probably leave that one alone.

Shortly after Columbus’ arrival, European diseases were introduced to  the New World. Between 1492 and 1600, it’s estimated that 90% of the native population   of the Americas was wiped out through  accidental transmission between nations. This was well before smallpox blankets, most of the people who died had  never even seen a white person. This is probably the only part of the story  that I’d be willing to describe as inevitable, since any prolonged contact between the two   hemispheres was going to result in  the unintentional spread of disease. But that in no way forgives  everything that happens next. Now, given what I just said  about this time of year, you’re probably expecting me  to begin this story by talking   about the Pilgrims and a harvest  feast involving corn and turkey.

We’ll come back to that in a bit, but that’s actually not how America  started. In the spring of 1607, Jamestown was founded by the Virginia  Company of London. That’s right, this is another video about Jamestown.

Actually it’s the video about Jamestown. Finally! This was the second attempt  by the British to set up a   colony in North America, the first being Roanoke, which disappeared over a decade  earlier. And for the first few years, it looked like Jamestown  would suffer the same fate. They established themselves on land  that had been deemed worthless for   agriculture by the local Powhatan  tribe and this just happened to   be in the middle of the worst drought to  hit the area in almost a thousand years. Two-thirds of the colonists died before the  first resupply ships arrived a year later. John Smith was one of those original colonists, he was set to be executed for mutiny upon arrival, but sealed orders from the Virginia Company named   him as a leader and quite literally  saved his neck. Despite the famine,

Smith kept the colony running by declaring  that anyone who does not work, shall not eat. Then Smith was burned by an accidental  gunpowder explosion and was shipped back   to England in October 1609, never to return. What? Were you expecting me to say more? That’s literally the end of his involvement here.

The following winter was referred to as  “The Starving Time,” since the colony   was left practically leaderless and the  population dropped from 500 to just sixty. The new governor arrived in 1610 and almost  immediately began a war against the Powhatan. This is also when John Rolfe showed up in town   with a shipment of tobacco seeds  he smuggled from the Caribbean.

He exported his first successful crop in 1612. Having failed to find gold or  anything else of value in the area, almost every other colonist began growing it too. As the First Anglo-Powhatan War raged on, the English captured Pocahontas,  the daughter of the chief, and held her captive for over a year, which eventually forced a ceasefire.

She converted to Christianity and in March 1614, she helped broker a peace between  the colonists and the Powhatan. Then she sealed the deal by  marrying John Rolfe a month later. He was 29 years old and she was 18, both of them had been previously married. What? Does that not line up with the story you remember? A few years later, John Rolfe and Pocahontas  went on a public relations tour of England to   drum up support for the colony and show off  how easy it is to Christianize the Natives. Just before their return journey, Pocahontas died of an unknown  illness. She was buried in England,

where she remains to this day. John Rolfe died in Virginia in  March 1622, and shortly afterwards, the Powhatans launched a surprise attack in the  hopes of kicking the English out of their lands, killing about 350 colonists and  beginning the Second Anglo-Powhatan war. John Smith didn't start telling that story  about Pocahontas saving his life until 1624, his previous written accounts never mentioned it. It’s very unlikely it actually happened. Jamestown survived and became the first  permanent British colony in North America.

It was founded as a company  town and tobacco plantation, which began 250 years of slavery and 400  years of conflict with native peoples. If this isn’t a perfect microcosm  of America, I don’t know what is. The true history of Jamestown really  sets the tone for the future United   States much more accurately than that fairy  tale we tell ourselves about Plymouth Rock. But it isn’t as nice of a story, so we simply don’t teach it in school.

As a result, most of what white Americans know  about the Indians comes from movies and TV. I’m willing to bet that the only version  of the Jamestown story you were familiar   with before clicking on this video  came from that terrible Disney movie. In the movie, they seemed to have  bought John Smith’s version of events   at face value and even managed  to turn it into a love story. If this were to happen in reality, Pocahontas would have been 9 years old. So I suppose it’s a good thing  Disney decided to age her up. We’ll get into this more later on, but this movie is incredibly problematic, not only because it tells  a false version of history, but it reinforces the native  princess and noble savage tropes.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but the direct to video sequel is  actually much more historically accurate, telling the story of John Rolfe  and Pocahontas’ trip to England. Even small details like Chief  Powhatan telling one of his men   to carve a notch into a stick for every  white person he saw actually happened. How do they build their huts so  tall, can this be all one tribe? Though, this movie heavily relies  on the fish out of water trope. And,

spoiler alert, in the Disney timeline, Pocahontas doesn’t die at the end. The Mayflower didn’t land  at Plymouth Rock until 1620, almost a decade after Jamestown. I actually have a video explaining this… [TV Static] What the… It was working just a second  ago! [Static] Well that’s a bummer…. I guess the Pilgrims will still  be a story for another time. Hopefully I’m able to get that  working soon… like… by next month. The future-United States didn't get involved in  Indian Removal until the French and Indian War.

It’s called the French and Indian War because it  was fought by the British colonists in America   against the French and Indians… almost all  of the Indians. Compared to the British, the French were much friendlier  neighbors and trading partners, so nearly every nation sided with the French. The French had actually been in America  for a few years longer than the British, their first permanent colony at St.

Croix had been established in 1604. They were more inclined to view the native people  as equals and form military and trade alliances. The war began because the British colonists  wanted to expand westward into the Ohio Valley, which was technically French territory and was  occupied by tens of thousands of Native Americans…   which will be a recurring theme going forward. This was the spark that ignited the Seven  Years’ War in Europe a few years later. If you remember back to your  elementary school history class, this is also why the British imposed taxes on  the American colonists for things like tea... To pay for the war they started.

The Last of the Mohicans, both the book  and the movie, takes place during this war. While it’s historical fiction  and the characters are made up, the Siege of Fort William Henry is pretty  accurately depicted and– wait a second! So, Hollywood movies are fine, but videos  I made myself are just too much to ask for? Do you want to get copyright claimed? Because that’s how you get copy– [Beep] Glad to see my TV still has an attitude, ha ha… The British eventually  won the French and Indian War, which is why Canada still has the Queen  on their money, at least… well, you know.. I’m primarily going to focus on  the United States in this video, but a lot of what I’m going to talk about is also   applicable up north and I’ll  occasionally draw parallels. After only a few months under British rule, an alliance of Great Lakes nations which  included the Ojibwe and Shawnee decided   to attack a series of forts  in the Northwest Territory.

This is known as Pontiac’s  War and is rather infamous   for its use of subversive and shady tactics. Nearly 500 Ojibwe gathered outside of Fort  Michilimackinac to watch a lacrosse game. The ball “accidentally” flew over the  wall and when they ran in after it, they proceeded to slaughter every  British soldier they could find.

On the British side of things,   this was the first documented example  of smallpox blankets being used. During the Siege of Fort Pitt, the fort commander wrote numerous  letters back and forth with the   Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in  North America regarding their predicament. Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox   among those disaffected Tribes of  Indians? We must, on this occasion, use every stratagem in our power to reduce them. I will try to inoculate the Indians by means  of Blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease myself. You will do well to try to inoculate  the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that  can serve to extirpate this execrable race. The materials needed to pull off that extirpation   were transferred to the fort,  we have the literal receipts.

But we don’t know if they were actually  used or how effective they were. Smallpox doesn’t survive outside  of the body for very long, so it’s unlikely that putting it on  a blanket would spread the disease. But they still planned it and  procured the means to carry it out.

In any court of law, that is still a crime. The war ended with a British victory, and as a way to appease the Indians, the King issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which restructured trade and social  relations to be more similar to the French. It also declared that everything  west of the Appalachians was to be   considered Indian land and forbade  American colonists from entering. It further stated that while all  Indian nationals were British subjects, they were also independent and  possessed limited sovereignty.

So dealings with them had to  be conducted through treaty. This became the basis for how the future   American and Canadian governments  would regard Indigenous peoples. In December 1773, the Sons of  Liberty, dressed as Mohawk warriors, sneaked onto a ship in Boston harbor  and threw over 300 crates of tea into   the ocean to protest those aforementioned taxes. Beginning a long American tradition  of Native cultural appropriation. When the war officially kicked  off in 1776, most native nations, including the Shawnee and  Cherokee, sided with the British, because compared to the Americans, the British were much friendlier  neighbors and trading partners. So… if ranked choice voting were a thing  back then, it would go French, British, and then Americans. Let that sink in.

In an attempt to get more Indians  to join the American cause, the US signed a treaty which declared  the Lenape to be a sovereign nation   who are allowed to conduct their own affairs. The Lenape agreed to allow travel  across their lands, forts to be built, and to provide soldiers for the army. In return, the United States offered the  Lenape and any other friendly   Indians who cared to join them statehood  at the successful conclusion of the war. This is why Indiana is named Indiana. That’s obviously not how it played out though, and that offer would never be extended  during treaty negotiations ever again.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, the British ceded all lands west of  the Appalachians to the new American   government without regard to the  Native peoples who were living there. They weren’t even mentioned  in the Treaty of Paris, despite fighting on both sides. After just a few years under American rule, an alliance of Great Lakes nations  known as the Northwest Confederacy, led primarily by the Shawnee  and supported by the British, decided to fight back against  westward expansion… again.

The war ended with the Treaty of Greenville, which forced the Northwest Confederacy to cede  most of modern-day Ohio to the United States. Because of their defeat, the Great Lakes nations  were left with a two to one ratio of women to men, which made hunting and providing food  difficult. Due to these conditions, disease and alcoholism become  rampant in their villages. It’s during this time that  Tecumseh rose to prominence   with the hope of creating a  permanent Indian homeland. In 1805, his brother Lalawethika, who often struggled with binge-drinking, had a near-death experience and came out  of it a completely reformed individual, urging others to reject alcohol  and white influence in general. He changed his name to  Tenskwatawa, became a prophet, and helped his brother rebuild  the Northwest Confederacy.

At this point, assimilation was still the   preferred American strategy  for dealing with the Indians. The more Christian and  western they were, the better. To quote Thomas Jefferson from a  letter he sent to several tribes… You will unite yourselves with us, join in our great Councils and form one  people with us and we shall all be Americans. You will mix with us by marriage, your blood will run in our veins, and will spread with us  over this great [continent.] Well that sounds nice doesn’t? People throw this  quote around all the time like Jefferson was   unusually progressive and wanted America to become  a multi-racial society. But at the same time, he was writing letters to his  white territorial governors saying… Our settlements will gradually  circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate  with us as citizens of the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi.

The former is certainly the termination of  their history most happy for themselves. Basically, assimilation was the good ending  to their history, while removal was not. You’ve seen the title of this video so, you already know which one we went with.

Jefferson was also instrumental in  beginning the Factory System under   the recently established Office of Indian Trade. We shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good and influential  individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts  get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to [pay  them off] by a cession of lands. These were government trading  posts that would sell everyday   household items like food, clothing, and tools. They didn’t charge outlandish prices, but the Indians would almost always fall into  debt and since they didn’t have any money, the only thing they had to trade was their land.

These policies were designed to gradually chip  away at tribal territory and native culture. By 1810, Tecumseh and his brother had gathered  over a thousand soldiers at their stronghold   known as Prophetstown and declared all land to  be held in common by the Northwest Confederacy, unable to be sold without unanimous consent. The US had been buying land from individual   tribes and families for years using the  Factory System and obviously disagreed. They sent the territorial governor  and a thousand troops to march on   Prophetstown while Tecumseh was  away recruiting in the South.

Tenskwatawa decided to launch  a preemptive strike and lost. Their stronghold was looted and burned, and their soldiers were scattered to the wind. Tecumseh denounced his brother and  never again heeded his prophetic wisdom. In June 1812, the US declared war on Britain  over the disputed Northwest Frontier and   their ongoing support for the rebelling  Great Lakes Indian nations. Growing up, I was always taught that the  War of 1812 began because the   British were impressing American sailors, forcing them to serve the crown.  And while that was happening,

it was a relatively minor issue at the time. This war was fought over westward expansion, which is significantly less  righteous. If you’re keeping track, this is the fourth time we’ve  fought over this same area.

Tecumseh joined the side of the British, who promised to create an Indian  buffer state in the Great Lakes region. The Northwest Confederacy helped  to defend the Canadian line, but Tecumseh himself was killed during the  Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813. The dream of an Indian homeland east  of the Mississippi died with him. During his recruiting mission, Tecumseh inspired  a Creek faction in the south to join the fight   against the United States and they received  help from both the British and the Spanish. Andrew Jackson led US troops during this campaign   and earned a reputation as  a seasoned Indian fighter.

He defeated the Creeks, the  British, and the Spanish, which is why Florida is part  of the United States today. He then went on to rather  famously defend New Orleans. The War of 1812 ended in a technical draw, but the United States survived and got everything   it wanted from the Treaty of  Ghent so… you decide, I guess.

With the conclusion of the  second war of independence, the US had defeated both the British and  the Northwest Confederacy and its western   border was firmly established  at the Mississippi River. Now, I know what you’re going to say, “didn’t the Louisiana Purchase  happen in 1803?” And yes, it did, but the United States viewed  the Mississippi as a natural   defensive barrier against whatever laid beyond. Even after the Lewis and Clark expedition, there weren’t any real plans to settle the area.

Further expeditions only reinforced that  unwillingness. A year after Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike described the  area as the American Sahara, deeming it worthless for agriculture, but perfect for Native peoples since there was  plenty of game for hunting. Over a decade later, Steven Long agreed that the area  was uninhabitable for farming and   created a map titled The Great American Desert. Taking inspiration from the  repatriation of freed slaves to Liberia, a former Baptist missionary  named Isaac McCoy began to   lobby Washington for the creation of a  permanent Indian portion of the country. This area would be named Aboriginia and all  Native peoples would make up one body politic, with each nation making up  its own county or district.

Where would Aboriginia be located? Why, the Great American Desert, of course. An area that was so unmapped it might  as well say “here be dragons.” And   this lack of geographical knowledge  allowed McCoy to convince everyone   that it was perfectly fine country –  without ever having visited himself.

Army surveyors were sent and again deemed  it to be a barren waste, but at that point, the gears were already turning. The southern states in particular wanted the  Indians gone and began complaining that their   militias were always on high alert and their  natural resources were left untapped because they   didn’t possess their “vacant territory.” Vacant  territory that was inhabited by tens of thousands   of Native Americans who held that land since  time immemorial and was guaranteed by treaty. The presidential election of 1828 was the  first time non-land-owning white men were   allowed to vote and they went with  the populist war hero Andrew Jackson. During his first State of the Union address, he began advocating for the removal of  American Indians beyond the Mississippi River.

The Last of the Mohicans was just  published and it was widely assumed   by white Americans that Indians were  suffering a rapid, inevitable decline. The only way they could  survive was if they moved west. Like they’re the elves from  Lord of the Rings or something. The American Board of Commissioners  for Foreign Missions came out against   the Indian Removal Act and several  benevolent ladies’ associations began   the first women’s petition drive  in history to prevent its passage.

Congress dismissed these efforts saying they  were nothing in comparison to the millions   who are silent and satisfied – what they  referred to as the “contented majority.” It was voted on in the Senate five  months later and passed 28 to 19. It didn’t look like it was going  to pass in the House until three   representatives from Pennsylvania  changed their mind at the last minute, adopting it by a vote of 102 to 97. Every southerner voted  unanimously in favor of the act, all they needed was a few  northerners with business   interests in the South to flip –  and that’s exactly what they got. It’s also important to note that with  the 3/5ths Compromise still in effect, the South had 21 more seats  in the House than they should   have since they were representing  enslaved people who could not vote. Andrew Jackson signed the  act into law on May 28, 1830, giving him the power to grant lands west of the   Mississippi to Indian tribes in  exchange for their current lands.

This is what their current  lands looked like in 1830. The Choctaw and Chickasaw  held half of Mississippi, the Creek Nation owned 20% of Alabama, the Creek and Cherokee owned 12% of Georgia, and the Seminole had 10% of Florida. These are the “Five Civilized Tribes” and these  territories are basically the same size as states.

The Cherokee even enacted their  own written constitution in 1827, with a democratically elected national council, three branches of government, legalized slavery, and most importantly – defined borders. Georgia was not fond of this because the  Cherokee held prime cotton growing land   and gold was discovered in their  territory the very next year. This will be a recurring theme going forward. Within months, over a thousand miners had   illegally entered Cherokee lands and  the government refused to intervene. After the Indian Removal Act was signed, Georgia nullified all Cherokee laws and customs, making them subject to state law, and eventually forbidding their national  council to even meet. Shortly afterwards, they began surveying Cherokee lands for the  eventual redistribution to white settlers.

The Cherokee Nation sued the state of Georgia, arguing that state laws cannot apply in their  territory and the Supreme Court refused to rule   on the merits of the case because the Cherokee  had no standing. Do you remember Dred Scott? Because this is exactly like Dred Scott. The Cherokee were not a state  or even a foreign country, instead they were described as a  “domestic dependent nation,” and as such, they had no right to sue in federal court. This effectively made them  wards of the United States   rather than citizens or even foreign nationals.

But then Georgia messed up by  arresting eleven missionaries   living in Cherokee territory for not  taking an oath of allegiance to the   state and sentenced them to four years  of hard labor. Realizing his mistake, the governor offered pardons to the  missionaries and all but two accepted. Now, these two white citizens of  the United States could sue   and make the same argument as the Cherokee, that Georgia law does not apply  within their borders. Worcester v. Georgia made it to the Supreme Court  and was decided on March 3, 1832. The Indian nations had always  been considered as distinct, independent, political communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial. … The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community,  occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of  Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves.

Boom, complete legal victory for the Cherokee  Nation… This should be the end of the video, the Supreme Court said they are  distinct and independent and   state laws have no force in their  borders… But Georgia was furious, they saw this as federal overreach  and refused to recognize the decision, even beginning to use the word secession. I know I’ve said this a few times already, but this will be a recurring theme for America, not just this video – anytime the South  doesn’t get exactly what they want, they threaten to take their ball and go home. You know, like petulant children.

The Cherokee Nation was in a hopeless position, they had used the courts like  they were supposed to and won, but Andrew Jackson refused to lift  a finger to enforce the ruling. If they wanted to stay in their homeland, their only real option would be to fight –  and I really wouldn’t blame them if they did. Now, obviously the Cherokee were not  the only nation subject to removal, some of the Choctaws, Seminoles, and several Great Lakes nations had already been   relocated and at this point in  the story, mostly voluntarily.

They saw the writing on the wall, if they didn’t leave, they would be exterminated. And the assignment of land west of the  Mississippi was first come-first served. If you wanted the best pieces  of the Great American Desert, it didn’t hurt to get in early. But those first groups suffered losses  as high as 20% within their first year, which discouraged others  from voluntarily relocating. So the southern states began to use their  own violence against Native Americans to   justify their forced expulsion –  you know, for their own safety. They started to promote removal  as a humanitarian effort.

You know how some religions force women  to cover up most of their bodies because   it’s just too tempting for men to see  ankles or hair? This is very similar, the tribes need to move because Americans just  can’t restrain themselves from murdering Indians. Think about what that says about us as a country. With the dream of a peaceful,  voluntary relocation dead and gone, removal operations were placed under  the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA, an agency formed under the  command of the military. Forced migrations have taken place all  throughout history, but this one was unique. 66,000 people had to be moved  over a thousand miles away, the logistics alone were a nightmare. Food and supplies had to arrive at the next   fort along the trail before the  “deportees.” So the military,

which only had 12,000 servicemembers, kept extremely detailed records of  literally everything. Prior to this, mass expulsions were carried out under  threat of force at the end of a bayonet. But this one was executed through  paperwork and a government bureaucracy.

The fact that it was more civilized  doesn’t make it any better, in fact, it makes it more cold and calculated. Now, I need to go off on the first of many  tangents that will seem unrelated at first, but I promise there’s a point to this. Nice, it’s like we’re living in the future.

Cholera first arrived in North America  in the spring of 1832, likely in Quebec, and quickly spread across the Northeast. Cholera is a bacterial disease which is  transmitted through contaminated food and water, with symptoms including watery vomit   and “voluminous and distinctive  rice-water diarrhea.” Voluminous, there’s a word I don’t use very often. Someone with the disease would puke or poop in the   river and then someone else  downstream would drink it.

Before the advent of antibiotics, it had a mortality rate of about 50% and some  people died within hours of the onset of symptoms. Now in April 1832, the Sauk  Nation crossed back over the   Mississippi to try and retake the  homes they were forced to leave. This began the Black Hawk War and the military was  ordered to drive them back into the West with the   help of over 4500 Illinois volunteers – including  a young Abraham Lincoln. Facing strong resistance,

General Henry Atkinson requested  reinforcements in mid-June. Two ships were dispatched  from New York to Chicago. The Henry Clay carried 370 troops  while the Sheldon Thompson carried 190…   and both ships were infected with cholera. The Henry Clay’s detachment was reduced  to just 68, while the Thompson lost half.

They threw the bodies overboard into the Great   Lakes which then washed up in  Chicago, and congratulations, cholera is now in the West and began  spreading down the Mississippi. Here’s the kicker… the Black  Hawk War ended before those   sickly reinforcements arrived  in Illinois. With the war over, all of those infected troops and Indian  prisoners of war were released to   unknowingly carry the disease back home  and spread it in their own communities. The second wave of Choctaw removal began  in October 1832 as a race against cholera. The 2200 deportees arrived in Memphis, Tennessee just as the disease struck the city  causing them to shelter in place for far too long.

They arrived in the West on December 8th, which was way too late in the season to clear  fields and plant crops. In the coming spring, the Choctaw ran out of food and resorted to  scavenging carrion and eating six-year-old   condemned pork which the military had  deemed unfit for human consumption. 20% of them died by the end of  summer. Washington refused to help, saying that they needed to learn self-reliance  rather than dependence on the government.

Those who were not cultivating  crops would be left to starve. Where have we heard that one before? In the hopes of convincing more Native  nations to voluntarily relocate, Congress passed the Indian Trade  and Intercourse Act of 1834, declaring all land west of the Mississippi, but not part of any current state or territory, to be Indian Country with total sovereignty. Too many white settlers had moved into  the area before the law could take effect, so the boundary was shifted to the  95th Meridian. For those keeping track, this is the third time the border of “Indian  country” has moved since America was founded.

First it was the Appalachians,  then the Mississippi, and now it’s an imaginary line on a map. The government likewise funded the construction of   a string of forts to form a wall  of defense down the Mississippi, to permanently separate whites and Indians. The nations remaining in the East didn’t  believe that promise, for good reason, and continued to resist expulsion.

Both the Creek and Seminole began  a war to hold onto their lands. The Cherokee on the other hand split  into factions, some wanted to stay, while others wanted to secure the best  possible terms for their removal. As such, a Treaty Party of twenty Cherokee leaders  negotiated the Treaty of New Echota, ceding all their lands in the  southeast in exchange for a $5   million payout and funds to relocate west  and build schools, churches, and homes. This was a self-appointed  group of unelected officials, they had no authority to sign such a treaty. Not that that mattered to the US government.

The treaty signatories thought they  were doing what was best for the nation, but also knew that they would  be branded as traitors since   they had violated their own constitution. So they, along with 2000 others, voluntarily relocated to  Indian Territory immediately. The rest of the Cherokee were given two  years to relocate themselves peacefully, otherwise the Army would do it by force. Troops were dispatched to Cherokee  territory in preparation for that outcome.

The military had just marched 1200 Creek Indians   in chains and forced them to  sleep on the ground at night. They weren’t playing around anymore. The Cherokee tried to wait out  Andrew Jackson’s presidency, in the hope that the next president would   be more sympathetic and suspend the  removal order, allowing them to stay. Martin Van Buren took office in 1837…  he was Andrew Jackson’s vice president. All hope was basically lost at that point. On May 26, 1838, three days after  the voluntary removal deadline, 3500 soldiers were ordered to arrest all   16,000 remaining Cherokee and deliver them  under guard to the nearest fort for deportation.

No time was given for them  to collect their belongings   and anything left behind was considered abandoned. White people moved in immediately and  were cooking in Cherokee kitchens and   sleeping in Cherokee beds before they had  even gone cold. Following the arrests, General Winfield Scott declared that “Georgia  has been entirely cleared of red population.”   A small band of Cherokee managed to escape  and hid in the mountains of North Carolina, the Army was unable to apprehend them and they   eventually gained recognition as the  Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. A few weeks after the mass arrest, the Army deported 3000 Cherokee by steamboat, resulting in a 10% loss of life. Steamboats were incredibly  dangerous back in the day, often exploding without warning.

So the Cherokee Nation negotiated  a delay in removal until fall, at which point they’d travel by foot. Until then, they remained in what can only be  described as concentration camps. Hundreds died from starvation and exposure. Beginning in October 1838, 11,000 Cherokee  and their 1600 slaves began the four month   journey west in eleven separate detachments  that all took slightly different routes.

This is known as the Trail of Tears, one of the few things taught in school –  though usually stripped of all context. Of the total 15,354 Cherokee that were  removed over the course of the decade, 986 of them died as a direct  result of deportation. I told you the Army kept meticulous records. When you consider starvation, exposure, disease, and all the other causes, the death toll is significantly higher. Almost certainly in the thousands,  but also heavily disputed.

Upon the main group’s arrival in Indian Territory, they assassinated the key members of the Treaty  Party for selling out the rest of the nation. It would take decades for the various  factions to settle their differences. The Cherokee were paid $1.68 million for their   land and $416,000 for their stolen  property. But at the same time, since they didn’t voluntarily relocate, they were charged $1.35 million for the expenses  involved in their own deportation. In the end, each family only received $125 in compensation.

The Chickasaw were likewise billed for their  own removal, but were left with nothing. The Second Seminole War lasted until 1842, a few hundred managed to hold their ground  in Florida and were eventually recognized   as the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the  Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. Over the course of the Indian Removal Act, the native population in the east was  reduced from 100,000 to just 15,000.

The United States spent 40% of  its federal budget on Indian   Removal in the 1830s for a total of $75 million. That’s over a trillion in today’s money. If this were to happen in the present-day, it would cost $12.5 million for each  individual Indian shipped to the West.

But they also made $80 million dollars by   selling the now-vacant land to  white settlers. So in the end, the government made a slight profit  expelling Native Americans from their homes. Almost immediately, northern anti-slavery  societies recognized the expulsion for what   it was – a chance for southern plantation owners  to expand slavery and grow their political power. If you remember the Constitution, untaxed Indians were not counted  for representation in Congress, but 3/5ths of the African slaves were.

By the time of the civil war  hundreds of thousands of white   farmers and plantation owners, their workers, and their slaves had moved into the  former Indian territories… so when   you hear people from the South say things like… The average Confederate soldier  wasn’t fighting for slavery, he was just defending his traditional way of  life and repelling invaders from his family home. Keep in mind that if they  lived in any of these areas, they’d only been there for about 25 years. I don’t know how long it takes for  a place to become a “family home”, but I’m pretty sure it’s longer than that. And that idea isn’t true anyway, the Confederacy had territorial ambitions. Secession wasn’t their only goal. The South was actually planning to expand  slavery around the entire Caribbean to   establish an American version of  Slaver’s Bay from Game of Thrones.

Though they called it the Golden  Circle, which isn’t any better. This was one of the primary  motivations for the Mexican   American War - they wanted to take all of it. When the federal government declared that all  land west of the Mississippi was Indian Country, the United States looked like this. But after the Mexican American  War, it looked like this. I mean, we’re not seriously going to give them  half of the country are we? Of course not.

So in 1851, Congress passed  the Indian Appropriations Act, giving them the power to set aside land, money, and supplies for the establishment of permanent   reservations to be managed by  the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Which had just been moved from the  military to the newly established   Department of the Interior,  making it a civilian agency. This opened the door to all kinds of corruption  issues and marked a shift in federal policy   away from removal beyond the Mississippi  and towards containment on small parcels. What followed was a spree of treaties as  nations wanted to ensure their continued   existence on their own land with  as much autonomy as possible. Reservations were not gifts or  consolation prizes for past mistreatment. The United States did not give  Native Americans any land – they   gave us land and reserved a  small portion for themselves.

Remember, from their perspective, we were the foreign invaders  that they were trying to appease. The most notable treaty for our purposes was the  1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed by the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa Nations. It set aside this enormous piece of land  as permanent Indian territory in exchange   for allowing wagon trains to pass through. The gold rush had just begun in  California and tens of thousands   of white settlers were crossing the Great Plains, wanting assurances of safe passage.

The United States had deemed the  plains useless for agriculture and   were more than happy to let the  various plains tribes keep it. In order to properly claim all of that land  that was ceded by Mexico following the war, the US had to populate it with Americans and  the best way to do that was to give away land. So in 1862, the Homestead Act was passed, selling 160-acre plots out  west for just $1.25 an acre, which was so cheap it might  as well have been free.

But this also meant that white Americans wouldn’t  just be passing through Indian territory, they’d be moving in next door. The Homestead Act was the biggest government  land settling project in American history. Free land was offered to settlers so that   the Plains could be colonized and  the Native Americans driven away. The Homestead Act was not free. It’s funny that he said “free land was offered  to settlers” while showing broadsheet stating   “farms for sale” “a few dollars now means a farm  for your old age.” But that’s beside the point.

Even at these prices thousands of  people took up the government's offer. So while the US was distracted by the Civil War, the Santee Sioux decided it was  time to try and kick the whites out. Chief Little Crow led an attack against  several forts and settlements in Minnesota. They looted the agencies on their reservation  and took hundreds of white prisoners. The governor of Minnesota declared that  the “Indians must be exterminated or   driven forever beyond the borders of the state.” They wasted no time, the war ended  five weeks later and resulted in   the largest mass execution in American history, when 38 Santee Sioux were hanged  simultaneously. A few months later,

the remaining Santee who surrendered were  deported from Minnesota to Dakota territory. Chief Little Crow actually  managed to escape the noose, but was killed by a random deer hunter looking  to score the $25 bounty on Indian scalps. His scalp and bones were put  on display in the Minnesota   state capitol building in St. Paul until 1915. While we don’t usually pay  too much attention to it, the Civil War was also fought in the southwest.

Confederate troops from Texas were  pushing into New Mexico by 1862. The Navajo had been raiding American  settlements for a decade at this point, but quickly split into factions  supporting either side. Once General James Carleton  and the California Column   had successfully repelled the Confederate advance, he declared open season on any  hostile Indians in the territory. The US ordered all of the Navajo to  return to their reservation by July 20, 1863 – but none of them arrived. Kit Carson and the New Mexico Volunteers were sent  into the mountains on a scorched earth campaign;   they destroyed crops and killed livestock  in the hope of starving them out. It worked, the 3000 Navajo camped in the  canyons surrendered in March 1864.

Along with all of the peaceful Navajo, they were forced to march  300 miles from Fort Canby, Arizona to their new reservation  near Fort Sumner, New Mexico, an event now known as the Long Walk of the Navajo. This is just as important an event to the  Navajo as the Trail of Tears is to the Cherokee. And the path they took is now  part of the famous Route 66.

They were only given the bare  essentials to eat, like flour and lard, which they used to make fry bread, the quintessential Native American meal  which is ubiquitous on every reservation   and across every nation. Throw some meat, cheese, and vegetables on there and you’ve got  yourself an Indian taco. They’re delicious. Even if their origin story is a little dark  and they’re incredibly unhealthy for you.

Several hundred died along the way, but General Carleton declared  the removal a success. Even admiring the way the Navajo  eventually submitted in the end. They have fought us gallantly for years and  years; they have defended their mountains   and their stupendous canyons with a heroism  which any people might be proud to emulate;   but when … they found it was their destiny  … as it had been that of their brethren … to   give way to the insatiable progress of  our race, they threw down their arms.

If you read between the lines there, he’s talking about Manifest Destiny. The sense that God had ordained that the  American people should fulfill their boundaries, basically Manifest Destiny, you know, that it was America’s obligation as the  shining city on the hill to claim this land. This is a big part of the  Standard American History Myth, where Native Americans are presented  as an obstacle to westward expansion. When you learn about the Oregon Trail  and the American West in school, Indians are nothing more than  a hazard to the pioneers, on the same list of worries as  rattlesnakes and thunderstorms. In 1858, the Pike’s Peak gold rush began   in Colorado and Denver City  was founded soon afterwards. The territorial governor signed a  treaty with the Utes granting them   everything west of the Continental Divide  and $20,000 a year in goods and provisions.

The Utes agreed to relinquish the mineral rights   to their land and not trouble any of  the white miners in their territory. The Cheyenne and Arapaho controlled the  eastern half of Colorado until the gold rush, at which point they ceded most of their territory, but were still allowed to roam and  hunt on the plains as they pleased. The Dog Soldiers were a militaristic band of   Indians from several different nations  that weren’t happy about that treaty.

They began raiding settlements and attacking wagon   trains and stagecoaches in retaliation  and all of these incidents were blamed   on the relatively peaceful Cheyenne  and Arapaho. For their own safety, the governor ordered all Indians  onto the reservation near Fort   Lyon by the end of the next month  or they would be declared hostile. The Cheyenne and Arapaho were scattered across the  plains for their summer hunt and two months simply   wasn’t enough time for them to receive the order  and pack up to move – even if they wanted to. In September, a Cheyenne chief named Black  Kettle rode to Denver to secure peace, but the governor wasn’t having any of it.

The US Army was busy with the Civil War, so Colorado had just raised  a new regiment of soldiers   using federal funds specifically to fight Indians, so they had to be used for that purpose. The men who volunteered to join that unit  wanted to fight poorly armed Natives, not well-trained Confederates. It was kind of like joining the Air  National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Black Kettle and the Cheyenne  relented and rode to Fort Lyon, where the commander told  them to set up camp outside, stating that they would still  be under the fort’s protection.

Once they set up camp at Sand Creek, the fort commander allowed the  Cheyenne men to go on a buffalo hunt. He then sent a message to Colonel  Chivington informing him that   there was a looming Indian threat  nearby and he needed reinforcements. The Colorado Regiment arrived shortly afterwards.

In the middle of the night on November 28th, 700 troops surrounded the Cheyenne camp, which hadn’t set up any defenses because they  were assured protection. The next morning, Black Kettle raised a US flag over his  tent to show that they were peaceful,   but that didn’t matter. Chivington ordered his troops to  open fire on the 600 Cheyenne, two-thirds of which were women and children  since the men were away. To their credit, two companies refused to take part in the battle, calling it a well-planned massacre and  “murder in every sense of the word.” The Cheyenne raised a white flag of surrender, they laid down their arms, and refused to fight, but none of that stopped the  indiscriminate, brutal killing. 105 women and children were killed compared  to only 28 men. The Americans only lost nine.

The American soldiers mutilated and  desecrated the corpses of their victims. They decorated their uniforms with  scalps and even cut out male and   female genitalia to wear them on their hats. This must be part of that “insatiable progress  of our race” we’ve been hearing about. This was the Sand Creek Massacre and if you  learned about this breadcrumb in school, it was probably framed as if  it were a random weather event.

Oh yeah, it was some sort of misunderstanding. The troops misinterpreted  something as hostile and, you know, these things happen. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t undo the past. Nothing about the Sand Creek Massacre  was accidental or unfortunate.

It was planned weeks in advance. The governor of Colorado created a  unit specifically to fight Indians   and ordered the Cheyenne onto a  reservation. When they arrived, the military told them to wait outside.

That special unit then surrounded and killed them   for no other reason than to do  it. To quote Colonel Chivington… I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is   right and honorable to use any means  under God's heaven to kill Indians. Pretty understandably, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and several other Plains nations were  no longer interested in calls for peace   by the Americans and began raiding wagon trains, cutting telegraph wires,  and scalping settlers. Yes, I just said I understand  why they scalped settlers. How could you not? Why is it that when we do it, it’s an honest misunderstanding caused  by a few bad apples. But when they do it, they’re uncivilized, bloodthirsty savages.

We were the ones killing women and children and   making hats out of their body  parts. Wouldn’t you retaliate? The Cheyenne and Arapaho were driven from  Colorado that summer and on October 14, 1865, they signed a treaty agreeing to a perpetual   peace and relinquishing all claims  and rights within the territory. Black Kettle then took his band into Oklahoma and   Kansas to join up with the Kiowa and  Comanche. A little over a year later,

these nations banded together  in a war to save the buffalo, which were being exterminated for their hides… [TV Static] Oh c’mon, that one had a Starship  Troopers reference and everything, it would have connected– fine! Another  video to look forward to, I guess. In 1877, the governor of Colorado began  a propaganda campaign declaring that   the “Utes Must Go!” Despite being  allowed to mine in their territory, white settlers wanted more and more land, buying the San Juan mountains for  a $25,000 annual payment, forever. So the governor manufactured crimes, claiming the Utes were intimidating  settlers and starting wildfires in the area. Then there was another staged  conflict between Indians and   the military known as the Meeker Massacre, where the Utes put up much more of a  fight and took several white prisoners. This gave the US justification to  confiscate their land and the Utes   were forced onto a tiny reservation  in the southwest corner of the state.

This is how Manifest Destiny actually played out. Is there still any part of this that  still strikes you as inevitable? With the Civil War over,   westward migration increased by an order  of magnitude. In addition to railroads, the United States began constructing trails and  forts along the various routes to make travel   easier and started renegotiating  treaties to ensure safe passage. Talks with the Sioux and Cheyenne nations of  the Black Hills region broke down in 1866. An Oglala chief named Red Cloud accused  the Americans of treating in bad faith, as they had already started construction of the  Bozeman Trail before negotiations had even begun. A few months later, they attacked Fort Phil Kearny   by luring the soldiers out into  the open and slaughtering all them.

This was the worst defeat for the US  Army during the Indian Wars and only   the second time they were left with no survivors, having lost all eighty-one garrisoned  troops. This began Red Cloud’s War, which lasted two years and  resulted in a Sioux victory. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie was a  concession on the part of the United States. They abandoned the forts they built in  the area and declared the western half   of South Dakota to be the Great Sioux Reservation.

Surveyors had deemed the Black Hills worthless, so they were given exclusively  to the Sioux forever. This actually annoyed surrounding  nations like the Cheyenne and Crow, who also viewed the Black Hills as a sacred, ancestral area with deep spiritual  significance. It’s kind of like Jerusalem, everyone has some sort of claim to it. So, why were they given to the Sioux, who are actually the newest kids on the block? Tangent Time! Five hundred  years before Columbus’ arrival, the Ojibwe were located on the east coast.

They received a religious prophecy  which told them to start moving west   until they found a land where food grew on water. They found wild rice in the Great  Lakes region and settled there just   in time to fight against the British  during the French and Indian War. Following the various wars and removal acts, they had firmly established themselves as the   dominant nation in what would  become Wisconsin and Minnesota, having displaced the previous  power in the area – the Sioux.

The Ojibwe and the Sioux became longtime rivals, even harboring some resentment to this day. Hopefully that dispels the myth that Native  Americans were peaceful before Europeans arrived. They went to war with each other, they invaded each others’ territory, took slaves, all the things that every other nation does. American Indians throughout history  are people just like everyone else.

And now that I’ve said Sioux a dozen times, I know I’m going to get a bunch of “well  actuallies” if I don’t address this – and   I’m willing to bet most of the comments about  this have it wrong anyway, so here goes. The Ojibwe called their rivals Nadowessi, which the French pluralized to Nadowessioux, later shortened to just Sioux.  This makes Sioux an exonym. They of course have a name for  themselves in their own language, but in all of their legal dealings  and in everyday conversation, they use Sioux as their name. The Great Sioux Nation share  a common culture and language, split into three distinct subgroups. There are the Nakota in the north, the Dakota in the east,  and the Lakota in the west.

It’s that first letter that makes  each language dialect unique. These terms are not synonymous. The Lakota are to the Sioux what  Californians are to America. They’re by far the largest group within the Sioux, but not the only. Within the Lakota nation, there are seven individual tribes, including the Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Brule, and the one you’re most likely  familiar with, the Oglala.

Each of these terms are acceptable identifiers  with differing degrees of specificity. Most every Indian tribe in the country  has a similar naming structure. If you’re ever confused as  to what to call someone, just ask… that’s actually good  advice across the board, really.

The Sioux were defeated by the Ojibwe  and settled in the Black Hills only a   few decades before the United States declared them   its sole possessors with that 1868  treaty. And given that known history, the federal government never really took the  Sioux’s ancestral claim too seriously. Now, the argument could be made that maybe the Black  Hills shouldn’t belong exclusively to the Sioux, but rather all of the plains nations  collectively… But there’s really no   case where the United States could make a claim. They had relinquished all of their rights  to that land under two separate treaties   and forbade their citizens from entering the area. Congress signed the Indian  Appropriations Act in 1871, which put an end to treaty making with  the Indian tribes. Between 1777 and 1868, they had signed 368 different treaties.

You would think that the end of the treaty period   would mean that there wouldn’t  be any more changes to the map, but… we’re not even halfway through the video. In 1874, the US Army sent General George  Armstrong Custer into the Black Hills, in flagrant violation of the treaty, to investigate rumors of gold  being discovered in the area. Ore deposits were found, roads were cut, and here we are again! I told you this will  be a recurring theme. Within six months, over a thousand miners had illegally  entered Cherokee lands and the go– Oh, sorry, got the wrong line here… [Beep] Within months, over a thousand miners had  illegally flooded the Black Hills and the   government began negotiating for the purchase  of those lands. Which, under the 1868 treaty, would require the assent of  3/4ths of all male Sioux. The Oglala under Crazy Horse and the  Hunkpapa under Sitting Bull refused   to attend the treaty council,  causing the deal to collapse.

The American representatives recommended to  Congress that

2022-11-10 17:33

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