The Cherokee

Cherokee Native American Tribe Primary Sources

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Cherokee Phoenix Newspaper

The widespread use of Sequoyah's syllabary gave the Cherokee Nation the opportunity to create a newspaper in its own language. More than 260 issues of the paper were published between 1828 and 1834 under the names The Cherokee Phoenix and The Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate. The paper was bilingual, with articles appearing in Cherokee adjacent to their English counterparts. It was published out of a small printing office in the Cherokee Nation's capital of New Echota, Georgia, but had a national and even international reach.


Photo Source: Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia

A Treaty of Peace and Friendship

Indian Treaty between the Cherokee Nation and South Carolina, 1761. This treaty sought to end the Cherokee War of 1760-1761 and to find a way to ensure peace between the warring parties.

Source: Citation: “A Treaty of Peace and Friendship” 18 December 1761. Constitutional and Organic Papers. Treaties with the Cherokees. S131005. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, S.C.

Cherokee Census Information 1828

Published in the Cherokee Phoenix,
Wednesday June 18, 1828
Vol. I, No. 17
Page 1, col. 1b-3a

Of the several Districts composing the Cherokee Nation,
In 1824 a resolution was passed by the Legislature of the Cherokee Nation, appointing and authorising [sic] eight persons to take the census of the Nation, and to prepare correct statistical tables of each District. The general result has been laid before the public. Our object in inserting the following tables which we copy from a pamphlet is to show that, if possessions can be considered as indicating the progress of civilization, some of the Districts are considerably farther advanced in improvement than others.

Males under 18 years of age 529, Males from 18 to 59 years of age 515, Males over 59 years of age 67, Total number of males 1111
Females under 15 years of age 476, Females from 15 to 40 years 174, Females over 40 years of age 539, Total number of females 1205
Total of males and females 2316
Male slaves 168, Female slaves 127, Total 195

In this District, there are twenty-seven white men married to Cherokee women, and twenty Cherokees married to white women. There are in this District, 2,944 black cattle, 1,207 horses, 4,965 swine, 369 sheep, ninety one goats, 113 looms, 397 spinning wheels, thirty-three wagons, 461 ploughs, five saw-mills, ten blacksmith shops, two Missionary Schools in operation, in which are twenty one scholars of both sexes.

Read the full Cheorkee census information from 1828 on the Cheorkee Nation's Website.

Census from the Cheorkee Nation Official Website:

Cherokee Nation Map 1830

This map shows the 1830 boundaries of the Cherokee Nation in northwestern Georgia.


Cherokee Nation Denied Foreign Nation Status

In the landmark case, The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1831 that the Cherokee Indian Nation was not a foreign nation and therefore ruled that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction. The result was that the Cherokee Nation’s land cessions were allowed to stand, and they were denied the right to sue in federal court to prevent their removal from tribal lands. Associate Justice Smith Thompson wrote a dissenting opinion upholding the claims of the Cherokee Nation. This manuscript is Justice Thompson’s retained copy of his dissenting opinion.

From The American Treasures of the Library of Congress:

Chief John Ross protests the Treaty of New Echota

Letter from Chief John Ross to the Senate and House of Representatives, from Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation, September 28, 1836.

It is well known that for a number of years past we have been harassed by a series of vexations, which it is deemed unnecessary to recite in detail, but the evidence of which our delegation will be prepared to furnish. With a view to bringing our troubles to a close, a delegation was appointed on the 23rd of October, 1835, by the General Council of the nation, clothed with full powers to enter into arrangements with the Government of the United States, for the final adjustment of all our existing difficulties. The delegation failing to effect an arrangement with the United States commissioner, then in the nation, proceeded, agreeably to their instructions in that case, to Washington City, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the authorities of the United States. ...

Click on the source link below to read the rest of Chief John Ross's letter.


Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of the Native Cherokee from their ancestral home in Georgia. Twenty thousand Cherokee (along with Choctaw, Creek, and other tribes) were rounded up and forced to go to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-1839.

Driven from their homes often without being allowed to collect their possessions or prepare it was extremely difficult. Between four and eight thousand Cherokee people died of exposure, starvation, disease, and exhaustion along the Trail of Tears.

Source Georgia Encyclopedia:

A soldier recalls the Trail of Tears

Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838–39.

Children: This is my birthday, December 11, 1890, I am eighty years old today. I was born at Kings Iron Works in Sulllivan County, Tennessee, December the 11th, 1810. I grew into manhood fishing in Beaver Creek and roaming through the forest hunting the deer and the wild boar and the timber wolf. Often spending weeks at a time in the solitary wilderness with no companions but my rifle, hunting knife, and a small hatchet that I carried in my belt in all of my wilderness wanderings.

On these long hunting trips I met and became acquainted with many of the Cherokee Indians, hunting with them by day and sleeping around their camp fires by night. I learned to speak their language, and they taught me the arts of trailing and building traps and snares. On one of my long hunts in the fall of 1829, I found a young Cherokee who had been shot by a roving band of hunters and who had eluded his pursuers and concealed himself under a shelving rock. Weak from loss of blood, the poor creature was unable to walk and almost famished for water. I carried him to a spring, bathed and bandaged the bullet wound, and built a shelter out of bark peeled from a dead chestnut tree. I nursed and protected him feeding him on chestnuts and toasted deer meat. When he was able to travel I accompanied him to the home of his people and remained so long that I was given up for lost. By this time I had become an expert rifleman and fairly good archer and a good trapper and spent most of my time in the forest in quest of game.

The removal of Cherokee Indians from their life long homes in the year of 1838 found me a young man in the prime of life and a Private soldier in the American Army. Being acquainted with many of the Indians and able to fluently speak their language, I was sent as interpreter into the Smoky Mountain Country in May, 1838, and witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of American Warfare. I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west.

One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. Chief John Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved their little hands good-by to their mountain homes, knowing they were leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted.

On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th, 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold, and exposure. Among this number was the beautiful Christian wife of Chief John Ross. This noble hearted woman died a martyr to childhood, giving her only blanket for the protection of a sick child. She rode thinly clad through a blinding sleet and snow storm, developed pneumonia and died in the still hours of a bleak winter night, with her head resting on Lieutenant Greggs saddle blanket. ...

Click the source link below to read the rest of the soldier's letter.


Credit: Original source available from Cherokee Nation.