Choctaw Nation Forced
to Abandon Ancestral
Lands for “Indian
In 1831, the Choctaws became the first nation to be forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in what is now Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
This expulsion followed the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which “required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily, and peacefully” [#18] with tribes willing to exchange their tribal land east of the Mississippi River for land in the “Indian Territory” of present-day Oklahoma.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, signed the Indian Removal Act into law on May 28, 1830.
The legal constraint of peaceful, non-coercive negotiations did nothing to stop the sitting president, Andrew Jackson, from using threats and military might to take tribal land by force. In short order, the Choctaw would be followed by the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations on the long walk that one Choctaw leader described to an Alabama newspaper as a “trail of tears and death.”
The U.S. government sold this newly acquired land for how many dollars per acre, in today’s money?
The millions of acres that these tribes had cultivated and lived on for generations were then sold at deeply discounted rates ($38 per acre in today’s dollars) to white settlers. [#19]
22,000 of the roughly 60,000 Native Americans—or as many as 1 in 3—who were made to walk hundreds of miles to unfamiliar land, died along the journey. [#20]
A former Confederate soldier who participated in the removal is said to have commented, “I fought through the civil war and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.” [#21]