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Cherokee Indians

by William L. Anderson and Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006; Additional research provided by John L. Bell; Revised December 2021.

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.

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.



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


Eastern Band of Cherokee Website:



My father, grandmother, great aunt and their mother, Cherokee. Passed down that we are Chapata or Chipata Cherokee and our descendants were taken off on the Trail of Tears in an ox cart. Some escaped and hid in the hills of what we call Wolf Creek in Townly Alabama. Have or do you know of the Chapata or Chipata Cherokee? The only thing close I have found is an ancient village on the Tennessee River here in Alabama know as Chapata but of unknown tribe. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.


My boyfriends father said his great great grandfather married a Cherokee Chiefs daughter. He lived in NC at the time and moved to Tennessee. They settled in a town called Loyston, their last name was Loy. It was eventually flooded by the TVA. The Cherokee Chiefs daughter has a name so long that I am going to have to have my boyfriends father record it. Do you know of any history backing this story up? If its true what percentage of Cherokee would that make my boyfriend?



I don't know any history to back it up. You could check records for the county that Loyston was in at the time and work backwards. You could content the Tennessee State Library and Archives to see if they can help.

As far as percentage, if the story is true and your boyfriends great, great, great grandmother was 100% Cherokee, then your boyfriend would be about 3%. Everyone inherits 50% of their mother and 50% of their father. If your boyfriends great, great, great grandfather married a 100% Cherokee woman, that leads to thee following break down:

  • great great great grandmother 100%
  • great great grandfather 50%
  • great grandfather 25%
  • grandfather 12.5%
  • father 6.25%
  • your boyfriend 3.125%.

Hope that helps!

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library



I loved reading all of this info on CHEROKEE TRIBE and I hope to use some of it for my project.


same bro


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


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?
Milwaukee Wisconsin


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 ( or the Museum of the Cherokee Indian ( for assistance with translating the signature. 

Molly Goldston, NC Government & Heritage Library 


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,



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