|THE CHEROKEE NATION OF EARLY AMERICA|
The Cherokees, of the Iroquoian family of American
Indians (It was the Iroquois who composed the Five Great Nations: Cayugas,
Senecas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondegas with the Cherokees and Tuscaroras as their
distant kin), settled in that part of Georgia north and west of the
Chattahoochee River, along with territory in western North Carolina and eastern
Tennessee in the early 1700's. The Cherokees were hunters and farmers, who lived
in villages even as their white neighbors.
The Cherokees were intelligent and of good physique. They improved their stock by intermarriage with Scotch traders on the frontier. The Cherokees young were educated at Mission Schools, and some few attended the American Board for Foreign Missions School at Cornwell, Connecticut. Their leaders combined knowledge with good appearance and dignity.
On the agricultural frontier, fresh land was wealth - the pioneers pushed the Cherokees, always seeking more land, thus creating and enhancing friction. At the time of the American Revolution, the Cherokees, not happy with their local neighbors, sided with England. They hoped to see England win and control the unruly whites. England lost, and the Cherokees had to make peace with the truculent Georgians. It was to be an uneasy peace. The Cherokees moved their capital, Chota or Echota, from Tennessee to Georgia in 1825, establishing New Echota (see below info)* - just east of Calhoun, Georgia.
Sequoyah, who had fought with Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend, worked out a syllabary in 1821, based on sounds, which gave the Cherokees a written language. he could neither speak nor write English; his creation of a written language was a remarkable achievement. The Cherokees quickly learned this language, the only American Indians who evolved a records system for themselves.
At New Echota the Cherokee Council and Supreme Court met; Samuel Worchester operated a Mission School there; a newspaper. the Cherokee Phoenix, began publication in 1828, printed partly in English and partly in Cherokee, was published there with Elias Bondinot as Editor. These cultured, progressive neighbors made Georgians uneasy - they wanted the Indians depicted as crude barbarians and banished to the west.
The Cherokees had their differences. Some followed their primitive religion; others became Christians; still others blended the two. Some were full-bloodied, mostly conservative; others were mixed-blood, mostly liberals. Some wanted to stay in Georgia and fight for their rights and lands; others favored removal to the west where they might live undisturbed.
These Cherokee leaders were remarkable men. John Ross and Major Ridge lived at Rome, Georgia. Ross was the Principal Chief who represented his Nation at Washington. Ridge was a wealthy man who sent his son John to the Indian School at Cornwall. There he visited John, traveling in his own coach, dressed in broadcloth with silver buckles on his shoes - a man whom the New Englanders could appreciate.
John Martin was the Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation. Wealthy, he had two wives - sisters! He wisely provided separate homes for his wives. Elias Bondinot, in school at Cornwall, had created a sensation when he married Harriett Ruggles Gold, a prominent young lady of the town. Boundinot had a brother Stand Waite, who would later be the only Indian Brigadier General in the Confederate army.
Suddenly a new factor was injected into the problem. In 1829 gold was discovered in north Georgia. It had been difficult for land hungry Georgians to tolerate the Cherokees within their borders. It was impossible for Georgians to stand impotent and watch Indians gather this wealth of glittering gold. The Cherokees simply had to go.
The Federal Government had by treaty in 1802 agreed to remove the Cherokees from the state - now Georgians would help them. The Cherokees lands were surveyed and distributed to the white settlers by lottery even before the Indians could be moved west. It was an explosive situation, as the Indians watched the whites move in and take over their homes and farms. [Read the Treaties here]
The Cherokee reluctant to leave their homeland; the spring of 1838 saw the United States Army arrive in north Georgia. The red men were collected in this area at Fort Buffington and sent west, in large bands, under army control. The Indians, suffering from exposure and strange food, along with attendant hardships, suffered heavy losses - 4,600 died on this "Trail of Tears," more than 25% of the population of the Nation.
Meanwhile the Cherokees, seeking to avoid eviction, had sought to organize a government like that of the whites, so that they could deal with the whites in an orderly manner. They made Treaties with the Federal Government, and hoped that their recognized status would preserve their rights. Reason did not prevail. The Federal government had to see the Cherokees pushed out, or make war on the Georgians. It was easier to see the Indians abused.
One group of the Cherokees, the Eastern Band, hid out in the Mountains and did not go west. They were ignored and neglected, in poverty, for decades. Then the Indian Service set up schools for the children, and the day of autos and highways arrived.
Soon tourists were spilling into the mountains, and the Cherokees, under their tribal council, created the drama, "Unto These Hills," sponsored crafts, a Cherokee Indian Museum, and a variety of other activities. Now Cherokees began to find regular employment at fair rates.
The present day Cherokees, with enhanced education and income, are moving into the main stream of American society, in a quiet, but steady way. Already they have come far, by their own efforts. They can take pride in what they have done, and we can expect to see them move further ahead in days to come.
"Glimpses of Cherokee County" published by the Cherokee County Historical Society in December 1981, and used here with their permission.
(WT) (Edited by bpp)
is located in Calhoun, Georgia just one mile east of Interstate 75;
exit 317 on Georgia Highway 225.
Address: 1211 Chatsworth Highway, Northeast - Calhoun, GA 30701
Click on Thumbnails to see larger photos and map.