these relations. In the second decade of the nineteenth century, even as the relative balance of power shifted and Choctaws became weaker than the ever-strengthening Americans, the Choctaws believed that their relationship with the Americans would continue unchanged. Since all were part of a non-hierarchical system in the Choctaw worldview, each group would continue to recognize and act upon the bonds of kinship, even though their relative power or strength might change. However, the American government conceptualized its relationship with the Choctaw within a hierarchical framework based on relative power. To Americans, it was natural for Choctaws to assume an inferior role. All their dealings with the Choctaws reflect an arrogance founded on their unquestioning belief in their own cultural superiority. Prior to 1800, and perhaps in the first decade of that century, the United States recognized the strength and military prowess of the Choctaws and sought to engage in a diplomatic relationship between equals. In the next two decades, however, Choctaw power declined precipitously, relative to that of the American nation. As a result, Americans began to view their relations with the Choctaws as one of superior to inferior--in both the military and political sense. Having always had a persistent belief in their unquestionable moral and cultural superiority, Americans married the changing relationship of power to their philosophical belief in their inherent superiority,
9/17/09 9:32 AM Full text Page 3 of 9 creating a monster that consumed the lands and lives of thousands of Native people without compunction. The 1820s saw the rise of Andrew Jackson to national prominence. He was extremely popular in the backwoods areas of the American South, where he consistently called for the expulsion of the resident Native nations. The momentum of expansionism escalated exponentially during this decade, as whites poured into the western reaches of the American South hungering for cheap land, and the constituents of American politicians demanded the expulsion, by force if necessary, of the Indians occupying lands they coveted. Whites began invading and squatting on Choctaw soil. The Choctaws thought that surely their "Father" in Washington would evict these interlopers, as promised in the treaties. The reciprocal relationships long recognized between the Choctaws and the American government demanded this much. The Choctaws were confident, because of their traditional expectations of the behavior of allies and friends, that the American government would stem the incursions into their lands, and would guarantee, as promised, their continued sovereignty and territorial integrity. Despite Jackson's long personal history with the Choctaws, however, he now formed the core of those calling for their dispossession and exile. This betrayal was met with disbelief and shock. As a traditional people, the Choctaws found the pace of events and the sudden shift in American policy from assimilation to dispossession incomprehensible. Even the most biculturally adapted
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