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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

'Indian Wars' rescued a people, bio reasons

By Roger K. Miller
Special to The Denver Post

Sunday, July 22, 2001 -- To cut to the chase: In the final sentences of his excellent history, "Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars," Robert V. Remini draws this "monstrous" conclusion about his subject, Jackson, the man who, in many Americans' minds, is responsible for causing the Cherokees (and Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles) untold misery on their Trail of Tears to the west of the Mississippi River:

"To his dying day ... Jackson genuinely believed that what he had accomplished rescued these people from inevitable annihilation. And although that statement sounds monstrous, and although no one in the modern world wishes to accept or believe it, that is exactly what he did. He saved the Five Civilized Nations (as those tribes were called) from probable extinction."
What Congress did at Jackson's direction was, Remini says, "harsh, arrogant, racist -- and inevitable. There was no way the American people would continue to allow the presence of the tribes in the fertile hills and valleys that they coveted. Sooner or later, white culture and life would engulf them."

That is not the first or last instance in history of making the victims the problem. Nor did Jackson believe he was doing that: He never imagined or intended the horrors that accompanied removal; he was no madman bent on genocide. Still, Remini does not diminish Jackson's culpability, particularly in his impatience to get things done.

Copyright 2001 The Denver Post

Rob's comment
Very little about history is "inevitable," as Remini puts it. As I've written elsewhere, Native defeat wasn't at all inevitable. Had Jackson obeyed the Supreme Court ruling against his removal laws (Worcester v. Georgia, 1832) instead of circumventing it, his plans would've gone nowhere.

The Navajo Nation takes up a space larger than Connecticut, yet the United States survives. Why would similar reservations for the Five Civilized Tribes, in the tribes' original southeastern locations, be any more onerous? Americans could've made due with less land and lower growth rates. They simply didn't want to.

The US defeated Mexico and annexed part of its territory. It also annexed Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But it didn't annex all of Mexico, and it didn't try to annex Canada. Nothing made the conquest of the Five Civilized Tribes inevitable but the conquest of Canada unthinkable.

Americans didn't invade Canada because they respected British treaties and boundaries. Not so their Native counterparts. Americans treated Indians like merciless savages, which is what the Declaration of Independence declared them.

When Miller says Jackson "was no madman bent on genocide," he ignores the UN definition of genocide, which goes beyond mass extermination. One criterion is "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," which Jackson's relocation policy certainly did. Moreover, how does Miller explain the following?

[Andrew] Jackson was so effective at rooting women and "whelps" from their "dens," he adopted the habit of cutting off his victims' noses as trophies to commemorate his exploits. He earned the name "Sharp Knife" from Creek Indians for his penchant for skinning victims and using the cured and braided tissue as reins for his ponies (Takaki, 1994).

David Rider, "Indians" and Animals: A Comparative Essay

Conclusion: Jackson was a genocidal maniac and the relocation of the Five Civilized Tribes wasn't inevitable.

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