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Famous and Inspiring Cherokee People

Updated on December 15, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.

Cherokee Nation Youth, September 2016
Cherokee Nation Youth, September 2016 | Source

Famous Cherokee Persons

Most famously, Elvis Presley, was part Cherokee. A good friend of mine that was an Elvis tribute artist for many years was coincidentally also part Cherokee.

My friend Bob was not famous, but he did perform with a band that was the opening act for Question Mark and the Mysterians. he also did an Elvis tribute act frequently for hospital patients.

Cherokee Nation was previously known as the The Principle People or Ani'Yun'wiya.

Elvis Presley's great grandmother was full Cherokee, but I never met him, and he was my 13th cousin. he also appears in President Barack Obama's family tree.

US Indian Removals

Nunna daul Tsunyi is the term for the forcible removal of the Cherokee Nation and the former black slaves that lived among them in 1838.

This was in the early years of the Indian Removal Act under President Andrew Jackson and it was horrid treatment of people. Their Passage began at Ross's Landing on the Tennessee River in what is now Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

To whites, this is the Trail of Tears upon which as many as 40% or more of the men, w omen, and children walking through harsh weather westward died in extreme the cold from hypothermia, sickness, and starvation. It was the coldest winter of the 19th Century.

Coming an odd full circle around in the early 2010s, Cherokee Nation has expelled the descendants of the African American members of the tribe.

The Cherokee language is a Southern Iroquoian language, a marker for the Cherokee to have split from the Iroquois Confederacy many years previously.

Federally and State Recognized Cherokee Groups

Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, recognized as a corporation in North Caroline in 1898:
91 Bingo Loop Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, USA

get directions

Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation:
137 Seven Clans Ln, Cherokee, NC 28719, USA

get directions

Home of many tourist, accommodations, and casino facilities.

Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma; recognized in 1868 after the Civil War:
17675 S Muskogee Ave, Tahlequah, OK 74464, USA

get directions

W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex oversees 14 counties in Oklahoma.

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees:
16315 OK-10, Tahlequah, OK 74464, USA

get directions

This is the third Cherokee Nation entity, founded in the 1950s.

Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee :
33 Chattin Reservation Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533, USA

get directions

Recognized by the State of Georgia.

Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquios, and United Tribes of South Carolina:
1219 Taylor St, Columbia, SC 29201, USA

get directions

Recognized by the State of South Carolina.

Timeline of Well Known Cherokee People

Dragging Canoe: During the American Revolution, this Cherokee warrior gathered together Cherokee Mohawk, Shawnee, and Delaware tribesmen to fight against the American colonists. This was not the first or only time that the Mohawk would oppose Americans - they continued to do so in the French and Indian War and the War of 1812. One of my ancestors among the Mohawk Nation translated languages at the Battle of Fort Pitt.

Sequoyah (1770-1843): Born a few years before the American Revolution began, this man invented the Cherokee symbols for the tribe's alphabet. Some sources state that Sequoyah was born later, in 1776. Most agree, however, that he was half white, being the son of fir trader Nathaniel Gist. Sequoyah's "white name" was George.

John Ross: Second Principal Chief in 1811 and on the Trail of Tears, he later becoming First Principal Chief. Ross's Landing on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga is named for him. A memorial for Cherokee Nation is located nearby and named The Passage. The Cherokee called Pathkiller was First Principal Chief until his death and was replaced by John Ross, who signed a treaty with the Confederate States of America.

Stand Watie
Stand Watie | Source

Brigadier General Stand Watie (1806 - 1871): I believe that this name took on the meaning of "stand and wait", a nickname derived from the native name Standhope Uwatie and a Cherokee nickname that meant "stand firm." Stand Waitie was a Brigadier General for the South and the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles during the American Civil War. On June 23, 1865, Stand Watie was the last Confederate general in the field to surrender and he waited until the very last moment. This warrior led his unit with the notion of protecting Cherokee lands from the North during the war and he was serious about his responsibility in this task.

Elias Boudinot or Gallegina Uwati (1802 - 1839), Stand Waitie's brother. He wrote a newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. Like his brother, he believed that Indians and whites should join forces and the Uwatis did so, intermarrying, going into business, and even owning slaves, as some of the Iroquois people did.

Goingsnake (1758 - circa 1840) - Famous orator and political person.

The Famous Cherokee Indian Base Ball Club - Rare post cards of this group show them involved in baseball from 1908 - 1912. A woman, Maud Nelson, was their pitcher in 1908, but she also played on women's baseball teams. Sh was also a baseball scout, a team manager, and a team owner.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers | Source

Will Rogers (1879 - 1935): Nicknamed The Cherokee Kid, Rogers was a comedian and political commentator (think "Stephen Colbert" and "Mark Twain"). He was 1/4 Cherokee.

William Wayne Keller (1908 - 1989): First elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in the 20th Century. Oklahoma Hall of Fame induction, 1966.

Evangelist Oral Roberts (1918 - 2009): Cherokee and Choctaw Nations.

Psychologist Carolyn Attneave (1920-1992):Cherokee, author of Family Networks.

Kenneth Stanley Adams, Jr. (b. 1923): Age 89 in 2012, he is the owner of the Tennessee Titans' NFL team. Originally, he made a fortune in oil and continues to be involved in energy production.

Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977): Descended from a Cherokee on his mother's side, Elvis is my 13th cousin. He is also a cousin of President Barack Obama, the President's mother being related to the family of Elvis's mom. Further, the President's mother is related to my mother's relatives that settled in Southern Ohio. Elvis is famous, but I'm only well known enough to receive spam and requests for "loans"! Elvis changed popular music and specifically, rock n' roll, to a greater extent than any other singer before or since.

Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi, September 26, 1956.
Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi, September 26, 1956. | Source

Burt Reynolds (b. 1936 - ): Actor whose father, Burt Sr., was Cherokee and Irish. Reynolds is likely most famous fr his Smokey and the Bandit film series and fore his marriages to Judy Carne (Laugh In) and Loni Anderson (WKRP In Cincinnati) and his affairs with Sally Field and Dinah Shore. He was well known for his roles in early television shows Riverboat and Gunsmoke.

Geary Hobson (1941- ): Cherokee historian and author.

Wilma Mankiller (1945 - 2010): First female Chief of Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Della Reese (1931 - 2017)
Della Reese (1931 - 2017)

Della Reese: Famous singer and actress, her mother is full-blood Cherokee, according to her interview on television with Rosie O'Donnell in May, 1999.

Richard Dean Anderson: Starred in TV's original "MacGyver!" and played Colonel O'Neill in "Stargate SG-1."

James Earl Jones: Famous American actor, most known for his role as Darth Vader in the Star Wars films.

Richard Dean Anderson was made an honorary USAF Brigadier General by General John P. Jumper in 2004 for his work in TV's Stargate SG-1 for his positive portrayal of the USAF.
Richard Dean Anderson was made an honorary USAF Brigadier General by General John P. Jumper in 2004 for his work in TV's Stargate SG-1 for his positive portrayal of the USAF. | Source

Cher Sarkisian Bono Allman: Cher became famous in the 1960s as one half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher. They used to perform on Saturday teen dance shows and went on to have their own musical comedy variety show for a few years. Cher is Cherokee on her mom's side, "Sarkisian" being her dad's name and Armenian.

President William Jefferson Clinton: He is 1/16 Cherokee, but undocumented.

Wes Studi: This actor is full-blood Cherokee, and portrayed natives in "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992) and "Geronimo" (1994).

Christopher Judge - One of the stars of the Stargate television series and a bit player in TV's MacGyver.

Carmen Electra - From Sharonville, Ohio outside Cincinnati, Carmen is part Cherokee (refrerence: IMDB).

Wes Studi
Wes Studi | Source

Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma


  • Conley, R.J. The Cherokee Nation: A History. University of New Mexico Press. 1981.
  • Hobson, G.; Ed. The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary American Indian Literature. University of New Mexico Press. 2008.
  • The Ohio State University, Department of Native American Studies; 2010 - 2018. American Indigenous Languages, Investigating Diversity and Social Justice, Native American History from European Contact to Removal: 1560-1820, Native American History from Removal to the Present, Native American Identity.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS

Comments: Add Famous Cherokee People Here

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @Jasper Williams - Thanks for your views. Yes, much Native North American history has been buried, but many are digging into this burial and uncovering more information every month. The US Census methods hurt us a lot. Did you know that the administrations of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson attempted to eliminate Native American names and tribes and force all to call themselves only "Americans"? Thankfully, that was a failure., although the movement lasted 1945 - 1969, 24 years!

    • profile image

      Jasper williams 

      2 years ago

      The nation can not be truthfully the nation becouse so many black CHEROKEE was vanished becouse of the va. census bureau.

      How can America survive with so many lies and denial of its peaple. Very shameful it is.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      4 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It's a shame that so many groups of people have treated many other groups they consider minorities so very badly. It's a tragedy of millennia.

    • profile image

      dennis doyle 

      4 years ago

      it sure a shame the way the white man treated the indian thrugh history

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I wish I'd known all this much earlier!

    • haikutwinkle profile image


      7 years ago

      What a surprise and interesting article!

      Now I learned something new about Elvis!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That is all very interesting to hear, myawn. I am sorry that Mary was on the Trail of Tears; it was horrid.

    • myawn profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      Great Hub I love Elvis!Interesting you are related. I knew he was part Cherokee I have 1/2 Cherokee 1/2 Irish blood. My grand grand grandmother Mary walked the trail of tears .Thank you!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Sure, link away, froggyfish! I'll look forward to reading that Hub of yours. Thanks for visiting.

    • frogyfish profile image


      7 years ago from Central United States of America

      Interesting information on these famous people - some were surprisingly Okies. And you get to claim Elvis' as cousin, how 'bout that! Very readable and informative hub and great pictures. First video good historical and second, music was 'bouncy'. Thanks for sharing great info - I'd like to link my Red Dirt hub to this, ok please?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Angela Blair - You'll be happy to know that in addition to their space exploration projects, Google is deep into a project to bring back fading or dying languages. I have a Hub on that and found that the project is several years old. Through a pretty good network of partners, they may help save dozens of languages. If I recall correctly, one language is from the Pacific Northwest and is spoken fluently only by a European or Middle Eastern person that began to study it when he was a child, from books. Now he is teaching descendants of the original speakers. It's amazing.

      I'm sure you'll hang onto your Medicine Man and native ways; they will help in the changing US Healthcare landscape! We have a few in Southern Ohio, but not many.


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      kashmir56 - You're right, I should add the video; I've used it in other Hubs.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      vespawoolf - Thanks for your comment! I saw lists of people that "might"have Cherokee blood and was overwhelmed by the number. I left those alone and chose some that have spoken on TV or Youtube of their heritage. I am sad that some of the Cherokee helped and fought with Andrew Jackson when he was a US General, then Jackson still sent them to Oklahoma in the snow storms along the way. Some of those that survived were killed by their own people for going against the tribe somehow. It's a very discouraging part of US history.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

      How delightful to read about the Cherokee Nation and their famous people. I'm always pleased to learn more about any of the tribes as I have Comanche heritage on my father's side and my significant other is a medicine man of the Lakota Sioux. We adhere as much as possible to the old Indian ways -- which, by the way, are rapidly fading as the elders age -- there's few who speak the native languages now -- I think it's somewhere around 20% of the collective tribes (read that recently but haven't truly checked it out). Thank you so very much for such an interesting read on a subject dear to my heart. Best/Sis

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty great hub, loved reading this interesting hub of famous Cherokee people did not know a lot of them were. great video to. I was surprised you did not use the video by Paul Revere & The Raiders - Indian Reservation (Cherokee People) . Well done !

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      What an interesting claim to fame...a cousin of Elvis! It's news to me that Elvis, Carmen Electra and Burt Reynolds all share Cherokee blood. My in-laws live on the borders of NM and CO and they often speak of the beautiful people of the Navajo Nation. The Trail of Tears was a terrible tragedy that will forever remain etched in history. Thank you for this beautifully written hub.


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