The Indian Removal Act, signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, effectively forced the exchange of land held by Native American nations in southeastern U.S. states for unsettled land west of the Mississippi River. Tens of thousands of Native Americans from the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Cherokee and Seminole tribes were forcibly expelled, although the latter tribe largely resisted, causing the Second Seminole War. More than 8,000 Native Americans died during several waves of relocations.
Prior to the Indian Removal Act, the "Five Civilized Tribes" of the southeastern United States, as they were referred to by European settlers, lived as autonomous nations on land held for centuries. Pressure from rapidly expanding U.S. territorial boundaries repeatedly caused legal and military clashes between the indigenous people and American colonists.
President Jackson sought to remedy this situation, calling for Native American removal from the southeast in his 1829 State of the Union address. This began in September 1830 when the Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, ceding their land to the U.S. government and departing. Approximately 2,000 to 4,000 Choctaws died from injuries and illness during the relocation, which was referred to as the "Trail of Tears."