By the 1820s, the United States was rapidly advancing its territory across the Appalachians and beyond the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Purchase had doubled the size of the nation and opened the middle third of the present-day nation to exploration and settlement. Americans were lured to the West by the promise of natural resources and ideas such as manifest destiny. Besides the natural environment, settlers’ biggest challenge were the Native Americans that had called these lands home for thousands of years. The U.S. government’s policy toward Native Americans varied based on the attitudes of the presidents, congressmen and local leaders charged with handling Native American affairs. While some leaders treated Native Americans with respect and democratic rights, most demonstrated some degree of racism and insensitivity that led to tension and conflict.
During the early 1800s the government was in negotiations with the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations of the southeastern United States. As so-called “civilized tribes,” the Chickasaw and Choctaw were extended the opportunity to negotiate the ownership of land through treaties with U.S. officials. In 1818 the government signed a treaty with the Chickasaw that gave the U.S. all lands north of the southern border of Tennessee. In the decade that followed, the Chickasaw were hesitant to give up their land as promised in the treaty. A commission of U.S. officials met with Chickasaw chiefs in 1826 to discuss surrendering more of their land in the southeast region of the United States.
The messages from the U.S. commission were exchanged with Chickasaw chiefs during October and November, 1826.
Let’s take a look at an excerpt from a speech delivered in part by U.S. officials Thomas Hinds and John Coffee. Look for the kind of language they used to describe the Native Americans and the United States. This language will help you identify Hinds’ and Coffee’s purpose and point of view of their message in the report to the Senate. After you read the passage you will review a table that illustrates different examples of purpose or point of view.
Friends and Brothers:
We have met you here in council, by order of our great father the President of the United States. Like a kind and good parent, he is ever mindful of the best interest and true happiness of all his children. He has the same feelings of friendship for his red children that he has for his white children … When, therefore, he offers his advice and counsel, he expects all his children to receive them as coming from their father, their friend, and protector. He wishes all his children to prosper, increase, and be happy, until the end of time.
You have been apprised of the object of holding this treaty. It is the policy of our Government to extinguish the Indian title to all lands on this side of the Mississippi. We must have a dense and strong population from the mouth to the head of this father of rivers. The security of our southern frontier requires this … All the southern tribes of Indians must be prepared, sooner or later, to witness this state of things. If the different tribes are permitted to hold their lands on this side of the Mississippi, the laws of the United States must be extended to the Indian country, and the Indians, as well as the whites living among them … Which of these alternatives will our red brothers, the Chickasaws, choose?
Your father the President proposes to give his Chickasaw children a fine tract of country on the other side of the Mississippi river, or equal extent, in exchange for their present lands. By removing to that country, you will be freed from the intrusions and interruptions of your white brethren. You will then be enabled to live in peace and quietness; nor will you be ever asked for any portion of the lands which will be given you. Your father the President will also … defray all expenses of removing you to the country on the west side of the Mississippi, and furnish you with all things necessary for your comfort and convenience ...
We, the commissioners of our common parent, the President, are particularly anxious that you, his Chickasaw children, shall seriously reflect upon this subject. Until then, we shall … [assure] you that the Government of the United States is most liberally disposed towards you…
To the principal Headmen, Chiefs, and Warriors of the Chickasaw nation.
– Excerpt from “Refusal of the Choctaws and Chickasaws to Cede Their Lands in Mississippi: 1826”
Source: Yale University, Avalon Law Projectopens in new window