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222 Afterword The system of removing the Indians west of the Mississippi, commenced by Mr. Jefferson in 1804, has been steadily persevered in by every succeeding President, and may be considered the settled policy of the country. Stipulations have been made with all the Indian tribes to remove them beyond the Mississippi, except with the bands of the Wyandots, the Six Nations in New York, the Menomonees, Munsees, and Stockbridges in Wisconsin, and Miamies in Indiana. —President martin van buren State of the Union Address, December 5, 1837 In the 1630s Martin van Buren’s ancestors arrived from Holland , settling and flourishing on Mahican lands in the Hudson Valley. Yet as president, Van Buren had a direct hand in the relocation of Native people from New York State and the thousands of Indians from America’s south—the ignominious Trail of Tears—following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Although the Indians of New Stockbridge were ultimately permitted to remain in Wisconsin, it was the federal and state policies that Van Buren supported and enforced while holding political office in New York and then as president that sealed their fate. Van Buren’s tenure in government, both at the state and national levels, was lengthy and his influence considerable. From 1812 to 1820 he was a member of the New York State Senate, Afterword 223 serving simultaneously from 1815 to 1819 as the state’s attorney general. He became a U.S. senator in 1821 and was reelected in 1827. Van Buren returned to the state in January 1829 for a threemonth stint as governor, but he was drawn back to Washington to be President Jackson’s secretary of state (1829–1831). Van Buren was vice president during Jackson’s last term, and with Jackson ’s encouragement and support he ran for president, holding this office from 1837 to 1841. At the end of his term Van Buren retired to Lindenwald, his estate at Kinderhook, but remained active in national politics. Although he failed in his bid to be nominated for the presidency in 1844, success came four years later. However, Van Buren’s party did not win the electoral vote. President Van Buren inherited the removal policy from the administration of Andrew Jackson, whose harsh and intolerant views of American Indians were then and are still today well known. Van Buren would ensure the policy’s seamless implementation . Moreover, it was on Van Buren’s watch that the Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1838, regarded as so rife with fraud that the Senate refused to ratify it until it was amended, was negotiated through the offices of Ransom H. Gillet, a New York democrat and former congressman Van Buren had appointed U.S. commissioner . The impact of the treaty was especially great on the Senecas in western New York, who as a result lost a large portion of their lands.1 By this time, however, the Indians of New Stockbridge , the immediate successors of the Mahicans, were no longer in their homeland, whether in the Hudson and Housatonic Valleys or, after the Revolution, in central New York. Home was now in northeastern Wisconsin, where they would begin their lives anew. ...


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