500 Nations (1995) s01e06 Episode Script

Removal

Hello I'm Kevin Costner.
Welcome to "500 Nations".
No sooner had the United States come into being than its people, hungry for new land and opportunity poured west, across the Appalachian Mountains, to open up the new frontier.
But imagine the movement as the Indian people must have seen it.
This was their home where their ancestors were buried where they were raising their children.
They had already experienced the disruptions of trade: Alcohol, missionaries, disease and war.
Now their lands were at stake.
Indian people fought to preserve their freedom and in their aggressive defense, stories of frontier violence came to define them as hostiles and savages.
Armed with this distorted image, the same cycle that had dispossessed the Indian nations of the East was underway again.
We begin Part Six in the ohio River valley.
Where, in the atmosphere of frontier chaos one of the great leaders of North America would emerge with a message of hope.
His name was Tecumseh and he would try to change the course of history.
The Ohio Valley "When we passed through the country between Pittsburgh and our nations lately Shawnee and Lenape hunting grounds where we could once see nothing but deer and buffalo we found the country thickly inhabited and the people under arms.
We were compelled to make a detour of 300 miles.
We saw large numbers of white men in forts and fortifications around salt springs and buffalo grounds.
" Cornstalk, Shawnee.
In the aftermath of the American Revolution the lands of the powerful Haudenosaunee nations were shrunk to little more than reservation islands.
The front lines of the invasion moved west to the nations of the Ohio Valley: The Lenape, Shawnee, Miami and others.
Settlers flooded west many of them Revolutionary War veterans paid with land grants by the government left bankrupt from the war.
Supported by the new United States they came prepared to fight for the land.
"The people of our frontier carry on private expeditions against the Indians and kill them whenever they meet them.
And I do not believe there is a jury in all Kentucky who would punish a man for it.
" John Hamtramck, major, United States Army.
Over the next 20 years through a series of battles and dubious treaties the new United States laid claim to Indian lands on the frontier.
Vast tracts were ceded to white settlement including the future sites of Detroit Toledo, Peoria and Chicago.
"My heart is a stone heavy with sadness for my people cold with the knowledge that no treaty will keep whites out of our lands hard with the determination to resist as long as I live and breathe.
" Blue Jacket, Shawnee.
In this atmosphere of despair and frontier violence missionaries undermined the cultural and religious values of Indian communities.
Our life is who we are, our identity our language, our ceremonies our way of how we used to dress and how we related to each other.
Those are the makeup part of the makeup of our people.
And so when Christianity came about it started to change.
They were trying to make us become what we were not.
"You have got our country but are not satisfied.
You want to force your religion upon us.
The Creator has made us all.
But he has made a great difference between us.
He has given us a different complexion and different customs.
Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? We do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you.
We only want to enjoy our own.
" Red Jacket, Seneca.
But the pressure on Indian people was unrelenting.
Their land, livelihood, culture and very beliefs under attack.
Frustrated warriors traded scarce resources for alcohol.
And now reality's in your face.
You're slapped in the face with reality.
What's the best way to escape that kind of reality? During those times, our people began to take up the rum to numb their feelings.
Because that feeling, that hurt, was so strong.
"The men revel in strong drink and are very quarrelsome.
The families become frightened and move away for safety.
Now the drunken men run yelling through the village and have weapons to injure those whom they meet.
Now there are no doors in the houses for they have all been kicked off.
Now, we men full of strong drink alone track there.
" Handsome Lake, Seneca.
One young Shawnee man, Lalawethika like many demoralized young men of his generation had succumbed to alcoholism.
He was completely dependent on his older brother, Tecumseh.
Tecumseh and Lalawethika had grown up in the world of frontier violence.
Their father was killed fighting the British.
Their older brother died at the hands of Tennessee settlers.
The village of their birth had been laid waste by Kentuckians.
Now, in 1803 determined to maintain his traditions Tecumseh led Lalawethika and the people of their village west, into Indiana in an effort to put distance between themselves and white settlers.
But in Indiana, Lalawethika's drinking worsened.
He sank into a deep depression.
But his life was about to turn around.
One day, while in his home Lalawethika fell to the floor.
For a time, Tecumseh and others in the village believed he was dead.
But he was not dead.
Lalawethika had had a revelation a divine message that responded to the unbearable conditions of his people.
Suddenly and clearly, he saw a path for renewal.
Abandon the ways of the white man and return to the old teachings.
From that moment forward Lalawethika would be known as Tenskwatawa the Shawnee Prophet.
Tenskwatawa never drank again.
And he urged his followers to shun alcohol and all other ideas and things that came from white men.
"Have you not heard at evenings and sometimes in the dead of night those mournful sounds that steal through the deep valleys and along the mountainsides? These are the wailings of those spirits whose bones have been turned up by the plow of the white man and left to the mercy of the rain and wind.
" Tenskwatawa, Shawnee.
Tenskwatawa promised that if the people returned to their own ways the whites would be pushed back, and prosperity would return.
Tecumseh embraced his brother's vision of cultural renewal and together, they spread the message to every Ohio Valley nation.
Hundreds traveled to Indiana to hear them speak in person.
Shawnee, Odawa Wyandot, Kickapoo and other families converged on a new settlement established by the Prophet and Tecumseh near the intersection of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers: Prophetstown.
Tenskwatawa preached to visitors in the council house every night followed by dancing and singing.
White frontiersmen claimed to be able to hear the drums all night long.
But it would be Tecumseh who would challenge the course of history by transforming his brother's message into a political and military movement.
Using Prophetstown as his base Tecumseh would emerge the most powerful Indian leader of his time.
Tecumseh "Brothers, we are friends.
We must assist each other to bear our burdens.
The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground to satisfy the avarice of the white men.
We, ourselves, are threatened with a great evil.
Nothing will pacify them but the destruction of all the red men.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
In 1808, while the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa preached cultural renaissance at Prophetstown his brother, Tecumseh, traveled throughout the territory spreading the Prophet's message along with a political and military vision of his own.
"The whites have driven us from the sea to the lakes.
We can go no farther.
The way, the only way, to stop this evil is for us to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land as it was at first and should be now.
For it was never divided but belongs to all.
Unless every tribe unanimously combines to give a check to the ambition and avarice of the whites they will soon conquer us, apart and disunited and we will be driven away from our native country and scattered as autumnal leaves before the wind.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
Tecumseh electrified his audiences.
At one gathering, a nervous white observer reported seeing young men shaking with emotion a thousand tomahawks brandished in the air.
William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana territory recognized Tecumseh's personal power and charisma and saw the Shawnee leader as a singular threat.
"The implicit obedience and respect which the followers of Tecumseh pay to him is really astonishing.
And more than any other circumstance bespeaks him one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things.
If it were not for the vicinity of the United States he would perhaps be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory that of Mexico or Peru.
" Governor William Henry Harrison.
Prophetstown's population swelled.
But despite Tecumseh's growing influence he could not control the actions of all Indian leaders.
In 1809, at one of many treaty conferences Governor Harrison convinced leaders of the Miami Lenape and Potawatomi to sell 3 million acres of land in Indiana and Illinois.
Tecumseh was outraged considering those who signed the treaty guilty of treason.
No tribe has the right to sell a country even to each other, much less to strangers.
Sell a country.
Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the great spirit make them all for the use of his children? Tecumseh went to Harrison, and, in a volatile meeting confronted the governor face to face.
Brother, I look at the land and pity the women and children.
I am authorized to say that they want to save that piece of land.
We do not wish you to take it.
It is small enough for our purposes.
I want the present boundary line to continue.
Should you cross it I assure you it will be productive of bad consequences.
But the settlements continued to expand even onto the newly ceded lands.
Tecumseh was convinced that only force would stop the American advance.
To build a military resistance he continued to travel tirelessly among the nations of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley while Harrison kept a nervous eye on his movements.
No difficulties deter him.
For four years, he has been in constant motion.
You see him today on the Wabash, and in a short time you hear of him on the shores of Lake Erie or Michigan or the banks of the Mississippi, and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purpose.
In 1811, Tecumseh traveled south in an effort to bring the powerful Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek into the alliance.
There, in village after village he argued that Indian nations stood at the brink of disaster.
Where today are the powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man as snow before the summer sun.
Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without making an effort worthy of our race? Shall we, without a struggle give up our homes, our lands the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will say with me, "Never.
Never!" But Tecumseh's passion and presence alone could not overcome a growing cultural rift.
Many Southern Indian leaders were encouraging their nations to emulate mainstream white society.
Others saw military conflict with the U.
S.
As suicide.
Although Tecumseh found passionate supporters everywhere his hope that Southern nations would join in a unified resistance was not to be.
In January of 1812 Tecumseh returned to Indiana to find Prophetstown destroyed its people dispersed.
Governor Harrison had waited until Tecumseh the military leader of the movement, had departed for the South before moving on Prophetstown.
But Tenskwatawa, with a much smaller force attacked the Americans before they reached the town allowing the residents to evacuate.
The following day, Harrison entered the deserted town on the Tippecanoe River and burned it to the ground.
Although his army suffered twice the casualties of the Indian force Harrison claimed a victory that would eventually propel him to the presidency.
Despite the loss of Prophetstown Tecumseh and the Prophet began immediately to rebuild their movement.
Then the War of 1812 broke out between the British and United States.
Suddenly, there was a new opportunity to push back the Americans through an alliance with the British.
The two brothers moved north to Canada with 1000 men.
There, they were joined by allies from throughout the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.
After years of tireless effort Tecumseh's unified resistance was now a reality.
The British and Indian force laid siege to the fort at Detroit quickly forcing its surrender.
American forts fell at Mackinac and Dearborn.
In January of 1813, Tecumseh and his allies forced the surrender of the Americans at Frenchtown.
Tecumseh hoped to push the campaign into the Ohio Valley but the following May, British and Indian forces suffered their first defeat.
Then, during the summer the war began to turn against them and Tecumseh could see the British will failing.
He confronted the British commander, General Proctor.
You always told us that you would never draw your foot off British ground.
But now we see you are drawing back.
We are very much astonished to see you tying up everything and preparing to run away without letting us know what your intentions are.
Without informing their Indian allies the British made plans to abandon Detroit as a large American force approached.
At the head of the American Army rode the man who destroyed Prophetstown Governor William Henry Harrison.
Tecumseh demanded that General Proctor make a stand.
"Listen we wish to remain here and fight our enemy.
You have got the arms and ammunition.
If you have an idea of going away, give them to us and you may go and welcome.
As for us, our lives are in the hands of the Creator.
We are determined to defend our lands and if it be his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
Faced with Harrison's 3000-man army Tecumseh was forced to fall back with the British 80 miles.
They halted their retreat along the Thames River.
There, Tecumseh would make his stand.
On October 5th, 1813 the Shawnee leader rallied his men as he inspected the lines from horseback.
He urged General Proctor to do the same.
Tell your men to be firm, and all will be well! Tecumseh dismounted and joined his troops at their position in a swampy thicket.
The night before, he had had a premonition about the battle.
And in it, he had foreseen his death.
Tecumseh removed the scarlet British military jacket he always wore and dressed in traditional Shawnee clothes.
He handed his sword to a trusted friend and instructed him to give it to his son when he grew up and to tell him what his father stood for.
In midafternoon, Harrison's cavalry charged.
The British lines immediately collapsed and ran with the British general on horseback passing his own troops as they fled.
Tecumseh did not run.
And neither did his men.
From a nearby hillside the Shawnee Prophet watched as the Americans charged his brother's position.
Tecumseh received a gunshot wound to the chest and fell.
Thirty minutes later, the battle was over.
For the Ohio Valley nations the eventual British defeat in the War of 1812 would simply underscore the tragic loss of Tecumseh.
In the years before the war, he had traveled the Indian roads stretching in every direction from Prophetstown.
In every village, his warning had been the same: "The Americans will not stop until they have taken all our land.
" Tecumseh had seen the future.
The American Southeast: Southern Removal "While strong it has been our obvious policy to weaken them.
Now that they are weak and harmless and most of their lands fallen into our hands they must be taught to improve their condition.
" William Clark, superintendent of Indian Affairs.
For decades, federal agents and Christian missionaries had pressured Indian nations to abandon their traditions and assimilate into white society.
The policy, promoted by Thomas Jefferson and others after him advocated intermarriage, religious conversion and financial incentives to turn Indian people into Americanized farmers.
In the South, U.
S.
Policy was succeeding.
Traditionals had been eliminated as a serious military threat and American culture was spreading.
The large Southern nations the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole came to be known as the "Five Civilized Tribes.
" To the Americans, the most civilized of these were the Cherokee.
We call ourselves Aniyunwiya which is translated into "the Principal People.
" When the Creator made the world he created these beautiful mountains here in the Smokies.
And he needed someone to live here someone who would take care of what he'd made and what he gave to us so he chose the Cherokee people.
The ancient Cherokee nation flourished in and around the great Smoky Mountains building their capital of Echota in the foothills southwest of present-day Knoxville, Tennessee.
Echota was a peace town, where no one could be harmed.
But with each passing generation there were fewer and fewer who clung to the traditional Cherokee-life way.
Many Cherokee became successful modeling themselves after their American neighbors living in two-story houses on plantations, raising European crops owning slaves and educating their children in American schools.
In 1817, a new national council formed with wealthy landowner John Ross as its principal elected chief.
The centuries-old clan-based government was replaced with a republican state modeled after the American system.
Echota, the venerated Cherokee peace town was replaced as seat of government by New Echota in Georgia.
In 1821, a man named Sequoya completed an alphabet that committed the Cherokee language to writing.
Soon they had their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.
But despite Cherokee efforts to coexist and United States government policies to bring Indian nations into the American way it was a relationship marred by racism and greed.
In the middle of a booming slave economy built around cotton demand for land was growing and the Southern Indian nations still controlled vast areas.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson, like William Henry Harrison used his reputation as an Indian fighter to propel himself to the presidency.
Greed, usually is a thing that makes people do things they wouldn't do otherwise.
Gold was discovered down in Georgia.
Hundreds of miners illegally swarmed across the Cherokee border to lay claim to the vein.
The Cherokee turned to the United States for protection.
But President Jackson, himself a land speculator removed federal troops from the area, telling Georgia officials: "Build a fire under the Cherokee.
When it gets hot enough, they'll move.
" The greed of the white man grew and the first thing that came into his mind was: "We must obtain this land at any cost.
" And that idea of the removal started there.
For the Indian people who believed their salvation lay in emulating American society the most bitter betrayal came on May 28th, 1830.
Under Jackson's advocacy the Indian Removal Act was passed.
Nations east of the Mississippi were to give up their homelands forever and move to a special Indian territory in Oklahoma.
"The Americans said, 'The land shall be yours forever.
' Now they say: 'The land you live on is not yours.
Go beyond the Mississippi.
There is game.
There you may remain while the grass grows and the water runs.
' Brothers will not our Great Father come there also?" Speckled Snake, Creek.
At New Echota Cherokee leaders felt deeply betrayed.
Principal Chief John Ross and wealthy Cherokee landholder Major Ridge both had fought alongside President Jackson in a war against traditional factions of the Creek nation.
Meeting in violation of Georgia state law the Cherokee Council vehemently opposed removal and reminded the nation of their law that carried the death penalty for anyone who sold Cherokee lands without authorization.
"Even if report was favorable as to the fertility of the soil in Indian territory if the running streams were as transparent as crystal and the silver fish abounded we should still adhere to the purpose of spending the remnant of our lives on the soil that gave us birth.
" Cherokee Council.
Indian protests fell on deaf ears.
The Choctaw were the first made to bend.
"Painful in the extreme is the mandate of our expulsion.
I ask you in the name of justice for a repose for myself and my injured people.
Let us alone.
We will not harm you.
We want rest.
We hope, in the name of justice that another outrage may never be committed against us and that we may, for the future not be driven about as beasts who benefit from a change of pasture.
We go forth, sorrowful, knowing that wrong has been done.
" George Harkin, Choctaw.
Between 1831 and 1832 13,000 Choctaw made the long and difficult trek to the West.
Two thousand were to die along the way.
"My voice is weak.
You can scarcely hear me.
It is not the shout of a warrior but the wail of an infant.
I have lost it in mourning over the misfortunes of my people.
Their tears came in the raindrops and their voices in the wailing winds.
Our land was taken away.
" Colonel Webb, Choctaw.
The Creek were next.
In the spring of 1836 the American Army forced them to surrender all their land.
One-third of the Creek died on the journey west.
The way I feel is there is a wound in our hearts.
And that was a wound in our ancestors' heart.
And that wound will never be healed.
And I feel like that whatever they do for us will never pay up.
"Last night I saw the sun set for the last time and its light shine upon the treetops and the land and the water that I am never to look upon again.
" Menewa, Creek.
The Cherookee Every year, from 1830 to 1838 Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross visited Washington attempting to forestall removal.
"We have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation.
Treated like dogs our lives, our liberties, the sport of the white man.
Our country and the graves of our fathers torn from us in cruel succession until we find ourselves fugitives, vagrants and strangers in our own country.
" John Ross, Cherokee.
Ross wrote hundreds of letters.
He met several times with President Jackson, with whom he had served in war.
He petitioned Congress and brought two lawsuits before the U.
S.
Supreme Court.
"We are not ignorant of our condition.
We are not insensible to our sufferings.
We feel them.
We groan under their pressure and anticipation crowds our breasts with sorrow yet to come.
" John Ross, Cherokee.
Ross did win one victory when the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee were a sovereign nation and not subject to Georgia's jurisdiction.
But President Jackson disregarded the ruling and belittled the power of the Supreme Court by challenging the chief justice to enforce the law himself.
Georgia held lotteries for Cherokee lands.
State troops forced people from their houses.
Cherokee government buildings at New Echota were sold off along with the residence of Principal Chief John Ross.
Cherokee leader Major Ridge also lost his plantation.
He now became convinced of the futility and peril of resistance.
I know the Indians have an older title than the United States.
We obtained the land from the living God above.
They got their title from the British.
Yet they are strong and we are weak.
Major Ridge, as I understand it he advocated for a good period of time that no more Cherokee lands would be sold or ceded under penalty of death.
And then later, he wound up doing the same darn thing.
As a matter of fact, worse.
Ridge traveled to Washington without the authorization of the Cherokee Council.
There, he met with federal officials.
Ridge privately negotiated a treaty ceding Cherokee lands for $5 million new land in the Oklahoma-Indian territory, and removal assistance.
We had been a country for 500 years before they were and we were on an equal status.
And every time we had a treaty from then on we got a little less status, and they got a little more land.
Ridge returned home to convince the national council to accept the treaty terms.
I would willingly die to preserve the graves of our fathers but any forcible effort to keep them will cost us our lands our lives and the lives of our children.
There is but one path of safety one road to future existence as a nation.
That path is open before you.
Make a treaty of cession.
Give up these lands and go over beyond the great Father of Waters.
The national council rejected the treaty.
But Ridge, with no legal authority to represent the Cherokee nation met secretly with U.
S.
Officials.
Defying the council's death sentence for the selling of Cherokee lands Ridge, his son, and others signed the removal treaty.
On May 17th, 1836 the U.
S.
Senate ratified the treaty by a single vote.
The Cherokee nation was given two years to move west.
In that time, Ridge and 2000 Cherokee emigrated to Oklahoma while the vast majority of the nation ignored the illegal treaty and remained on their lands.
In late spring of 1838 as the deadline for removal passed General Winfield Scott arrived in Georgia with 7000 soldiers.
His orders were to remove the Cherokee by any means necessary.
"Think of this, my Cherokee brethren: I am an old warrior and have been present at many a scene of slaughter.
But spare me, I beseech you the horror of witnessing the destruction of the Cherokees.
Do not even wait for the close approach of the troops.
" General Winfield Scott.
Thousands of Cherokee were rounded up at bayonet-point unable to carry with them anything but the most necessary belongings then held in stockades to await removal.
My great-great-grandmother, when they came to take them away they drove them out of the house didn't even let the kids get their shoes or anything.
They were setting down at dinner and they got outside and they were kind of roughing her around and my great-great-grandfather kind of fought back.
They throwed him in chains and took him off one way took her and the children off another way.
Conditions inside stockades were terrible and many died.
"We have been made prisoners by your men but we do not fight against you.
We have never done you any harm.
We are Indians.
We have hearts that feel.
We do not want to die.
We are in trouble, sir.
Our hearts are very heavy.
Very heavy.
We cannot make talk.
" Cherokee Council.
Sixteen thousand Cherokee were removed from their homeland.
Principal Chief John Ross left with his family on the last convoy.
His wife, along with one-quarter of the nation would die on the forced exodus that would be known as the "Trail of Tears.
" The non-lndian people who came here did not view the Cherokee people as human beings which made it easy to dishonor and desecrate these people.
People sometimes say I look like I never smile.
Most of the time, I keep thinking of the old nation and wonder how the big mountain now looks in springtime and how the boys and young men used to swim in the big river.
And then there comes before me the picture of the march.
Maybe someday we will understand why the Cherokees had to suffer.
While the body of the nation was forced west several hundred Cherokee evaded Scott's men and retreated to the deep recesses of the Smoky Mountains.
The Army, ineffective at locating the free Cherokee was recalled from the mountains.
As the troops were withdrawing one cavalry detachment stumbled upon a small camp of 12 free Cherokee.
Among them was an older man Tsali, his wife, brother and sons.
When the Cherokee refused to submit to the soldiers Tsali's wife was jabbed with a bayonet, and a struggle ensued.
Two soldiers were killed.
Tsali and his family fled deeper into the Smoky Mountains.
But U.
S.
Soldiers had died and now General Scott would have to make the Cherokee pay at any cost.
With winter approaching, Scott delivered an ultimatum to Tsali: "Surrender, or 7000 soldiers would be unleashed on the free Cherokee until the last of their nation was captured or killed.
" Tsali made a fateful decision.
He offered to surrender, if Scott would let the rest of the Cherokee resistance remain in their Smoky Mountain homeland.
Scott agreed, and Tsali surrendered along with his family.
Tsali approaches and offers the gun holding both ends with each hand.
General Scott takes the gun and they are to be martyred.
They were taken to a place at the mouth of the Tuckaseigee River.
There, Tsali, his brother, and his two oldest sons would be executed by firing squad.
Tied to a tree, awaiting death Tsali had a last request of a friend.
U'tsala there is one favor I wish to ask at your hands.
You know I have a little boy who was lost among the mountains.
I want you to find that boy if he is not dead and tell him the last words of his father were that he must never go beyond the Mississippi but die in the land of his birth.
It is sweet to die in one's native land and be buried by the margins of one's native stream.
On November 25th, 1838 Tsali died for the freedom of the Eastern Cherokee people.
And when he died he was a victor.
He accomplished the thing which was uppermost in his mind that his people might go free.
Seven months later, in the new Oklahoma-Indian territory Major Ridge, his son and nephew who had all signed the removal treaty were assassinated for selling the Cherokee homelands.
Our next program moves west to the Great Plains and the famous horse culture that has come to define the first nations of this continent throughout the world.
Join us when 500 Nations returns with "Struggle for the West.
" Feel free to translate this to your language and place your name here as translator.