Throughout the 19th century, the United States was experiencing various forms of expansion. The territorial expansion it underwent with the purchase of the Louisiana territory came at a cost of different injustices. For example, Native American communities faced displacement by force as a consequence of this expansion. They were deprived of their human rights, belittled, and dehumanized. The United States, on the other hand, was enjoying the fruits of this exploitation by acquiring western land for agricultural purposes. The United States did attempt to be diplomatic with the Indians and had policies that aimed at having peaceful relations with the Indians. However, these policies turned out to be unfulfilled promises.
The purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1803 had begun an age of westward expansion. The president of the United States during that time was Thomas Jefferson, and he believed that America should be an “empire of liberty”. Eric Foner remarks of how “Americans spoke of their nation as a “rising empire,” destined to populate and control the entire North America” (Foner 254). With the ideology of manifest destiny planted in the minds of white settlers they now asserted that God had given them a claim to the land that was home to many indigenous tribes. A tactic used by Americans were to give loans to the Indians that they could not pay back, so they would be more inclined to sell their land. Therefore, as the Americans pushed westward the Indians were faced with the option to assimilate with them or to fight for their land. This gave rise to many Indians leading a resistive effort. Most notably was the militant Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa whom would urge other Native Americans to abandon the way of the whites. They would travel from tribe to tribe warning them of how a single tribe would not be able to withstand the American forces. Tecumseh visited many tribes attempting to unite them by listing the grievances they would all soon face. Amongst the tribes Tecumseh visited were the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creek Indians. However, some tribes like the Choctaw Indians did not want any part of this unity.
Pushmataha, chief of the Choctaws, condemned Tecumseh for trying to aggravate his peaceful tribe to fight against the Americans, but his response reveals some inconsistency with his tribe’s beliefs. The Choctaw Indians believed that spiritual power for men was acquired through success in war. Greg O’Brien explains that “boys did not become men or earn a title until they participated in a successful war party.” Furthermore, he made any allegiance with Tecumseh by any Choctaw punishable by death. Despite this, Pushmataha asserted that his tribe was peaceful and “they make their way not by ravages upon their neighbor, but by honest toil.” The “honest toil” with the Americans was consistent with the treaties he made with them. Later, in response to the battle of Fort Mims on August 30, 1813, where Creek Indians killed 500 Americans, Pushmataha fought with General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians. The loyalty displayed by Pushmataha would be soon forgotten by the General.
In 1830, there were hundreds of thousands of Native Americans living within the United States border.