DBQ ? Jacksonian Democracy
Between the years of 1775 and 1825, the United States government was hypocritical with respect to their Native American policy. The government, at most times, claimed to be acting in the “best interest” of the Native Americans. They claimed that their actions were for the benefit of not only their own citizens, but for the Native Americans, too. These “beneficial” actions included relocation from their homeland, murder in great numbers, rape, and a complete disregard for the various cultures represented by the Native Americans.
While the nation was still very young, it issued the Northwest Ordinance. This document told the Native Americans that they should not feel threatened by this new nation because “?good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians.” The United States told the Native Americans, with this document, that they were dealing with a just and humane country. Despite these humane intentions, in 1790, Native Americans pleaded with President Washington about the cruel treatment they were receiving. The Indian chiefs wrote to Washington to inquire as to why they were being punished. They referred to the American army as “the town destroyer”. Obviously the Untied States was not acting in the good hearted manner and just way it had declared it would in 1787.
Americans, as they moved westward, tried to rationalize its brutal treatment of the Native Americans. In 1803, Jefferson set two goals in regard to dealing with the Native Americans. His first goal was to convince them to abandon hunting and become educated in the ways of the white man (i.e. agriculture or raising stock). He said that they would see the advantages of this “better” life. In reality, Jackson wanted to control the amount of land the Native Americans occupied. He also spoke of leading them to “civilization” and to the benefits of the United States government. Jefferson presented these goals as being advantageous for them. In actuality, these goals put the Native Americans at a sizable disadvantage. In 1811, an Indian cheif explained that, by being forced to sell their lands, they could not survive. They would be thrust upon a land where they did not know the terrain, the people that had already occupied it, or even where to find shelter and food. He explained that they could not be expected to just give up their land and way of life for the advancing of the white people.
By declaring that the Native Americans would benefit from participating in the United States government and by stating that the United States would “civilize” them, Jefferson touched on a major attitude that was common in U.S. policy toward Native Americans, that of white superiority. White Americans felt that, as they moved westward, they deserved the land they came across. They felt they had the right to throw these “savages” off their homelands because they were Americans and they were superior. Another slant on this same attitude was the idea of “civilizing” the natives. The white Americans completely disregarded the rich culture of the many native tribes. Many missionaries and other white settlers forcibly infused American culture into their lives. They regarded the Native Americans as brutal and ruthless warriors and saw themselves as the saviors who had to instill morals and goodness into these “wild” people. This perception was invalid and, at times, ironic because it was often the white man who used ruthless tactics against the Native Americans.
For example, in 1779, General John Sullivan led raids into Iroquois Country, in revenge for the Iroquois siding with the British. In these raids, Sullivan and his men burned and pillaged villages, killed men, women, and children. As a result, both Andrew Jackson and Secretary of War Crawford called for the humane treatment of the Native Americans. Jackson stated that the only way to obtain peaceful treaties was to treat them well. This statement coming from Jackson was truly ironic. He, like General Sullivan, used merciless tactics against the Native Americans. After defeating the Creeks in the War of 1812, and forcing them to give up two-thirds of their land, Jackson preceded to build Ft. Jackson on the Hickory Ground, the most sacred Creek land.
In reality, the Native Americans were the civilized people In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the new Louisiana Territory. The two explorers were aided by Sacajawea, a Shoshoni Indian. The notable accomplishments of Lewis and Clark would never have been attained without the help of Sacajawea. She and her people promised never to wage war against the white man and in the 1880’s the white man would slaughter the Shoshoni people. Also, in the 1820’s, when faced with violence from the white population in Tennessee, the Cherokee Indians chose peace. The Cherokee leaders decided against fighting and chose to accommodate the whites and white culture.
The United States tried to present itself as working for the universal good. Its words presented the notion of a righteous and honest nation that only wanted peace from its native neighbors. In reality, the United States government allowed for the forced relocation of innumerable tribes and did little to defend the Native Americans from the “always encroaching” white population. It allowed for the brutal treatment and genocide of countless peoples and cultures who occupied the lands of the United States peacefully for thousands of years.