The most familiar name, Cherokee, comes from a Creek word "Chelokee" meaning "people of a different speech." In their own language the Cherokee originally called themselves the Aniyunwiya (or Anniyaya) "principal people" or the Keetoowah (or Anikituaghi, Anikituhwagi) "people of Kituhwa." Although they usually accept being called Cherokee, many prefer Tsalagi from their own name for the Cherokee Nation (Tsalagihi Ayili). Other names applied to the Cherokee have been: Allegheny (or Allegewi, Talligewi) (Delaware), Baniatho (Arapaho), Caáxi (or Cayaki) (Osage and Kansa), Chalaque (Spanish), Chilukki (dog people) (Choctaw and Chickasaw), Entarironnen (mountain people) (Huron), Gatohuá (Creek), Kittuwa (or Katowá) (Algonquin), Matera (or Manteran) (coming out of the ground) ( Catawba), Nation du Chien (French), Ochietarironnon (Wyandot), Oyatageronon (or Oyaudah, Uwatayoronon) (cave people) (Iroquois), Shanaki (Caddo), Shannakiak (Fox), Tcaike (Tonkawa), and Tcerokieco (Wichita).
Consisting of 7 clans, the Cherokee Nation stretched from the Ohio River into South Carolina. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee lived in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, believed to be the sacred ancestral home of the Cherokee Nation. By the time European explorers and traders arrived, Cherokee lands covered a large part of what is now the southeastern United States.
The Cherokee lived in small communities, usually located in fertile river bottoms. Each tribe elected two chiefs -- a Peace Chief who counseled during peaceful times and a War Chief who made decisions during times of war.
Cherokee society was a matriarchy. The Cherokee battled Carolina settlers in the 1760's, but eventually withdrew to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Eventually, the Cherokee readily adopted the tools, weapons and customs introduced by the Europeans. War and disease decimated the tribe.
Europeans first settled Cades Cove in 1818. Before their arrival, Cades Cove was part of the Cherokee Nation, who called the Cove, Tsiyaha or "place of the river otter." The Cherokee never lived in the Cove, but used the land as its summer hunting ground for river otters, elk and bison.
In the early 1800's, the Cherokees began a period of change. The Cherokee Nation was established with a democratic government composed of a Chief, Vice-Chief, and 32 Council Members who were elected by the members of the tribe. In 1808, Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, invented a system for writing the Cherokee language and within two years, almost all of the Cherokee's could read and write. The Cherokee Council passed a resolution to establish a newspaper for their nation. A printing press was ordered, the type cast for the Cherokee syllabary, and the Cherokee Phoenix was in business.
Unfortunately, the Cherokees did not enjoy prosperous times for long. With the discovery of gold on Cherokee lands in 1828 and Andrew Jackson's 1830 Removal Act, calling for the relocation of all native peoples east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma, the U. S. government forced the Cherokees from their homes in 1838. Almost 14,000 Cherokees began the trek westward in October of 1838.
EASTERN AND WESTERN BANDS:
Prior to the "Trail of Tears," a small group of Cherokees in western North Carolina had already received permission to be excluded from the move west. Those individuals, often called the Oconaluftee Indians, did not live on Cherokee Nation land and considered themselves separate from the Cherokee Nation. To avoid jeopardizing their special status, the Oconaluftee Cherokees reluctantly assisted in the search for Cherokee Nation Indians who had fled to the mountains to avoid capture. To prevent further hardships for the Cherokees still in hiding, Tsali eventually agreed to surrender and face execution. Due in part to Tsali's sacrifice, many of those in hiding were eventually allowed to settle among the Cherokees of western North Carolina.
Created by: Sam Park
This page was last updated on April 26, 2006 .