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EARLY ETHNIC GROUP ISSUES

America in the days before the Civil War was a society that talked a good talk about democracy, equality, and freedom but still used the slavery of black people to make money. Immigrants who came to America's shores faced prejudice and discrimination. Meanwhile, as America grew, settlers needed more territory, and this prompted what essentially became a land grab that uprooted Native Americans and forced them from their ancestral homes, and that led to the Mexican-American War.

Liberty during this early period was too often limited to freedom for white, Protestant men. There was not as much freedom for Catholics, especially Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Germany. Nor was there freedom for blacks who lived in slavery in the South and in segregated poverty in the North. Nor was there complete freedom for women locked into bonds of domesticity. American Indians were not citizens, and Mexicans lost their land in the drive for Manifest Destiny. Freedom in America had a long way to go.

The relocation of Native Americans

A similar moral double standard affecting the "peculiar institution" also affected the land grabs from American Indians and foreign governments. What started out as 13 states grateful for their own freedom turned into a continent-wide rush for territory. See Chapters 9 and 10 for more information.

The Indian Removal Act (1830) provided federal assistance to move more than 100,000 American Indians from their ancestral homes east of the Mississippi to the specially created Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. The government was supposed to supply food and transportation help with the forced migration, but many Native Americans died on the long treks.

In the Trail of Tears (1838), 17,000 Cherokee were forced to travel 1,200 miles to Oklahoma from their homes in Georgia. More than 4,000 American Indians died in make-shift camps or on the trail itself. From the southern U.S., the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes were

also relocated. In the north, evicted tribes included the Shawnees, Ottawas, Potawatomis, Sauks, and Foxes. Chief Black Hawk led American Indians back to their homes in Illinois to fight for their land, but they were defeated by the army and state militias.

 
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