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Primary Documents in American History

Indian Removal Act

John Ross, a Cherokee chief
John Ross, a Cherokee Chief,
Lithographic & Print Colouring Establishment,
copyright 1843.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZC4-3156

The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the "Trail of Tears."

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

President Andrew Jackson outlined his Indian removal policy in his Second Annual Message to Congress on December 6, 1830. Jackson's comments on Indian removal begin with the words, "It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages." Additional copies of Andrew Jackson's Second Annual Message to Congress can be found in the House Journal and the Senate Journal.

Search in the 21st Congress using the phrase "removal of the Indians" to locate Congressional debate on the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Senate Document No. 512, "Correspondence on the Emigration of Indians, 1831-33, was published in 1834 as part of the United States Serial Set. Also included in the Serial Set is the report "Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894."

Maps

Includes an 1836 map showing the lands assigned to emigrant Indians west of Arkansas and Missouri. Search this collection using the phrase "Indians of North America" to locate additional maps on this subject.

Exhibitions

American Treasures at the Library of Congress - Cherokee Nation Denied Foreign Nation Status

In the landmark case, The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1831 that the Cherokee Indian Nation was not a foreign nation and therefore ruled that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction. This exhibit contains Associate Justice Smith Thompson's dissenting opinion.

The Teachers Page

Presentation - Immigration: Native Americans

Provides an overview of Native American history, including information on the government's Indian removal policy.

Today in History

October 3, 1790

John Ross, Chief of the United Cherokee Nation from 1839 to 1866, was born on October 3, 1790.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Cherokee Removal Lesson Plan, Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Oklahoma State University Library, Compiled and Edited by Charles J. Kappler

Indian Removal, 1814-1858, PBS

Our Documents, President Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress 'On Indian Removal', National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Remini, Robert Vincent. Andrew Jackson & His Indian Wars. New York: Viking, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Wallace, Anthony F. C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Dunn, John M. The Relocation of the Native American Indian. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Nardo, Don. The Relocation of the North American Indian. San Diego, Calif.: KidHaven Press, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Stewart, Mark. The Indian Removal Act: Forced Relocation. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Williams, Jeanne. Trails of Tears: American Indians Driven from Their Lands. Dallas, Tex.: Hendrick-Long Pub. Co., 1992. [Catalog Record]

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