American Indian Removal Records

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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indian Research Gotoarrow.png Removal Records

Early expansion for land and settlement by immigrants in North American increased as the population grew and expanded. Land was sought by sale, treaty and by force.

In 1755 the British initiated an Indian policy to: 1) protect the Indians from opportunistic traders and speculators; 2) negotiate boundary lines by treaties; 3) enlist the Indians on the side of the British in the French and Indian War and 4) exercise as much control as possible over the fur trade. [1]

In 1787, The United States Congress approved the Northwest Ordinance.The Ordinance set up a government for the Northwest Territory (included land which today is Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota)and provided for the vast region to be divided into separate territories that could petition to become states when the territory reached a population of 60,000 [white] settlers. The Northwest Ordinance accelerated the westward expansion of the United States. Settlers, and land speculators rushed into the Northwest Territory, squatting on Indian lands.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the procedure for settlement beyond the Alleghenies and in determining Indian policy. It provided that:

" The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them." [2]

1803, President Thomas Jefferson believed the Louisiana Territory purchase would solve the land problem of Indian and white relations. He thought the Indians would willingly sell their land and relocate to the lands west of the Mississippi river.

Late 1820's the State of Georgia vs. The Cherokee Tribe; the Georgia Legislature nullified the Cherokee Constitution: appeals made by the Cherokees eventually resulted in ta U.S. Supreme Court decision nullifying Georgia's actions.

Chief Justice John Marshall's decision recognized that earlier Congresses had passed laws "which treat (Indians) as nations" and "as distinct political communities.

1824, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun place all Federal Indian activities under an Indian Affairs Agency. 1) appropriations for tribal annuities to be made to tribes for lands they had lost, 2) examination of Indian claims relating to trade laws; 3) book-keeping; 4) correspondence with Indian Superintendents and agents and 5) administration of a fund for the civilization of Indians.[3]

Andrew Jackson officially established the policy of the federal government to remove the American Indians to an area beyond the Mississippi River where they would be "out of the way" of expanding settlement. Although the possibility of such a policy had been debated for some time, it was made official policy through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal Act of 1830 established procedures for voluntary exchange of eastern Indian lands for new western acreage that was to be held by the tribes under perpetual guaranty from the Federal Government.

Removal was justified by the Federal Government as a means of Protecting the Indians from repeated encroachments of eastern white settlers. The Government policy bitterly divided the country - in the Congress, among the religious groups, in the press and among Indians themselves.[4]

Several tribes were forcibly removed from their homelands to areas deemed unwanted by non-Indian settlers moving from the East into the frontier areas of the time. The most well-known of these removals was that of the Cherokee "Trail of Tears." But there were other tribes who experienced similar situations.

In many cases, the Indians were simply rounded up by the U.S. Army and marched to their new places of residence, often with very little notice, with very little preparation, and with very little planning.

There are some records of these removals, mostly buried within the set of records known as the General Correspondence Files of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Sometimes the Army made a record of those being removed, called muster rolls after the common military term. Where those have been preserved, most are filed with these General Correspondence Files. The collection has been microfilmed by the federal government as Microcopy M234 and is available at the National Archives in Washington DC, at all of the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration, and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, as well as at other locations. Some of the records, called emigration records, included in this set of microfilm are:

  • Apalachicola of Florida
  • Cherokee Emigration, 1828-1854 ("Trail of Tears")
  • Chicago Emigration, 1835-1847
  • Chickasaw Emigration, 1837-1850
  • Chippewa Emigration, 1850-1859
  • Choctaw Emigration, 1826-1859
  • Creek Emigration, 1826-1849
  • Florida  Emigration, 1828-1853
  • Chicago Emigration 1835-1847
  • Great Nemaha Emigration, 1837-1838
  • Indiana Emigration, 1833-1849
  • Mackinac Emigration, 1838-1839
  • Miami Emigration, 1842-1853
  • Michigan Emigration, 1830-1848
  • Miscellaneous Emigration, 1824-1848
  • Navajo Emigration, 1864 - ( "Long Walk")
  • Nez Perce 1877-
  • New York Emigration, 1829-1851
  • Ohio Emigration, 1831-1839
  • Prairie du Chien Emigration, 1837-1841
  • Potawatomi Emigration 1838 ("Trail of Death")
  • Sac and Fox Emigration, 1845-1847
  • St. Louis Emigration, 1837-1841
  • Seminole Emigration, 1827-1859
  • Western Superintendency Emigration, 1836-1842
  • Winnebago Emigration, 1833-1852
  • Wyandot Emigration, 1839-1851

See also Indians of the United States and Their Records

  1. Federal Indian Policies from the Colonial period through early 1970's Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior
  2. Federal Indian Policies from the Colonial period through early 1970's Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior
  3. Federal Indian Policies from the Colonial period through early 1970's Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior
  4. Federal Indian Policies from the Colonial period through early 1970's Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior