In this paper I will discuss the history of the Cherokee Indians in the United States. First by describing the tribes pre-Columbian history to include the settlement dates and known cultural details. Then a brief description of the cultural and religious beliefs of the tribe will be given, as well as the tribe’s history after contact with settlers. Finally discussing John Ross, who he was and how he affected the Cherokee Indians.
The word Cherokee is believed to have evolved from a Choctaw word meaning “Cave People”. It was picked up and used by Europeans and eventually accepted the adopted by Cherokees in the form of Tsalagi or Jalagi. Traditionally, the people now known as Cherokee refer to themselves as aniyun-wiya, a name usually translated as “the Real People” sometimes “the Original People.” Cherokees’ have had a democratic government (Conley, Robert J. 2000).
The Cherokees’ first experience with the invading white man was almost certainly a brief encounter with the deadly expeditionary force of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540. English colonial traders began to appear among the Cherokees around 1673. Such interactions produced some mixed marriages, usually between a white trader and a Cherokee woman. There were three main events during the 18th and 19th centuries: war with the colonist in 1711; epidemics of European disease (primarily smallpox); and the continual cession of land in 1775. The Cherokees were forced to sign one treaty after another with the new United States government, each one giving away more land to the new nation. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson planned to move all eastern Indians to a location west of the Mississippi River, and signed an agreement with the state of Georgia promising to accomplish that deed as soon as possible. Andrew Jackson actually set the so-called “Removal Process” in motion. Meantime the government had been doing everything in its power to convince Cherokees to move west voluntarily, and the first to do so were the faction known as Chickamaugans (Conley, Robert J. 2000).
The history and traditions of the Cherokee Indians of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries are inextricably linked to the history and traditions of the white southerners. Many facets of Cherokee lifestyle and other Indian tribes in the Southern United States were modified and adapted from white methodology. Aspects of those cultural features were rooted in Pre-Columbian traditions. The Celtic culture of people who colonized the Southern United States and the culture’s charcterictics were the catalyst of what was arguably the most pivotal event in American History, the War Between the States. Many respected scholars have argued that the Ante-bellum south was different than the north, in its lifestyles, philosophies, and more. The southern states and their populations were undeniably different in nearly every socioeconomic and political aspect from the northern states and their respective populations. The destinies of the white southerners and Indian were connected in many ways. They had a number of common interests, traditions, ideals and goals. Some of these similarities were chance; others were due to an intimate relationship developed over centuries of close contact, a relationship created by the dynamic elements in the Cherokee’s new familiarity with their white neighbors and their culture (Bullard, F.B. 1989).
The Cherokee adopted some practices willingly, others were forced upon them and some were already in place in some form in their traditional culture. Charles Hudson speculates in his work that the Cherokee and other tribes adopted the measures of civilization in acquiescence to the inability of the Cherokee to compete militarily with the white populous. The Cherokee and other tribes had adopted the techniques and social concepts of white “civilization” long before they were encouraged to...
References: Bullard, F.B., M.A., (1989), Sage Spirit.com, Civilization and Southern Identity of Cherokee
Indians of the old south.
Conley, Robert J., (2000), “Cherokees”, Gale enclyopedia of multicultural America.
Indians.org, (2011), Retrieved Sept 19, 2012.
Moulton, Gary E., (2004), New Ga Encylopedia.com, Retrieved Sept 19, 2012.
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