The Cherokee Indians were once one of the five largest Native American tribes living in the continental United States. Their numbers have dwindled over the years, but there are still thousands of people descended from the original tribe. Originally, the tribe lived in the Great Lakes region in the Midwest. However, they slowly moved east and settled along the coastline, which made life easier. There were great numbers of Cherokee living in parts of modern day North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
These people were unique in that they lived in cabins rather than traditional teepees. They often built cabins out of wood logs they created, which gave the buildings a rustic look. Settlers later adopted these homes for their own needs or tore them down, and few still stand today. The European and white settlers arriving on the coast also influenced the Cherokee Indians. As trade between the two sides grew, the Cherokee adopted parts of their culture such as clothing and education.
The Cherokee were highly spiritual and religious. They devised a variety of legends around nature, with many utilizing the number seven or four. They also placed reverence on the owl and cougar. According to their creation belief, it took seven days for humans to be made, and the owl and cougar were the only animals capable of staying awake during that period of time. The Cherokee religion still uses these same beliefs today.
Resources on Cherokee Indians include:
- Cherokee Indian Tribe: provides a basic overview of the Cherokee tribe.
- Meet the Cherokee Nation Citizens: offers information for those with Cherokee ancestry and those living on reservations today.
- History of the Cherokee: gives a long history of the Cherokee people and what they went through.
- Cherokee Nation: looks at current and past topics relating to people connected to the Cherokee tribe.
- The Trail of Tears: focuses on what happened to the tribe as they were forced west.
The greatest event in the history of the Cherokee Indians occurred in 1790. The new settlers continued to push the tribe away from the coastline, forcing them to settle in Georgia. When the settlers decided that they wanted that area as well, they began pushing the Cherokee out of Georgia and west. They pushed the Cherokee into signing treaties and deeds that gave away their native land.
The end of the Cherokee came about in 1826, when settlers forced tribe members into signing the Treaty of Indian Springs, which gave away their rights to the last of Georgia. By 1827, there were only a few tribesmen left. The Indian Removal Act went into effect in 1830, which gave the government the right to push the Cherokee out completely. The trail the tribe followed during their passage became known as the Trail of Tears, based on the hardships and deaths they experienced.