During the early 19th century, the United States government began a massive effort to move eastern tribes west. The American population increased by over 1.5 million between 1810 and 1830, and it became clear that the western Native American tribes would pose problems to further growth. Thus, the Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830, under President Andrew Jackson. The act had strong support, particularly in the South, where the land was inhabited by the Five Civilized Tribes (named because they seemed more willing to accept Christianity and cultural assimilation). Native American chiefs received incredible pressure to sign removal treaties, which undoubtedly caused conflicts within tribes and tribal confederations. During the Trail of Tears, tens of thousands were forcibly removed from their homes, and roughly 1 out of every 4 died from disease or starvation. The maps in this section show how these events transformed American geography.
John Melish, John Vallance, and Henry Schenck Tanner, Hand-colored Copper Engraving, London, 1816
By comparing this with the previous map, we can see how severely the Indian Removal Act affected Native migration patterns. In 1816, there were still signs of Cherokee settlements in present-day Georgia, as well as the Choctaw in Mississippi. By 1866, they were successfully removed to Indian Territory.
Franks Theodore, General Land Office, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1866
Charles C. Royce, Washington D.C., 1884
United States Office of Indian Affairs, Washington D.C., 1888
In just 28 years, American land was transformed by new state borders and treaties. In 1889, the U.S. Congress passed an act to split the Great Sioux Reservation into six smaller reservations. Indian Territory was gradually reduced in size by various Organic Acts passed by Congress. By 1890, the American Indian policy focused on three basic goals; assimilating Native Americans into American society, eradicating Native American cultures, and breaking up tribal land holdings.
Department of the Interior, Leipzig, 1916