1784-1859 US Indian Land Cessions

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Map Code: Ax01441

Following the Revolutionary War, the American states adopted an assertive stance on expansion. Successive Nonintercourse Acts (1790–34) purported to protect Indian rights, with the federal government reserving the right to purchase their land. However, each act progressively shifted the territory over which those rights extended westwards. Meanwhile, a blizzard of treaties secured the legal cession of Indian lands. The legal case Johnson v. McIntosh (1823) established the ‘doctrine of discovery’, conferring title of all land to government; Indians were merely entitled to tenancy. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) it was declared that Indian tribes were not nations, nor were Indians citizens; their status was that of ‘a ward to his guardian’. Thus legally unfettered, President Andrew Jackson promulgated the Removal Act (1830), which empowered federal government to force Indian tribes to ‘exchange’ their lands where they refused to cede them voluntarily. Five tribes still in homelands east of the Mississippi were promptly ‘relocated’ to Oklahoma.

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