Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Cherokee Indians

by William L. Anderson and Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006
Additional research provided by John L. Bell.

Part i: Overview; Part ii: Cherokee origins and first European contact; Part iii: Disease, destruction, and the loss of Cherokee land; Part iv: Revolutionary War, Cherokee defeat and additional land cessions; Part v: Trail of Tears and the creation of the Eastern Band of Cherokees; Part vi: Federal recognition and the fight for Cherokee rights; Part vii: Modern-day Cherokee life and culture; Part viii: References and additional resources

Part i: An overview

Goingback Chiltoskey carving animal figures from wood, 1967. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.Cherokee Indians once occupied an area encompassing approximately 140,000 square miles that became parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The Cherokee thrived in North Carolina well into the late eighteenth century, but as Euro-American settlers steadily moved into and near Cherokee lands, sharp conflicts arose between Cherokees and whites and between Cherokees themselves, as leaders with competing claims to speak for the tribe secured treaties and formed other agreements with white settlers that were not acknowledged by all Cherokee people. In 1838-39, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Cherokee from their lands in North Carolina, leading them on the infamous Trail of Tears to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). A small number of Cherokee people successfully resisted removal, however, by claiming North Carolina citizenship and by maintaining the right to remain on lands they owned. These people and their descendants were recognized in 1868 by the federal government as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In the early 2000s these Cherokee, living on the Qualla Boundary in the western part of the state, were the only Indian tribe in North Carolina fully recognized by the federal government. The tribe has more than 13,000 enrolled members.

 

 

Keep reading > Part ii: Cherokee origins and first European contact keep reading

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: : 

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians is self-governed and autonomous.  Governance is by tribal council.  The Principal Chief as of 2018 was Richard Sneed.  His name is the latest in the list of Cherokee leaders, his predecessors being Yonaguska, William Holland Thomas, Salonitah (or Flying Squirrel), Lloyd R. Welch, Nimrod Jarrett Smith, Stillwell Saunooke, Andy Standing Deer, Jesse Reed, Bird Saloloneeta (or Young Squirrel), John Goins Welch, Joseph A. Saunooke, David Blythe, Sampson Owl, John A. Tahquette, Jarret Blythe, Henry Bradley, Osley Bird Saunooke, Walter Jackson, Noah Powell, John A. Crowe, Robert S. Youngdeer, Jonathan L. Taylor, Gerard Parker, Joyce Dugan, Leon Jones, Michell Hicks, and Patrick Lambert.

--Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 2018.

Resources:

Eastern Band of Cherokee Website: https://ebci.com/

Comments

Comment: 

Hi my 5th great grandmother is Annis caty Jordan ive been researching for 10 years and I discovered she was rejected for no reason ive found several affidavits and have my dna to prove her case Nothing was ever done about this it’s been 100 years our family has grown And it’s bothering me to this day to know my heritage was stolen from us and was taught another history all bc of greed I’m not interested in the funds but to find our truth for my grandmother soul can rest please help our family find our truth

Comment: 

Hello!
I have a sweet small carved wooden bear, in the style of Amanda Crowe. The signature on the foot appears to be in Cherokee, but I cannot translate it. Can I send an image to someone who perhaps can?
Thanks!
Gretchen
Milwaukee Wisconsin

Comment: 

Hello Gretchen,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and submitting your inquiry! This page is an online encyclopedia article about the Cherokee Indians.

I recommend contacting the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation (https://ebci.com/) or the Museum of the Cherokee Indian (https://cherokeemuseum.com/) for assistance with translating the signature. 

Molly Goldston, NC Government & Heritage Library 

Comment: 

I am a descendant of Rueben Rogers Jr and am interested in finding our if Johnston North Carolina was a part of the Cherokee Nation East in the 1700's?
Thank you,

Comment: 

cool

Comment: 

Hello, 

No it was not. The Cherokee tribe, since European contact, has always lived in the area it is now, but back then was a much larger tribe and lived in the area where NC merged with SC, GA, and the area that become TN. In the 1700s, the Tuscarora Tribe lived partially in Johnston County and a lot of other neighboring counties and beyond.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

Hello, I love that you have this site first off. My name is Patrick and I am researching my Cherokee bloodline and think it leads back to North Carolina. My Great Great Great Grandmother Julia Lyles had a Daughter Sarah Lyles. She would be my Great Great Grandmother, and I am trying to find out more about the ancestors of the Lyles in North Carolina as this is where my Great Great Great Grandmother was born in 1833. Thank you hope I provided enough information I am not able to find anyone passed Julia Lyles. Thank you Patrick P.

Comment: 

Hello, 

I've sent your question to our reference librarians who can assist you. 

Thanks!

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

I am searching for my great great grandmother whom lived in Kentucky (Broadhead, Rockcastle Co., Ky).. She was Cherokee & birthed a son (my great grandfather), then he was adopted by white people upon her death (Suicide). We do not know her name. After some research (Dawes Roll) we can not be sure if my great grandfather ever registered. We know that his surname was Ross & he is buried in Louisville, KY. Please advise on research books, names, articles, etc. for leads on my Cherokee ancestors in KY. I‘m believed to have 1/16 Cherokee blood & want to learn more of our history/ancestry. Thank you very much for your time & help.

Comment: 

Hello, 

I'm forwarding your comment to our reference librarians who can assist you.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library 

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at https://ncpedia.org/about.