The Cherokee vs. The Police State
In the early 1830s, the Cherokee nation, located in Appalachia, was pressured by the U.S. government to evacuate their land after gold was discovered on their territory. John Marshall’s Supreme Court ruled in 1831 that the Cherokee were not a sovereign nation and could not hold title to the land on which they lived (despite having lived there for many generations). The U.S. government, only in existence for less than fifty years at the time, conveniently ruled that the Cherokee did not have constitutional protections and could not control their own territory any longer. President Andrew Jackson led the charge to remove and displace the Cherokee and their counterpart tribes that called the region their home.
“John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it! Build a fire under them. When it gets hot enough, they’ll go.” ~ Andrew Jackson
Despite the efforts of Cherokee Chief John Ross and other Cherokee members, the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their land in 1838 on what we know today as the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Cherokee individuals were taken from their homes, without even having time to get their possessions, and marched, surrounded by U.S. soldiers, to concentration camps or “stockades” in Tennessee. The Cherokee were held in these stockades for several months, during which many individuals died of cold, starvation, and disease. Those who survived the stockades were then forced by the U.S. government to march to Oklahoma reservations. It’s estimated that up to a third of the 13,000 Cherokee population died in the Tennessee stockades and march to Oklahoma.
John Ross desperately pleaded for his people and their basic human and legal rights. The Cherokee felt the full brunt of the police state in the 1830s: they were swept from their homes, marched to concentration camps, and then forced to walk hundreds of miles to their new “home” courtesy of the U.S. government. Government is forceful by nature, and the Cherokee learned this harsh fact early on in the U.S. government’s existence.
In Washington D.C., John Ross expressed these words to the U.S. government in 1836 in a final effort to resist the U.S. government which was so desperately trying to displace the Cherokee people.
“By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own.” ~ John Ross; September 28, 1836