The History of the Butterfly, Part 115: 1837

1837 is a pivotal year in our story.  Three really significant things happened (or continued) in this year.

In May 23, 1837, Samuel Parker returned from his missionary trip to the Indians of the West Coast of North America, by way of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).  Samuel was a Congregational Minister, and the father of Henry W. Parker, who was then almost 15.  Samuel had started his long trip when Henry was 12.  (In case you have not been following the story, the scientific description of the Poweshiek skipper butterfly, now called Oarisma poweshiek, was published by Henry Parker, although his wife Helen probably discovered it).  Samuel wrote in his journal of missing his church and civilization, particularly around the holidays, but never once wrote of missing his family.  Was it an oversight, or something he never once thought of?  Or was it something too painful to write about?  Or did he deliberately leave them out of the published book to spare them the publicity?

Minor fighting between various tribes, Sauk and Fox on one side, and Sioux on the other increased tensions and threatened to halt commerce in the region.  Because of this the American Fur Company persuaded General Street to invite the various parties to treaty negotiations in the city of Washington, starting in the fall of 1837. 

By this time, the War Department had a fairly long history of conducting treaty negotiations in Washington.  No expense would be spared, hosting Indian dignitaries in the finest hotels, and showing them the sights of the cities.  Of course, the negotiations typically ended in land deals that were adverse to the interests of the Indians.

Finally, the American policy of Indian removal was at its peak.  The Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole had been removed, for the most part, from their ancestral homes.  The Chickasaw were removed in 1837, to be followed by the Cherokee in 1838.  The Indian Removal Act of 1830, which was pushed through a mostly willing Congress by Andrew Jackson, forced the removal of 46,000 people from their homelands by 1838. 

Although the Indians living in what became Iowa were not directly affected (they already lived west of the Mississippi by 1837), that law and attitude had contributed to the events that resulted in the Black Hawk War.

The Indian Removal Act was a policy of the United States that can only be called genocide or ethnic cleansing.  Strange how it has been treated (or mostly ignored) in our history books.

Oh, yeah, the economy took a nosedive that year as well, caused by Andrew Jackson’s policies toward the banks.  People with economic problems nowadays live in their cars in the Walmart parking lot while they seek work or some kind of assistance.  People with economic problems in the 1830s and 1840s went west and settled on lands where the U.S. had recently removed those pesky Indians, or on lands that still had them.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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