In tribal lands of the Cherokee Nation spannedacres throughout 14 counties in northeastern Oklahoma. Although it is not a reservation, the U. In the early twenty-first century most Cherokee live in northeastern Oklahoma, North Carolinaand Tennessee.
In there were an estimated fifty thousand Cherokee. From the mids to the s there were about twenty-five thousand. In a the U. Census,people identified themselves as Cherokee. In the census that dropped to , but the Chrerokee kept their status as the largest tribe in the United States.
Many people also claim some Cherokee blood;people said they have a Cherokee ancestor. Many historians believe that the very early ancestors of the Cherokee moved from territory that is now Mexico and Texas to the Great Lakes region.
Then between three thousand and four thousand years ago, after enduring conflicts with the Iroquois and the Delaware tribes, the Cherokee moved again—this time to the southeastern part of the present-day United States. Their traditional enemy was the Chickasaw tribe.
In the early s there were three major tribal groups and more than fifty other organizations in at least twelve states that claimed to have Cherokee origins. Before the arrival of Europeans in their territory in the Cherokee were an agricultural people ing about 50, who controlled 40, square milessquare kilometers of land. Over the years the tribe lost many of its people to wars and to diseases brought by white settlers.
White people coined this term because these groups had formed institutions that white culture valued, such as constitutional governments and school systems. This, however, did not help them when settlers wanted their land.
During the nineteenth century the U. They formed a new government and school systems in Indian Territorybut the U. In spite of these tragedies the Cherokees went on to become the largest Native American group in the United States and to enjoy a high standard of living. The Cherokee people were actually a confederacy consisting of as many as two hundred separate towns nestled in the river valleys of the southern Appalachian Mountains. The people in these towns shared a common language and customs, but each town had its own chief, and there was no overall chief or government for the confederacy.
The Cherokee had been farming in the southern Appalachian region for one thousand years when they first encountered Europeans inas Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto c.
After that the Cherokee had very little contact with outsiders until the s, when white traders moved into the region. The tribe traded with them for manufactured goods such as metal tools, glass, cloth, and firearms. In exchange they supplied the whites with deerskins, which became an important source of leather in Europe. This partnership changed the Cherokee culture. The people no longer farmed and hunted for survival. Instead they engaged in buying and selling, and hunters replaced priests as the leaders of Cherokee society.
For generations the tribe had shown great respect for nature, but eighteenth-century Cherokee hunter-traders killed as many deer as they could to keep up with the booming fur trade. One report shows that the of deerskins the Cherokee sold in a year increased from fifty thousand in to around one million in Further changes took place when white traders built stores near Cherokee towns and married Cherokee women.
Instead of remaining with their people, women often went to live with their white husbands.
Traditional Cherokee people did not accumulate possessions, but the children of these couples inherited personal wealth. In the peace treaties that followed each of these wars, they lost large portions of their lands. Between and several groups of Cherokee moved westward in an attempt to hold their culture together against the threat of increasing s of white settlers.
By this group had five thousand members. But the majority of the Cherokee people stayed in their southeastern homeland.
Terrible smallpox epidemics raged in the mids, killing nearly half the Cherokee population. A series of treaties between and resulted in the loss of even more Cherokee land. Christian missionaries ed with government forces to make the Cherokee assimilate to, or adopt, white culture.
Many Cherokee had already turned away from traditional ways in the hopes that the government would let them stay in their homelands.
Two conflicting factions arose within the Cherokee nation. One was called the Treaty Party.
Its members, who were mostly well-to-do slave-holders, merchants, and plantation-owners, believed in assimilation. They thought the Cherokee should sell their homelands in Georgia to the U. Resistance, they warned, would be a disaster for the Cherokee.
They created a law under which selling or bargaining away Cherokee land was an offense against the tribe punishable by death. His system used a syllabary—a writing code using symbols for syllables rather than for single letter sounds as in the English alphabet. Many Cherokee quickly learned to read and write in the Cherokee syllabary.
From to the Cherokee Phoenix, a weekly newspaper printed in both English and Cherokee, was published and widely read. In the early s the Cherokee established a capital in New Echota, Georgia.
They wrote a constitution for a government in that was, in many ways, similar to the U. They wished to establish their own government and the right to preserve their homelands in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. The Georgia legislature, however, passed a series of laws that abolished the Cherokee government and appropriated took for itself Cherokee land. When the state of Georgia tried to remove the Cherokee from their lands, the Cherokee took the case to the U.
Supreme Court. They based their case on a clause in the Constitution that allows foreign nations to seek redress compensation or remedy in the Supreme Court for damages caused by U. The court ruled that Native American nations are not foreign nations but dependent, domestic nations.
Up until that time, U. Although the Cherokee lost this case, in a case in the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia could not remove the Cherokee from their land, stating that only the federal government had the right to regulate Native American affairs; states could not extend their laws over Native American governments. But this Cherokee victory was temporary.
During the s the U. In the U. Indian Territory at the time was comprised of what are now Oklahoma, Kansas, and parts of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Supreme Court that the Removal Act went against the terms of the U. Instead he made plans to enforce the Removal Act. Angry Cherokee leaders refused to talk with government agents about an exchange of their land for land in Indian Territory.
The majority of the Cherokee people were outraged at the ing of such a treaty.
The Treaty Party was a small group with neither the authority nor the right to represent the entire tribe. In response Chief Ross and sixteen thousand tribal members ed a petition of protest against the treaty.
The U. Senate passed the treaty anyway, however, and ordered the tribe to move west within two years. Most of the Cherokee refused to leave voluntarily.
Seven thousand government troops removed the Cherokee from their homes, gathered them in disease-infested camps, and then forced them to travel about miles 1, kilometersmany on foot, for three to five months to reach what was to be their new homeland. The Native Americans set off on their journey without food, supplies, or shelter.
Once on the trail whites attacked them and stole the few possessions they managed to carry along. About 17, Cherokees began the tragic march, and before it was over about 2, of them had died.
Some were left unburied at the side of the road. The route of the forced march—a painful reminder of an agonizing experience in Native American history—was later named the Trail of Tears. In North Carolina about one thousand Cherokee escaped removal with the help of state officials who were sympathetic to them.
One North Carolinian, William H. Thomas called Wil-Usdi by the Cherokeebought land in his name for the Cherokee, went to court in their defense, and even visited Washington, D. Once they moved into Indian Territory, conflicts among the Cherokee were initially intense.
As the Cherokee groups settled into their new home, a new leadership—sometimes called the National Party —arose and worked to establish an effective form of government. The National Party invited the full participation of the two other Cherokee groups already living in Indian Territory: the Treaty Party and the Old Settlers, the group of Cherokee who had moved to Arkansas from North Carolina in the early s, hoping to settle there permanently. In whites had forced them to move farther west to Indian Territory, where they set up their community according to their old ways.
The Old Settlers resented the arrival of the newcomers, and the three Cherokee groups could not reach any agreement. Several years of violent conflicts came to an end with a ceremonial day of unity induring which the Cherokee people dedicated themselves to making the best of their circumstances. They did this to avoid being divided into two tribes by the U. ZIP: 51012