The Land: Understanding Why the Land Is Important to the Cherokee Nation

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The Land:
Understanding Why the Land is Important to the Cherokee Nation

Abstract
Most of us have learnt about the Trail of Tears as an event in American history, but not many of us have ever explored why the removal of the Indians to the West was more than an issue of mere land ownership. Here, the meaning and importance of land to the original Cherokee Nation of the Southeastern United States is investigated. American land was seen as a way for white settlers to profit, but the Cherokee held the land within their hearts. Their removal meant much more to them than just the loss of a material world. Historical events, documentations by the Cherokee, and maps showing the loss of Cherokee land work together to give a true Cherokee perspective of historical events and what land meant to their tribe. The voice of the Cherokee people can finally be heard from their sources, through their myths, rather than read from an American textbook.

The Land:
Understanding Why the Land is Important to the Cherokee Nation
In the Western world today, the idea of land is seen as property that can be owned and is often used as a symbol of power and success. Property is a common term for rules governing access to and control of land and other material resources. This idea that we see as a current norm was a concept that made such an impression in the early years of the United States that it left the Cherokee Nation devastated.

To begin to understand why the land was so important to the Cherokee, we must first become familiar with the Cherokee people and who they are. The Cherokee refer to themselves as the “Principal People” (Hanna, Charles A.). There are two views about Cherokee origins that are popular. The first one tells about how the Cherokee are latecomers to Southern Appalachia, who may have actually migrated in late archaic times from the northern areas, which is the conventional land of the later Haudenosaunee and other Iroquoian-speaking peoples. Researchers in the 19th century documented conversations with elders who narrated an oral tradition of the Cherokee people's migrating south from the Great Lakes region in prehistoric times ( Mooney, James). The second view about Cherokee origin, which is disputed by scholars, is that the Cherokee had been occupying the land in Appalachia for thousands and thousands of years (Stipe, Sylvia). Many conservative historians and archaeologists think that the Cherokee did not migrate to Appalachia until around the 13th century or even later. The Cherokee may have moved from the north and continued to move further south into Muscogee Creek territory and settled at the sites of mounds built by Muscogee descendants. Pre-contact Cherokee are thought to be included in part of the later Pisgah Phase of Southern Appalachia, which lasted from approximately 1000 to 1500. In spite of the agreement amongst most specialists in Southeast archeology and anthropology, a number of scholars argue that ancestors of the Cherokee people lived in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee for a far longer period of time than what was originally believed (Brown, John P.).

Much of what is known about the Cherokee culture before the 18th century, and many other tribes for that matter, are from documents taken by the Spanish during their expeditions. The Cherokee had their first contact with Europeans in 1540, when Hernando de Soto, who was leading a Spanish expedition, passed through Cherokee country. Along with being introduced to Europeans, the Cherokee and other tribes were introduced to new diseases; so many Native American tribes were decimated because of their lack of immunity (Woodward, Grace Steele).

Cherokee culture was greatly tainted after continued contact with Europeans. Although many things were beginning to change, the Cherokee people still held their values dear to their hearts. It is often wondered why the Cherokee cherished the land in the Southeastern part of the United States so...
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