While the Huron Potawatomi, and other Potawatomi, generally maintained peaceful relations with their new non-Indian neighbors, the increased pressure from settlers, many of whom illegally entered Indian lands, often resulted in violent conflict between settlers and the resident Indian tribes.   The solution Championed by Andrew Jackson and others in the U.S. Government became the nineteenth-century policy referred to as “Indian Removal,” by which Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi River would be encouraged to sign treaties giving up the remainder of their lands and be relocated to lands west of the Mississippi.

The Indian Removal Act, signed May 28, 1830, further empowered the U.S. Government to strip the Native Americans of their land rights. This Act created a process and funds where the President could conduct land-exchange (“removal”) treaties; granting land west of the Mississippi River (to be called “Indian Territory”) to tribes that agreed to give up their homelands.

The Removal Act did not legally order the involuntary removal of any Native Americans; however, the Act allowed the Jackson administration to freely persuade, bribe, and threaten tribal leaders to sign removal treaties. The U.S. Government offered incentives for signing; the new Act granted the Indians financial and material assistance to relocate to a new homeland and restart their lives while promising the tribes would live under their protection. Unfortunately, a more sneaky, underhanded method became the most customary process, which was to force tribes into smaller areas where their only real income was annuities. Then government traders (the only people legally allowed to trade with Native Americans) would extend credit, and as debts compounded, the tribes were forced to sell their land to pay their debt.

The pressure to sign these treaties resulted in acrimonious divisions within Native America nations; various tribal leaders promoted different responses to the uncertainty of removal. All too frequently, U.S. Government officials disregarded tribal leaders who resisted signing removal treaties and worked with those who favored removal.

Sadly, Jackson’s plan succeeded. By the end of his two terms, he had signed into law almost seventy removal treaties. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 50,000 eastern Native Americans to the new Indian Territory located west of the Mississippi River, opening millions of acres of fertile land east of the Mississippi to white settlers.

References:

Indian Treaties and the Removal Act of 1830, Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State, history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/indian-treaties.

Potawatomi. (2018, October 25). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:38, April 23, 2019 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Potawatomi&oldid=1015500