The Indian Removal Act (1830) established U.S. policy regarding native peoples under President Andrew Jackson’s administration. It gave legal authority to the prevailing attitude that Native and American cultures couldn’t live peacefully together. This attitude was a drastic change of the lofty goals expressed by the Northwest Ordinances.
In 1833, Chicago’s population was about 500. It wasn’t incorporated, but Illinoisans were anxious to have the new state completely settled. With a signed and ratified Treaty of Chicago, the culmination of Native American settlement in Illinois would be accomplished.
On September 21, 1833, George P. Porter, Governor of the Michigan Territory; Thomas J. V. Owen, an Indian agent; Thomas Weatherford, a delegate; and the Council of Three Fires—Ottawa (Odaawaa), Chippewa (Ojibwe), Potawatomi (Bodewadmi) Native Americans—attended the signing of the treaty. About 3,000 Indians plus Chicagoans, government officials, army troops and land speculators gathered to witness the historic event at the north end of the current Rush Street Bridge. After five days of delay, the Council of Three Fires ceded the last of their land in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan to the U.S. government for $100,000. The tribes were given three years to leave the area from the Rock River in Illinois to the Grand River in Michigan.
At the ratification ceremony in 1835, 500 Native American warriors in ceremonial dress, wielding tomahawks, performed the last recorded war dance in the incorporated village of Chicago. The Native Americans moved to areas west of the Mississippi River, upper Michigan, upper Wisconsin and Canada.
In total, the treaties ratified between 1795 and 1835 ceded 35,664,034 acres to the government. The Northwest became open for settlement and grew rapidly, and the land was available for purchase from the government.
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