President Martin Van Buren

President Martin Van Buren
painting by John Langendoerffer, 1838
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
Institution/Art Resource


The following statement made by U.S. President Martin Van Buren in 1837 unequivocally articulates the predominate White supremacist mentality that the First Nations peoples of the Americas have had to contend with since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492.

"No state can achieve proper culture, civilization, and progress ... as long as Indians are permitted to remain."

This is what Robert Jackson, chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, had to say about such behaviour:

ďNo regime bent on exterminating another peoples will describe their intent in so many words, since such intent is imbedded in the very operation of the system of extermination. On the contrary, the actions of the agencies of murder are enough proof of such intent, and therefore when the transporting of people into the conditions of disease and death is condoned and facilitated by a government, and when these crimes are concealed from the scrutiny of the world of the same government or other agencies, it can be safely asserted that this regime intends to annihilate the targeted people and is guilty before the world of crimes against humanity.Ē

The following are three excerpts from anual State of Union addresses by Van Buren. In them he lauds the progress being made in the forced relocation of Eastern First Nations to the interior. Proof that Canada engage in such practices, although on a smaller scale, can be found at:


Excerpted from President Martin Van Burenís first State of the Union address
Washington D.C., December 5, 1837.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

...The creation of a national foundry for cannon, to be common to the service of the Army and Navy of the United States, has been heretofore recommended, and appears to be required in order to place our ordnance on an equal footing with that of other countries and to enable that branch of the service to control the prices of those articles and graduate the supplies to the wants of the Government, as well as to regulate their quality and insure their uniformity. The same reasons induce me to recommend the erection of a manufactory of gunpowder, to be under the direction of the Ordnance Office. The establishment of a manufactory of small arms west of the Alleghany Mountains, upon the plan proposed by the Secretary of War, will contribute to extend throughout that country the improvements which exist. in establishments of a similar description in the Atlantic States, and tend to a much more economical distribution of the armament required in the western portion of our Union.

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. Unconnected at first with any well-defined system for their improvement, the inducements held out to the Indians were confined to the greater abundance of game to be found in the West; but when the beneficial effect. of their removal were made apparent a more philanthropic and enlightened ,policy was adopted in purchasing their lands east of the Mississippi. Liberal prices were given and provisions inserted in all the treaties with them for the application of the funds they received in exchange to such purposes as were best calculated to promote their present welfare and advance their future civilization. These measures have been attended thus far with the happiest results.

It will be seen by referring to the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that the most sanguine expectations of the friends and promoters of this system have been realized. The Choctaws, Cherokees, and other, tribes that first emigrated beyond the Mississippi have for the most part abandoned the hunter state and become cultivators of the soil. The improvement in their condition has been rapid, and it is believed that they are now fitted to enjoy the advantages of a simple form of government, which has been submitted to them and received their sanction; and I can not too strongly urge this subject upon the attention of Congress.

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. With all but the Menomonees it is expected that arrangements for their emigration will be completed the present year. The resistance which has been opposed to their removal by some of the tribes even after treaties had been made with them to that effect has arisen from various causes, operating differently on each of them. In most- instances they have been instigated to resistance by persons to whom the trade with them and the acquisition of their annuities were important, and in some by the personal influence of interested chiefs. These obstacles must be overcome, for the Government can not relinquish the execution of this policy without sacrificing important interests and abandoning the tribes remaining east of the Mississippi to certain destruction.

The decrease in numbers of the tribes within the limits of the States, and Territories has been most rapid. If they be removed, they can be protected from those associations and evil practices which exert so pernicious and destructive an influence over their destinies. They can be' induced to labor and to acquire property, and its acquisition will inspire them with a feeling of independence. Their minds can be cultivated, and. they can be taught the value of salutary and uniform laws and be made sensible of the blessings of free government and capable of enjoying its advantages. In the possession of property, knowledge, and a good government, free to give what direction they please to their labor, and sharers in the legislation by which their persons and the profits of their industry are to be protected and secured, they will have an ever-present conviction. of the importance of union and peace among themselves and of the preservation of amicable relations with us. The interests of the United States would also be greatly promoted by freeing the relations between the General and State Governments from what has proved a most embarrassing encumbrance by a satisfactory adjustment of conflicting titles to lands caused by the occupation of the Indians, and by causing ',,he resources of the whole country to be developed by the power of the State and General Governments and improved by the enterprise of a white population.

Intimately connected with this subject is the obligation of the Government to fulfill its treaty stipulations and to protect the Indians thus assembled "at their new residences from all interruptions and disturbances from any other tribes or nations of Indians or from any other person or persons whatsoever," and the equally solemn obligation to guard from Indian hostility its own border settlements, stretching along a line of more than 1,000 miles. To enable the Government to redeem this pledge to the Indians and to afford adequate protection to its own citizens will require the continual presence of a considerable regular force on the frontiers and the establishment of a chain of permanent posts. Examinations of the country are now making, with a view to decide on the most suitable points for the erection of fortresses and other works of defense, the results of which will be presented to you by the Secretary of War at an early day, together with a plan for the effectual protection of the friendly Indians and the permanent defense of the frontier States.

By the report of the Secretary of the Navy herewith communicated it appears that unremitted exertions have been made at the different navy-yards to carry into effect all authorized measures for the extension and employment of our naval force. The launching and preparation of the ship of the line Pennsylvania and the complete repairs of the ships of the line Ohio, Delaware, and Columbus may be noticed as forming a respectable addition to this important arm of our national defense. Our commerce and navigation have received increased aid and protection during the present year. Our squadrons in the Pacific and on the Brazilian station have been much increased, and that in the Mediterranean, although small is adequate to the present wants of our commerce in that sea. Additions have been made to our squadron on the West India station, where the large force under Commodore Dallas has been most actively and efficiently employed in protecting our commerce, in preventing the importation of slaves, and in cooperating with the officers of the Army in carrying on the war in Florida.....


Excerpted from President Martin Van Burenís second State of the Union address
Washington D.C., December 3, 1838

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

I congratulate you on the favorable circumstances in the condition of our country under which you reassemble for the performance of your official duties....

...I would again call to your notice the subjects connected with and essential to the military defenses of the country which were submitted to you at the last session, but which were not acted upon, as is supposed, for want of time. The most important of them is -the organization of the militia on the maritime and inland frontiers. This measure is deemed important, as it is believed that it will furnish an effective volunteer force in aid of the Regular Army, and may form the basis of a general system of organization for the entire militia of the United States. The erection of a national foundry and gunpowder manufactory, and one for making small arms, the latter to be situated at some point west of the Allegany Mountains, all appear to be of sufficient importance to be again urged upon your attention.

The plan proposed by the Secretary of War for the distribution of the forces of the United States in time of peace is well calculated to promote regularity and economy in the fiscal administration of the service, to preserve the discipline of the troops, and to render them available for the maintenance of the peace and tranquillity of the country. With this view, likewise, I recommend the adoption of the plan presented by that officer for the defense of the western frontier. The preservation of the lives and property of our fellow-citizens who are settled upon that border country, as well as the existence of the Indian population, which might be tempted by our want of preparation to rush on their own destruction and attack- the white settlements, all seem to require that this subject should be acted upon without delay, and the War Department authorized to place that country in a state of complete defense against any assault from the numerous and warlike tribes which are congregated on that border.

It affords me sincere pleasure to be able to apprise you of the entire removal of the Cherokee Nation of Indians to their new homes west of the Mississippi. The measures authorized by Congress at its last session, with a view to the long-standing controversy with them, have had the happiest effects. By an agreement concluded with them by the commanding general in that country, who has performed the duties assigned to him on the occasion with commendable energy and humanity, their removal has been principally under the conduct of their own chiefs, and they have emigrated without any apparent reluctance.

The successful accomplishment of this important object, the removal also of the entire Creek Nation with the exception of a small number of fugitives amongst the Seminoles in Florida, the progress already made toward a speedy completion of the removal of the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, the Pottawatamies, the Ottawas, and the Chippewas, with the extensive purchases of Indian lands during the present year, have rendered the speedy and successful result of the long-established policy of the Government upon the subject of Indian :affairs entirely certain. The occasion is therefore deemed a proper one to place this policy in such a point of view as will exonerate the Government of the United States from the undeserved reproach which has been cast upon it through several successive Administrations. That a mixed occupancy of the same territory by the white and red man is incompatible with the safety or happiness of either is a position in respect to which there has long since ceased to be room for a difference of opinion. Reason and experience have alike demonstrated its impracticability. The bitter fruits of every attempt heretofore to overcome the barriers interposed by nature have only been destruction, both physical and moral, to the Indian, dangerous conflicts of authority between the Federal and State Governments, and detriment to the individual prosperity of the citizen as well as to the general improvement of the country. The remedial policy, the principles of which were settled more than thirty years ago under the Administration of Mr. Jefferson, consists in an extinction, for a fair consideration, of the title to all the lands still occupied by the Indians within the States and Territories of the United States; their removal to a country west of the Mississippi much more extensive and better adapted to their condition than that on which they then resided; the guarantee to them by the United States of their exclusive possession of that country forever, exempt from all intrusions by white men, with ample provisions for their security against external violence and internal dissensions, and the extension to them of suitable facilities for their advancement in civilization. This has not been the policy of particular Administrations only, but of each in succession since the first attempt to carry it out under that of Mr. Monroe. All have labored for its accomplishment, only with different degrees of success. The manner of its execution has, it is true, from time to time given rise to conflicts of opinion and unjust amputations; but in respect to the wisdom and necessity of the policy itself there has not from the beginning existed a doubt in the mind of any calm, judicious, disinterested friend of the Indian race accustomed to reflection and enlightened by experience.

Occupying the double character of contractor on its own account and guardian for the parties contracted with, it was hardly to be expected that the dealings of the Federal Government with the Indian tribes would escape misrepresentation. That there occurred in the early settlement of this country, as in all others where the civilized race has succeeded to the possessions of the savage, instances of oppression and fraud on the part of the former there is too much reason to believe. No such offenses can, however, be justly charged upon this Government since it became free to pursue its own course. Its dealings with the Indian tribes have been just and friendly throughout; its efforts for their civilization constant, and directed by the best feelings of humanity; its watchfulness in protecting them from individual frauds unremitting; its forbearance under the keenest provocations, the deepest injuries, and the most flagrant outrages may challenge at least a comparison with any nation, ancient or modem, in similar circumstances; and if in future times a powerful, civilized, and happy nation of Indians shall be found to exist within the limits of this northern continent it will be owing to the consummation of that policy which has been so unjustly assailed. Only a very brief reference to facts in confirmation of this assertion can in this form be given, and you are therefore necessarily referred to the report of the Secretary of War for further details. To the Cherokees, whose case has perhaps excited the greatest share of attention and sympathy, the United States have granted in fee, with a perpetual guaranty of exclusive and peaceable possession, 13,554,135 acres of land on the west side of the Mississippi, eligibly situated, in a healthy climate, and in all respects better suited to their condition than the country they have left, in exchange for only 9,492,160 acres on the east side of the same river. The United States have in addition stipulated to pay them $5,600,000 for their interest in and improvements on the lands thus relinquished, and $1,160,000 for subsistence and other beneficial purposes, thereby putting it in their power to become one of the most wealthy and independent separate communities of the same extent in the world.

By the treaties made and ratified with the Miamies, the Chippewas, the Sioux, the Sacs and Foxes, and the Winnebagoes during the last year the Indian title to 18,458,000 acres has been extinguished. These purchases have been much more extensive than those of any previous year, and have, with other Indian expenses, borne very heavily upon the Treasury. They leave, however, but a small quantity of unbought Indian lands within the States and Territories, and the Legislature and Executive were equally sensible of the propriety of a final and more speedy extinction of Indian titles within those limits. The treaties, which were with a single exception made in pursuance of previous appropriations for defraying the expenses, have subsequently been ratified by the Senate, and received the sanction of Congress by the appropriations necessary to carry them into effect. Of the terms upon which these important negotiations were concluded I can speak- from direct knowledge, and I feel no difficulty in affirming that the interest of the Indians in the extensive territory embraced by them is to be paid for at its fair value, and that no more favorable terms have been granted to the United States than would have been reasonably expected in a negotiation with civilized men fully capable of appreciating and protecting their own rights. For the Indian title to 116,349,897 acres acquired since the 4th of March, 1829, the United States have paid $72,560,056 in permanent annuities, lands, reservations for Indians, expenses of removal and subsistence, merchandise, mechanical and agricultural establishments and implements. When the heavy expenses incurred by the United States and the circumstance that so large a portion of the entire territory will be forever unsalable are considered, and this price is compared with that for which the United States sell their own lands, no one can doubt that justice has been done to the Indians in these purchases also. Certain it is that the transactions of the Federal Government with the Indians have been uniformly characterized by a sincere and paramount desire to promote their welfare; and it must be a source of the highest gratification to every friend to justice and humanity to learn that notwithstanding the obstructions from time to time thrown in its way and the difficulties which have arisen from the peculiar and impracticable nature of the Indian character, the wise, humane, and undeviating policy of the Government in this the most difficult of all our relations, foreign or domestic, has at length been justified to the world in its near approach to a happy and certain consummation.

The condition of the tribes which occupy the country set apart for them in the West is highly prosperous, and encourages the hope of their early civilization. They have for the most part abandoned the hunter state and turned their attention to agricultural pursuits. - All those who have been established for any length of time in that fertile region maintain themselves by their own industry. There are among them traders of no inconsiderable capital, and planters exporting cotton to some extent, but the greater number are small agriculturists, living in comfort upon the produce of their farms. The recent emigrants, although they have in some instances removed reluctantly, have readily acquiesced in their unavoidable destiny. They have found at once a recompense for past sufferings and an incentive to industrious habits in the abundance and comforts around them. There is reason to believe that all these tribes are friendly in their feelings toward the United States; and it is to be hoped that the acquisition of individual wealth, the pursuits of agriculture, and habits of industry will gradually subdue their warlike propensities and incline them to maintain peace among themselves. To effect this desirable object the attention of Congress is solicited to the measures recommended by the Secretary of War for their future government and protection, as well from each other as from the hostility of the warlike tribes around them and the intrusions of the whites. The policy of the Government has given them a permanent home and guaranteed to them its peaceful and undisturbed possession. It only remains to give them a government and laws which will encourage industry and secure to them the rewards of their exertions. The importance of some form of government can not be too much insisted upon. The earliest effects will be to diminish the causes and occasions for hostilities among the tribes, to inspire an interest in the observance of laws to which they will have themselves assented, and to multiply the securities of property and the motives for self-improvement. Intimately connected with this subject is the establishment of the military defenses recommended by the Secretary of War, which have been already referred to. Without them the Government will be powerless. to redeem its pledge of protection to the emigrating Indians against the numerous warlike tribes that surround them and to provide for the safety of the frontier settlers of the bordering States.

The case of the Seminoles constitutes at present the only exception to the successful efforts of the Government to remove the Indians to the homes assigned them west of the Mississippi. Four hundred of this tribe emigrated in 1836 and 1,500 in 1837 and 1838, leaving in the country, it is supposed, about 2,000 Indians. The continued treacherous conduct of these people; the savage and unprovoked murders they have lately committed, butchering whole families of the settlers of the Territory without distinction of age or sex, and making their way into the very center and heart of the country, so that no part of it is free from their ravages; their frequent attacks on the light-houses along that dangerous coast, and the barbarity with which they have murdered the passengers and crews of such vessels as have been wrecked upon the reefs and keys which border the Gulf, leave the Government no alternative but to continue the military operations against them until they are totally expelled from Florida. There are other motives which would urge the Government to pursue this course toward the Seminoles. The United States have fulfilled in good faith all their treaty stipulations with the Indian tribes, and have in every other instance insisted upon a like performance of their obligations. To relax from this salutary rule because the Seminoles have maintained themselves so long in the territory they had relinquished, and in defiance of their frequent and solemn engagements still continue to wage a ruthless war against the United States, would not only evince a want of constancy on our part, but be of evil example in our intercourse with other tribes. Experience has shown that but little is to be gained by the march of armies through a country so intersected with inaccessible swamps and marshes, and which, from the fatal character of the climate, must be abandoned at the end of the winter. I recommend, therefore, to your attention the plan submitted by the Secretary of War in the accompanying report, for the permanent occupation of the portion of the Territory freed from the Indians and the more efficient protection of the people of Florida from their inhuman warfare.

(Note: These actions were DENOUNCED by "humanists, constitutional experts, and a SUPREME COURT ruling that Indians had the legal right to remain in Ancestral Homes", but Andrew Jackson ordered the army, under Gen. Winfield Scott to move the Indians out of Georgia." "Van Buren did not interfere with this policy" despite frequent criticism". "During the march, many Indians died of starvation, Heat-induced diseases, and over-exposure to cold..." "Forced Removal of 18,000 Cherokee, most from Georgia to Indian Territory West of Mississippi ORDERED by JACKSON, but EXECUTED by Van Buren..." Kabe)


Excerpted from President Martin Van Burenís fourth annual State of the Union Address
Washington D.C., December 5, 1840.

...The desultory duties connected with the removal of the Indians, in .which the Army has been constantly engaged on the northern and western frontiers and in Florida, have rendered it impracticable to carry into full effect the plan recommended by the Secretary for improving its discipline. In every instance where the regiments have been concentrated they have made great progress, and the best results may be anticipated from a continuance of this system. During the last season a part of the troops have been employed in removing Indians from the interior to the territory assigned them in the West-a duty which they have performed efficiently and with praiseworthy humanity-and that portion of them which has been stationed in Florida continued active operations there throughout the heats of summer.

The policy of the United States in regard to the Indians, of which a succinct account is given in my message of 1838, and of the wisdom and expediency of which I am fully satisfied, has been continued in active operation throughout the whole period of my Administration. Since the spring of 1837 more than 40,000 Indians have been removed to their new homes west of the Mississippi, and I am happy to add that all accounts concur in representing the result of this measure as eminently beneficial to that people.

The emigration of the Seminoles alone has been attended with serious difficulty and occasioned bloodshed, hostilities having been commenced by the Indians in Florida under the apprehension that they would be compelled by force to comply with their treaty stipulations. The execution of the treaty of Paynes Landing, signed in 1832, but not ratified until 1834, was postponed at the solicitation of the Indians until 1836, when they again renewed their agreement to remove peaceably to their new homes in the West. In the face of this solemn and renewed compact they broke their faith and commenced hostilities by the massacre of ,Major Dade's command, the murder of their agent, General Thompson, and other acts of cruel treachery. When this alarming and unexpected intelligence reached the seat of Government, every effort appears to have been made to reenforce General Clinch, who commanded the troops then in Florida. General Eustis was dispatched with reenforcements from Charleston, troops were called out from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, and General Scott was sent to take the command, with ample powers and ample means. At the first alarm General Gaines organized a force at -New Orleans, and without waiting for orders landed in Florida, where be delivered over the troops he had brought with him to General Scott.

Governor Call was subsequently appointed to conduct a summer campaign, and at the close of it was replaced by General Jesup. These events and changes took place under the Administration of my predecessor. Notwithstanding the exertions of the experienced officers who had command there for eighteen months, on entering upon the administration of the Government I found the Territory of Florida a prey to Indian atrocities. A strenuous effort was immediately made to bring those hostilities to a close, and the army under General Jesup was reenforced until it amounted to 10,000 men, and furnished with abundant supplies of every description. In this campaign a great number of the enemy were captured and destroyed, but the character of the contest only was changed. The Indians, having been defeated in every engagement, dispersed in small bands throughout the country and became an enterprising, formidable, and ruthless banditti. General Tavlor, who succeeded General Jesup, used his best exertions to subdue them, and was seconded in his efforts by the officers under his command; but he too failed to protect the Territory from their depredations. By an act of signal and cruel treachery they broke the truce made with them by General Macomb, who was sent from Washington for the purpose of carrying into effect the expressed wishes of Congress, and have continued their devastations ever since. General Armistead, who was in Florida when General Taylor left the army by permission, assumed the command, and after active summer operations was met by propositions for peace, and from the fortunate coincidence of the -arrival in Florida at the same period of a delegation from the Seminoles who are happily settled west of the Mississippi and are now anxious to persuade their countrymen to join them there hopes were for some time entertained that the Indians might be induced to leave the Territory without further difficulty. These hopes have proved fallacious and hostilities have been renewed throughout the whole of the Territory. That this contest has endured so long is to be attributed to causes beyond the control of the Government. Experienced generals have had the command of the troops, officers and soldiers have alike distinguished themselves for their activity, patience, and enduring courage, the army has been constantly furnished with supplies of every description, and we must look for the causes which have so long procrastinated the issue of the contest in the vast extent of the theater of hostilities, the almost insurmountable obstacles presented by the nature of the country, the climate, and the wily character of the savages....

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To read about the horrible consequences that such views visited upon American Indians Click American Indian Genocide