An Indian reservation was an area of land reserved for Indian use. The first political leader to suggest this policy was Andrew Jackson. In the 1820s the Cherokees adopted a written constitution that proclaimed that the Cherokee nation had complete jurisdiction over its own territory. The state of Georgia responded by making it illegal for a Native American to bring a legal action against a white man.
The Seminole tribe had disputes with settlers in Florida. The Creeks were involved in several battles with the federal army in Alabama and Georgia. The Chickisaw and Choctaw tribes also had land disputes with emigrants who had settled in Mississippi.
Andrew Jackson argued that the solution to this problem was to move all these five tribes to Oklahoma. When Andrew Jackson gained power he encouraged Congress to pass the 1830 Indian Removal Act. He argued that the legislation would provide land for white invaders, improve security against foreign invaders and encourage the civilization of the Native Americans. In one speech he argued that the measure "will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influences of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and christian community."
Jackson was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in 1832. He now pursued the policy of removing Native Americans from good farming land. He even refused to accept the decision of the Supreme Court to invalidate Georgia's plan to annex the territory of the Cherokee. This brought Jackson into conflict with Whig leaders such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.
The land given to the Native Americans in Oklahoma was known as the Indian Territory. The land was distributed in the following way: Choctaws (6,953,048 acres), Chickisaw (4,707,903 acres) and Cherokees (4,420,068). The tribes were also received money for their former lands: Cherokee ($2,716,979), Creek ($2,275,168), Seminole ($2,070,000), Chickisaw ($1,206,695) and Choctaw ($975,258). Some of these tribes used this money to buy land in Oklahoma and to support the building of schools.
In 1835 some leaders of the Cherokee tribe signed the Treaty of New Echota. This agreement ceded all rights to their traditional lands to the United States. In return the tribe was granted land in the Indian Territory. Although the majority of the Cherokees opposed this agreement they were forced to make the journey by General Winfield Scott and his soldiers. In October 1838 about 15,000 Cherokees began what was later to be known as the Trail of Tears. Most of the Cherokees travelled the 800 mile journey on foot. As a result of serious mistakes made by the Federal agents who guided them to their new land, they suffered from hunger and the cold weather and an estimated 4,000 people died on the journey.
Overall it is believed that about 70,000 Native Americans were forced to migrate from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida to Oklahoma. During the journey many died as a result of famine and disease.
The Federal government provided food and other supplies to the reservations and appointed an Indian Agent to live with the Native Americans. It was the job of the agent to teach them how to farm and to help protect them from unscrupulous traders.
On 27th January, 1861, Apaches stole cattle and kidnapped a boy from a Sonoita Valley ranch. Second Lieutenant George Bascom was sent out with 54 soldiers to recover the boy. Cochise met Bascom and told him that he would try to recover the boy. Bascom rejected the offer and instead tried to take Cochise hostage. When he tried to flee he was shot at by the soldiers. The wounded Cochise now gave orders for the execution of four white men being held in captivity. In retaliation six Apaches were hanged. Open warfare now broke out and during the next 60 days 150 white people were killed and five stage stations destroyed.
Mangas Coloradas and Cochise killed five people during an attack on a stage at Stein's Peak, New Mexico. In July, 1861 a war party murdered six white people travelling on a stage coach at Cooke's Canyon. The following year Cochise ambushed soldiers as they travelled through the Apache Pass. The Apaches also attacked stage coaches and in 1869 killed a Texas cowboy and stole 250 cattle. Cochise and his men were pursued but after a fight near Fort Bowie the soldiers were forced to retreat.
On 15th August, 1865, Kicking Bird signed a peace treaty with the American authorities at Wichita. He also took part in negotiations that resulted in the signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty on 21st October, 1867. Under the terms of this treaty the Kiowa tribe moved to a reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Satanta negotiated several treaties with the American government including Little Arkansas (1865) and Medicine Lodge (1867). Satanta agreed that the Kiowas would live on a Indian Reservation. However, when they delayed their move Satanta was seized by General George A. Custer and held as a hostage until the migration took place.
In December, 1875 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs directed all Sioux bands to enter reservations by the end of January 1876. Sitting Bull, now a medicine man and spiritual leader of his people, refused to leave his hunting grounds. Crazy Horse agreed and led his warriors north to join up with Sitting Bull.
In June 1876 Sitting Bull subjected himself to a sun dance. This ritual included fasting and self-torture. During the sun dance Sitting Bull saw a vision of a large number of white soldiers falling from the sky upside down. As a result of this vision he predicted that his people were about to enjoy a great victory.
On 17th June 1876, General George Crook and about 1,000 troops, supported by 300 Crow and Shoshone, fought against 1,500 members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. The battle at Rosebud Creek lasted for over six hours. This was the first time that Native Americans had united together to fight in such large numbers.
General George A. Custer and 655 men were sent out to locate the villages of the Sioux and Cheyenne involved in the battle at Rosebud Creek. An encampment was discovered on the 25th June. It was estimated that it contained about 10,000 men, women and children. Custer assumed the numbers were much less than that and instead of waiting for the main army under General Alfred Terry to arrive, he decided to attack the encampment straight away.
Custer divided his men into three groups. Captain Frederick Benteen was ordered to explore a range of hills five miles from the village. Major Marcus Reno was to attack the encampment from the upper end whereas Custer decided to strike further downstream.
Reno soon discovered he was outnumbered and retreated to the river. He was later joined by Benteen and his men. Custer continued his attack but was easily defeated by about 4,000 warriors. At the battle of the Little Bighorn Custer and all his 264 men were killed. The soldiers under Reno and Benteen were also attacked and 47 of them were killed before they were rescued by the arrival of General Alfred Terry and his army.
The U.S. army now responded by increasing the number of the soldiers in the area. As a result Sitting Bull and his men fled to Canada, whereas Crazy Horse and his followers surrendered to General George Crook at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. Crazy Horse was later killed while being held in custody at Fort Robinson.
In 1877 General Otis Howard instructed Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe to move from their tribal lands in Oregon. Joseph eventually agreed to leave the Wallowa Valley and along with 350 followers settled in Whitebird Creek in Idaho. Around 190 young men rebelled against this decision and attacked white settlers in what became known as the Nez Perce War. Joseph's brother, Sousouquee, was killed during this fighting. Although he had no experience as a warrior, Joseph took part in the battles at White Bird Canyon (17th June), Clearwater (11th July) and at Bear Paw Mountain (30th September).
Chief Joseph and his men began a 1,300 mile march to Canada. However, on 5th October, 1877, the Nez Perce were surrounded by troops only 30 miles from the Canadian border. Joseph now agreed to take part in negotiations with General Nelson Miles. During the meeting Joseph was seized and beaten-up. Nez Perce warriors retaliated by capturing Lieutenant Lovell Jerome. A few weeks later Joseph was released in exchange for Lieutenant Jerome.
Chief Joseph continued to negotiate with General Miles. He also visited Washington where he met President William McKinley and President Theodore Roosevelt . Eventually some members of the Nez Perce tribe were allowed to return home but others were forced to live on the Colville Reservation. Joseph remained with them and did what he could to encourage his people to go to school and to discourage gambling and drunkenness.
The final resistance to white settlement in America was led by Geronimo, the leader of the Chiricahua Apaches in Arizona. In 1876 the American government ordered the Chiricahuas from their mountain homeland to the San Carlos Reservation. Geronimo refused to go and over the next few years he led a small band of warriors that raided settlements in Arizona. Geronimo also attacked American troops in the Whetstone Mountains, Arizona, on 9th January, 1877. This was followed by a rare defeat in the Leitendorf Mountains.
Geronimo was captured when entering the Ojo Caliente Reservation in New Mexico. Geronimo was eventually released and by April 1878 he was leading war parties in Mexico. The following year Geronimo surrendered and settled on the San Carlos Reservation.
In 1878 Nathan Meeker became the Indian agent of the White River Agency. He upset the Utes by trying to force them to become farmers. In September, 1879, Meeker called in the army to deal with the Utes. When he heard what was happening, Chief Douglas and a group of warriors killed Meeker and seven other members of the agency. This became known as the Meeker Massacre. The Utes also attacked Major Thomas Thornburgh and his troops heading for the White River Agency. In the fighting Thornburgh and nine of his men were killed. After the arrival of reinforcements the Utes were evicted from Colorado and placed on a reservation in Utah.