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Cherokee Tribe

Cherokee Tribe

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Cherokee Indians. A powerful detached tribe of the Iroquoian family, formerly holding the whole mountain region of the south Alleghenies, in southwest Virginia, western North Carolina and South Carolina, north Georgia, east Tennessee, and northeast Alabama, and claiming even to the Ohio River.

The Cherokee have long held that their tribal name is a corruption of Tsálăgĭ or Tsărăgĭ, the name by which they commonly called themselves, and which may be derived from the Choctaw chiluk-ki ‘cave people’, in allusion to the numerous caves in their mountain country. They sometimes also called themselves Ani´-Yûñ´-wiyá, ‘real people,’ or Ani´-Kĭtu´hwagĭ, ‘people of Kituhwa,’ one of their most important ancient settlements. Their northern kinsmen, the Iroquois, called them Oyata’ge‘ronoñ, ‘inhabitants of the cave country’ (Hewitt), and the Delawares and connected tribes called them Kittuwa, from the settlement already noted.They seem to be identical with the Rickohockans, who invaded central Virginia in 1658, and with the ancient Talligewi, of Delaware tradition, who were represented to have been driven southward from the upper Ohio River region by the combined forces of the Iroquois and Delawares.

Cherokee Language

The language has three principal dialects:

  1. Elatĭ, or Lower, spoken on the heads of Savannah River, in South Carolina and Georgia;
  2. Middle, spoken chiefly on the waters of Tuckasegee River, in western North Carolina, and now the prevailing dialect on the East Cherokee reservation;
  3. A´tăli, Mountain or Upper, spoken throughout most of upper Georgia, east Tennessee, and extreme western North Carolina. The lower dialect was the only one which had the r sound, and is now extinct. The upper dialect is that which has been exclusively used in the native literature of the tribe.

Cherokee Tribe History

Traditional, linguistic, and archeological evidence shows that the Cherokee originated in the north, but they were found in possession of the south Allegheny region when first encountered by De Soto in 1540. Their relations with the Carolina colonies began 150 years later. In 1736 the Jesuit (?) Priber started the first mission among them, and attempted to organize their government on a civilized basis. In 1759, under the leadership of A´ganstâ´ta (Oconostota), they began war with the English of Carolina. In the Revolution they took sides against the Americans, and continued the struggle almost without interval until 1794. During this period parties of the Cherokee pushed down Tennessee River and formed new settlements at Chickamauga and other points about the Tennessee-Alabama line. Shortly after 1800, missionary and educational work was established among theme, and in 1820 they adopted a regular form of government modeled on that of the United States. In the meantime large numbers of the more conservative Cherokee, wearied by the encroachments of the whites, had crossed the Mississippi and made new homes in the wilderness in what is now Arkansas. A year or two later Sequoya, a mixed-blood, invented the alphabet, which at once raised them to the rank of a literary people.

At the height of their prosperity gold was discovered near the present Dahlonega, Georgia, within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, and at once a powerful agitation was begun for the removal of the Indians. After years of hopeless struggle under the leadership of their great chief, John Ross, they were compelled to submit to the inevitable, and by the treaty of New Echota, Dec. 29, 1835, the Cherokee sold their entire remaining territory and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi to a country there to be set apart for them-the present (1890) Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. The removal was accomplished in the winter of 1838-39, after considerable hardship and the loss of nearly one-fourth of their number, the unwilling Indians being driven out by military force and making the long journey on foot 1See Trail of Tears Roll for a list of those participating in the march. On reaching their destination they reorganized their national government, with their capital at Tahlequah, admitting to equal privileges the earlier emigrants, known as “old settlers.” A part of the Arkansas Cherokee had previously gone down into Texas, where they had obtained a grant of land in the east part of the state from the Mexican government. The later Texan revolutionists refused to recognize their rights, and in spite of the efforts of Gen. Sam Houston, who defended the Indian claim, a conflict was precipitated, resulting, in 1839, in the killing of the Cherokee chief, Bowl, with a large number of his men, by the Texan troops, and the expulsion of the Cherokee from Texas.

When the main body of the tribe was removed to the west, several hundred fugitives escaped to the mountains, where they lived as refugees for a time, until, in 1842, through the efforts of William H. Thomas, an influential trader, they received permission to remain on lands set apart for their use in western North Carolina.

They constitute the present eastern band of Cherokee, residing chiefly on the Qualla reservation in Swain and Jackson counties, with several outlying settlements.

The Cherokee in the Cherokee Nation were for years divided into two hostile factions, those who had favored and those who had opposed the treaty of removal. Hardly had these differences they been adjusted when the civil war burst upon them. Being slave owners and surrounded by southern influences, a large part of each of the Five Civilized Tribes of the territory enlisted in the service of the Confederacy, while others adhered to the National Government. The territory of the Cherokee was overrun in turn by both armies, and the close of the war found them prostrated. By treaty in 1866 they were readmitted to the protection of the United States, but obliged to liberate their black slaves and admit them to equal citizenship. In 1867 and 1870 the Delawares and Shawnee, respectively, numbering together about 1,750, were admitted from Kansas and incorporated with the Nation. In 1889 a Cherokee Commission was created for the purpose of abolishing the tribal governments and opening the territories to white settlement, with the result that after 15 years of negotiation an agreement was made by which the government of the Cherokee Nation came to a final end Mar. 3, 1906: the Indian lands were divided, and the Cherokee Indians, native adopted, became citizens of the United States.

Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee have 7 clans, viz:

  1. Ani’-wa’`ya (Wolf)
  2. Ani’-Kawĭ‘ (Deer)
  3. Ani’-Tsi’skwa (Bird)
  4. Ani’-wi’dĭ (Paint)
  5. Ani’-Sah’a’ni
  6. Ani’-Ga’tagewĭ
  7. Ani’-Gi-lâ’hĭ

The names of the last 3 cannot be translated with certainty. There is evidence that there were anciently 14, which by extinction or absorption have been reduced to their present number. The Wolf clan is the largest and most important. The “seven clans” are frequently mentioned in the ritual prayers and even in the printed laws of the tribe. They seem to have had a connection with the “seven mother towns” of the Cherokee, described by Cuming in 1730 as having each a chief, whose office was hereditary in the female line.

The Cherokee are probably about as numerous now (1905) as at any period in their history. With the exception of an estimate in 1730, which placed them at about  20,000, most of those up to a recent period gave them 12,000 or 14,000, and in 1758 they were computed at only 7,500.  The majority of the earlier estimates are probably too low, as the Cherokee occupied so extensive a territory that only a part of them came in contact with the whites. In 1708 Gov. Johnson estimated them at 60 villages and “at least 500 men” 2Rivers, So. Car., 238, 1856. In 1715 they were officially reported to number 11,210 (Upper, 2,760; Middle, 6,350; Lower, 2,100), including 4,000 warriors, and living in 60 villages (Upper, 19; Middle, 30; Lower, 11). In 1720 were estimated to have been reduced to about 10,000, and again in the same year reported at about 11,500, including about 3,800 warriors 3Gov. Johnson’s Rep. in Rivers, So. Car., 93, 94, 103, 1874. In 1729 they were estimated at 20,000, with at least 6,000 warriors and 64 towns and villages 4Stevens, History of Georgia, I, 48, 1847.

Qualla Reservation

Qualla Reservation

They are said to have lost 1,000 warriors in 1739 from smallpox and rum, and they suffered a steady decrease during their wars with the whites, extending from 1760 until after the close of the Revolution. Those in their original homes had again increased to 16,542 at the time of their forced removal to the west in 1838, but lost nearly one-fourth on the journey, 311 perishing in a steamboat accident on the Mississippi. Those already in the west, before the removal, were estimated at about 6,000. The civil war in 1861-65 again checked their progress, but they recovered from its effects in a remarkably short time, and in 1885 numbered about 19,000, of whom about 17,000 were in Indian Territory, together with about 6,000 adopted whites, blacks, Delawares, and Shawnee, while the remaining 2,000 were still in their ancient homes in the east.

Of this eastern band, 1,376 were on Qualla reservation, in Swain and Jackson Counties, North Carolina; about 300 are on Cheowah River, in Graham County, North Carolina, while the remainder, all of mixed blood, were scattered over east Tennessee, north Georgia, and Alabama. The eastern band lost about 300 by smallpox at the close of the civil war. In 1902 there were officially reported 28,016 persons of Cherokee blood, including all degrees of admixture, in the Cherokee Nation in the Territory, but this includes several thousand individuals formerly repudiated by the tribal courts.

There were also living in the nation about 3,000 adopted black freedmen, more than 2,000 adopted whites, and about 1700 adopted Delaware, Shawnee, and other Indians. The tribe has a larger proportion of white admixture than any other of the Five Civilized Tribes.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Cherokee as both an ethnological study, and as a people.


Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.See Trail of Tears Roll for a list of those participating in the march
2.Rivers, So. Car., 238, 1856.
3.Gov. Johnson’s Rep. in Rivers, So. Car., 93, 94, 103, 1874.
4.Stevens, History of Georgia, I, 48, 1847


  1. cadence paige

    do you know the culture of the cherokee clans??? please reply asap

  2. Carrylou

    I am trying to find the name of my 6th great grandmother. She was of the Cherokee tribe and was taken to France by William De Goeleanor. They returned to Virginia they were married. The had a son William Goleanor who married Elsie Shepherd.

  3. Janice Adams

    I am looking for my family. My grandmother was Paralee Adams, maiden name Paralee Hunley. I know she was full blooded cherokee. Born: Sept., 20, 1906 , Union Co., TN.-Death: Nov., 7, 1992. Grandfather was Charles Adams Born: Oct., 11,1886, Union co., TN.- Death: Jan., 6, 1956. Looking for information on their parents. Cannot seem to get any further. Please help…

  4. Paul Willis

    I am trying to trace the native American part of the family, if anyone can help me find any information it would be appreciated.

  5. Elzabeth Bullard

    Hi I am looking for information about the cheroke tribe my dads side are cheroke indians his mom is full blooded indians with her last name being ross her family came off the reservation along time ago I didn’t know if anyone could help I’m trying to learn more about my family history thanks

    • Roy A Lathrop Sr

      Hi Elzabeth, I can’t be much help with the Indian part, I am searching for that myself. My reason for responding is that I noticed your name, Bullard, My father told me his mothers last name was Bullard. She was married to my Grandfather Purl Lathrop, her first name was Mallettie. I was also told that her mothers Indian name was Litchfield and her fathers Indian name was Bullard. I don’t know if that is any help but I would like to know if you have any knowledge of her or any information that would help me. Thanks. If I can help more, please let me know. Roy A. Lathrop Sr.

  6. Sylvia C

    I am an adopted child; I have some information on my mother’s side, which is Cherokee I am told. I have some names but run into dead ends. Her maiden name is Dixon; her grandfather’s name is Crook, I am told. I found him in the Census of 1865, listed as white. I get bits and pieces but cannot trace him to her and then to myself and my siblings. I would love to pass my heritage on to my children and grandchildren and feel it is my right. If anyone can help, thank you. I do not know what other avenues to take.

    • joemama6683

      Hi Sylvia! I am also adopted and was told by my adopted parents that my heritage is Cherokee Indian. I actually met my natural family when I was 18/19 at their request. As hind site is 20/20 I sure wish I had spent time with them and found out details of heritage but I was young and not really interested in building those relationships (long story). Both sets of parents, natural and adopted, are dead so it is definitely more challenging to find proof of heritage. I started my journey by getting an attorney to open my adoption papers to get my original birth certificate which shows natural parents names, ages, and birth places. The attorney was able to get this info for me. He was also able to obtain my natural father’s birth certificate so now I know who my grandparents are on his side. (very helpful). I just recently went on to start my searches. First thing I noticed is I am only listed by my original birth certificate. There is no other info on me. My given name was changed when I was adopted and there is no record of me by that name. Just don’t give up. The Cherokee do not accept DNA for proving heritage so I would not waste any money. You will have to go to the reservation and speak with the Tribal Enrollment department. They will give little or no info on the phone. They will help you as much as they can once you are there. I’m sure you already know there are two Cherokee Nations, one in Cherokee, NC and the other in Oklahoma. Two totally different nations. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Good luck with your journey. Alice

  7. Connie Roper


  8. Connie Roper


  9. symone00

    Does anyone have information about “Tiger Hill” in Oklahoma concerning Indian history and settling? Also, was it allowed to remove your name and your children’s names off of the roll? If so….is their records to find that shows this?

  10. Rebecca Armbrister

    I am trying to find birth or death records of my great grandparents. George Lineberry born 1844 died 1916 . Amanda F. Lineberry born 1875 died 1964 .I know they lived in Galax VA area. I dont know where thet were born .Any info would be helpful. Thanks

  11. Steven Hayes

    I know you can go to the NAC in dallas texas, take a DNA test, and fulfil all your needs. I personally want to trace everything by paper… im finding plenty of free resources… just don’t give up.. im running into problems of no birth certificates for anyone past my grandfather… which isn’t unusual…

    im on facebook and can provide links, just add me to yoour friends… good luck in your endeavors.

  12. Shaianne Goodman

    When I was 7 years old my mother was told that I had to do something with the White Buffalo Calf Woman.The Indian that told her this drew a picture of me before he actually met me. Right now I am looking for help from my ancestors and who can help me. Please get in touch with me. Thank You!

  13. Debra Stahl

    The family was Jenkins and from Alabama……Greensberry was the first name of my great-great grand father …Thanks

  14. Krista Root

    Needing help finding my family history. I have some information but not too much. My grandma was Maria Hawkes (also my mothers maden name.) my grandfather was Haskel Ray Hawkes both lived in granite city illinois. My grandma was born and buried in roswell, nm. I am told i am cherokee and apache and half but i would really like to know more. If anyone could give me some advice that would be great! Thanks

  15. hummingbird

    Family history passed down says my maternal great-grandmother (Annie) was 1/4 Black 3/4 Native American, Cherokee specifically from Alabama. Clan unknown, but with Chief Eldridge’s family. I don’t know Chief Eldridge’s given name or even if he was a chief. Annie married a man last name NEW and they settled in Shawnee Kansas after Chief Eldridge gave them permission to leave the reservation in Oklahoma. Don’t know if New was all or part Native American or Black or what.

    I want to trace the family line back to Chief Eldridge to learn once and for all if there is fact and truth to this history or just family lore.

    Anyone that can provide helpful information will be VERY MUCH appreciated.

  16. pammy1st

    im trying to find my great grangmothers last name she lived in Asheville my papaw was oliver l. godfrey any help would be great thanks

  17. IndianLady9677

    hi my name is kelly prince & i might be cherokee & another tribe my late grandfathers’ name is ernest james prince sr. & he was born in grafton west virginia in 1925 & he died on august 1, 1988 & my grandfather on my moms side of the family was born in 1923 & he’s from meigs county in ohio along the ohio river my grandfathers on my moms side of the family’s grandmother was sonoma curtis osbourne & i’m just wondering if i have indian in me i have the little crows feet on both sides of my eyes & my eyes are dark brown my hair is dark brown but it looks black. what tribe/tribes am i & how much?

  18. Rachel Stargell

    I know I’m Cherokee about 3/15 r so my grandfather was Cherokee chief of the wolf clan in south Carolina I’m.from Alabama looking for a Indian reservations

  19. etheliawieley

    I am searching my background and I know my grandmothers maiden name and her fathers name is Bell…. Carl Bell. I found him on the Baker Roll… That is all I know about that side of my family. He would be my Great Grandpa. Any help would be much appreciated. 🙂

  20. Jimi Jim

    I am looking for distant relatives of my late grandmother whos name was Connie Jean Harris. Harris was her married name as I don’t know what her madin name was but she was married to Carl Dabney Harris out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. My grandparents had eight children between the 1930’s and 1950’s. They lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas with all of their children. I wish I knew more about her but unfortunately she passed before I was born so I never got to know her. My grandmother was Cherokee Indian and worked in a factory. Please anyone could you help me find out what my percentage of Indian background is for my children s sake.

  21. Raven

    I’m looking for information on several people. Following a notice from a distant cousin of my husbands I have decided to check into an annoying family story that refuses to go poof.
    Anyone have info on a Thomas Ole Goains? Tribe presumed is Cherokee. As I have a list of people to search and seek info on, I’m only going to list one at a time and systematically go through the list so that I do not have any issues.
    Thank you for any help provided. You might be saving me from a huge headache as this cousin keeps popping up asking about this.

  22. Mindy Magee

    Hello Dennis, I have been researching for years, and run in to road blocks. My fathers side was Cherokee apparently. William Franklin Magee 1893-1927, whose apparent Cherokee last name was Strongbow. I found census records where he is listed as white. he married Blanche J Wertenberger. She married twice after that. but one of their children was Delmer Magee. I can find lots on Blanche, but nothing ever on William. I know he is buried in Clay County Arkansas, but that is it. I cannot find info on his parents or any siblings. But apparently he was full Cherokee. most of the census records I have found show them as white, however family pictures clearly indicate otherwise. Is there anything you can do to help me? Thank you

  23. Lisa C Komulainen

    my name is lisa coline (bachedler – maiden name ) komulainen. my family has been researching our native indian heritage for about 25 years now and have come a little ways. i have some names of people that are suspected to be an ancestor but i can find no link to how they relate to the state of Maine.the latest names we have come to is thomas mitchell and sarah lancaster. sarah lancaster was born sometime before 1775 in Alabama (beleive in the area of Foster, Al ). this is reportedly the claim made by her grandson – William R. Hutcheson – that she was Cherokee. Possibly Eastern Cherokee Nation. Pheobe ( Hutcheson ) Hubbard was Thomas Mitchell’s grandaughter. He was born around 1768. a application was filed by Pheobe Hubbard implying he may have been Cherokee as well. The application # for Thomas Mitchell is 34225. Out come of the application is unknown. I am trying to find out if Thomas and Sarah are Cherokee what route i should take next to fill in the ansestor’s between them ( or thier children ) to my great grandparents. Their names are John Baptist Bachelder of Avon, Maine and his wife was Sylvie Elthea Campbill ( or it is spelled – Campbell) Silvie was born in 1892, whereabouts is unknown, and she died in 1944. She is buried in Rangeley, Maine. John Baptist Bachelder was born 1882 and he died March 28, 1971. He is also buried in Rangeley, Maine. Any help or possible leads in either direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any information and Thank you for letting me be a part of this group.

    [Editor]This comment was edited to remove contact details. Please feel free to contact Lisa directly via Facebook or by replying to this comment in the form below.[Editor]

  24. Sue Maxwell

    I to am trying to find my indian hertiage as my gggreat granmother was said to be cherokee her name was elizabeth (Ebestle ) Bounds she married a william ragland have no pics an very little info other then words from now deceased family members where do i go ??

  25. glennhduncan50

    My Great Great Grand Father Married a Cherokee while he was hiding from the law for killing a man. I am trying to trace my Cherokee Ancestry. My Grand Mother was Lona Rachel Clevenger Puckett Freeman. I believe that the Clevenger side was the Cherokee side. Her Mother and Father were William Clevenger and wife Minnie Scarberry (Who was either full or half Cherokee. Minnie Scarberry’s Father was Tall Scarberry
    Do not know wwho her mother was for sure. Tall Scarberry’s Parents were Robert Scarberry and Millie ? ( not sure what Millie’s last name was). I think this is the the Cherokee side.

  26. Trippy

    I am trying to research my family history and when I get to my grandmother I am unable to find anything. I have always been told that my Grandmother was Cherokee Indian and I would love to find out this for sure. Her name is Bessie Mae Logan if anyone can help me. Or tell me where to go to find out any information. Thanks


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