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Reading 2: Four Views of European American/American Indian Relations

The following excerpts reflect the attitudes of four people important in the conflicts between European American settlers moving west and the American Indians who had traditionally lived there.

Andrew Jackson to John McKee, 1794.1
(Spelling and punctuation modernized.)
I fear that their Peace Talks are only Delusions and in order to put us off our guard. Why treat with them? Does not experience teach us that Treaties answer no other purpose than opening an easy door for the Indians to pass [through to] butcher our citizens....Congress [should act] justly and punish the barbarians for murdering her innocent citizens; has not our [citizens] been prosecuted for marching to their [town] and killing some of them?...[The] Indians appear very troublesome [on the] frontier. [Settlers are] Discouraged and breaking and [num]bers [of them] leaving the Territory and moving [to] Kentucky. This country is declining [fast] and unless Congress lends us a more am[ple] protection this country will have at length [to break] or seek a protection from some other sources than the present.

Thomas Jefferson on the policy of "civilization," 1803.2
When they [American Indians] withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are extensive forests and will be willing to pare them [pieces of land] off from time to time in exchange for necessities for their farms and families. Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing of the whole country of that tribe and driving them across the Mississippi as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others and a furtherance of our final consolidation.

In 1811 Tecumseh traveled through the Southeast, attempting to gain recruits for the Pan-Indian movement. The following is an excerpt from his speech to the Cherokee.3
Everywhere our people have passed away, as the snow of the mountains melts in May. We no longer rule the forest. The game has gone like our hunting grounds. Even our lands are nearly all gone. Yes, my brothers, our campfires are few. Those that still burn we must draw together.

Behold what the white man has done to our people! Gone are the Pequot, the Narraganset, the Powhatan, the Tuscarora and the Coree.... We can no longer trust the white man. We gave him our tobacco and our maize. What happened? Now there is hardly land for us to grow these holy plants.

White men have built their castles where the Indians’ hunting grounds once were, and now they are coming into your mountain glens. Soon there will be no place for the Cherokee to hunt the deer and the bear. The tomahawk of the Shawnee is ready. Will the Cherokee raise the tomahawk? Will the Cherokee join their brothers the Shawnee?

Junaluska, Tochalee and Chuliwa were Cherokee chiefs. These were their responses to Tecumseh, 1811.4
Junaluska: It has been years, many years, since the Cherokee have drawn the tomahawk. Our braves have forgotten how to use the scalping knife. We have learned with sorrow it is better not to war against our white brothers.

We know that they have come to stay. They are like leaves in forest, they are so many. We believe we can live in peace with them. No more do they molest our lands. Our crops grow in peace....

Tochalee and Chuliwa: After years of distress we found ourselves in the power of a generous nation.... We have prospered and increased, with the knowledge and practice of agriculture and other useful arts. Our cattle fill the forests, while wild animals disappear. Our daughters clothe us from spinning wheels and looms. Our youth have acquired knowledge of letters and figures. All we want is tranquility.

Questions for Reading 2

1. Why, according to General Jackson, did American Indians negotiate treaties?

2. Who are the "other sources" Jackson said settlers would turn to if the U.S. government did not help them fight Indians?

3. How did Thomas Jefferson think the policy of "civilization" would help European American settlement?

4. What events did Tecumseh refer to in order to get the Cherokee to join him? Why?

5. What method did Tecumseh advocate to stop European American expansion?

6. What reasons did the Creek chiefs give for not joining Tecumseh?

7. How did Jackson's and Tecumseh's view of the origins of European American/American Indian conflict compare?


1Original deteriorated. This version comes from John Spencer Bassett, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, I (Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1926), 12-13.
2Moses Dawson, A Historical Narrative of the Civil and Military Service of Major General William Henry Harrison (Cincinnati, 1824), 36.
3Original lost. This version quoted in W.C. Allen, The Annals of Haywood County (Waynesville, N.C.: 1935), 44-46.
4Allen, 44-46.

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