History of the United States

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1830 May 28

Indian Removal Act

Oklahoma, USA

The Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830, by United States President Andrew Jackson. The law, as described by Congress, provided "for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi." [47] During the Presidency of Jackson (1829-1837) and his successor Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) more than 60,000 Native Americans[48] from at least 18 tribes[49] were forced to move west of the Mississippi River where they were allocated new lands as part of an ethnic cleansing.[50] The southern tribes were resettled mostly in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The northern tribes were resettled initially in Kansas. With a few exceptions the United States east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes was emptied of its Indian population. The movement westward of the Indian tribes was characterized by a large number of deaths occasioned by the hardships of the journey.[51]

The U.S. Congress approved the Act by a narrow majority in the House of Representatives. The Indian Removal Act was supported by President Jackson, southern and white settlers, and several state governments, especially that of Georgia. Indian tribes, the Whig Party, and many Americans opposed the bill. Legal efforts to allow Indian tribes to remain on their land in the eastern U.S. failed. Most famously, the Cherokee (excluding the Treaty Party) challenged their relocation, but were unsuccessful in the courts; they were forcibly removed by the United States government in a march to the west that later became known as the Trail of Tears.