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Knowledge about Native Americans

Cherokee

Cherokee Tribe

The Cherokee are a Native American people historically settled in the Southeastern United States (principally Georgia, the Carolinas and Eastern Tennessee). Linguistically, they are part of the Iroquoian-language family. In the 19th century, historians and ethnographers recorded their oral tradition that told of the tribe having migrated south in ancient times from the Great Lakes region, where other Iroquoian-speaking peoples were located.

In the 19th century, white settlers in the United States called the Cherokees one of the "Five Civilized Tribes", because they had assimilated numerous cultural and technological practices of European-American settlers. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 members, the largest of the 563 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States. Of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They were forcibly relocated there in the 1830s. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is located in Cherokee, North Carolina.

There are two prevailing views about Cherokee origins. One is that the Cherokees are relative latecomers to Southern Appalachia, who may have migrated in late prehistoric times from northern areas, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and other Iroquoian-language people. Researchers in the 19th century talked to elders who recounted an oral tradition of the people's migrating south from the Great Lakes region in ancient times. The other theory is that they had been there for thousands of years.

Some traditionalists, historians and archaeologists believe that Cherokees did not come to Appalachia until the 13th or centuries. They may have migrated from the north and moved south into Muscogee Creek territory and settled at the sites of mounds built by Muscogee ancestors. Initially, archeologists had mistakenly attributed several Mississippian culture sites to the Cherokee, including Moundville and Etowah Mounds. Late 20th century studies have shown instead that the sites are unquestionably related to Muscogeean peoples. Precontact Cherokees are considered to be part of the Pisgah Phase of Southern Appalachia, which lasted from circa 1000 to 1500.

The other possibility is that Cherokee people have lived in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee for a far longer period of time. During the late Archaic and Woodland Period, Indians in the region began to cultivate plants such as marsh elder, lambsquarters, pigweed, sunflowers and some native squash. People began building mounds, created new art forms like shell gorgets, adopted new technologies, and followed an elaborate cycle of religious ceremonies. During the Mississippian Culture period (800 to 1500 CE), local women developed a new variety of maize called eastern flint. It closely resembled modern corn and produced larger crops. The successful cultivation of corn surpluses allowed the rise of larger, more complex villages with concentrated populations during the Mississippian-culture period. Because of its importance, corn was central to several religious ceremonies, especially the Green Corn Ceremony.

Much of what is known about pre-18th-century Native American cultures, including the Cherokee, has come from records of Spanish expeditions. Some of this work was not translated into English and more widely available to historians until the 20th century. In addition, the dominance of English colonists over the Southeast led to a discounting of Spanish sources for some time.

American writer John Howard Payne wrote about pre-19th century Cherokee culture and society. The Payne papers describe the account by Cherokee elders of a traditional two-part societal structure. A "white" organization of elders represented the seven clans. As Payne recounted, this group, which was hereditary and priestly, was responsible for religious activities, such as healing, purification, and prayer. A second group of younger men, the "red" organization, was responsible for warfare. The Cherokee considered warfare a polluting activity, and warriors required the purification of the priestly class before participants could reintegrate into normal village life. This hierarchy had disappeared long before the 18th century.

Researchers have debated the reasons for the change. Some historians believe the decline in priestly power originated with a revolt by the Cherokee against the abuses of the priestly class known as the Ani-kutani. Ethnographer James Mooney, who studied the Cherokee in the late 1880s, was the first to trace the decline of the former hierarchy to this revolt. By the time of Mooney, the structure of Cherokee religious practitioners was more informal, based more on individual knowledge and ability than upon heredity.

Another major source of early cultural history comes from materials written in the 19th century by the didanvwisgi, Cherokee medicine men, after Sequoyah's creation of the Cherokee syllabary in the 1820s. Initially only the didanvwisgi adopted and used such materials, which were considered extremely powerful in a spiritual sense. Later, the syllabary and writings were widely adopted by the Cherokee people.

Unlike most other Indians in the American Southeast at the start of the historic era, the Cherokee spoke an Iroquoian language. Since the Great Lakes region was the core of Iroquoian-language speakers, scholars have theorized that the Cherokee migrated South from that region. This is supported by the Cherokee oral history tradition. But, other scholars argue that the Iroquois migrated North from the southeast. According to their theory, the Tuscarora, another Iroquoian-speaking people inhabiting the Southeast in historic times, and the Cherokee broke off from the major group during its northern migration.

Other historians hold that, judging from linguistic and cultural data, the Tuscarora people migrated South from other Iroquoian-speaking people in the Great Lakes region in ancient times. Most "returned" to the New York area from the southeast by 1722 because of warfare in the southern region. The Tuscarora were admitted then by the Iroquois as the Sixth Nation of their confederacy.

The first known European-Native American contact was in 1540, when a Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto passed through Cherokee country. De Soto's expedition visited many inland Georgia and Tennessee villages which they recorded as ruled by the Coosa chiefdom, of the Mississippian culture. The Cherokee did not settle in this area until the early 1700s. The Spanish noted the Chalaque nation as living around the Keowee River where North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia meet. European diseases, introduced to natives by contact with the Spaniards and their animals, decimated many Eastern tribes because of their lack of immunity to the new diseases.

A second Spanish expedition came through the interior in 1567 led by Juan Pardo. Spanish troops built six forts in the interior Southeast, including at the Mississippian chiefdom of Joara, where they named their installation Fort San Juan. This was the first European settlement in the interior. They visited what were later Cherokee towns of Nikwasi, Estatoe, Tugaloo, Conasauga, and Kituwa. The indigenous people rose against the Spanish soldiers, killing all but one of the 120 stationed at the six forts, and burning all the forts. The Spanish retreated to the coast.

In 1654, there was a disturbance in Virginia Colony as the Rechahecrians or Rickahockans, as well as the Siouan Manahoac and Nahyssan, broke through the frontier and settled near the Falls of the James, near present-day Richmond, Virginia. The following year, a combined force of English and Pamunkey drove the newcomers away. The identity of the Rechahecrians has been much debated. Historians noted the name closely resembled that recorded for the Eriechronon or Erielhonan, commonly known as the Erie tribe. They had been driven away from the southern shore of Lake Erie by the powerful Iroquois Five Nations in 1654. The anthropologist Martin Smith theorized some remnants of the tribe migrated to Virginia after the wars. (1986:131–32) Fewer historians suggest this tribe were Cherokee.

Virginian traders developed a small-scale trading system with the Cherokee before the end of the seventeenth century; the earliest recorded Virginia trader to visit the Cherokee was a certain Dority, in 1690. The Cherokee sold them Indian slaves for use as laborers in Virginia and further north.

The Cherokees gave sanctuary to a band of Shawnee in the 1660s, but from 1710 to 1715 the Cherokee and Chickasaw, allied with the British, fought Shawnee, who were allied with the French, and forced them to move north. Cherokees fought with the Yamasee, Catawba, and British in late 1712 and early 1713 against the Tuscarora in the Second Tuscarora War. The Tuscarora War marked the beginning of an English-Cherokee relationship that, despite breaking down on occasion, remained strong for much of the 18th century. With the growth of the deerskin trade, the Cherokee were valuable trading partners, since deer-skins from the cooler country of their mountain hunting-grounds were of a better-quality than those supplied by neighboring tribes.

In January 1716, Cherokee murdered a delegation of Muscogee Creek leaders at the town of Tugaloo, marking their entry into the Yamasee War. It ended in 1717 with peace treaties between South Carolina and the Creek. Hostility and sporadic raids between the Cherokee and Creek continued for decades. These raids came to a head at the Battle of Taliwa in 1755, present-day Ball Ground, Georgia, with the defeat of the Muscogee.

In 1721, the Cherokee ceded lands in South Carolina. In 1730, at Nikwasi, a Englishman, Sir Alexander Cumming convinced Cherokees to crown Moytoy of Tellico as "Emperor." Moytoy agreed to recognize King George II of Great Britain as the Cherokee protector. Seven prominent Cherokee, including Attakullakulla, traveled with Sir Alexander Cuming back to London, England. The Cherokee delegation signed the Treaty of Whitehall with the British. Moytoy's son, Amo-sgasite (Dreadful Water) attempted to succeed him as "Emperor" in 1741, but the Cherokees elected their own leader, Cunne Shote (Standing Turkey) of Chota.

Political power among Cherokees remained decentralized and towns acted autonomously. In 1735 the Cherokee were estimated to have sixty-four towns and villages, and 6000 fighting men. In 1738 and 1739 smallpox epidemics broke out among the Cherokee, who had no natural immunity. Nearly half their population died within a year. Hundreds of other Cherokee committed suicide due to their losses and disfigurement from the disease.

From 1753 to 1755, battles broke out between the Cherokee and Muscogee over disputed hunting grounds in North Georgia. Cherokees were victorious in the Battle of Taliwa. British soldiers built forts in Cherokee country to defend against the French, including Fort Loudoun near Chota. In 1756 the Cherokees fought with the British in the French and Indian War. Serious misunderstandings arose quickly between the two allies, resulting in the 1760 Anglo-Cherokee War. King George III's Royal Proclamation of 1763 forbade British settlements west of the Appalachian crest, as his government tried to afford some protection from colonial encroachment to the Cherokee. The ruling was difficult to enforce.

In 1771-2, North Carolinian settlers squatted on Cherokee lands in Tennessee, forming the Watauga Association. Daniel Boone and his party tried to settle in Kentucky, but the Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, and some Cherokee attacked a scouting and forage party that included Boone’s son. The American Indians used this territory as a hunting ground; it had hardly been inhabited for years. The conflict sparked the beginning of what was known as Dunmore's War (1773–1774).

In 1776, allied with the Shawnee led by Cornstalk, Cherokee attacked settlers in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina in the Second Cherokee War. Overhill Cherokee Nancy Ward, Dragging Canoe's niece, warned settlers of impending attacks. Provincial militias retaliated, destroying over 50 Cherokee towns. Invasions by North Carolina in 1776 and 1780 destroyed the Overhill towns. In 1777 surviving Cherokee town leaders signed treaties with the states.

Dragging Canoe and his band moved near present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they established 11 new towns. Chickamauga was his headquarters and his entire band became known as the Chickamaugas. From here he fought a guerrilla war against settlers, the Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794). The first Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse, signed 7 November 1794, ended the Chickamauga Wars. In 1805, the Cherokee ceded their lands between the Cumberland and Duck Rivers (i.e. the Cumberland Plateau) to Tennessee.

The Cherokee lands between the Tennessee and Chattahoochee Rivers were remote enough from white settlers to remain independent after the Chickamauga Wars. The deerskin trade was no longer feasible on their greatly reduced lands, and over the next several decades the Cherokee built a new society modeled on the white Southern United States.

George Washington sought to 'civilize' friendly Southeastern American Indians, through programs overseen by Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins. U.S. agents convinced them to abandon their communal land-tenure and settle on isolated farmsteads, facilitated by the destruction of many American Indian towns during the American Revolutionary War. The deerskin trade brought white-tailed deer to the brink of extinction, and as pigs and cattle were introduced, they became the principal sources of meat. The tribes were supplied with spinning wheels and cotton-seed, men were taught to fence and plow the land, in contrast with traditional division where farming was woman's labor, women were instructed in weaving; blacksmiths, gristmills and eventually cotton plantations were established.

The Cherokees organized a national government under Principal Chiefs Little Turkey (1788–1801), Black Fox (1801–1811), Pathkiller (1811–1827), all former warriors of Dragging Canoe. The 'Cherokee triumvirate' of James Vann and his protégés The Ridge and Charles R. Hicks advocated acculturation, formal education, and modern methods of farming. In 1801 they invited Moravian missionaries from North Carolina to teach Christianity and the 'arts of civilized life.' The Moravians and later Congregationalist missionaries ran boarding schools, and a select few students were educated at the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions school in Connecticut.

In 1806 a Federal Road from Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee was built through Cherokee land. Chief James Vann opened a tavern, inn and ferry across the Chattahoochee and built a cotton-plantation on a spur of the road from Athens, Georgia to Nashville. His son 'Rich Joe' Vann grew the plantation to 800 acres and 150 slaves, exporting cotton to England, and owning a steamboat on the Tennessee River. The Cherokee allied with the U.S. against the nativist and pro-British Red Stick faction of the Upper Creeks in the Creek War during the War of 1812, and Cherokee warriors led by Major Ridge played a major role in General Andrew Jackson's victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Major Ride built a plantation and ran a ferry on the Oostanaula River, and, although he never learned English, educated his son and nephews in New England mission schools. His translator and protégé Chief John Ross, descendant of several generations of Scottish fur-traders, built a plantation and operated a trading firm and a ferry at Ross' Landing (Chattanooga, Tennessee). During this period, divisions arose between the acculturated elite and the great majority of Cherokee, who clung to traditional ways of life.

Ca.1809 Sequoyah began developing a written form the Cherokee language. He spoke no English, but his experiences as a silversmith dealing regularly with white settlers and a warrior at Horseshoe Bend convinced him the Cherokee needed to develop writing. In 1821, he introduced Cherokee syllabary, the first alphabetic form of an American Indian language, although this innovation met with initial opposition from both Cherokee traditionalists and white missionaries who sought to encourage the use of English

In 1819, the Cherokee began holding council meetings at New Town, at the headwaters of the Oostanaula (near present-day Calhoun, Georgia). In November 1825, New Town became the capital of the Cherokee Nation, and was renamed New Echota, after the Overhill Cherokee principle town of Chota. Sequoyah's syllabic alphabet was adopted, and, in 1827, the Cherokee Nation drafted a Constitution modeled on the United States, with executive, legislative and judicial branches and a system of checks and balances. The two-tiered legislature was led by Major Ridge and his son John Ridge. Convinced the tribes survival required English-speaking leaders who could negotiate with the U.S., the legislature appointed John Ross as Principal Chief. A printing press was established at New Echota by Vermont missionary Samuel Worcester and Major Ridge's nephew Elias Boudinot, who had taken the name of his white benefactor, a leader of the Continental Congress and New Jersey Congressman. The Bible was translated into Cherokee syllabary and the first edition of the bilingual 'Cherokee Phoenix,' the first American Indian newspaper, was published in February 1828.

Before the final removal to present-day Oklahoma, many Cherokees relocated to present-day Arkansas, Missouri and Texas. Between 1775 and 1786 the Cherokee, along with people of other nations such as the Choctaws and Chickasaws, began voluntarily settling along the Arkansas and Red Rivers.

In 1802, the federal government promised to extinguish Indian titles to lands claimed by Georgia in return for Georgia's cession of the western lands that became Alabama and Mississippi. To convince the Cherokee to move voluntarily in 1815, the US government established a Cherokee Reservation in Arkansas. The reservation boundaries extended from north of the Arkansas River to the southern bank of the White River. Di'wali (The Bowl), Sequoyah, Spring Frog and Tatsi and their bands settled there. These Cherokees became known as "Old Settlers."

The Cherokee eventually migrated as far north as the Missouri Bootheel by 1816. They lived interspersed among the Delawares and Shawnees of that area. The Cherokee in Missouri Territory increased rapidly in population, from 1,000 to 6,000 over the next year (1816–1817) according to reports by Governor William Clark. Increased conflicts with the Osage Nation led to the Battle of Claremore Mound and the eventual establishment of Fort Smith between Cherokee and Osage communities. In the Treaty of St. Louis (1825) the Osage were made to "cede and relinquish to the United States, all their right, title, interest, and claim, to lands lying within the State of Missouri and Territory of Arkansas..." to make room for the Cherokee and the Mashcoux, Muscogee Creeks. As late as the winter of 1838, Cherokee and Creek living in the Missouri and Arkansas areas petitioned the War Department to remove the Osage from the area.

During the first decades of the 19th century, Georgia focused on removing the Cherokee's neighbors, the Lower Creeks. After first cousins Georgia Governor George Troup and Lower Creek Chief William McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825), ceding the last Muscogee (Creek) lands claimed by Georgia, the state's northwestern border reached the Chattahoochee, the border of the Cherokee Nation. In 1829, gold was discovered at Dahlonega, on Cherokee land claimed by Georgia. The Georgia Gold Rush was the first in U.S. history, and state officials demanded that the federal government expel the Cherokee. When Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as President in 1829, Georgia's position gained the upper-hand in Washington. In 1830 the Indian Removal Act authorized the forcible relocation of American Indians east of the Missisippi to a new Indian Territory.

Andrew Jackson said removal policy was an effort to prevent the Cherokee from facing the fate of "the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware", which he suggested was extinction as a people. But, there is ample evidence that the Cherokee were adapting modern farming techniques. A modern analysis shows that the area was in general in a state of economic surplus.

The Cherokee brought their grievances to a US judicial review that set a precedent in Indian Country. John Ross traveled to Washington, D.C. and won support from National Republican Party leaders Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Samuel Worcester campaigned on the Cherokees' behalf in New England, where their cause was taken up by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In June 1830, a delegation led by Chief Ross defended Cherokee rights before the U.S. Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. In 1831 Georgia militia arrested Samuel Worcester for residing on Indian lands without a state permit, imprisoning him in Milledgeville.

In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that American Indian nations were "distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights," and entitled to federal protection from the actions of state governments that infringed on their sovereignty. Worcester v. Georgia is considered one of the most important decisions in law dealing with Native Americans.

Jackson ignored the Supreme Court's ruling, as he needed to conciliate Southern sectionalism during the era of the Nullification Crisis. His landslide reelection in 1832 emboldened calls for Cherokee removal. Georgia sold Cherokee lands to its citizens in a Land Lottery, and the state militia occupied New Echota. The Cherokee National Council, led by John Ross, fled to Red Clay, a remote valley north of Georgia's land claim. Ross had the support of Cherokee traditionalists, who could not imagine removal from their ancestral lands.

A small group known as the "Ridge Party" or the "Treaty Party" saw relocation as inevitable. Led by Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, they represented the Cherokee elite, whose homes, plantations and businesses were confiscated, or under threat of being taken by white squatters with Georgia land-titles. With capital to acquire new lands, they were more inclined to accept relocation. On December 29, 1835, the "Ridge Party" signed the Treaty of New Echota, stipulating terms and conditions for the removal of the Cherokee Nation. In return for their lands, the Cherokee were promised a large tract in the Indian Territory, $5 million, and $300,000 for improvements on their new lands.

John Ross gathered over 15,000 signatures for a petition to the U.S. Senate, insisting that the treaty was invalid because it did not have the support of the majority of the Cherokee people. The Senate passed the Treaty of New Echota by a one-vote margin. It was enacted into law in May 1836.

Two years later President Martin Van Buren ordered 7,000 Federal troops and state militia under General Winfield Scott into Cherokee lands to evict the tribe. Over 16,000 Cherokee were forcibly relocated westward to Indian Territory in 1838-1839, a migration known as the Trail of Tears or in Cherokee or Nvna Daula Tsvyi (Cherokee: The Trail Where They Cried), although it is described by another word Tlo-va-sa (Cherokee: The Removal). Marched over 800 miles across Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, the people suffered from disease, exposure and starvation, and as many as 4,000 died. As some Cherokees were slaveholders, they took enslaved African Americans with them west of the Mississippi. Intermarried European Americans and missionaries also walked the Trail of Tears. John Ross preserved a vestige of independence by negotiating for the Cherokee to conduct their own removal under U.S. supervision.

In keeping with the tribe's "blood law" that prescribed the death penalty for Cherokee who sold lands, his son arranged the murder of the leaders of the "Treaty Party". On June 22, 1839, a party of twenty-five Ross supporters assassinated Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. The party included Daniel Colston, John Vann, Archibald, James and Joseph Spear. Boudinot's brother Stand Watie fought off the attempt on his life that day and escaped to Arkansas.

In 1827, Sequoyah led a delegation of Old Settlers to Washington, D.C. to negotiate for the exchange of Arkansas land for land in Indian Territory. After the Trail of Tears, he helped mediate divisions between the Old Settlers and the rival factions of the more recent arrivals. In 1839, as President of the Western Cherokee, he and John Ross signed an Act of Union that reunited the two groups of the Cherokee Nation.

A group of Cherokee traditionalists led by Di'wali moved to Spanish Texas in 1819. Settling near Nacogdoches, they were welcomed by Mexican authorities as potential allies against Anglo-American colonists. The Tsalagiyi nvdagi were mostly neutral during the Texas War of Independence. In 1836, they signed a treaty with Texas President Sam Houston, an adopted member of the Cherokee tribe. His successor Mirabeau Lamar sent militia to evict them in 1839.

The survivors fled north across the Red River and rejoined Cherokee in Indian Territory or south to Coahuila, Mexico. A few remained in Texas, where they identified as Black Dutch to evade discrimination and removal.

The Oconaluftee Cherokee of the Great Smoky Mountains were the most conservative and isolated from white American civilization. They rejected the reforms of the Cherokee Nation. When the Cherokee government ceded all territory east of the Little Tennessee River to North Carolina in 1819, they withdrew from the Nation. William Holland Thomas, a white store owner and state legislator from Jackson County, North Carolina, helped over 600 Cherokee from Qualla Town obtain North Carolina citizenship, which exempted them from forced removal. Over 400 Cherokee either hid from Federal troops in the remote Snowbird Mountains, under the leadership of Tsali or belonged to the former Valley Towns area around the Cheoah River who negotiated with the state government to stay in North Carolina. An additional 400 Cherokee stayed on reserves in Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northeast Alabama, as citizens of their respective states. They were mostly mixed-race and Cherokee women married to white men. Together, these groups were the ancestors of what is now known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The American Civil War was devastating for both East and Western Cherokees. The Eastern Band, aided by William Thomas, became the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders, fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Cherokees in Indian Territory were divided, into Union and Confederate factions.

Stand Watie, the leader of the Ridge Party, raised a regiment for Confederate service in 1861. John Ross, who had reluctantly agreed to ally with the Confederacy, was captured by Federal troops in 1862. He lived in self-imposed exile in Philadelphia, supporting the Union, and Watie was elected Principal Chief. A master of hit-and-run cavalry tactics, he fought Cherokee loyal to John Ross-who issued declarations abolishing slavery and rejoining the Union-and Federal troops in Indian Territory and Arkansas, capturing Union supply trains and steamboats and saving the Confederates from collapse by covering their retreat after the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862. He became a Brigadier General of the Confederate States, the only American Indian to hold the rank in the American Civil War. On June 25, 1865, two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he became the last Confederate General to stand down.

The pro-Union faction of Cherokee Nation issued the Cherokee Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. After the Civil War, the US government and the Cherokee Nation signed the 1866 Treaty, which among other clauses, says that all Cherokee freedman and all free African-Americans living within tribal lands "shall have all the rights of native Cherokees."[52] Both before and after the Civil War, some Cherokee intermarried or had relationships with African Americans, just as they had with whites. Many Cherokee Freedmen were active politically within the tribe.

The US government also acquired easement rights to the western part of the territory, which became the Oklahoma Territory, for the construction of railroads. Development and settlers followed the railroads. By the late 19th century, the government believed that Native Americans would be better off if each family owned its own land. The Dawes Act of 1887 provided for the break up of commonly held tribal land. Native Americans were registered on the Dawes Rolls and allotted land from the common reserve. This also opened up later sales of land by individuals to people outside the tribe.

The Curtis Act of 1898 dismantled tribal governments, courts, schools, and other civic institutions. For Indian Territory, this meant abolition of the Cherokee courts and governmental systems by the U.S. Federal Government. This was seen as necessary before the Oklahoma and Indian territories could be admitted as states. In 1905, the Five Civilized Tribes of the Indian Territory proposed the creation of the State of Sequoyah, but failed to gain support in Washington, D.C.. In 1907, the Oklahoma and Indian Territories entered the union as the state of Oklahoma.

By the late 19th century, the Eastern Band of Cherokees were laboring under the constraints of a segregated society. In the aftermath of Reconstruction, conservative white Democrats regained power in North Carolina and other southern states. They proceeded to effectively disfranchise all blacks and many poor whites by new constitutions and laws related to voter registration and elections. They passed Jim Crow laws that divided society into "white" and "colored", mostly to control freedmen, but the Native Americans were included on the colored side and suffered the same racial segregation and disfranchisement as former slaves. Blacks and Native Americans would not regain their rights as US citizens until the Civil Rights Movement and passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.

Cherokee attitudes towards marriage are flexible. Before the 19th century, polygamy was common. Traditionally, couples, particularly women, can divorce freely.

In the 19th century in Indian Territory, marriage between Cherokees and non-Cherokees was common but complicated. A European-American could legally marry a Cherokee woman by petitioning the federal court with approval of ten of her blood relatives. Once married, the man became an "Intermarried White" member of the Cherokee tribe with restricted rights; for instance, he could not hold any tribal office. He also remained a citizen of and under the laws of the United States. Common law marriages were more popular.

If a European-American woman married a Cherokee man, the children of such a union would not have a clan and traditionally not be considered Cherokee. These stem from the matrilineal and matrilocal aspects of Cherokee culture.

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