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The Eastern band of Cherokee Indians can be found in the mountain lands of North Carolina. Artifacts have been found that are believed to have belonged to the tribe and date back 11,000 years to the time of the Ice Age. Tales are told that describe the early Indians hunting Mastodons through the countryside. This was the primary tribe affected by The Trail of Tears death march. Of the 16,000 Cherokees who began the forced march to Oklahoma, one-quarter to one-half died from exposure, exhaustion, disease and the the shock of being separated from their home.
When the first Europeans traveled through the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians lands, they encountered hunting bows used by the natives. The tribe proved to be great potters, hunters and farmers. The Indians were able to use their very powerful bows to bring down deer and elk with ease. The Indians also used the bows to hunt bear.
More than 1,000 years ago, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians ruled over 140,000 square miles that was spread throughout the current southern United States. Each village governed itself and adults gathered to discuss important matters. Villages had both a peacetime and a wartime chief. The men hunted and fished, while the women gathered food and tended to the fields.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians grew what they called the Three Sisters, which referred to beans, corn and squash. They practiced inter-planting to help cut down the need for weeding and staking. They had herbs that cured many of their illnesses prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The land furnished provided all the basic needs including food, clothing, utensils and materials used to build shelter. Each morning the tribe would give thanks for the bountiful land.
For more than 200 years after the Europeans arrived, there was harmonious interaction between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Europeans. The Cherokees offered help to the Europeans and enjoyed the new foods brought by them, such as watermelon and peaches. Inter-marriage between the two peoples was not uncommon and the Cherokee even adopted and learned the written language of the Europeans.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians suffered through nearly 200 years of problems with the U.S. government, however, including broken treaties. Former President Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokees west of the Mississippi River, and after a failed Supreme Court decision, the Indians were force marched west on what is now called The Trail of Tears. This allowed their ancestral land to be sold to whites for use as cotton plantations and mines for the newly discovered gold throughout Georgia.
There are still Eastern Band Cherokees in states beside North Carolina. Clans are registered in eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, north Georgia and north Alabama. Frequently, these are descendants of Cherokees who had married whites and were thus not kicked off their land. They were safe because of their white kinfolk.
Also, by the time of the Trail of Tears, Cherokees and whites had been intermarrying for long enough that many Cherokees who were more Indian than anything else still might have had blue or green eyes and light hair, enabling them to "pass" for white.
It's more common in North Carolina and north Georgia, but around here in north Alabama, you'll see someone you know must have Cherokee ancestry. The
person will have dark hair and eyes and usually, the classic high cheekbones of the Cherokee.
I've been involved in genealogy and found that most Cherokees who were married to white people were listed as "white" on the US Census records. People who married blacks were listed as "black." That makes it pretty difficult to trace Native ancestry if it's fairly far back.
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