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View series: The United States: a territorial history

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The Indian Removal Programme

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The United States: a territorial history.

Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, London transferred the Indian territories to the west of the 13 colonies to the new American nation.

A law passed in 1787 laid down that no land was to be taken from the Indians without their consent, but offered them little protection against pressure for new colonies.

In 1795, the Treaty of Greenville brought an end to a series of conflicts between an Indian Confederation and the Federal Army in the North-West Territories. The Indians handed over the territory of what would later become the State of Ohio in exchange for the confirmation of their rights over their lands.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, the westward push for new colonies continued, creating new pressure on the Indians to move off their territories.

During the Second British-American War (1812), many Indians fought alongside the British once again. But following the American victory, the Indians could no longer resist and had to cede large tracts of land in Indiana and in the South.

During the early 19th century, the Federal Government’s official policy was tolerance for the Indian communities if they agreed to assimilate, particularly by adopting the concepts of democracy and private property.

In 1830, the passing of the Indian Removal Act allowed the removal of Indian tribes to ‘reserves’ west of the Mississippi.

This law focused mainly on the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes, commonly known as the ‘5 civilized tribes’ because of their willingness to be integrated.

The Choctaws were removed in 1831

The Creeks in 1836

The Chickasaws in 1837

However, the removal of 20,000 Cherokees in 1838 was a disaster with nearly 4,000 dying during the journey, later known as the “Trail of Tears”. In Florida, some Seminole groups resisted expulsion and managed to hold onto a limited amount of territory.