The Legacy of Indian Removal By THEDA PERDUE REMOVAL IS WHERE MOST HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS OF SOUTHERN INDIANS end, but that is where this story begins. Intended to rid the South of Indian nations with communal lands and sovereign powers, the removal policy of the 1830s fell short. Not only did individual Indians remain, but native communities also struggled over the next century and a half to carve out a place for themselves in the South." For much of that time, U.S. officials schemed to transport remnants of removed nations to Indian Territory, and in a variety of scenarios, both states and individuals sought to dispossess other Indians and dislocate their communities. The ongoing efforts to expel Indian people from the South and/or obliterate their status as Indians met with little of the highly publicized opposition that the removal of the 1830s provoked. Instead, white southerners used the expulsion of Indians in the Jacksonian era to obscure the continuing presence of native people in the South, to fuse their own lost cause to that of the Indians, and to fortify Jim Crow against the challenges that diversity among non- whites presented. As for Indians, poverty, isolation, disenfranchise- ment, intimidation, and racism compounded their terror and threatened to render them powerless, but in a struggle that coincided with the civil rights movement, some southern Indians forced a reckoning. As historians, we have incorporated Indians into narratives of colo- nization, slavery, and the expansion of the cotton kingdom, but after the Jacksonian period, we puzzle over what to do about scattered, historically disconnected Indian communities. One way of linking those communities to each other and to the broader history of the South is to ' For an overview, see Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, The Columbia Guide to American tndians of the Southeast (New York, 2001 ), chap. 7. For purposes of this essay, the South excludes Indian Territory and Oklahoma, which legally defined Indians as white. The article focuses on well-documented Indian tribes and communities in east Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Ms. PERDUE is the Atlanta Distinguished Professor of Southern Culture Emérita in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She delivered this paper on Friday, October 28,2011, as the presidential address at the seventy-seventh annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association in Baltimore, Maryland. THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY Volume LXXVIII, No. 1, February 2012
4 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY recognize that removal served to solidify a biracial South and reinforce white power long after the Trail of Tears ended. Furthermore, native resistance to dispossession and segregation helped loosen the hold of Jim Crow on the region.
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