Thursday, October 14, 2010


In 1830, President Andrew Jackson forced a new piece of legislation through Congress called the "Indian Removal Act" of which the very large and powerful Cherokee nation was the target. The legislation called for all Native-American tribes to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west. Jackson said that this was for the tribe's protection, but there was an ulterior motive - Euro-Americans settlers were anxious to take over their land, particularly in Northern Georgia where gold had been discovered. A number of Indian nations made attempts at non-violent resistance, but eventually felt that this was an inevitable removal and that there was no way to stop the federal government.

The Cherokee Nation of 22,000 citizens, based in Georgia, the Carolinas and Eastern Tennessee, decided to take their protest all the way to the Supreme Court. Considered one of the "civilized" tribes of the Southeast, they had adopted Euro-American practices of large-scale farming, Western education, slave-holding, and even published an English language newspaper. The Supreme Court sided with the Cherokee, saying that they had a constitutional right to stay in their ancestral land. In the end, President Jackson refused to enforce the law.

In 1838, the federal government sent in troops, who forced the Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point. They were not allowed time to gather their belongings and their homes were looted. It was then they began the forced thousand-mile march to an area in present-day Oklahoma. Over 4,000 out of 16,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, exhaustion and disease. The Cherokee people call this journey the "Trail of Tears," - a journey that saw more people die than perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Cherokee Nation Today

Today the Cherokee Nation is the second largest Indian tribe in the nation. There are more than 280,000 tribal members, 70,000 of which reside in the 7,000 square miles of the Cherokee Nation. Soon after the Cherokee arrival, they transformed the area, creating a progressive court and education system with a literacy rate higher than the rest of the U.S. Many white settlements took advantage of their superior schools, and paid tuition to have their children attend the Cherokee schools. Oklahoma grew up around the nations of the Indian Territory, and that influence can be seen today.

Tahlequah - home today to the Cherokee Nation, is located in the heart of the Oklahoma's Green Country, an area of rolling pastoral hills and more than half of the state's parks and lakes. The area's attractions give visitors an inside look at the Cherokee way of life, both past and present. The Cherokee Heritage Center tells the story of this amazing tribe. The Center was built on the original site of the Cherokee National Female Seminary. Offering exhibits, cultural workshops and events, the center includes the Adams Corner Rural Village, Cherokee Family Research Center and Cherokee National Archives. The Cherokee National Museum houses a special exhibit gallery, two Native American art shows, and the award-winning Trail of Tears interpretive exhibition - an experience that will stir you to the depths of your soul. Ancient Village features replicas of traditional homes from the time of intense cultural transformation. Guides and villagers demonstrate traditional Cherokee crafts as basketry, pottery, field games and blow guns. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is the oldest government building in Oklahoma. Today, both the Supreme and District Courts still hold sessions here.

For further information on visiting the Cherokee Nation visit:

From: "High Noon Smoke Signals"