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Legal Ideology of Removal by Tim Garrison

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Essay title: Legal Ideology of Removal by Tim Garrison


The Legal Ideology of Removal; The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations. By Tim Alan Garrison. (Athens, Ga. University of Georgia Press, 2002).

In the 1830’s the myth of the west being a land of endless opportunity and freedom had

thousands of people migrating westward. This huge migration caused a demand for land.

Southerners thought that they would increase their wealth by relocating the Indians that lived in

the Southern States. Once the Indians were out of the picture the vast amounts of land they had

lived on could be bought and sold by Southerners. Most of the scholarship that you will find

relating to western migration and the removal of the Native Americans focus mainly on the

decisions of the US Supreme Court. In Tim Alan Garrison’s study, The Legal Ideology of

Removal: The Southern Judiciary and Sovereignty of Native American Nations, he uncovers the

role the southern state courts played in the Removal Crisis. He also points out how much the

southern judiciary influenced the origins of American Indian law.

Garrison does not use a chronological approach; instead, he uses a topical approach. This technique helps to clarify material that could have been very difficult to understand. With this

technique he was able to first give a brief history of this period and its problems, then later

describe each important event that helped to shape southern laws that eventually lead to the

removal of the Native Americans from the Southern States. Garrison’s use of hundreds of sources, including court cases, records from the National

Archives, records from numerous state archives, and books on tribal history, has helped him to

write a very accurate representation of this time in US history. His book is meant “to

demonstrate that ‘the law’ is not necessarily the product of the adversarial process

of competing rational arguments, but rather the consequence of social, cultural, economic, and

political forces” (p.12). Garrison even used quotes from people that were present and witnessed

the treatment of Indians during their removal.

Even though Garrison admits to having a deep sense of personal guilt because his ancestors acquired Cherokee land during one

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