The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Cherokees

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The American Cyclopædia
Edition of 1879. Written by John G. SheaSee also Cherokee people on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CHEROKEES, a tribe of North American Indians, called by themselves Tsaraghee, who when first known by the whites, and down to 1830, occupied the upper valley of the Tennessee river, the mountains and valleys of the Alleghany range, and the head waters of the Savannah and Flint. They form a family by themselves, connected perhaps remotely with the Iroquois. According to their own traditions, they came from the west earlier than the Muskogees, and dispossessed a moon-eyed people unable to see by day.

AmCyc Cherokees - a Cherokee.jpg

A Cherokee.

They were reached by De Soto in 1540, but from their interior position came very slightly into contact with the Spanish, English, or French for many years after the settlements began. They consist of seven families or clans, and, as among the Iroquois, no man can marry in his own clan. From their position they were also divided into two sections separated by the Great Unaka or Smoky mountains, viz.: Otari, the mountain, and Erati, below. They lived in small villages scattered along the streams. The western portion were often at war with tribes at the north, as the middle and lower towns were with the Muskogees. The Carolinians who shipped Indian slaves to the West Indies encouraged the tribes near them to attack those more remote, and in 1693 twenty Cherokees complained to Gov. Smith, and asked protection against the Esaus, Congarees, and Savannahs, who had destroyed many of their towns and carried off numbers of their people. Gov. Archdale stopped the practice entirely. In 1716 a party of the western Cherokees killed several French officers near the mouth of the Ohio, after which Louisiana endeavored earnestly to win their friendship; but they adhered to the English, serving against the Tuscaroras under Capt. Barnewall in 1712. A chief named Wousatasate received formal investiture from Gov. Nicholson in 1721. They formally submitted to the English king in 1730, when Sir Alexander Cuming was sent to them, and subsequently took six chiefs to England. A few years after a French agent among them named Preber compiled a dictionary and endeavored to win them to France, but he was seized and carried to Georgia. Two years afterward the Cherokees lost nearly half their population by smallpox. This and wars so diminished their numbers that many of their 64 towns were abandoned. In 1755 they ceded lands to Gov. Glen, and allowed the erection of English forts on their lands. In 1757 their warriors volunteered to protect the frontiers, and they joined the expedition against the French on the Ohio. On their home march, unprovided by the authorities with rations, and with no harvest in their own fields, they took provisions from the settlers. This led to skirmishes, in which a number of Cherokees were killed. They retaliated, and Gov. Lyttleton marched into their country and imposed terms of peace. But hostilities having been renewed, Montgomery and Grant plundered and destroyed many towns, and the Cherokees took Fort London with its garrison. A second expedition under Grant in 1761 completed their overthrow, and peace was made at Long island in the Holston. The Cherokees had made considerable progress previous to this war, which left them without houses, cattle, horses, or implements. During the wars slaves had fallen into their hands, who introduced better cultivation, and thus led to their progress in civilization. Their great chief Oganasdoda soon after visited England. In 1773 Georgia obtained from them the cession of a large tract, the proceeds to be applied to the payment of debts due to traders. At the commencement of the revolution, being under the influence of royal agents, they joined the English, and with the tories ravaged the frontiers till their country was invaded and laid waste by two columns under Col. Williamson and Gen. Rutherford, when they made peace, surrendering a large tract of land. In 1780 they again took the field and served at Augusta, but were reduced by Gen. Pickens, when Georgia forced them to give up the lands south of the Savannah and east of the Chattahoochee. By the treaty of Hopewell, Nov. 28, 1785, they acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States, and were solemnly confirmed in the possession of their hunting grounds, embracing much of the present state of Tennessee, with portions of North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Settlements however kept constantly encroaching on these lands, and the Cherokees, advancing in civilization, cultivated more and hunted less. They gave up portions of their territory by the treaties of Holston in 1791 and Tellico in 1798. Owing to this and the general scarcity of game, a portion of the hunters as early as 1790 emigrated beyond the Mississippi, and settled on the St. Francis in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. Some years after a division was made of the property of the tribe between these two parties, and in 1817 the western Cherokees on the Arkansas numbered 3,000, under Takatoka as their chief. The eastern Cherokees, aided by the United States government with agricultural implements, mills, and cotton-cleaning machinery, increased in prosperity; and in 1805, by the treaty of Tellico, for $14,000 in cash, and a perpetual annuity of $3,000, they ceded a large tract in Tennessee. Although now sedentary and to a considerable extent of mixed blood, the Cherokees were not favorably regarded by Georgia, which demanded their removal in spite of the important services rendered by them in 1812 while serving in Jackson's army, and although by the labors of the Moravian missionaries begun in 1801, followed by the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, the tribe was becoming Christianized. Two parties now arose, the lower towns still clinging to the hunter life, and the upper towns wishing to assimilate to the whites. In the autumn of 1808 delegates of both parties called on the president, the former to express their wish to remove to government lands beyond the Mississippi river. By the treaty of the Cherokee agency, July 8, 1817, lands were ceded to the United States in exchange for lands on the Arkansas and White, government aiding them in transportation. Under this arrangement 3,000 emigrated in 1818. By a treaty the next year making a further cession of lands, the annuities were divided between the eastern and western Cherokees. These continued cessions of land had reduced the Cherokee territory to a mountainous tract of about 8,000 square miles, chiefly within the limits of Georgia. The people of that state still desired their total removal, and actually, by a series of laws officially disregarding their existence as a distinct community, extended jurisdiction over the Cherokee territory, annihilated the tribal government, and by refusing them citizenship, or even the right of being witnesses, placed them in a difficult position. The Cherokees in vain appealed to the United States government; the supreme court of the United States decided that they could not maintain an action in the United States courts, and the general government admitted its inability to carry out the long series of treaties. Two parties now existed in the Cherokee nation, one led by John Ross opposed to removal, the other under the Ridges and Boudinot in favor of it. At last in 1835 a treaty for general removal was made with a small fraction of the nation, and in 1838 Gen. Scott marched into their country with 2,000 men to enforce it. Their numbers were estimated in all at this time at 27,000, 1,000 remaining undisturbed in North Carolina. The work of removal was committed to the Ross party, who for years were the ruling body and principal medium of treaty with government. Their new site in the Indian territory was further west than the lands given to the western Cherokees, and comprised 9,776,000 acres. Here all their educational and mission works were restored, and provisions supplied for one year. The eastern Cherokees had adopted a constitution and laws which were here put in force, but the western branch opposed them and wished to maintain their old style of government; while in the former body the Ridges still kept up a distinct party. The feuds between the three parties led to acts of violence. In June, 1839, Major Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot were assassinated, and the Ross party became supreme. An act of union between the eastern and western Cherokees was then made, July 12, 1839. In their new home Congregational, Moravian, Baptist, and Methodist mission influence continued hopefully. The printing press, established at Union in 1835 and then removed to Park Hill, continued its work, publishing newspapers and many religious works, partly in English and partly in Cherokee, using for the latter the syllabic characters invented in 1821 by a member of the tribe. (See Guess, George.) Salt works, the raising of grain, cotton, cattle, and horses, and the annual annuities, had in 1861 brought them to a high degree of prosperity. The Indian agents being all southern, the Cherokees of all factions at first joined the confederates by treaty of Oct. 7, 1861. Regiments raised by order of the Ross party fought against the United States at Pea ridge; but seeing the struggle doubtful, 9,000 under Col. Downing, the second chief, with a majority of the nation, abandoned the southern cause and came within the Union lines. The remainder, 6,500, chiefly of the Ridge party, adhered to the end to the southern confederacy. In consequence the Ross party confiscated all their lands. The Cherokee territory was now ravaged by both armies, houses and mills were destroyed, and cattle and stock driven off or killed, to the amount of $2,000,000. The war also resulted in the emancipation of their slaves. The government regarded the Cherokees as having forfeited their lands by rebellion, and imposed the condition that they should give the negroes a portion of their lands or forfeit certain funds held by government. — In 1867 the Cherokees, by the most accurate census made for many years, numbered 13,566, and the latest estimates give them only 14,682; while in 1853 they numbered 17,367, besides 710 in Haywood co., N. C. Affairs between the Cherokees and the United States were regulated by treaty July 19, 1866, in which protection was given to the Ridge party, some lands were given up to the government, and others set apart for churches and schools. Their country, E. of lon. 96° W. and south of lat. 37° N., now comprises about 6,000,000 acres, two thirds of it being unfit for cultivation. The Cherokee national, orphan, and school funds, held by the United States government, amount to $1,580,975 85. Their language comprises two dialects, calling each other Oonusta, and a third now lost was called Gidoowa, Although many works have appeared in Cherokee, there is no grammar or dictionary printed. There are some notes on the grammar in the “Cherokee Phoenix” and the Archæologia Americana. Under their present constitution they are governed by a national committee and council, elected for two years by the eight districts into which the territory is divided. The executive is called the ”principal chief of the Cherokee nation,” and is elected for four years. A bill in congress has proposed the erection of the Indian territory into a territorial government under the name of Oklahoma, giving access also to whites; but the Cherokees in 1873 joined the Creeks and Choctaws in an earnest protest against it.