HISTORY OF THE PRINCIPAL PEOPLE
Note: Students, this is a
collective history that I have condensed from research of History books,
journals, articles and the internet. The dates and events may be verified on
historical sites. I have added several links to different history resources to
my links page. This is for general information only to be used as a guide, not a
of dates and significant events
B.C - Nomadic tribes wandered into this continent from Asia.
A.D. - First white man, De Soto of Spain, entered Cherokee country.
- First Treaty made with the Cherokees.
- Small Pox killed nearly half of the Cherokee population.
- First missionary came to the Cherokees-Christian Priber.
- Three Treaties took most of the Cherokee lands.
- Cherokee driven into the Smokies, their homes, crops, livestock, and towns
destroyed by settlers.
- Cherokees fought against the Creek Indians.
- Cherokees assisted Andrew Jackson in defeating the Creeks at Horseshoe
- Sequoyah's alphabet approved by the Cherokee chiefs.
- Led by Chief John Ross the Cherokees adopted a national constitution.
- First edition of the Cherokee Phoenix printed in both Cherokee and
- Treaty for Removal signed by a handful of Cherokees.
-The "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma caused the death of four
- Will Thomas purchased land for the Cherokees remaining in North Carolina
and held the deeds for them.
- Qualla Boundary formed and Cherokee lands secured.
- Rights of Cherokees established by North Carolina Legislature. Charter
granted and The Eastern Bank of Cherokees formed.
- By petition of the tribal council the Federal Government took the lands of
the Cherokees into trust.
History of the "Principal People" (Cherokee) goes back almost 10,000
years. It is believed that during the decline of the Ice Age and giant glaciers,
that the forefathers of the Cherokees made their way over to this continent from
They spread southward to what is now the Southeastern United States. Differing
in appearance, language and customs, they eventually called certain areas of
this continent home.
It is believed that the Cherokees and Iroquois are brother tribes, having come
from the same source. They were known for their superior height and robust
stature. The Cherokees became the mightiest Indian Empire of all the
Southeastern Tribes. Their lands compromised what is now parts of eight
THE FIRST WHITE MAN
time the first white man came into Cherokee country, there were about 25,000
Cherokees. When Hernando De Soto came to the territory in the 16th Century, in
search of gold began the long and painful march of the white man into the
In April of 1540, De Soto crossed into Cherokee country looking for gold.
The first group of Cherokee villages that the Spanish found were
abandoned. The Cherokee were aware of the treatment that neighboring tribes had
received at the hands of the Spanish. The explorers burned the villages, took
what food and supplies they could and quickly moved on to the north.
The Spanish turned west and again entered the Cherokee Lands of North Georgia
and Alabama. Along the way, they took food, supplies, anything of value
that belonged to the Cherokee. They took many slaves among the young to
carry the supplies and loot stolen from the people. They burned the villages and
towns, sometimes returning to burn them more than once.
The next reported contact with Europeans came late in 1566. By then the Spanish
had established Forts from Florida, through Georgia, and as far north as South
Carolina. After De Soto's expedition in 1540, the Spaniards begin mining and
smelting operations of gold and copper mines within the Cherokee country for
years. Some mines were reportedly still in operation as late as 1690.
The first reported contact of the Cherokee with the English colonists came in
1654. The Virginia colony became alarmed when they found a group of Cherokees
had settled at the falls of the James River. The Virginians with Indian allies
from the Pumunkey tribe attacked the Cherokees but were defeated in a bloody
battle and were forced to make peace. From that contact with the English
Settlers , explorers and traders, the tribes began to acquire firearms.
During the 1700 and the Revolutionary War, the tribes accelerated trade to
acquire the firearms for military purposes. Initially the guns were purchased
with furs and skins. Though agreements were made with the Colonists, the
Carolinas trade in Native American slaves so angered the tribes that an Indian
War was inevitable.
In 1715 the Cherokees with combined tribes from the region threatened to wipe
out the South Carolina Colony. However, the colonist were able to mass
their forces and after achieving several victories, the tribes began to sue for
peace. Peace was made with the Cherokee who were given a large quantity of guns
and ammunition in exchange for their alliance with the colonist.
DEATH WAS THE
social historian William Bartram in his report about
the Cherokee wrote;
"The Cherokees in their disposition and manner are grave and steady;
dignified and circumspect in their deportment; rather slow and reserved in
conversation; yet frank, cheerful and humane; tenacious of their liberties and
natural rights of men; secret, deliberate and determined in their
councils; honest, just and liberal, and are ready always to defend their
territory and maintain their rights".
The Cherokee were striking in appearance. They were of a copper color and proud
of it, referred to Europeans as "ugly whites," were lighter than their
Indian neighbors, the Creeks, Choctaws and Iroquois. They were lithe, tall and
About 1738, small pox, brought to Carolina by slave ships, broke out among the
Cherokee with such terrible effect that nearly half of the tribe died from the
disease within a year. Native Americans had never been exposed to many European
diseases and had no immunity to them.
James Adair, an English trader who lived among the Cherokee for
40 years, reported that the Cherokee were so proud of their physical
appearance that when they saw their disfigurement from the disease, that many
committed suicide: "Some shot themselves, others cut their throats, some
stabbed themselves with knives and other threw themselves into the fire."
The small pox epidemic was also devastating to the religious tradition. Cherokee
priests, unable to cure the people fell from favor. They felt that the tribe was
being punished for adopting the white man ways.
After that the influx of settlers pushed hard against the Cherokees. In a series
of treaties from 1684 to 1835, consistently broken, the Cherokee Empire of
enormous proportions, shrank to a small boundary in Western North
With more than a dozen broken treaties, came over 200 massacre sites, over 20
death camps, and 30 battlefields. Nearly every town was sacked and burned. Some
towns up to four different times.
Between 1751 and 1838, food and homes were burned, women were ganged raped,
and the elderly were butchered. The young and healthy were kidnapped and
sold as slaves. All were scalped for cash paid by the states. It was genocide in
the worst manner which I refer to as the Cherokee Holocaust. The most notorious is called "The Trail of Tears".
In the next few weeks I will be adding information about the Cherokee Language, food dwellings, clothing games,
government etc; please return as this will be an on going project.
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