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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 reference. 

 

                           Outline of dates and significant events

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10-8000 B.C - Nomadic tribes wandered into this continent from Asia.

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1540 A.D. - First white man, De Soto of Spain, entered Cherokee country.

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1684 - First Treaty made with the Cherokees.

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1738 - Small Pox killed nearly half of the Cherokee population.

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1743 - First missionary came to the Cherokees-Christian Priber.

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1773 - Three Treaties took most of the Cherokee lands.

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1776 - Cherokee driven into the Smokies, their homes, crops, livestock, and towns destroyed by settlers.

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1812 - Cherokees fought against the Creek Indians.

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1814 - Cherokees assisted Andrew Jackson in defeating the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend.

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1821 - Sequoyah's alphabet approved by the Cherokee chiefs.

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1827 - Led by Chief John Ross the Cherokees adopted a national constitution.

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1828 - First edition of the Cherokee Phoenix printed in both Cherokee and English.

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1835 - Treaty for Removal signed by a handful of Cherokees.

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1838-39 -The "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma caused the death of four thousand Cherokees.

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1843-61 - Will Thomas purchased land for the Cherokees remaining in North Carolina and held the deeds for them.

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1876 - Qualla Boundary formed and Cherokee lands secured.

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1889 - Rights of Cherokees established by North Carolina Legislature. Charter granted and The Eastern Bank of Cherokees formed.

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1924 - By petition of the tribal council the Federal Government took the lands of the Cherokees into trust. 

The 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 Asia.
 
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 states. 



THE FIRST WHITE MAN

At the 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 Cherokees' world.

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 INHERITANCE 

Naturalist and 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 erect.

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 Carolina. 

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". 

                                  History-Continued                                     


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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