What Was the Indian Removal Act?

The Indian Removal Act authorized the President of the United States to resettle Indian tribes who lived east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the Mississippi. Although the resettlement was ostensibly voluntary, the act resulted in war with the Seminole tribe and to the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

Some Indian nations did sign voluntary treaties. The Choctaw, for example, signed the first treaty negotiated under the terms of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek gave the Choctaws land, payment and other benefits from the U.S. government.

Other removals did not go so peaceably. For example, when a minority faction of Cherokee political leaders signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, the majority of the Cherokee did not feel bound to leave according to its terms. The U.S. government enforced the treaty, leading to the Cherokee nation's great suffering on the Trail of Tears.