- The Permanent Frontier was land reserved through the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which created land earmarked for the native Indians and guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the natives and their property.
- The white settlers’ greed and the rapid westward expansion undermined the permanency of the land reserved through the Indian Removal Act.
The Indian Removal
The bloody confrontation between the white settlers and the Plains Indians necessitated a government policy to address the problem. The government thought that the Indians were the cause of the problem and enacted the Indian Removal Act of 1830 as a Permanent Indian Frontier. The Act assented by President Jackson forcibly moved about 50,000 Native Indians from the eastern states to the west of the Mississippi River.
The policy prohibited encroachment by the whites into the new Indian reservation and guaranteed total non-interference of their affairs by even the government itself. Over 70 treaties outlining the government support and protection in their migration accompanied the plan. The federal government labelled the land in the frontier as the Great American Desert, believing no one would want to own property in the area. The U.S Army was mandated to patrol the border to ensure law enforcement. The Trade and Intercourse Acts (1790 – 1834)
These were a series of laws from 1790 to 1834, which significantly reduced the sovereignty of the natives by limiting tribal laws to the people and not the territory. The rules also regulated the relationship between the natives and non-natives.
The Indian Removal Act only provided for the removal of the Indians to a general reserve area, but there were no provisions for the exact locations and methods to be used in the relocation. The Intercourse Act 1834 was specifically drawn up to remedy the problem, stating that the Indians were to transfer to “that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri, Louisiana, or the Territory of Arkansas.”
Noting the diverse nature of the Indian’s tribes cultures, the government promised that they would have a representative in Congress. This promise was never honoured. The Indian Tribe resisted the removal, and the provisions of the Intercourse Act and the government resorted to removing them by force to the Indian Territory. The forced relocation and match to the land reserve marked the “Trail of Tears.” About 4,000 of the 15,000 Indians who were forcibly removed from Georgia died along the way.
The policies also outlined the penalties for crimes committed against the natives by settlers. They also prohibited the trespass by the settlers on to the reserves for grazing, hunting or any other reason. These small wins were short-lived.
Reserved Land Lost
By 1834 there was encroachment into the frontier fuelled by the greedy appetite for land by the white settlers. The second factor that contributed to the invasion of the PIF was the acquisition of new territories by the U.S., including Oregon, Texas, and California. The expansion of the U.S Territory meant that the government had to encourage settlements in the newly acquired areas. The frontier was effectively now sandwiched in between States, and it became necessary to review the policies.
Indian Appropriations Act
The federal government then passed the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851. The Act was a manifestation of exhaustion felt by the U.S government and settlers in recognizing the natives as Independent nations within the United States. It declared null all past treaties entered into by the government and the Natives., Among the objectives of the Act was to ensure the Natives Indians were unable to practice their cultural activities, such as their nomadic way of life and they would be forced to act as the settlers did, which the government considered the appropriate American way of life.
The Act enabled the government to pay the Indians to move out of the reserve area and free up more land for the white settlers. It also achieved segregation between the Indians and settlers. Further, by significantly reducing the property available for the Indians, the natives were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle.
Noting that the government had offered protection to the Natives during the migration, as the Indians began arriving in the settlement areas, the whites in Missouri and Arkansas demanded protection from the Indians. A succession of Forts from North and South along the frontier sprung up, but before then there was no consensus among the army officials on the permanency or size of the forts. Col. Zachary Taylor preferred provisional posts while Gen. Winfield Scott preferred a few critical posts and the Sec of War John Bell wanted several small forts. The men reached a compromise by building a mix of small and large forts, built and controlled by the army, with Fort Jesup in Louisiana and Snelling in Minnesota and Fort Scott as central points.
The Indian Appropriation Act mostly realised its objectives. The natives were unable to continue with their cultural practices and way of life and were forced to learn the Euro-America farming practices and subsist like the whites. There were battles in resistance to having to conform to the white way of life until the 1890s when the Permanent Frontier essentially dissolved.