What would our world look like today without the American Destiny expansion dream of our nation’s early leaders was a perpetual question I asked myself during this reading of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, As Long as the Grass Grows or Water Runs. Although I know that Indigenous people suffered extensively and incomprehensibly at the hands of the Western immigrants and conquerors, Andrew Jackson’s time period, in particular, seems like an extremely disturbing aspect of American history that is almost unaccounted for in history textbooks nation-wide.
Although expansion started with Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, Jackson fueled the idea that the people of the United States have the right to expand into areas like Florida, Canada, and farther west because they are biologically superior and more advanced. Jefferson pushed into Native American culture more subtly by allowing people to move into known Native land with the facade of helping them adjust to the progressing capitalist economy and giving them the option to move elsewhere. This competition lifestyle is completely different from the communal lifestyle typical of most tribes that had worked for the past 15,000 to 20,000 years. Andrew Jackson conquered, stomped, and killed as many Native American lives and connections to cultures as possible, with his highlight being the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and conquest of parts of Florida. Jackson had more overt goals compared to Jefferson and wanted to remove Native Americans completely. In almost every situation, tribes were betrayed by either a promise, a treaty, a company, a leader, or a government in an effort to force simulation of “typical American life” or to make money. Why is this truth of American history not discussed in our textbooks? Does this silence connect to the pro-white, hero bias historians have to further American nationalism, or is there another motive? What can we change about how the legacy of Andrew Jackson is taught in order to include more information about the different native tribes and their struggle/resistance from the 1800s to the present day?
Jackson’s senseless and constant use of force in interactions changed the country’s perception of Native Americans and stained their possible future by instilling many false stereotypes/myths and integrating incorrect judgments. Although there has been some legislation to raise Indigenous people up in society and government, these laws have had minimal effects until the 1990s and early 2000s. Many tribes were not even recognized until two years ago, which means that there is still a distinct separation of human rights applied to Native American people. For blacks in America, the perception of equality (as Blacks at the time were still not legally or socially equal) in America began when aspects of Black culture began becoming popular in “pop-culture”. Even though the idea behind this can be slightly problematic as one culture is definitely not defined by its effect on another and are equally valid and acceptable, integration creates normalization. At what point in our future could parts of Native American culture like music, casual dress (not cultural dress), or ideas, be integrated into mainstream culture? Would more Native American pieces in pop-culture help change federal laws to aid their advancement in society? Personally, I think it would definitely help and would bring more attention to the voices of Indigenous people. At what point could we see an end of Jackson’s enforced ideas about Native Americans in the 19th century in the 21st century?