School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic B. Emergence, Expansion and Changes in Nations and Empires

Indicator 3. Evaluate westward movement in the United States before 1877

Objective c. Analyze the impact of westward movement on relations with Native Americans, such as treaty relations, land acquisition and the policy of Indian Removal


Westward expansion had serious consequences for the U.S. government’s relations with Native Americans, who had occupied North American lands long before any European power or the United States laid claim to them. As the U.S. expanded during the nineteenth century, the government used treaties (though they were often broken), purchase, relocation, and force to gain control of lands occupied by Native Americans.

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the United States to pay Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River for their land and then to relocate them to territory west of the Mississippi. Americans wanted to remove Native Americans from the fertile lands of the Southeast so that they could farm there. The process was supposedly voluntary, but great pressure was placed on American Indians to comply. Citing a 1790 treaty with the U.S. government recognizing the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, Cherokees living in Georgia refused to give up their land. The Cherokee took their case to the Supreme Court and won, but the State of Georgia and President Andrew Jackson ignored the ruling. In 1838, federal troops forced the Cherokee to leave their homes and march to reservations in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Thousands of Cherokee died along this “Trail of Tears.”

As settlers began pouring across the Mississippi River and into the Great Plains and Southwest, they encountered more than 200 tribes of American Indians. The influx of white settlers threatened Native Americans’ way of life by reducing buffalo herds, overgrazing, and depleting timber supplies, and the U.S. government ignored Native Americans’ pleas for assistance. Although Native Americans attacked very few white settlers (in fact, whites killed more American Indians than vice versa), white fears led to the construction of a string of government forts along popular trails. The U.S. government entered into numerous treaties with tribes, but many of the agreements were later broken. Following the Civil War, hostilities between American Indians and the U.S. government erupted in frequent battles known collectively as “the Indian Wars.” On January 31, 1876, the U.S. government ordered all American Indians onto reservations, precipitating even more intense fighting.

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