At the beginning of the 19th century, the Cherokees were facing immense pressure to give up their traditional homelands in the east and move to other distant lands west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee people attempted various strategies to avoid expulsion. President Andrew Jackson followed a policy of expelling Cherokees and other southeastern tribes from their homelands to the unstable West. For a thousand years before Europeans arrived in North America, the Cherokees occupied a large area where the states of Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia now meet.
Cherokee women were responsible for tending to the crops while men hunted and fought wars. Each city had a council, usually composed of a religious leader and elders. The council discussed important issues, such as going to war against an enemy tribe. Council members and people from the city debated an issue until they reached an agreement on what to do. Traditionally, no single tribal government or chief had authority over all Cherokees.
But in 1721, South Carolina colonists were able to persuade the Cherokees to choose a chief for the entire tribe to negotiate the sale of some of their hunting land. After the French and Indian War, the British tried to ban any other white settlement on Native American lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, the colonists continued to move to the Cherokee and other indigenous lands. During the American Revolution, the Cherokees sided with the British. A colonial army attacked and destroyed 50 Cherokee cities.
After the revolution, many Americans considered the Cherokees a conquered people and forced them to give up thousands of square miles of hunting grounds. Suddenly, the traditional customs and even the survival of the Cherokee tribe were threatened. Many Americans believed that the Cherokees, as allies of the British, had lost all rights to their lands. Henry Knox, President George Washington's Secretary of War, disagreed. Instead, he concluded that they and all indigenous tribes were sovereign nations.
He believed that they would eventually have to hand over their land to the inevitable wave of white settlement, but only voluntarily through negotiated treaties. In 1791, the new American nation signed a treaty with the Cherokees with the goal of bringing them to “a greater degree of civilization”. The main way to achieve this was for Cherokee men to abandon hunting and become farmers, which had been traditionally done by women. To some extent, all tribes in the Southeast accepted this idea of “civilization”. But it was enthusiastically accepted by the Cherokees. The Cherokees believed that if they looked more like their white neighbors, then Americans would leave them alone in their remaining lands.
In 1820s most Cherokees lived in family log cabins tilling fields on tribal land. Some owned stores and other businesses while others borrowed from southern whites by establishing large cotton plantations with a mansion and black slaves. The Cherokees also welcomed white Christian missionaries who established schools to teach English and agricultural skills. Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith and farmer, believed that white people gained their power through their ability to remember and communicate through writing. Although he never went to school or learned English, Sequoyah experimented for a dozen years before developing 86 symbols that represented all syllables of spoken Cherokee.
Mission schools soon adopted this Sequoyah writing system and taught it along with English. A decade later probably a greater percentage of Cherokees could read and write in their native language than Southern whites in English. In 1828, The Cherokee Phoenix became the first Native American newspaper published in both Cherokee and English languages. Also in 1828, The Cherokees had adopted a constitution inspired by American one which provided for a two-chamber legislature called General Council, a chief chief and eight district courts. He also stated that all Cherokee lands were tribal property which only General Council could renounce. The pressure for relocation increased in Georgia after it gave up its land claims in west.
The government promised to acquire Cherokee heartland and hand it over to state for white settlement. But in 1830s land-hungry Georgians looked with alarm at “civilized Cherokees” who had successfully adopted American customs and showed all signs that they intended to remain in their land. After War of 1812 Jackson served as federal commissioner to negotiate treaties with Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creeks Seminoles and Cherokees so-called “Five Civilized Tribes of Southeast” sometimes using military threats or bribes Jackson succeeded in getting most tribes to give up total 50 million acres of tribal land. In 1828 Jackson was elected president he stated that only hope for survival of southeastern tribes would be for them to give up all their land and move west Mississippi River Jackson warned tribes that if they didn't move they would lose their independence and fall under state laws Indian Expulsion Act offered Eastern tribes land area west Mississippi (soon be called “Indian Territory”) government promised compensate tribes properties they would have abandon. Although expulsion supposed be voluntary Jackson cut off payments tribes previous land transactions until they moved West he also agreed with Georgia other southern states their laws controlled tribal lands example Georgia passed legislation abolished Cherokee government Supreme Court ruled Worcester v Chief Justice John Marshall wrote majority opinion Constitution gave Congress not states power enact laws applied Indian tribes despite clear judicial victory Cherokees Jackson openly refused enforce Southern states ignored it she's pretty little wife big plantation addition problems Cherokees tribe divided whether accept resist expulsion small minority argued Cherokees couldn't.