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Cherokee Indian Tribe


Cherokee Indian Tribe

Hunter with Bow & Arrows

The Cherokee Indian Tribe (who refer to themselves as the "Tsalagi" or the "Aniyunwiya" in their native American tongue) are thought to have originated in the Great Lakes Area where the majority of other Iroquoian-speaking (Algonquin) peoples lived.  At the time of first contact with colonizing Europeans, the Cherokee Indian Tribe was one of the principle tribes inhabiting the Southeastern United States (Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee). The Cherokee were traditionally polygamists with a man having multiple wives.  However, their society was matriarchal and matrilineal, meaning that the women controlled inheritances, property, and their children were born into their the clan of their mother. In addition, their society was matrifocal, with the married couple living with the wife's family and her oldest brother was a more important to her sons than was their own father, because he was a member of a different clan than his son. By tradition, a Cherokee woman could divorce her husband and remarry, retaining both her children and any property.  Similar to most Native American Tribes, the Cherokees were forced to abandon their native lands due to the influx of Anglo settlers.  In fact, Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have first proposed a Indian Removal Plan by the US Government and he believed that Indian Tribes living in Eastern North America should be removed by force and relocated west of the Mississippi River (for their own well-being, of course).  Despite many treaties with the US guaranteeing their Indian Tribe the right to retain some of their traditional territories, the Cherokee Indian Tribe was by and large forced to migrate west and the famous Cherokee Trail of Tears bears witness to this fact.  In the year 1830, the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized that the Cherokee Indian Tribe be forcible relocation to a new Indian Territory in Oklahoma, east of the Mississippi River.  The majority of the Cherokee people walked over 1,300 km and some estimate that as many as 4,000 died due to disease, hunger and exposure. Perhaps surprising to some, many Cherokees were slaveholders, and they took their black slaves with them to the new Indian Territory.  During the American Civil War, the majority of Cherokees sided with the Confederacy, having disastrous consequences for the tribe. After the war, the US government made the Cherokee Tribe sign a new treaty because it supported the Confederacy and advocated slavery. The 1866 Treaty required  the emancipation of all black slaves possessed by the Cherokees.  At present the majority  of the Cherokee Indians live in the State of Oklahoma, distant from their traditional territory. Despite years of war, forced deportation, and the loss of their traditional territory, the Cherokee Indian Tribe at present has an estimated population of over 316 thousand American Indians, making it the largest federally recognized Indian Tribe in North America.


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