Cherokee Nation ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ
Southeastern U.S. and Indian territories, including Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw; 1806
|Status||Autonomous region of the United States.|
|Government||Autonomous tribal government|
|Historical era||Post-colonial to early 20th century|
• Created with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse
|7 November 1794 1794|
• New Echota officially designated capital city
|12 November 1825|
|29 December 1835|
• Cherokee Trail of Tears
• Tahlequah becomes new official capital
|6 September 1839|
• Officially disbanded by US Federal Government
|16 November 1907 1907|
|Today part of|
The Cherokee Nation (ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ, pronounced Tsalagihi Ayeli) from 1794–1907 was a legal, autonomous, tribal government in North America recognized from 1794 to 1907. Often referred to simply as "The Nation" by its inhabitants, it should not be confused with what is known in the 21st century also as the Cherokee Nation.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
The Cherokee Nation, also known as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is the largest of three Cherokee federally recognized tribes in the United States. It was established in the 20th century and includes people descended from members of the Old Cherokee Nation who relocated from the Southeast due to increasing pressure to Indian Territory and Cherokee who were forced to relocate on the Trail of Tears. The tribe also includes descendants of Cherokee Freedmen and Natchez Nation. Over 299,862 people are enrolled in the Cherokee Nation, with 189,228 living within the state of Oklahoma. According to Larry Echo Hawk, former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the current Cherokee Nation is not the historical Cherokee tribe but instead a "successor in interest".
It consisted of the Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ —pronounced Tsalagi or Cha-la-gee) people of the Qualla Boundary and the southeastern United States;those who relocated voluntarily from the southeastern United States to the Indian Territory (circa 1820 —known as the "Old Settlers"); those who were forced by the Federal government of the United States to relocate (through the Indian Removal Act) by way of the Trail of Tears (1830s); Cherokee Freedmen (freed slaves); as well as many descendants of the Natchez, the Delaware and the Shawnee peoples.
The Qualla Boundary or The Qualla is territory held as a land trust for the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who reside in western North Carolina. The area is part of the Cherokees' historic territory. As a trust, the land is technically not a "reservation" per se, as the land was not "reserved" by the federal government; it was purchased by the tribe in the 1870s and subsequently placed under federal protection. Individuals can buy, own, and sell the land, provided they are enrolled members of the Tribe of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
The Southeastern United States is broadly, the eastern portion of the Southern United States, and the southern portion of the Eastern United States. It comprises at least a core of states on the lower Atlantic seaboard and eastern Gulf Coast. Expansively, it includes everything south of the Mason-Dixon line, the Ohio River and the 36°30' parallel, and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. There is no official U.S. government definition of the region, though various agencies and departments use different definitions.
As general terms, Indian Territory, the Indian Territories, or Indian country describe an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land. In general, the tribes ceded land they occupied in exchange for land grants in 1803. The concept of an Indian Territory was an outcome of the 18th- and 19th-century policy of Indian removal. After the Civil War (1861–1865), the policy of the government was one of assimilation.
The Cherokee called themselves the Ani-Yun' wiya. In their language this meant "leading" or "principal" people. Before 1794, the Cherokee had no standing national government. The people dwelled in "towns" located in scattered autonomous tribal areas related by kinship throughout the southern Appalachia region. Various leaders were periodically appointed (by mutual consent of the towns) to represent the tribes to French, British and, later, American authorities as was needed. The title this leader carried among the Cherokee was "First Beloved Man"—being the true translation of the title Uku, which the English translated as "chief". The chief's function was to serve as focal point for negotiations with the encroaching Europeans, such as the case of Hanging Maw, who was recognized as chief by the United States government, but not by the majority of Cherokee peoples.
Cherokee is an endangered Iroquoian language and the native language of the Cherokee people. There are approximately 22,000 Cherokee speakers out of more than 300,000 tribal members. It is the only Southern Iroquoian language and differs significantly from the other Iroquoian languages. Cherokee is a polysynthetic language and uses a unique syllabary writing system.
Appalachia is a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, the cultural region of Appalachia typically refers only to the central and southern portions of the range, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, southwesterly to the Great Smoky Mountains. As of the 2010 United States Census, the region was home to approximately 25 million people.
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom.
At the end of the Cherokee–American wars (1794), Little Turkey was recognized as "Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation" by all the towns. At that time, Cherokee tribes could be found in lands nominally under the jurisdiction of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Overhill area that was to become part of the state of Tennessee. The break-away Chickamauga band (or Lower Cherokee), under chief Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugunsini, 1738–1792), had retreated to and now inhabited an area that would be the northern area of the future state of Alabama.
The Cherokee–American wars, also known as the Chickamauga Wars, were a series of back-and-forth raids, campaigns, ambushes, minor skirmishes, and several full-scale frontier battles in the Old Southwest from 1776 to 1795 between the Cherokee and American settlers on the frontier. Most of the events took place in the Upper South. While the fighting stretched across the entire period, there were times of little or no action, at times spanning several months.
Little Turkey (1758–1801) was First Beloved Man of the Cherokee people, becoming, in 1794, the first Principal Chief of the original Cherokee Nation.
Georgia is a state in the Southeastern United States. It began as a British colony in 1733, the last and southernmost of the original Thirteen Colonies to be established. Named after King George II of Great Britain, the Province of Georgia covered the area from South Carolina south to Spanish Florida and west to French Louisiana at the Mississippi River. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788. In 1802–1804, western Georgia was split to the Mississippi Territory, which later split to form Alabama with part of former West Florida in 1819. Georgia declared its secession from the Union on January 19, 1861, and was one of the original seven Confederate states. It was the last state to be restored to the Union, on July 15, 1870. Georgia is the 24th largest and the 8th most populous of the 50 United States. From 2007 to 2008, 14 of Georgia's counties ranked among the nation's 100 fastest-growing, second only to Texas. Georgia is known as the Peach State and the Empire State of the South. Atlanta, the state's capital and most populous city, has been named a global city. Atlanta's metropolitan area contains about 55% of the population of the entire state.
U.S. president George Washington sought to " civilize " the southeastern American Indians, through programs overseen by US Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins. Facilitated by the destruction of many Indian towns during the American Revolutionary War, U.S. land agents convinced many Native Americans to abandon their historic communal-land tenure and settle on isolated farmsteads. Over-harvesting by the deerskin trade had brought white-tailed deer in the region to the brink of extinction; therefore, pig and cattle raising were introduced, becoming the principal sources of meat. The tribes were supplied with spinning wheels and cotton-seed, and men were taught to fence and plow the land (in contrast with their traditional division of labor in which most cultivation for farming was considered woman's work). Women were instructed in weaving. Eventually, blacksmiths, gristmills and cotton plantations (along with slave labor) were established.
George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who also served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. He led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War of Independence, and he presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the new federal government. He has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.
The cultural assimilation of Native Americans was an assimilation effort by the United States to transform Native American culture to European–American culture between the years of 1790 and 1920. George Washington and Henry Knox were first to propose, in an American context, the cultural transformation of Native Americans. They formulated a policy to encourage the civilizing process. With increased waves of immigration from Europe, there was growing public support for education to encourage a standard set of cultural values and practices to be held in common by the majority of citizens. Education was viewed as the primary method in the acculturation process for minorities.
Benjamin Hawkins was an American planter, statesman, and U.S. Indian agent. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a United States Senator from North Carolina, having grown up among the planter elite. Appointed by George Washington as General Superintendent for Indian Affairs (1796–1818), he had responsibility for the Native American tribes south of the Ohio River, and was principal Indian agent to the Creek Indians.
Succeeding Little Turkey as Principal Chief were Black Fox (1801–1811) and Pathkiller (1811–1827), both former warriors of Dragging Canoe. "The separation", a phrase which the Cherokee used to describe the period after 1776 when the Chickamauga had removed themselves from the other tribes which were in close proximity to the Anglo-American settlements, officially ended at the reunification council of 1809.
Pathkiller, was a Cherokee warrior, town chief, and Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. He also served as a colonel under Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee militia during the Creek War.
Three important Cherokee–American wars veterans of the time, James Vann (a successful Scots-Cherokee businessman) and his two protégés, The Ridge (also called Ganundalegi or "Major" Ridge) and Charles R. Hicks, made up the 'Cherokee Triumvirate' —advocating acculturation of the people, formal education of the young, and the introduction of modern farming methods. In 1801 they invited Moravian missionaries to their territory from North Carolina to teach Christianity and the 'arts of civilized life.' The Moravian, and later Congregationalist, missionaries ran boarding schools, with a select few students chosen to be educated at the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions school in Connecticut.
These men continued to be leaders in the tribe. Hicks participated in the Red Stick War, which coincided with part of US involvement in the War of 1812. He was the de facto Principal Chief from 1813–1827.
In 1802, the U.S. federal government promised to extinguish Native American titles to internal Georgia lands in return for the state's formal cession of its unincorporated western claim (which was made part of the Mississippi Territory). In 1815, the US government established a Cherokee Reservation in the Arkansaw district of the Missouri Territory and tried to convince the Cherokee to move there voluntarily. The reservation boundaries extended from north of the Arkansas River to the southern bank of the White River. The Cherokee who moved to this reservation became known as the "Old Settlers".
Additional treaties signed with the U.S., in 1817 and 1819, exchanged remaining Cherokee lands in Georgia (north of the Hiwassee River) for lands in the Arkansaw Territory west of the Mississippi River. A majority of the remaining Cherokee resisted these treaties and refused to leave their lands east of the Mississippi. Finally, in 1830, the United States Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act to bolster the treaties and forcibly free up title to the sought over state lands. At this time, one-third of the remaining Native Americans left voluntarily, especially because now the act was being enforced by government troops and the Georgia militia.
Most of the settlements were established in the area around the western capital of Tahlontiskee (near present-day Gore, Oklahoma).
The Cherokee Nation—East had first created electoral districts in 1817. By 1822, the Cherokee Supreme Court was founded. Lastly, the Cherokee Nation adopted a written constitution in 1827 creating a government with three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The Principal Chief was elected by the National Council, which was the legislature of the Nation. A similar constitution was adopted by the Cherokee Nation—West in 1833.
The Constitution of the reunited Cherokee Nation was ratified at Tahlequah, Oklahoma on September 6, 1839, at the conclusion of "The Removal". The signing is commemorated every Labor Day weekend with the celebration of the Cherokee National Holiday.
Founded in 1838, Tahlequah was developed as the new capital of a united Cherokee Nation. (It was named after the historic Great Tellico —an important Cherokee town and cultural center in present-day Tennessee that was one of the largest Cherokee towns ever established. The mostly European-American settlement of Tellico Plains developed later at that site.
After moving to Indian Territory, the Cherokee Nation was divided into nine districts for administrative purposes. Those were named:
The Cherokee National Capitol Building was constructed from 1867 to 1869.The brick building was designed by architect C. W. Goodlander in the 'late Italianate' style, which was unusual for Oklahoma. Originally it housed the nation's court as well as other offices. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Indications of Cherokee and Native American influence are easily found in and about Tahlequah. For instance, street signs appear in the Cherokee language—in the syllabary alphabet created by Sequoyah (ca. 1767–1843)—as well as in English.
The Trans-Mississippi area, which included the Cherokee Nation–West, hosted numerous skirmishes and seven officially recognized battles involving Native American units either allied with the Confederate States of America or loyal to the United States government.
Several prominent members of the Cherokee Nation made contributions during the war: William Penn Adair (1830–1880), a Cherokee senator and diplomat, was a Confederate colonel; Nimrod Jarrett Smith, Tsaladihi (1837–1893), a future Principal Chief of the Eastern Band, also served during the war; and hold-out Confederate Brig. General Stand Watie (also known as Degataga, (1806–1871), a signer of the Treaty of New Echota) raided Union positions in the Indian Territory with his 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles Regiment of the Army of Trans-Mississippi well after the Confederacy had abandoned the area. He became the last Confederate general to surrender—on June 25, 1865.
The main body of the Cherokee people had sided with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. After the war, the United States negotiated a peace treaty with them, requiring them to emancipate their slaves and to offer them citizenship and territory within the reservation if the freedmen chose to stay with the tribe. The area also became part of the reconstruction of the former Confederate States overseen by military and appointed governors.
President Benjamin Harrison September 19, 1890, stopped the leasing of land in the Cherokee Outlet to cattlemen. The lease income had supported the Cherokee Nation in its efforts to prevent further encroachments on tribal lands.
From 1898–1906, beginning with the Curtis Act of 1898, the US federal government set about the dismantling of the Cherokee Nation's governmental and civic institutions, in preparation for the incorporation of the Indian Territory into the new state of Oklahoma. In response, the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes sought to gain approval for a new State of Sequoyah in 1905 that would have a Native American constitution and government. The proposal received a cool reception in Congress and failed. The tribal government of the Cherokee Nation was dissolved in 1906. After this, the structure and function of the tribal government were not formally defined. The federal government occasionally designated chiefs of a provisional "Cherokee Nation", but usually just long enough to sign treaties.
As the shortcomings of the arrangement became increasingly evident to the Cherokee, a demand arose for the formation of a more permanent and accountable tribal government. New administrations at the federal level also recognized this issue, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration gained passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, encouraging tribes to re-establish governments and supporting more self-determination. The Cherokee convened a general convention on 8 August 1938 in Fairfield, Oklahoma, to elect a new Chief, and reconstitute a modern, Cherokee Nation, to be a "successor in interest" to the historic Cherokee Nation.
The Nation was made up of scattered peoples mostly living in the Cherokee Nation–West and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (both residing in the Indian Territory by the 1840s), and the Cherokee Nation–East (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians); these became the three federally recognized tribes of Cherokee in the 20th century.
In 1866, some Delaware (Lenape) were relocated to the Cherokee Nation from Kansas, where they had been sent in the 1830s. Assigned to the northeast area of the Indian Territory, they united with the Cherokee Nation in 1867. The Delaware Tribes operated autonomously within the lands of the Cherokee Nation.
The Natchez are a Native American people who originally lived in the Natchez Bluffs area. The present-day city of Natchez, Mississippi developed in their former territory. By the mid-eighteenth century, the Natchez people were defeated by French colonists and dispersed from there. Many survivors had been sold (by the French) into slavery in the West Indies. Others took refuge with allied tribes, one of which was the Cherokee.
Known as the Loyal Shawnee or Cherokee Shawnee, one band of Shawnee people relocated to Indian Territory with the Seneca people (Iroquois) in July 1831. The term "Loyal" came from their serving in the Union army during the American Civil War. European Americans encroached and settled on their lands after the war.
In 1869, the Cherokee Nation and Loyal Shawnee agreed that 722 of the Shawnee would be granted Cherokee citizenship. They settled in Craig and Rogers counties.
The Anishinaabe-speaking Swan Creek and Black River Chippewa bands were removed from southeast Michigan to Kansas in 1839. After Kansas became a state and the Civil War ended, European-American settlers pushed out the Native Americans. Like the Delaware, the two Chippewa bands were relocated to the Cherokee Nation in 1866. They were so few in number that they eventually merged with the Cherokee.
The Cherokee Freedmen were former African American slaves who had been owned by citizens of the Cherokee Nation during the Antebellum Period. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that granted citizenship to all freedmen in the Confederate States, including those held by the Cherokee. In reaching peace with the Cherokee — who had sided with the Confederacy — the U.S. government required that they free their slaves and offer full Cherokee citizenship to those who wanted to stay with the nation. The freedmen were first guaranteed Cherokee citizenship under a treaty with the United States following the Civil War (1866).
This list of historic people includes only documented Cherokee living in, or born into, the original Cherokee Nation who are not mentioned in the main article:
The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Native Americans in the United States from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States, to areas to the west that had been designated as Indian Territory. The forced relocations were carried out by government authorities following the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The relocated peoples suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their new designated reserve, and many died before reaching their destinations. The forced removals included members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, as well as their African slaves. The phrase "Trail of Tears" originates from a description of the removal of many Native American tribes, including the infamous Cherokee Nation relocation in 1838.
Tahlequah is a city in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, United States located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It is part of the Green Country region of Oklahoma and was established as a capital of the 19th-century Cherokee Nation in 1839, as part of the new settlement in Indian Territory after the Cherokee Native Americans were forced west from the American Southeast on the Trail of Tears.
The term "Five Civilized Tribes" derives from the colonial and early federal period in the history of the United States. It refers to five Native American nations—the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole. These are the first five tribes that Anglo-European settlers generally considered to be "civilized". Examples of colonial attributes adopted by these five tribes include Christianity, centralized governments, literacy, market participation, written constitutions, intermarriage with white Americans, and plantation slavery practices. The Five Civilized Tribes tended to maintain stable political relations with the Europeans.
Sequoyah (c.1770—1843), was an American and Cherokee silversmith. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was one of the very few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.
Stand Watie — also known as Standhope Uwatie, Tawkertawker, and Isaac S. Watie — was a leader of the Cherokee Nation, and the only Native American to attain a general's rank in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the Confederate Indian cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, made up mostly of Cherokee, Muskogee and Seminole, and was the final Confederate general in the field to cease hostilities at war's end.
The Shawnee are an Algonquian-speaking ethnic group indigenous to North America. In colonial times they were a semi-migratory Native American nation, primarily inhabiting areas of the Ohio Valley, extending from what became Ohio and Kentucky eastward to West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Western Maryland; south to Alabama and South Carolina; and westward to Indiana, and Illinois.
The American Dawes Commission, named for its first chairman Henry L. Dawes, was authorized under a rider to an Indian Office appropriation bill, March 3, 1893. Its purpose was to convince the Five Civilized Tribes to agree to cede tribal title of Indian lands, and adopt the policy of dividing tribal lands into individual allotments that was enacted for other tribes as the Dawes Act of 1887. In November 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed Dawes as chairman, and Meridith H. Kidd and Archibald S. McKennon as members.
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma is a federally recognized tribe of Cherokee Native Americans headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. According to the UKB website, its members are mostly descendants of "Old Settlers" or "Western Cherokee," the Cherokee who migrated to present-day Arkansas and Oklahoma about 1817. Some reports estimate that Old Settlers began migrating west by 1800. This was before the forced relocation of Cherokee from the Southeast in the late 1830s under the Indian Removal Act. Although politically the UKB is not associated with the Trail of Tears, many of the membership have direct ancestors that completed the harrowing journey in 1838/1839.
The Cherokee Phoenix was the first newspaper published by Native Americans in the United States and the first published in a Native American language. The first issue was published in English and Cherokee on February 21, 1828, in New Echota, capital of the Cherokee Nation. The paper continued until 1834. The Cherokee Phoenix was revived in the 20th century, and today it publishes both print and Internet versions.
Jesse Bartley Milam (1884–1949) was best known as the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation appointed by a U.S. President since tribal government had been dissolved before Oklahoma Statehood in 1907. He was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, who reappointed him in 1942 and 1943; he was reappointed by President Harry S. Truman in 1948. He died while in office in 1949.
The Cherokee Freedmen Controversy was a political and tribal dispute between the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen regarding the issue of tribal membership. The controversy had resulted in several legal proceedings between the two parties from the late 20th century to August 2017.
Dennis Wolf Bushyhead was a leader in the Cherokee Nation after they had removed to Indian Territory. Born into the Wolf Clan, he was elected as Principal Chief, serving two terms, from 1879 to 1887.
This timeline (present) events in the history of the Cherokee Nation, from its earliest appearance in historical records to modern court cases in the United States. Some basic content about the removal of other southeastern tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River is included. In a series of treaties, these tribes ceded land to the United States.
The American Civil War saw Native American individuals, bands, tribes, and nations participate in numerous skirmishes and battles. Native Americans served in both the Union and Confederate military during the American Civil War. They were found in the Eastern, Western, and Trans-Mississippi Theaters. At the outbreak of the war, for example, the majority of the Cherokees sided with the Union, but soon after allied with the Confederacy. Native Americans fought knowing they might jeopardize their sovereignty, unique cultures, and ancestral lands if they ended up on the losing side of the Civil War. 28,693 Native Americans served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, participating in battles such as Pea Ridge, Second Manassas, Antietam, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and in Federal assaults on Petersburg.
The Cherokee people of the southeastern United States, and later Oklahoma and surrounding areas, have a long military history. Since European contact, Cherokee military activity has been documented in European records. Cherokee tribes and bands had a number of conflicts during the 18th century with European colonizing forces, primarily the English. The Eastern Band and Cherokees from the Indian Territory fought in the American Civil War, with bands allying with the Union or the Confederacy. Because many Cherokees allied with the Confederacy, the United States government required a new treaty with the nation after the war. Cherokees have also served in the United States military during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Cherokee history is the written and oral lore, traditions, and historical record maintained by the living Cherokee people and their ancestors. The Cherokee people are those currently enrolled in one of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, The Cherokee Nation, and The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, who live predominantly in North Carolina and Oklahoma. The Cherokee people have extensive written records, including detailed genealogical records, preserved in the Cherokee language, the Cherokee syllabary, and in the English language.
On the eve of the American Civil War in 1861, a significant number of Indigenous peoples of the Americas had been relocated from the Southeastern United States to Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi. The inhabitants of the eastern part of the Indian Territory, the Five Civilized Tribes, were suzerain nations with established tribal governments, well established cultures, and legal systems that allowed for slavery. Before European Contact these tribes were generally matriarchial societies, with agriculture being the primary economic pursuit. The bulk of the tribes lived in towns with planned streets, residential and public areas. The people were ruled by complex hereditary chiefdoms of varying size and complexity with high levels of military organization.