The Beginning of Oppression

Tenskwatawa. By: Charles Bird King.

For centuries prior to the War of 1812, the Native Americans were able to manipulate the British, French, Spanish, and Americans to sustain themselves. After the War of 1812, the entirety of the land east of the Mississippi River was owned by America, effectively ended the Native Americans’ strategy. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 74.

Tecumseh, one of the Native American leaders, “carried the message of militancy and traditionalism to the Southwest as well as the Northwest, and in both areas it often divided tribes internally.” Id. When Tecumseh was defeated at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, and the defeat of the Red Stick Creeks at Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814 “marked the end of the serious military power of the [Native Americans] in the Northwest and Southwest respectively.” See John Sugden, Tecumseh’s Last Stand (Norman, Okla., 1985); George F. G. Stanley, “The Indians in the War of 1812,” Canadian Historical Review 31 (1950), 145-65.

Andrew Jackson did his part to reinforce expansionism and thereby oppress the Native Americans. On August 9, 1814, Jackson “imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson upon the Creeks, forcing the tribe to cede over 22 million acres in Alabama and Georgia, more than half their territory.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 75. Some of this land was actually not owned by the Creeks at all but owned by the Cherokees, Jackson’s supposed allies. See id.

When negotiating the Treaty of Ghent to conclude the War of 1812, the British advocated for a buffer state for the Native Americans, around the Great Lakes region. Id. American negotiators rejected this proposal entirely. Id.

Even mighty Tenskwatawa, known to Native Americans as The Prophet, could not withstand the challenges that Americans created; he “eked out an obscure existence in Canadian exile.” Id. at 76 citing R. David Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet (Lincoln, Neb., 1983), 143-64.

Andrew Jackson’s allies, the Cherokees, were perhaps expecting a reward for their loyalty to Americans. In September 1816, Jackson obtained a fraudulent treaty from the Cherokees, and in the years after the War of 1812, “Jackson obtained vast lands for white settlement.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 76. One historian has estimated that Jackson obtained “three-quarters of Alabama and Florida, one-third of Tennessee, one-fifth of Georgia and Mississippi, and smaller portions of Kentucky and North Carolina.” Id. citing Michael Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (New York, 1975), 165.

In just a matter of a few years, Americans had effectively cornered the mightiest, most durable tribes of the Native Americans. While many Americans had taken part in the oppression of Native Americans, General Andrew Jackson was at the forefront of that movement. According to Daniel Walker Howe, at least part of this was due to expansionism but a part could be attributed to white supremacy.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear: Americans would stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and Native Americans’ rights as human beings would be entirely disregarded. As remarkable as these developments happened in the years during and after the War of 1812, the worst was yet to come.

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