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Cherokee Indian Timeline and History

The Cherokee Nation has a rich history dating back all the way to 10,000 BC! They're an important part of our nation’s past, and as such, should be remembered by all. There are lots of parts of the history that are bloody and violent and cause for much grief. Read on to see a timeline that dates all the way back to the original Native American tribes.

10,000-8000 B.C. 

This is the time when the nomadic tribes inhabited what is now present day North Carolina. Not much is known about these Native Americans, other than the land they lived in.

8000 – 1000 B.C.

This is often referred to as the archaic period. This is when the Native Americans began developing trading networks. They also began making and using pottery;  some of which can still be found in historical sites and museums.

1000 B.C. – 900 A.D.

This is referred to as the Woodland Period, and for good reason!  This is when the Native Americans began creating permanent log homes to live in. This included ceremonial and effigy mounds for their tribes.

900- 1600 A.D.

Known as the Mississippian Period, the Native Americans began building flat topped pyramidal mounds such as at Etowah.

Cherokeer Indians

1000-1500 A.D. 

During the Pisgah phase, the villages began ranging in size from one acre to more than five acres.  They usually included houses that were situated around a circular plaza and encircled by a stockade.  These folk began growing beans, maize, gourds, and squash.  This wasn’t all they ate though: they also ate nuts, fruits, seeds, greens, and animals.  They began using clay, bone, stone, wood, and shells in their every day lives.

1500-1850 A.D. 

This was called the Qualla phase, and it is the first identified as the true beginning of the Cherokee Indians.  Cherokee Indians are direct descendants of the Pisgah folk. This is indicated by similarities between house and village structures. It is also obvious based on burial patterns. It is also a strong possibility that the other people from east Tennessee and North Georgia  also helped from this historic period of the Cherokee culture.


The first of the major Cherokee cities is was formed, called Tugaloo Old Town.


DeSoto of Spain, came to what's now known as Cherokee County and is considered the first of the white men seen by the trible.  However, written descriptions of the tribe by Spanish visitors say there was a large variety of colors within the tribe. This includes black to light skinned Indians.  This was written by Moyano and Pardo.


During this time, the Cherokees began trading with English settlers.


The first treaty between white settlers and the Cherokee Nation was put into affect.


The first smallpox epidemic swept through the Cherokee Nation, killing a lot of these Native Americans.

Early 1700s

The British (South Carolina) government decided to define the Cherokee into five separate groups.   The Cherokee got a long better with the French. They were more interested in trading with them then taking their lands.  However, the Cherokee Nation often aligned themselves with the English to fight against their more traditional enemies. This included the Creek Indians and also the Tuscarora.


This was the year of the Tuscarora war.


This was the year of the Yamasee war.  There was also a huge uprising against North and South Carolina. Over the next several years, there were several wars.  There was also a small pox epidemic that wiped out somewhere between twenty five and fifty percent of the Cherokee Nation. There were also several treaties signed that would take land away from the Cherokee and give it to the European settlers.   Some of the Cherokee opposed these treaties. However, they were completely ignored by the government in the interest of gaining land for farming cotton.

Early 1800s  

By the end of, and throughout the entire 19th century, most of the Cherokee Nation had begun adopting European traditions.  This meant that the women started wearing gowns, that businesses were established, farms were built, and there was also a lot of conversion to the Christian faith. They also created a government very similar to the one of the United States of America.  However, they also continued to preserve many of their more traditional ways.  The farmers began using plows to produce the same same crops that the ancestral Cherokee tended with digging sticks.  While they’d always grown corn to survive the winter, they now began growing even more. This was so they could fatten pigs that would be used for trade at the market.


President Thomas Jefferson signed and agreed with the State of Georgia to remove all of the Native Americans in exchange for the western lands.


The Cherokee Nation had lost over half it’s land. The population had dwindled to less than twenty thousand Native Americans.

1808 - 1810

During these years, there was the first major Cherokee migration to the west of Mississippi.


The Cherokee Nation forbids blood vengeance for any accidental deaths that might occur from themselves or from white settlers.


the Shawnee Warrior Tecumseh convinces Native Americans who lived on the frontier to rise up against the settlers.  A faction that called themselves Rid Sticks attacked Fort Mims, Alabama and killed over 250 men, women, and children.

1812 - 1814

During the Creek War, the Cherokee warriors fought alongside future President Andrew Jackson against the Red Stick faction. They saved his army and his life on several different occasions.


The Cherokee Nation helped General Andrew Jackson in defeating the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend.  Though the future president admitted that they were instrumental to his successful, he also demanded over two million acres of land from the Indians.


This was the year of the final cession of land in the state of Georgia. It was part of a much bigger cession. The Cherokee gave up claims of all land east of the Chattahoochee River.  A new council house was built. It consisted of two open sheltered that faced each other, with a long house on one end.  This is where the seat of the Cherokee government moved to.


After twelve years of working on the Cherokee language, Sequoyah finished the written alphabet for the Cherokee Nation.  It was initially thought of as witchcraft, it was eventually accepted by the Cherokee chiefs (agreed on by the council).  In just six months, over a quarter of the Cherokee Nation could read and write their own language.  Within ten years, over ninety percent of the Cherokee were completely literate, able to read and write.


The Cherokee established a Supreme Court at New Echota.  The council approved the construction of a brand new council house. This was to serve as a replacement for the one built in 1819. Georgia began pushing for the cession of the rest of the Cherokee lands, citing Jefferson’s commitment to the state.


At a convention led by Chief John Ross, the Cherokee Nation wrote and adopted a  constitution for it’s people. They claimed their personal rights over their land.  The modern Cherokee Nation formed.  The Cherokee government built a printing office at New Echota.

1828 - 1830

Georgia Legislature outlawed the Cherokee government. It also continued to expand their rule over the Cherokee nation located within these claimed boundaries.


Andrew Jackson announced and implemented the Indian removal policy.  Georgia extended it’s laws over the Cherokee Nation.  Sequoyah and over twenty five hundred other Cherokee were forcibly relocated to the Indian Territory. It's in what is called Oklahoma in present day. This land was traded for what is now present day Arkansas.  The Osage Nation, however, still occupied the land. Sequoyah settled near what would become present-day Sallisaw, Oklahoma.  Sequoyah settled near Sallisaw, where he built a log cabin, which is still open to the public, and standing strong.


The United States government passed the Indian Removal Act.  The Cherokee Nation evicts those still living in Beaver Dam on Cedar lake. This happened to be a few miles south of what is now Rome, Georgia.  The laws passed forced the people living there to swear their allegiance to Goergia.  Several missionaries were arrested and imprisoned.


The Cherokee Nation brought a court case to the United States Supreme Court.  This upheld that the Cherokee sovereignty should protect the Cherokee from Georgia laws.  President Andrew Jackson decided to ignore the court ruling and let the Chief Justice enforce Georgia laws anyway.  They began land and gold lotteries. The Cherokee land (including their homes) were divided up. Also, the deeds to these properties were given to those who had registered for this lottery.


A census during this year approximated that over ninety percent of the Cherokee were farmers who tilled their own land. The Treaty of New Echota was negotiated and signed on December 29th in Elias Boudinot’s homestead (which is now Georgia) by about twenty Cherokee without tribal authorization.  It gave up titles to all of the Cherokee lands in the southeast. This was in return for land in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. It also gave them five million dollars.  However, most of the Cherokee did not support this treaty. Therefore they considered it fraudulent since the Cherokee Council did not approve of the terms.


On May 23rd, the United States Senate changed the fraudulent treaty by one vote.  The Cherokee were given two years from this date to move from their homes to the Indian Territory.


Only a few weeks prior to the May deadline, a petition that contained over fifteen thousand signatures, which consisted of most of the Cherokee Nation, reached Chief Ross in Washington. He attempted to present it to the United States Senate, but Congress never saw the petition, simply brushing it aside.  Only two thousand of the eighteen thousand Cherokee had left their homes.  General Winfield Scott and over seven thousand troops were deployed with orders to “remove the Cherokee by any means necessary”.  

Though the deadline was May 23rd, the round up actually began five days before this.  Cherokee from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina  were forced from their homes into military stockades.  Disgusting living conditions, lack of privacy, a lack of bathing and washing facilities, unhealthy food, and sour drinking water demoralized the Cherokee, as well as causing serious health concerns.  

The first group of the Cherokee (about twenty seven hundred)  left for the west in June.  However, summer diseases combined with drought caused many deaths. Therefore, the removal of the Cherokee was postponed till the weather was cooler.  Most of the remaining thirteen thousand Cherokee spent the summer in these internment camps.  Finally they left via horseback, on foot, or on horseback during October and November.  On June 19th the last group of Indians finally left New Echota (the once capital of the Cherokee Nation).

1838 - 1839

What is now called the ‘Trail of Tears’ was the long walk for over four thousand of the Native American Cherokee. They were forced to march (some documents say side-by-side or in chains) to Oklahoma.  This is a sad part of our history and must never be forgotten.  The Trail of Tears was coined because of the many deaths that happened from various illnesses. It also included malnutrition, and general disdain for the marching Cherokee Nation.

John Ross, the Chief, petitioned to allow the Cherokee to branch out in separate groups.  This was allowed. John Ross led his people through the wilderness. There they could find water supplies, hunt food, and also be free from the rigorous march.   He is respected for the many lives he saved.  The Cherokee Rose (now the Georgia State Flower) is a flower that bloomed along the trail.  It is said that wherever a mother’s tears fell, this wild rose bloomed.

A lot of people like to forget about the hideous conditions that the Native American Cherokee faced. However, it's an important part of our history and we should never forget the sacrifices made by these people. We don't want it to happen again.  There is much more history about the Cherokee Indians. Therefore, everyone should research and study what happened once the Indians made it to their designated areas.

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