The Cherokee Nations
In the 1700s
Cherokees emerged from the Mississippian collapse as a powerful and populous nation controlling a vast southeastern territory.
By the early 1700s, their homeland included portions of four present-day states and their hunting lands extended across four more. Approximately 9,500 Cherokees lived in fifty-nine independent towns and villages. In each settlement, women took responsibility for raising corn and other crops on large common fields. Men were the hunters and warriors, ranging far from home for game, captives, and honor. Towns were centers of governance, religious ceremony, and community celebration.
Linked to one another by heritage, kinship, and language, Cherokee called themselves Ani-yunwiya, the Real People.
Under the terms of the New Echota Treaty, Cherokees had two years to move west. However, they believed that chief John Ross would overturn the treaty and so made no provision to leave. In May 1838 approximately seven thousand troops established camps in the Cherokee Nation. By June, virtually all Cherokees had been evicted from their homes to holding stockades or trails to Indian Territory. In accord with the treaty, they were to be compensated for belongings left behind, provisioned during the journey, and subsidized for a year after arrival. No one – the federal government, the removal troops, nor the Cherokees – was prepared for the amount of illness, suffering, and death that accompanied the sojourners. Between four and eight thousand died as a result of the removal. Like the Creeks, Cherokees carried embers from town fires with them, a sign of cultural survival.
A year after the removal, a group of unidentified men fulfilled the Cherokee law prohibiting land cessions and executed The Ridge; his son, John; and his nephew Elias Boudinot. No charges were ever brought.--Courtesy Atlanta History Center, Native Lands Exhibition