Voices from the past

Our 2020 audio history series, “Vintage Viewpoints,” allows you to immerse yourself in the conversations of the early 1800s. Each monthly audio posting reflects the perspective of a unique individual in their own words regarding the removal of America’s Native people groups from their ancestral lands. Narrated from primary sources, each selection is a product of the culture and time period in which it was produced. The values and motives from which some of these statements arose may seem unusual, outmoded, or even disturbing to us today. Embrace this opportunity to consider the diverse mindsets of past generations.  Understanding how everyday people wrestled with this complex and emotionally-charged issue can provide insight into the world around us and even encourage us to evaluate our own personal guiding principles today.

While an attempt is made to provide a wide selection of viewpoints in this series, logistical constraints prevent us from including every voice from the past. Please let us know if there is a viewpoint you feel we should research and present in a future posting.


Join the Conversation: This series offers an opportunity for you to join in the Facebook discussion as we together examine the selections from various angles. Comment on what stood out to you in the narration. Questions for consideration are provided with each post to encourage discussion. Facebook posts should contribute insightfully and respectfully to the conversation. Rather than agree or disagree with the speakers, use the opportunity to step into their shoes, and in your post reflect on their foundational premises and the implications of their perspectives. We appreciate your insights and will also endeavor to research and answer any history-related questions you may have in regard to the selection.  We welcome you into the conversation.

January 2020
00:00 / 03:41

Henry Knox: High Hopes, Shadows of Doubt

Excerpt from Secretary of War Henry Knox's letter to President George Washington, 1789

Facebook Discussion:

  • What characteristics did the United States' inaugural administration hope to impart to its Indian Department?

  • What assumptions about human nature and the United States' relational position to Native tribes does Henry Knox make?

  • If Knox's policies had been carried through to the letter in the subsequent century, would the course of government-Native relations be similar to or much different than how history actually unfolded?

Read the complete letter here.

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February 2020
00:00 / 05:03

John Quincy Adams: New Land, Natural Rights

Excerpt from John Quincy Adams' commemoration of the founding of the Plymouth Colony, 1802

Facebook Discussion:

  • When he claims that the Pilgrims had obtained "unequivocal" rights to their land, who does he imply to be the authority that provided these rights?

  • If this "natural rights" argument is to be taken as valid, how might this impact our assessment of the expansionist actions of nations in the late 19th and early 20th century?

  • What foundational implications are embedded in Adams' view when he implies that the Pilgrims' purchase of Native lands was simply a generous formalization of the Europeans' natural right to it?

Read the complete speech here.

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March 2020
00:00 / 04:17

John Woods: The Opposition

Excerpt from Ohio Representative John Woods’ speech to Congress, February 19, 1828

Facebook Discussion:

  • On what basis does Woods oppose this new era in the history of Indian removal?

  • While Woods decries the proposed bill as being for whites’ benefit only, how might debating the issue on a national stage obscure what the diverse interests of America’s tribes actually are?

  • What option does Woods’ solution give to tribes that wish to escape removal? What would the tribes fundamentally lose by taking advantage of his plan?

Read the complete speech here.

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April 2020
00:00 / 04:09

Ladies of Burlington, NJ: Voices from Silent Citizens

A petition of the ladies of Burlington, New Jersey, presented to Congress on February 23, 1830.

Facebook Discussion:

  • On what basis do the ladies of Burlington, NJ, claim to have a voice in this issue?

  • How similar are their arguments to those presented in our previous Vintage Viewpoints selections?

  • Do you think that their arguments would have been acceptable to the Natives they were trying to protect?

Read the complete petition here.

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May 2020
00:00 / 04:24

John Ross: Our Right of Inheritance

Excerpts from Cherokee Chief John Ross's memorial to Congress published in the Cherokee Phoenix in January 1830 on behalf of his people.

Facebook Discussion:

  • How are these arguments similar to and different from those we have heard from Euro-Americans?

  • Why would Ross have considered these arguing points to be the most effective in Congress?

  • How does Ross justify his tribe's legal right to inhabit their land? How might this compare with John Quincy Adams' opinion which we have heard previously?

Read the complete memorial here.

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June 2020
00:00 / 03:51

Andrew Jackson: Laying the Groundwork

Excerpts from President Andrew Jackson's address to Congress on December 6, 1830.

Facebook Discussion:

  • Jackson promotes the Removal Bill as the only way to avoid subjecting tribes to the laws of state governments. How might this affect the bill’s technically voluntary nature?

  • How does Jackson use the concept of philanthropy to promote his argument? How might these concepts conflict with what we have heard from the Natives, themselves, in previous viewpoints?

  • Does Jackson’s fatalistic description of a passing civilization give an indication of his commitment to entire removal, regardless of Native interests?

Read the complete address here.

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July 2020
00:00 / 03:43

Henry Storrs: A Threat to Our Honor

Excerpts from U.S. Representative Henry Storrs' speech to the House of Representatives on May 15, 1830.

Facebook Discussion:

  • Why might National honor be such a strong argument for Storrs' comrades in the House of Representatives?

  • Why might this honor and responsibility be seen as important for a young country when considering the international scene?

  • How does Storrs tie in sectional politics to make his point?

Read the complete speech here.

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August 2020
00:00 / 04:34

David Crockett: Personal Observations, Independent Vote

Excerpts from the transcription of U.S. Representative David Crockett's address to Congress in 1830.

Facebook Discussion:

  • Crockett states that he is a proponent of removal.  What, then, is his reason to vote against the Removal bill?

  • Representative Crockett fought and killed Indians during his service in the War of 1812.  Why didn’t his support of Native rights at this later point in his life constitute a contradiction in his mind?

  • Davy Crockett was voted into the U.S. House of Representatives to promote the values, desires, and interests of his home state.  On a personal level, how might you view his decision to part with his constituents’ wishes in voting against a bill he personally believed was morally deficient?

Read the complete speech here.

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Vintage Viewpoints 2020

The Historic Indian Agency House

1490 Agency House Road, Portage, WI 53901



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