Cherokee Tribes

The Cherokee tribes of east and southeast United States

The Cherokee tribes have inhabited the Southern Appalachian Mountains, along the Tennessee River, for thousands of years. In 1640, their population was estimated at 50,000, comprising distinct bands such as the Atali, Chickamauga, Etali, Onnontiogg, and Qualia. They are a Native American tribe with a proud history and many prominent members.

Beginning in the 17th century, the Cherokee people helped the first European settlers by sharing their knowledge and trading goods they produced. Relations were so amicable that the two groups often intermarried. Great Britain appointed a Cherokee Tellico chief, Moytoy, as emperor of the Cherokee people, gaining exclusive trading privileges.

The Cherokee tribes were quick to embrace European culture and technology, such as new foods and the use of firearms, and were considered one of the Five Civilized Tribes, along with the Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and Choctaw, because of their adoption of these new ways. Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith devised a method of writing the native Cherokee language so that the tribe could communicate as they had seen the Europeans do.

Nancy Ward was a well-known figure during this time. She was a much beloved Cherokee woman who played a part in the governance of the tribe, helping to negotiate the first treaty between her tribe and the white settlers.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many Native American tribes, the Cherokee were treated most unfairly by the British and the United States government. By the 1820s, the tribe had been severely weakened by new diseases, wars, and broken treaties and much of their land had been taken away by the expanding white population. In one of the most tragic events in the history of the US, many Cherokees were forced to evacuate their native lands and led on a forced march to Oklahoma, known as the "Trail of Tears". Many individuals died and suffered horribly along this route.

Today, the Cherokee people are divided into two main groups or tribes. The Eastern Band, located in Western North Carolina, is comprised of the descendants of Cherokees who managed to avoid being driven to Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation, located in Oklahoma is comprised of the descendents of those who managed to survive the Trail of Tears.

There are many prominent figures of Cherokee descent that have played a part in the history, politics, arts, and entertainment fields of this country. Some of the most well-known are Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Norris, Will Rogers, Rosa Parks, Jack Dempsey, and many others.

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