The Cherokee are a tribe of North American Indians that formerly inhabited the mountainous region of the western Carolinas, northern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee. An lroquolan-speakinq people, they originally lived near the Great Lakes, but after defeat by Iroquois and Delaware tribes (see Iroquois League), they migrated to the Southeast, eventually becoming the largest and most powerful group in that region. Their traditional culture included maize agriculture, settled villages, and well-developed ceremonialism.

The Cherokee aided the British during the American Revolution and continued their hostilities against the Americans until 1794. Thereafter, influenced by white culture, they adopted plow agriculture, animal husbandry, and cotton and wool industries, as well as slavery. A syllabic alphabet was invented (c.1820) by Sequoya, and in 1827 the Cherokee established a constitutional form of government.

A series of fraudulent, land-acquiring treaties were imposed on the Cherokee in the 1830s. The Treaty of New Echota (1835), in which a small tribal faction sold 2.83 million ha (7 million acres) of Cherokee land, required their removal westward within 3 years. The vast majority of the Cherokee Nation repudiated this document, but under Gen. Winfield Scott, most remaining Cherokee were driven from their land and forcibly marched to Arkansas and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1838-39. About 4,000 of the more than 15,000 Cherokee involved died of disease and exposure.

In Indian Territory, they joined the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole to form the so-called Five Civilized Tribes. Tribal lands were lost in the 1860s, after the Five Tribes sided with the South during the Civil War, and again in the early 1880s, when tribal ownership of lands was abolished. When Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma in 1907, all tribal lands were opened for white settlement.

At the 1990 U.S. census those identifying themselves as Cherokee numbered 308,132. Cherokee on or near the Oklahoma reservation number 95,435 (1991 est.). The Cherokee who avoided the 1838 removal escaped into the Great Smoky Mountains and resettled in North Carolina, forming a tribal corporation in 1889. Cherokee on or near the North Carolina reservation number 10,114 (1991 est.).

James W. Herrick

Bibliography: Anderson, W. L., ed., Cherokee Removal: Before and After (1992); Everett, Dianna, The Texas Cherokees (1990); Finger, J. R., Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century (1991) and The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900 (1984); Hatley, Tom, The Dividing Paths (1993); McLoughlin, W. G., After the Trail of Tears (1994); Ywahoo, Dhyani, Voices of Our Ancestors (1987).

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