Early Days- In the early days, the Cherokee were separated from the other Iroquois tribes. They roamed the mountain region of the South Alleghenies in west North Carolina, northern Georgia, southwest Virginia, South Carolina, and northeast Alabama. They claimed land from the east coast to the Ohio River. The Cherokee got their name from the town of Keetowah and Choctaw which means an important Cherokee town.
Evidence that remains show that the Cherokee traveled in ancient times from present-day Texas or northern Mexico to the Great Lakes area. Wars with the Delaware tribes and the tribes of New York area pushed them southeast to the mountain regions in modern North and South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama, and Tennessee. There in 1540 a Spanish explorer named Hernando de Soto came across them. Smallpox shrunk their population to almost 11,000 in 1715.
During the British and French fight for power of colonial North America, the Cherokee commonly joined with the British, and in the American Revolution the tribe helped Great Britain. They discussed a peace treaty with the United States in 1785, but CherokeeĒs challenge lasted for a decade after that. A new treaty reconfirmed the previous one in 1791. Part of Cherokee land was surrendered to the United States, and the unending rights of the tribe to the remaining land were set up. Several thousand of the tribe traveled west of the Mississippi turn into what is now known as the Western Band, between 1790 and 1819.
The tribe began a governmental system modeled by the United States in 1820. Thanks to this system, the Cherokee were included as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. They planed a constitution and incorporated as the Cherokee Nation in 1827.
When gold was found in northwest Georgia, east Tennessee, and southwest North Carolina Georgia appealed to the U.S. government. When the appeal failed, they tried to buy the land. In revenge the Cherokee Nation passed a law unwelcoming any such sale on punishment of death. The Georgia legislature banned the Cherokee government and took away tribal lands in 1828. President Andrew Jackson rejected Cherokee appeals for federal protection. In 1832 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Georgia legislation was illegal. Federal authorities that went along with JacksonĒs policy of Native American removal ignored the decision.
Later- When the Revolutionary War came, the Cherokee did not undertake actual war against the colonists, but they sided with the English. The Cherokee adopted the white man's style of government in 1820. They thought that having this type of government would allow them to keep their lands.
Removal- The president and State of Georgia tried to get the Cherokee moved from their lands. The United States governing officials aggrevated, set fire to, burned, and robbed the Cherokee for small offenses. Some Cherokee like Chief John Ross pleaded for help, but their pleas were ignored. The Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, and lots of southern tribes were forced to Indian Territory in the west. The Cherokee resisted. They continued pleading with President Jackson along with other leaders, but without success.
Cherokee Today- Cherokees numbering over 300,000 in 1990 made them one of the largest Native American Nations in the United States today. Ten-thousand Cherokee still live in the southeastern United States today, but most of them are found in Oklahoma.