Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ross, John (chief)

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ROSS, John, or Kooweskoowe, Indian chief, b. in the Cherokee country, Ga., about 1790; d. in Washington, D. C., 1 Aug., 1866. He was a half-breed, and at an early age acquired a good English education. In 1817-'19 Georgia attempted to induce the Indians to remove west of Mississippi river, and for this purpose a liberal bribe was offered to Ross, who became chief of his tribe in 1828, by William Mclntosh, a half-breed Creek; but this was refused and the Creek was publicly disgraced. The proceedings of the Georgia legislature with reference to the Cherokees in 1829 led to an appeal on the part of the Indians to the supreme court of the United States, Ross acting as their agent. This resulted in a decision in their favor; but Georgia refused to obey, and aggressions upon the Indians increased. In 1835 a treaty was concluded between an agent of the United States and the Cherokees, a portion of the latter agreeing to surrender their lands and remove west within two years, while nearly 1,200 remained to become citizens of the states in which they resided, and are known as the Eastern band. Against this treaty Ross and more than 15,000 of his tribe protested in an appeal that was written by Ross and addressed to the president of the United States, saying that the treaty had been obtained fraudulently. The government sent a force under Gen. Winfield Scott, to compel its fulfilment. The Cherokees yielded, and, with Ross at their head, removed to their new home, a moderate allowance being made to them for their losses. Ross continued to be chief of the Cherokees. He at first resisted all movements connected with the civil war, issuing a proclamation of neutrality on 17 May, 1861, but on 20 Aug., 1861, he called a council at Talequah and formed an alliance with the Confederate states. His wife opposed this union until the last moment, and when an attempt was made to raise a Confederate flag over the council-house her opposition was so spirited that the act was prevented. Political questions originating in the sale of lands in Georgia divided the Cherokees into two parties, between which bitter enmity existed. One of these factions has been always known as the “Ross party,” and was headed by William R. Ross, the son of John, who was appointed U. S. agent to the confederated tribes of the Indian territory. Ross was the author of a “Letter to a Gentleman in Philadelphia” (1836). By the act of 3 March, 1883, the Eastern band of Cherokees was authorized to institute a suit in the court of claims against the United States to determine its rights to stocks and bonds held by the United States in trust for the Cherokees, arising out of the sale of lands west of the Mississippi, and also of the permanent annuity fund, to which suit the Cherokee nation west was made a party defendant. Judgment was rendered against the Eastern band, which was affirmed by the U. S. supreme court on 1 March, 1886, the decision defining the status of these Indians, whose condition became more unsettled.