What did American Indians have to give up for pioneers?

The economic growth of the United States in the middle of the 19th century was achieved to a great degree at the expense of Native Americans. Despite giving up tens of thousands of acres through treaties, the tribes found the demand for land by settlers and speculators insatiable. Even the willingness of Native Americans to acculturate did not relieve the pressure on their land.

The Cherokee — one of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes" along with the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole — were farmers and even owned slaves. They developed a written language in which books, tribal laws, and a constitution were published, and they were ready to press the case for their sovereignty in court. Even though the Supreme Court found Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that the Cherokee were entitled to federal protection of their lands against state claims, President Andrew Jackson did not enforce the decision.

Jackson's solution to the land question was to resettle the tribes west of the Mississippi, which Congress authorized through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Within a few years, the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw had given up their lands in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi and were moved to the Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma. The Cherokee held out until 1838. Of the approximately 15,000 Cherokee who took the grueling trek from Georgia to the west, a route that became known as the Trail of Tears, a quarter died of disease and exposure.

Some tribes resisted relocation. The Sauk and Fox were easily defeated by U.S. troops and militia forces in the Black Hawk War (1832), and the Seminoles fought a guerrilla action in Florida for seven years (1835-42). In the end, however, more than 200 million acres of Indian land passed into the control of the United States.