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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.

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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

Update from N.C. Government & Heritage Library staff: 

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: 

My 4th great grandfather James David Small b. abt 1781 in Guilford County, NC. Family lore said he was common law married to a Cherokee woman and had 5 children. In 1824 he remarries in Rockingham County, NC. Could you give me some ideas if it is possibly to find any records about his first wife?

Comment: 

Hello,
Iam looking for any or all info on my 3 rd great grand mother Mary Polly Murphy from Georgia she had three children by Whiplash son of Bell and Rachel Rattler in Cherokee NC . She is on the censuses several times ! Her sons were David Murphy , Martin Murphy, and Jessie Murphy she had other children as well but I descend from David Murphy and am on the rolls at Eastern Band of Cherokees ! We just can’t seem to find the real identity to Her ! Her parents !
Please help
Thank you
Deb

Comment: 

I am looking for information on my Cherokee heritage, Most of them were in the Ashe, NC area. I am part of the Hart, Sizemore family. I am looking for any information you may have about Chief Bear Hart (aka William Jackson) and the James Hart/ Catherine Sizemore Marriage. Thank You so much!!

Comment: 

Tom, I am a part of that family as well. Chief Bear Hart is my 8th great grandfather & I’m trying to find info. Let’s work together! Look me up on ancestry as rebeccajmead64.

Comment: 

Dear Tom,

Thank you for visiting this article and for taking time to share your heritage and question. I have forwarded your question to Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library. A librarian will contact you shortly to help you with this.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan

Comment: 

I have always been told that my great grandmother (mother's side of the family) was a Cherokee indian. My grandmother was born in Buncombe county, NC. Some of the surnames in my mother's side of the family include Tweed, Hensley and Franklin. It has been very difficult to confirm any of this information. Do you have any suggestions in trying to verify whether my great grandmother and great great grandmother were Cherokee indians? I have done DNA testing through Ancestry and Family Tree DNA with no native american ancestry identified. But, this would be likely considering the number of generations that have passed since my birth.

Comment: 

Dear Angie,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for sharing your family history and question.

I am replying to you at the email you included in your post and connecting you with Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library.  A reference librarian will contact you shortly to help with your question and suggest resources you can consult to help look into Cherokee heritage.

Best of luck with your search!

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library
 

Comment: 

hi

Comment: 

my mother name was Iva Mae Richardson she is Cherokee her people live in North Carolina she has 2 cousins that are Cherokee Indians also, My question is this, what do i have to do to be recognize by my tribe?

Comment: 

Hi Deborah,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.

Here are a number of resources to consult to help you with this investigation:

1. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has resource pages to help you investigate your rights and heritage.  The site has a link to a document you may want to consult:  the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's "A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry."  The document has a section on p. 4 dealing with the process for enrollment in federally recognized tribes -- http://www.indianaffairs.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc-002619.pdf.

And here is the link to the Bureau of Indian Affairs resource page with numerous links to helpful information -- http://www.indianaffairs.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc-002619.pdf.  And the Tribal Leaders Directory can be found at http://www.indianaffairs.gov/cs/groups/webteam/documents/document/idc1-0.... You will also find contact information for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and can call them if you have additional questions.

2.  Here are the official websites for the Eastern Band of Cherokee http://nc-cherokee.com/ and the Cherokee Nation http://www.cherokee.org/.

3.  Website for the NC Commission on Indian Affairs: This site has tribal information and resources as well as contact information for the state's recognized tribes: http://www.doa.nc.gov/cia/

I hope this information helps!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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