History of the Cherokee Indians
About the Cherokee
Cherokee: Properly spelled Tsalagi by the Cherokee
The Cherokee sometimes call themselves Ani-Kituhwagi, meaning the people of Kituhwah. Kituhwah was an ancient city near Bryson City, North Carolina, which was the nucleus of the Cherokee Nation. The common English spelling today is Keetoowah.
This name is used by traditionalist Cherokee groups such as the Keetoowah Society, the followers of traditional religion. it is also used by the United Keetoowah Band, which is a Federally recognized faction of predominantly full-blooded Cherokee Indians. There are 350,000 Cherokee people today, mostly in Oklahoma and North Carolina.
There are 3 Cherokee groups that are currently Federally recognized.
- Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
- United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma)
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina)
The Echota Cherokee are recognized only by the State of Alabama.
Other Names Used For Cherokee
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).
The Cherokee language is spoken by 22,000 peoplee, mostly in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Tsalagi is an Iroquoian language invented by a Cherokee Scholar named Sequoyah, who was one of the most famous Indians in Cherokee history. He was a brilliant man, who, despite the fact that he could not read or write in any other language, succeeded in writing a system for Cherokee which is still in use today.
Government policies as late as the 1950s enforced the removal of Cherokee children from Tsalagi-speaking homes, which reduced the number of bilingual Cherokees from 75% to less than 5% today.
Trail of Tears
The most famous and worst episode in Cherokee history is known as the Trail of Tears. This was the forced relocation of the Chrokee Indians from their homes in the Southeast to Oklahoma.
Though prominent Americans such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Webster spoke against the removl and the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, President Andrew Jackson still sent in the army.
15,000 to 20,000 Cherokee Indians, along with other Indian tribes were rounded up and herded to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-1839. They were driven from their homes, not allowing them to collect their posessions, not even their shoes.
Unprepared an unequipped for the 800-mile forced march, an estimated 8,000 Cherokees died from exposure, starvation, disease and exhaustion along the Trail of Tears.
Legend of the Cherokee Rose
No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried than that of the Cherokee Rose. The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the Chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother's tear fell to the ground.
The rose is white for the mothers' tears. It has a gold center for the gold that was taken from the Chreokee lands. There are 7 leaves on each stem that represent the 7 Cherokee clans that made the journey. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers alnog the route of the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Rose is now the official flower for the state of Georgia.
Being of Cherokee decent, I felt compelled to do research for this hub and found myself so lost in the information that I found that it was hard to keep this hub to a minimum.
From the history of the trail to the Indian crafts that, even today are coveted pieces, the journey has been both fascinating and heartbreaking. It is so hard to imagine the cruel deaths of so many along the Trail of Tears as well as so many more who were simply slaughtered because they refused to leave their homelands.
When I visited Oklahoma several years ago, I did not know all the histroy of the Indians as I should have but I couldn't help but feel a very emotional attatchment to the state. When I purchased a book in the Indian surplus store where we had stopped, I began to understand as I read it, the attatchment that was there, although not understood at the time. Now, I know that, even though I was raised white, the small amount of Cherokee heritage deep inside was alive. The connection was unmistakable and I come to understand how your heritage can effect you when you least expect it.