Power  /  Antecedent

Native Removal Prior to the Indian Removal Act of 1830

To understand westward expansion, the Trail of Tears, the history of Manifest Destiny, and the impacts to Native Americans, one must understand its buildup.

"To be driven off from the house of our ancestors, leave here the bones of our wives and children…”

In the history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1830-1850 is often referred to as “The Removal Era,” named for the Indian Removal Act signed May 28, 1830. The Indian Removal Act promised lands west of the Mississippi River to Native Americans in exchange for their lands within territory claimed by the United States. But the policy of removal did not emerge from nothing. For several years before 1830, many government officials and settlers pushed for the removal of Native Americans from their homes by any means necessary.

In April 1824, a petition to William Clark, Superintendent of St. Louis, from residents of Fulton County stated:

That the inhabitants of this county have have [sic] for a long time been so been so [sic] much oppressed by the various Tribes of Indians living on the Military Lands and its vicinity (Particularly on the farmers) that we think it encumbent [sic] upon us for the safety of ourselves and familys [sic] and protection and welfare of our property to petition the general government through you as a public agent for a removal of said indians [sic] from our vicinity…

Another petition from Florida in 1826 echoed the same frustrations:

...the Indians located in Florida near Alachua, are roaming at large over the country, doing serious mischief to the Inhabitants by killing their cattle & hogs, robbing their plantations, and enticing away their slaves.

The petitioners stated, "Your Memorialists further state that without an adequate force, they will never be able to recover their property. The Governor has told your Memorialists, that he has frequently applied to the Government for power to call out the military to scour the Swamps in the Indian boundary, and to recover their runaway slaves, and that as yet, no such power has been given to him…and threatened “reprisals on the Indians which may end in a war of extermination” if their enslaved property was not returned and the Native Americans brought to heel.

Officials and settlers generally agreed Native Americans and whites could not live together, and many pushed for Native removal to “their own lands,” conveniently forgetting Native Americans were there first. In 1826, Joseph M. White, an official in the Florida Territory, wrote to James Barbour: