Language Group: Cherokee
Family: Southern Iroquoian
Stock: Iroquoian
Phylum: Macro-Siouan
Macro-Culture: Eastern Woodlands
Speakers 11, 905 to 22,500 speakers (1986 Durbin Feeling, Cherokee Nation OK)
      The Cherokee were a large sedentary hunter/farmer nation which ranged over the southern end of the Appalachian chain.  They were probably driven south from the area of Pennsylvania about 3,000 B.P.  They apparently took over territories evacuated by Siouan ancestors.
      The Cherokee eventually adopted a great deal of the European cultural practices resulting in them being considered "civilized."  Nonetheless, a state of war existed between them and their nation neighbors, and they had numerous conflicts with Whites as well.
      About 15% of the Cherokee voluntarily migrated to Arkansas in 1818, receiving lands ceded by the Osage.  War then ensued between them and the Osage.  Most of the remaining tribe were forced to relocated to the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) as a result of the Removal Act and the "Trail of Tears" which resulted in the deaths of 4,000.  There they joined their tribesmen who had originally migrated west.  Considerable intra-tribal conflicts resulted from the politics of removal eventually evolving into a Cherokee Civil War.  After a decade of peace in the 1850's, the Cherokee once again divided as a result of the Civil War with factions siding with both the Union and the Confederacy.
      A small percentage of the tribe remained in North Carolina.  They formally separated from the Oklahoma Cherokee in 1890.  The Oklahoma Cherokee nation was terminated and their lands were granted in severalty.  Numerous Cherokee tribes and groups exist in other states.
Aboriginal Locations (Dialects [# of Villages])
AL     (Unknown [5])
GA     (Lower [8], Middle [5], Overhill [6], Unknown [37])
NC     (Lower [1], Middle [11], Overhill [25], Unknown [25])
SC     (Lower [11], Middle [2], Overhill [2], Unknown [16])
TN     (Lower [1], Middle [2], Overhill [11], Unknown [16])
An additional 20 or so villages of unknown location are believed to have existed.  The Cherokee hunted at least into Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia
Present Locations (Federally Recognized)
NC   Cherokee Reservation, Cherokee
OK   Cherokee Tribe, Tahlequah
         United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, Tahlequah
Present Locations (Not Federally Recognized)
Tribe Present Population
Appalachian Cherokee Nation, Inc., Thornburg VA ?
Cherokee Nation of Mexico, Zaragosa COA (Federally recognized by Mexico) ?
Cherokee of California, Marysville CA ?
Cherokees of South Carolina, Oconee County SC ?
Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, Cunning GA  ?
Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory, Columbia MO ?
Tsalagiyi Nvdagi (Texas Cherokee), Troup TX ?
Groups with Federal Recognition Petitions
State Group
AL Cherokees of Jackson County Alabama, Higton
Cherokees of Southeast Alabama, Dothan
The Langley Band of Chickamogee of Cherokee Indians of the Southeastern United States, Birmingham
GA Tuscola United Cherokee Tribe of Florida and Alabama, Inc., Geneva
Cane Break Band of Eastern Cherokees, Dahlogega
Cherokee Indians of Georgia, Inc., Albany
Georgia Band of Eastern Cherokees, Dahonega
Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy, Albany
MO Amonsoquoth Tribe of Cherokee, Deering
Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory, Columbia MO
Northern Cherokee Tribe of Indians, Independence
Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri, Fair Play
NC Cherokee Indians of Robeson and Adjoining Counties, Red Springs
Cherokee Indians of Hoke County, Inc. Lumber Bridge
Cherokee-Powhatan Indian Association, Roxboro
OR Northeast Cherokee Wolf Band, Talent
TN Red Clay Inter-Tribal Indian Band, Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy, Inc., Ooltewah
Etowah Cherokee Nation, Cleveland
Year History
1540 Only one Cherokee village mentioned in De Soto narratives near present Murphy NC, called "Chalaque" or "Xalaque"
1566 May have been visited by Pardo
1674 Woodward said that some Cherokee were living on upper branches of the Savannah River
1684 South Carolina government made treaty with the Cherokee signed by five chiefs of the Toxawa and three of the Keowa
1690 James Moore and Col. Maurice Mathews journeyed across Appalachians in search of gold but repelled by Indians, probably Cherokee
1693 Some Cherokee chiefs ventured to Charleston to ask for protection against Catawba, Shawnee, and Congaree
1700 Acquired guns
1701 A part of five French Canadians penetrated Cherokee country
1711 Began trading furs
1713 310 Cherokee took part in Moore's expedition against the Tuscarora under Captains Harford and Thurston; 70 Cherokee originally joined Catawba and other northern Indians in the outbreak of the Yamasee War but soon withdrew and made peace with the British; Cherokee and Chickasaw expelled the Shawnee from the Cumberland Valley
1730 After peace mission by Sir Alexander Cuming, seven Cherokee were taken to visit English court
1736 A Swiss named Christian Gottlieb Priber, represented as a French Jesuit captured by British and imprisoned in Fredrica, Georgia where he died
1738 Smallpox epidemic resulted in 50% depopulation, soon received Shawnee refugees of Chickasaw war, part of Yuchi and Tuskegee came to live with tribe
1755 Conflicts with Creeks culminated in victory of Taliwa after which the Creeks removed from the Tennessee Valley; settlers pushed the Cherokee from their northern towns
1759 At first allied with the British in the French and Indian War assisting them in an attack on Fort Duquesne, but British treachery resulted in their changing sides in the conflict
1760 Destroyed Fort Loudon which had been established in their country after defeating a British force of over 1,600 near present Franklin North Carolina; Col. Grant burned all of the Middle and Lower Towns forcing treaty upon tribe 
1763 Final peace between the British and Cherokee resulted in the influx of settler into Cherokee territories resulting in the ceding of land
1769 Defeated severely by the Chickasaw at the Chickasaw Oldfields
1770 Ceded more lands in Lochabar Treaty
1776 Sided with the British during the Revolutionary War eventually resulting in four major military incursions into Cherokee territories by Virginia and North Carolina generals
1777 Ceded considerable land to South Carolina and Georgia in DeWitts Corners Treaty
1783 North Carolina passed act extending boundaries further into tribal land
1784 State of Franklin formed for four years in what is now Tennessee
1785 Tribe ceded lands to Franklin in treaty at Dumplin Creek
1786 Tribe ceded lands to Franklin in treaty at Chotee Ford, treaty at Hopewell established boundaries with the United States
1792 Ceded lands in Philadelphia treaty, 700 Creek and Cherokee warriors attacked Buchanan's Station near Nashville
1793 More than one thousand Creek and Cherokee attacked and destroyed Cavitt's Station near Knoxville
1794 Peace restored at Tellico blockhouse
1804 Osage killed four Cherokee hunting in Arkansas
1806 Lands ceded in Tellico treaty
1813 Killed 21 Osage in retaliation for the killing of a chief
1817 Additional lands ceded in treaty with Gen. Andrew Jackson at Cherokee Agency; dissatisfaction with the terms of the treaty, Chief The Bowle removed and his band removed to Spanish territory with remnants of other tribes ... later joined by Tahchee and other chiefs
1818 Osage ceded Arkansas lands to Cherokee for Oklahoma lands; 3,500 Cherokee voluntarily migrated to Arkansas
1819 Lands ceded in Washington D.C. treaty
1820 Eastern Cherokee formed a government modeled after that of the United States, many relocated to Arkansas and formed light horse self police
1821 Sequoya created syllabary, Cherokee learned to read in their language; 300 mostly Cherokee killed 30-100 Osage in battle
1823 Sequoya moved to Arkansas; Cherokee, Delaware, Kickapoo, Miami, and Illinois united against Osage to try to gain Oklahoma territories
1824 Parts of the Bible translated into syllabary; and estimated 2,000 lawless mostly Whites, Cherokee, and Delaware in southeastern Oklahoma, Fort Towsend established to protect settlers
1826 Cherokee/Osage War; Texas Fredonian Rebellion
1827 Western Cherokee formed a constitutional form of government; San Houston joined Cherokee tribe; Texas Cherokee Chief The Bowle had Fredonia Indian leader assassinated
1828 Weekly paper the Cherokee Phoenix established in Cherokee and English
1829 Sam Houston established a store in northeastern Oklahoma allied with Creek, Osage, and Cherokee;  combined 250-300 Cherokee, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Delaware campaign against Waco, Tawakoni, and Comanche killing 300; Cherokee war party attacked Tawehash village killing all occupants; more eastern Cherokees began to remove to the west
1830 President Andrew Jackson signed Removal Act
1831 Joseph Vann elected Cherokee president, Cherokee won Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
1832 Cherokee won Worchester v. Georgia, but President Jackson refused to enforce Supreme Court rulings
1834 John Ross arrested and the offices of the Cherokee Phoenix were burned
1835 Treaty of New Echota, sold all eastern territories
1836 Texas attacked the Cherokee killing Chief The Bowle and expelling the Cherokee
1838 Forced removal under Gen. Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers, "Trail of Tears" to Indian Territory, 4,000 Cherokee died en route; some went to Texas  who, under Gen. Sam Houston, immediately waged war on the refugees who thereafter removed to Indian Territory (Sam Houston had been brought up among the Cherokee)
1839 6,000 Western  Cherokee (Old Settlers) with three chiefs and unwritten laws were brought together with 14,000 bitterly separated Eastern Cherokees, 2,000 Ridgeites (Treaty Party) and 12,000 Rossites who had lost 4,000 on the Trail of Tears; the Eastern had an elaborate government, a written constitution, and a court system ... intra-tribal war loomed; Treaty Party leaders John Ridge, Major Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were assassinated thereby weakening Treaty Party, Eastern and Western factions could not agree on government form resulting in civil war
1842 Qualla Reservation set aside for North Carolina Cherokee who had evaded removal by hiding in mountains
1846 Civil war settled by treaty with the United States
1850 Beginning of Cherokee golden decade even though East/West wounds had not healed
1861 Cherokee controlled by mixed blood slave owners who favored the South, most and almost all of Western Cherokees were indifferent about Civil War, Confederate Army occupied Indian Territory, tribe voted to secede from Union; 3,000 New Settler fought for the Confederacy, 1,000 Old Settlers fought for the Union, 400 North Carolina Cherokee fought for the South; Cherokee units fought at Wilson Creek and Pea Ridge and participated in the massacre of 700 pro-Union Creek trying to escape to Kansas; 
1862 John Ross allowed himself to be captures by the Union and sat out the war in Philadelphia; Cherokee Chief/General Stand Watie order Ross's house burned, 7,000 Cherokee refugees removed to Kansas to escape fighting with many freezing to death and starving
1865 Cherokee General Stand Watie last Confederate General to surrender; all previous Cherokee treaties with United States invalidated, new treaties would take land for railroad development, White settlement, and relocation of other tribes
1866 Readmitted to Union, freed Black slaves
1867 Joined by Delaware in Oklahoma
1870 Joined by Shawnee in Oklahoma
1880 Tribal ownership of lands abolished; impoverished Cherokee had leased most lands to White settlers; Whites outnumbered Cherokee in territories
1887 Dawes Act ultimately resulted in further reduction of territories
1901 Cherokee became citizens and allowed to vote
1906 Cherokee Nation terminated, lands granted in severalty
1907 Oklahoma Land Rush and statehood
1948 Present Cherokee government created with Wheeler-Howard Indian Reorganization Act
1961 Cherokee allotted $15 million by U.S. Claims Commission for Cherokee Outlet
Year Total Population AL GA NC OK SC TN Source
1650 22,000 Mooney estimate
1700 20,000 600 7,700 6,400 3,000 3,600 NAHDB calculation
1729 20,000 Swanton
1800 17,000 500 5,900 4,900 2,600 3,100 NAHDB calculation
1885 19,000 Swanton
1900 28,000 1,200 26,800 NAHDB calculation 
1902 28,106 Official
1910 31,489 Census
1930 45,238 US Indian Office
1981 48,656 BIA
1989 93,169 BIA estimate
2000 NAHDB calculation 
2002 13,079 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
2005 150,000 Tribal Law Journal
Other speakers of the same language:
Cherokee Sites:
Accounts of the Cherokee Trail of Tears
Amonsoquat Tribe of Cherokee
Andrew Jackson v. the Cherokee Nation
Arkansas Cherokee Indian Nation
Berry, Martha, Cherokee Beadwork Artist
Books of the Cherokee
Boudinout, Elias (Buck Watie)
Cherokee and Creek War Map
Cherokee Archival Project
Cherokee Artists
Cherokee Authors
Cherokee Capital Complex
Cherokee Casino and Resort, Tulsa
Cherokee Companion
Cherokee County, GA History
Cherokee Culture and History
Cherokee Culture Facts
Cherokee Declaration of Causes ...
Cherokee Dictionary
Cherokee Facts for Kids
Cherokee:  Fire in the Mountains
Cherokee Flag, OK
Cherokee Historical Maps
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Cherokee History
Cherokee History Since 1769
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Cherokee Indian Basketry
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Cherokee Indian Museum of Western NC
Cherokee Indian Removal Debate
Cherokee Indian Reservation, NC
Cherokee Indian Reservation, NC
Cherokee Indians
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Cherokee Indians of Georgia
Cherokee Indians Smoky Mountains
Cherokee Indians - Tsalagi
Cherokee Indians Yesterday and Today
Cherokee Indian Tribe
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Cherokee Nation Tribal Profile
Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma 1975 Constitution
Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
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Cherokee North Carolina
Cherokee Observer
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Cherokee Rolls
Cherokee Rolls Lookup
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Cherokees of South Carolina
Cherokee Storytelling
Cherokee Syllabary
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Cherokee Treaty - 1866
Cherokee Tribe of Kentucky
Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama
Cherokee Tribe Reinstates Blacks
Cherokee/Tsalagi Storyteller/Authors
Chickamauga Cherokee Indian Creek Band
Chieftains Museum
Chieftains Trail
Chief Vann House Historic Site
Confederate General Stand Watie
Eastern Band Cherokee  History
Eastern Band of Cherokee
Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation
Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama Wolf Clan
English Cherokee Dictionary
Fort Gibson
Four Winds Tribe Louisiana Cherokee Confederacy
Fredonian Rebellion
Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee
Guthrie Studios
"Hail Fredonia"
Indians of Summer, NC Cherokee
Jefferson Address to Cherokee Chiefs
Indian Removal Act - 1830
Indian Removal Act of 1830
Keetoowah Cherokee History
Keetoowah Society
Last Resolution of the Original Cherokee Nation
Legend of the Cherokee Rose
Major Ridge, Cherokee Chief
Mankiller, Wilma
McClung Museum - Cherokee Indians
New Echota Historic Site
Northeastern State University
Northern Cherokee Nation of Old Louisiana Territory
Occupation of the Cherokee Nation by the Union
Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation
Red Nation of the Cherokee
Roger, Will:  Cherokee Tradition
Rogers, Will:  Indian Cowboy
Ross's Landing Historical Marker
Sequoya Birthplace Museum
Sequoya Genius
Settlers and Intruders on Cherokee Lands 1801-1816
Southern Cherokee Tribe an Associated Bands in Texas
Tallige Cherokee Nation
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears Timeline
Treaties with Georgia Cherokee
Tsalagi Basketry, Plants, History
Tsalagi Language Resources
United Cherokee Tribe of Virginia
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians
Western Cherokee
Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri
Worchester v. Georgia
Yamada Language Center

Last updated 10/24/07  Copyright 2007 by Four Directions Press