During the Cherokee removal period, many Cherokees stood up to express their opinions on this conflict. Most of the Cherokee members were against this act and furiously fought back against Congress’s decision. However, there were some who have other ideas about the Cherokee Nation’s future – they believed it was better for them to move. Regardless of different opinions, the Cherokees never stopped to advocate for themselves. Throughout the removal period, political leaders of the United States sometimes used the word “savage” to describe American Indians.
This term was intended to describe their outdated ifestyles and choices. Despite this accusation, the Cherokees stood up for themselves and their fellow American Indians. They frequently voiced their opinions in order to show American society that they are a people with dignity. Even though, the Cherokees spoke up for themselves on many different occasions, their voices often fell upon deaf ears. Many Cherokee individuals attempted to describe the true Cherokee culture to dispel the misconception that they are “savages. One example is John Ridge, a young Cherokee man, who served as a secretary for the Creek Indians.
When Albert Gallatin, a statesman in Jefferson’s cabinet, expressed interest in learning more of Cherokee’s history, Ridge immediately wrote him a letter disclosing his vision of the future of the Cherokee Nation and describing their culture in great detail. Ridge attempted to display a different image than simply “savages”: “They [Cherokees] have their regular meals as the whites… tables are usually covered with a clean cloth and furnished with the usual plates, knives, and forks..
Indeed, this might seem like an obvious claim, but many people believed that Cherokees only ate when they were hungry and labelled them as savages. By simply stating all of the daily routines, Ridge advocated for the Cherokees in an attempt to change the misconceptions about them. Ridge’s letter also showed that despite the fact that Cherokees were self-reliant, the Cherokees made an effort to learn English ways. Cherokees were self-reliant because they farmed crops such as corn, wheat, rye, oats, and more. In addition to being autonomous farmers, they were also hunters.
In other words, they were absolutely self-sustainable in every way. Ironically, under Washington’s order, Benjamin Hawkins were teaching American Indians how to farm, when they had een farming before Europeans’ arrival. Even though, they could take care of themselves, the Cherokee Nation learned English to communicate with Americans. According to Ridge, at one time there were thirteen schools created by missionaries with more than 250 students enrolled. With 1/3 of the population knowing how to read and write in English, the Cherokees even created their own writing language.
With that, they created their own newspaper, Cherokee Phoenix. With all efforts to become “civilized” as the Americans requested, American Indians remained thought as “barbaric. ” Cherokees’ acceptance of the English language and interactions was another effort to remain a peaceful relationship with United States. In addition to Cherokees’ effort to learn English, they also implemented a government to imitate United States’ government. In the same letter to Albert Gallatin, Ridge displayed Cherokee’s law structure, which matches America’s government.
In the Cherokee nation, the government system contains the Legislature, Judiciary, and Supreme Court. They are composed of different people from different districts. Specifically, he explicitly shows laws such as “against stealing” and “against murder. It is evident that there are consequences if a person steals or murders, but Cherokees have deliberately placed those laws in their system. The Cherokees adapted a law system with hopes that they can get rid of being called “savages” or “uncivilized.
Despite these efforts, greedy Georgians continued to hunt for American Indians’ land. Unfortunately, despite trying to fit into American society, most Americans still did not acknowledge their efforts. Ridge ended with: “It is true we Govern ourselves, but yet we live in fear. We are urged by these strangers to make room for their settlements and go arther west. ” He understands that Cherokees are having their down moments, but hopes to naturally merge into America in the future. He advocated for harmony between the two nations and wished for peaceful assimilation.
Despite Ridge’s effort to stand up for American Indians, most Americans were still not convinced. They continue to believe that American Indians were inferior beings compared to them. Ridge perfectly described the Cherokee Nation as one with daily routine, autonomy, government, and law. These aspects can be seen in American society, which were what Americans were proud of. However, when Ridge display Cherokees’ resemblance, not many people connected the parallels between the two nations. Unfortunately, Ridge’s attempt to alter American’s perspective on Cherokees only caused slight changes.
With the American government ignoring Ridge’s attempt, Cherokees continue to advocate for themselves. As most Cherokees refused to move away from their homelands, some Cherokees advocated for a different proposal. During the few years before the official Cherokee Removal in the late 1830s, many people thought about another option besides resisting. Elias Boudinot’s, the editor of Cherokee Phoenix, opinion hanged through his article published in 1832. Due to constant degradations of American Indians and failure to gain acceptance by the Americans: “… ‘An Indian will still be an Indian.
-Do what you will, he cannot be civilized – you cannot reclaim him from his wild habits – you may as well expect to change the spots of the Leopard as to effect any substantial renovation in his character . ” Boudinot started to doubt that Cherokee would ever receive justice. With a few other Cherokee leaders, they began to draft The Treaty of New Echota, to state that the Cherokee Nation would move to their designated area and romised agreements. In the treaty, it states that the American government would give five million dollars to Cherokees to help them settle in the new territory.
Even more, the treaty promised that doctors, medicine, food would be provided during the route to the new Indian territory. As the supporters of this treaty believe that the removal was inevitable, they attempt to receive a deal for the American Indians. They hope to at least provide sufficient resources on the way to the new land. However, the action of this treaty provoked angry Cherokees because they viewed this as a betrayal of the nation. As most of the Cherokees continued to fight against the removal, the supporters of the treaty were deeply detested.
Even though Boudinot had a different insight of the removal, his advocacy is another example of American Indians speaking up for themselves. He strived to seek for a better solution of this forced removal and aimed to lower the harm to American Indians to the minimum. Despite all efforts, at the end, the Treaty of the Echota did not live up to its expectation. There was around 16,000 Cherokees that were forcibly removed and 4,000 of them died. One fourth of the Cherokees during the removal ied because of starvation and various diseases.
This shows that even though the Cherokee advocated for a harmless and controlled removal, their simple requests for medical and food support were not granted. No doubt that the Indian Removal Act has been terrifying, dehumanizing, and immoral. People might think the American Indians did not speak up for themselves against United States, but it was the complete opposite. The Cherokees expressed themselves through multiple avenues. The American Indians have always tried to be “civilized” because they want to fit into American society.
Even hough they were self-sustainable, they still embraced American customs. They wanted to become American citizens because they want to stay in their homeland without the usual fear of attacks. However, people still did not recognize them as equal beings with equal rights. Seeing the callous oppositions of Americans, some Cherokees came together to pursue another route for the Cherokees. If the removal is unavoidable, there has to be another way to help the them. However, despite many voices, America ultimately neglected American Indians’ human rights and coercively removed them from their homelands.