HISTORY

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory

Norton. Mar. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780393609844. $26.95. HIST
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Saunt (American history, Univ. of Georgia) takes a hard, clear look at the ways Natives were dispossessed of their land in the decade after the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. White administrators, legislators, and missionaries couched the deportation of 80,000 Indigenous peoples from Eastern states to territory west of the Mississippi as a so-called humanitarian effort, arguing that Natives would be better off separate from whites. In reality, to coerce them to leave, white Southerners, using laws and terrorism, deliberately dispossessed Natives of real and personal property—and their lives. Expulsion and extermination were prompted by Southerners’ desires to expand cotton production and slavery into valuable Native farmland, but, Saunt contends, Southern white supremacist attitudes, secessionist threats, and northern investors’ avaricious interests in land speculation were fundamental. Abysmally inadequate funding and planning, combined with Natives’ refusal to leave, resulted in inexcusable loss of lives (and money) when Natives were forcefully moved west. For Saunt, this unprecedented and disgraceful state-sponsored mass deportation was not inevitable—a myth upheld by white Americans—and it resulted in a westward-moving militarized line and shameful legacy with enduring issues, yet unaddressed.
VERDICT This valuable addition to the scholarship of Native American dispossession and extermination should be read by scholars and general readers alike.

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