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The Removal of the Choctaw Indians Paperback – November 30, 1981
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Thorough study of historical value and insight in the study of Indian removal policy. Provides a summary of the Indian policies of the early presidents, from Washington through Jackson.
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But, as Arthur DeRosier makes clear, the removal of the Choctaw and other Christianized, "civilized" tribes of the American south-east to the trans-Mississippi wilderness, during Jackson's regime, had been foreseen and planned by previous federal and state administrations, most articulately by Thomas (all men are created equal) Jefferson. DeRosier was a scholarly pioneer in re-evaluating Jefferson's Indian policies, and his indictment stands proven by later studies.
Like their eastern neighbors, the Cherokee, the Choctaw were agriculturally settled people, living more or less as their English-speaking neighbors did, at the time of their forced removal to the swampy lands now called Oklahoma, which were far from uninhabited by less "Europeanized" hunter-gatherers. But greed for plantation-suitable land and racial contempt for the Indians pushed inexorably toward two forms of expropriation: violence at the settler level and/or federally managed "removal" to the trans-Mississippi. During the presidency of James Monroe, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun committed the government to the latter, constructing a "moderate" scheme of compensated removal essentially the model for what was culminated less than two decades later under Jackson. However sincere or generous the compensation would be - and it was neither - the whole scheme was forthright ethnic cleansing long before the term was coined.
The Cherokee's suffering on the "Trail of Tears" was greater and more dramatic than the misery and disruption experienced by the Choctaw, and has received more historical attention. But the Choctaw removal is well documented in broken treaties, government documents, and personal accounts. These are the materials that DeRosier employs to build his case against the state and federal architects of this massive injustice.
Once relocated in Oklahoma, the Choctaw proved themselves more capable as "pioneers" than most European-Americans, using their agricultural experience to farm virgin soil and building a solid village culture with exceptional emphases on education and Christian piety. Ironically, their greatest difficulties arose from the hostility of less civilized tribes that they had unwillingly displaced. For better or worse, the so-called Indian Territory remained a "going concern" ... until the next land grab, when the lands were declared open to all.