Cherokee Indians

Cherokee Indians (Tsálăgĭ  in their own language)
Tribal Origin: Iroquoian Family

Native Name: Tsálăgĭ or Tsárăgĭ, which might mean ‘cave people’

Home Territories: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tenessee and Texas. Also found in Oklahoma today due to forced relocation.

Whatever may be their origins in antiquity, the Cherokees are generally thought to be a Southeastern tribe, with roots in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, among other states, though many Cherokees are identified today with Oklahoma, to which they had been forcibly removed by treaty in the 1830s, or with the lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokees in western North Carolina.


1) Elatĭ, or Lower, at locations near the heads of Savannah River, in South Carolina and Georgia;
2) Middle, mainly near the Tuckasegee River in western North Carolina;
3) A’tŭli, Mountain or Upper, throughout most of upper Georgia, east Tennessee, and extreme western North Carolina.

There were some cultural and linguistic differences between these groups. The Cherokee language is a part of the Iroquoian language family

The largest of the Five Civilized Tribes, which also included Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, the Cherokees were the first tribe to have a written language, and by 1820 they had even adopted a form of government resembling that of the United States.

Alliances: Cherokee Indians sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. During the United States Civil War, most Cherokees sided with the Confederacy.

Marriage Traditions:

Among the Cherokee Indians, individuals were not allowed to marry members of their own clan or members of their father’s clan. They were, however, encouraged to marry members of their maternal grandfather’s clan or their paternal grandfather’s clan.

In general, marriage was regulated by the women of the village. This does not mean that women were told who to marry. No relative-not her mother, nor her uncles, nor her brothers-had any compulsory authority over her.

Premarital chastity was unusual and there were no cultural prohibitions against fornication or adultery. Cherokee women determined with whom they would have sexual relations.

Cherokee marriage was not seen as binding on either the husband or wife. Married Cherokee women also enjoyed great latitude with regard to sexual freedom. Women were free to dissolve a marriage at will.

Cherokee women resided with their kinswomen, that is, with members of their own clan. They owned the homes and shared in the agricultural products of the clan’s fields.

Cherokee men often married women from outside of their own village. The men were expected to live in their wives’ village. Women, of course, owned the house.

The Cherokee wedding ceremony was brief and simple: it involved an exchange of gifts. It was not a religious ceremony and often involved only the two clans involved.

If a White man married a Cherokee woman, he was granted limited tribal membership. However, if a Cherokee man married a Caucasian woman, he would be forced out of the tribe.

It is a lesser known fact that there was considerably more intermarriage between Cherokees and Whites than any other tribe, so they have a genealogical significance far out of proportion to their historical numbers. There is also a great deal of genealogical data on the Cherokees, mostly in the form of census records and enrollment records.

Three Cherokee Divisions: At the time of European contact, the Cherokee Indians were divided into three broad groups:

(1) the Lower Towns along the rivers in South Carolina,

(2) the Upper or Overhill Towns in eastern Tennessee and northwestern North Carolina,

(3) the Middle Towns which included the Valley Towns in southwestern North Carolina and northeastern Georgia and the Out Towns.

The Cherokee Clans:
Understanding the Cherokee family begins with an understanding of Cherokee clans. First of all, clans are not just a bunch of people who are somehow vaguely related to each other. Clans are corporate entities with names, traditions, oral history, and membership rules.

Traditionally, the Cherokee were a farming people and the fields were farmed by the clans. The land was owned by the village and allocated to the clans.

Membership in a Cherokee clan is determined by the mother: you belong to your mother’s clan.

Among the Cherokee, as with many other American Indian tribes, clan membership is the most important thing a person has and was the most fundamental of Cherokee rights. To be without a clan is to be without identity as a Cherokee.

The Cherokee had seven clans:

Blue: (A ni sa ho ni) Also known as the Panther or Wild Cat clan.

Long Hair: (A ni gi lo hi) The Peace Chief was usually from this clan.

Bird: (A ni tsi s kwa)

Paint: (A ni wo di) Many of the medicine people were from this clan.

Deer: (A ni ka wi)

Wild Potato: (A ni ga to ge wi) Also known as the Bear, Racoon, or Blind Savannah clan.

Wolf: (A ni wa yah) Many war chiefs came from this clan.

Fathers and Uncles:

Fathers had no official relationship to their children because their children belonged to a different clan. Fathers might love their children and provide them with some care, but still the children belonged to the mother’s clan.

A father did not have the right to punish his children. In fact, if a father were to harm his children, the children’s clan (that is, the clan of their mother) could hold him responsible.

The traditional roles of uncles-more specifically, the mother’s brothers-were very important in traditional Cherokee culture. Traditional Cherokee education was based on the role of the maternal uncles.

For a young boy, this meant that the most important men in his childhood were his uncles, not his father. It was his maternal uncle who would teach him about warfare and hunting. The uncle was the disciplinary and tutorial authority within the clan.

The designation “maternal uncle” was also different in Cherokee society than in European society. This simply indicated that the man was a member of the mother’s clan. The maternal uncle did not have to have the same mother as the mother.

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Online Cherokee Translation Tool:
Courtesy of Freelang Dictionary CHEROKEE (ANIYAWIYA) => ENGLISH : ENGLISH => CHEROKEE (ANIYAWIYA) : Whole word


Article Index:

Arkansas Cherokee Indians

There have been many very notable and honored Chiefs that lived in the Arkansas Territory. Some have claimed Dangerous Man from the Cherokee legend of the Lost Cherokee resided in Arkansas for a time, however we will stick to what we know as fact, as that is usually the best policy when doing legitimate research.


This does not rule out Dangerous Man, however the evidence suggests his people lived in southwestern Texas and not Arkansas, so we will leave that issue and go forward.

Sometime around 1775, the Chickamauga drove off the French from the lead mines in Southeast Missouri, this was done for the purpose of gaining access to the lead itself which was needed for war. This in fact was very important to the Spanish as they then made overtures to the Cherokee to move West of the Mississippi to settle in Spanish lands as a way to keep the French in check, and to act as a buffer between Spanish interests and French Louisiana whom still maintained a strong presence there with the fur trade and several outposts.

The Cherokee however did not immediately move to the region, as it was still the hopes of many Chickamauga to drive off the settlers from their traditional hunting lands in the east. This ideal changed however in the year 1785 where several Chickamauga Chiefs signed what has become known as the Hopewell Treaty that year.

This treaty demanded that the Cherokee Nation come under no other sovereign other than the United States of America. While some Chickamauga Chiefs signed, there were many that refused to give up their own sovereignty to be under the “protection” of the United States.

For many Cherokees, this treaty was unacceptable and they chose to leave Old Nation lands rather than be forced to accept the terms of the treaty.

The facts are that the United States was in immediate breach of this treaty from the begining and nothing was done to curtail the settlement of lands that they promised they would protect from the invasion of the settlers. Within a very short time it was very apparent to the Cherokee that the Americans were not interested in stopping settlement of the lands regardless of what the treaty said.

Springfrog being disgusted at the outcome of the terms of this treaty, then removed from his traditional home and took many families West of the Mississippi to settle in the Arkansas Territory that he was familiar with from his visits in years past.

These circumstances marked the beginning of voluntary removal of Cherokee Indians from the old lands in the east to the Arkansas Territory that spanned a period of over 50 years!

The first documented Cherokee village in Arkansas was in the year 1785 on the White River. This was none other than Dustu’s Village whom was also known as the famous ball player Chief Springfrog. Springfrog was a very active man and was known to act as both scout and friend to James Audubon. Springfrog was born in a cabin in Hamilton County TN around the year of 1754, and his birth-place may still be visited today and is known as Springfrog’s Cabin.

Sometime later around 1795 Chief Duwali whom was the chief of Hiwasee Town in North Carolina arrived and began living on the St. Francis River. These Cherokee whom lived in this area were forced to leave in 1811 due to a massive Earthquake and flooding which made the Mississippi River and its tributaries run backwards. Duwali then moved his people to the White River for a short time, then moved his people to the south banks of the Arkansas, then later removed to Texas sometime around 1819.

Sometime around 1809, Talontuskee along with Chief Takatoka settled about 300 Cherokees on the White River, while others such as Duwali moved further south and west to live south of the Arkansas River in North Central Arkansas. Tahloteeskee as he is sometimes known was the uncle of Geroge Guess and became the principal Chief of the villages south of the Arkansas sometime around 1813.

Among this growing group of Cherokees was also Walter Webber whom came to the area roughly at the same time around 1809. Walter Webber later became third Chief after 1824. Walter Webber’s wife was the sister of Stand Watie.

John Jolly whom was the brother of Talontuskee, emigrated to the Arkansas Territory in the year 1817 and later became Chief sometime around 1818.

Tahchee whom was also known as Captain William Dutch was an early Old Settler and was famous for fighting the Osage. Tahchee later became a scout for the United States and was the spokesperson for the Indians during the councils for the 1835 Camp Holmes Peace Treaty. Tahchee died in 1848 after being active in Western Cherokee politics and serving as third Chief in his later years in Texas.

Among these early years of emigration, there were many Indians living in these lands whom came to the area after several wars with the whites in the east. Among those who came to the lands to live among the Cherokee were the Shawnee whom had also been in confederation in previous years with the Chickamauga in the resistance to fight white settlement of Indian lands.

Among these Indians was Peter Cornstalk who was the son of the famous Chief Cornstalk of the Great Shawnee Nation.

Peter Cornstalk and his Brother John were half Chickamauga Cherokee through their mother. Peter later became the Principal Chief of the Cherokees living at the mouth of Spring Creek where my 3rd Great Grandfather Isaac Weaver held the first legal land grant as recognized later by President Franklin Pierce in that exact location.

Spring Creek was an area with a very large village of Cherokees, and there were also numerous Shawnee whom lived in this area.

Census rolls and historical records that contain clues to Cherokee genealogy

The different Census Rolls are given control numbers by the National Archives so they may be ordered, such as M-1234. The rolls are usually named for the person taking the census. Each roll pertains to a particular year so it is important to select the year that applies to the individual whom you are looking to find. I usually like to start with the Guion Miller Roll. The claims had to be on file by August 31, 1907. In 1909 Miller stated that 45,847 separate applications had been filed representing a total of about 90,000 individuals; 3436 resided east, and 27,384 were residing West of the Mississippi.


Cherokee Center Puts Documentation Services Online

The Cherokee Heritage Documentation Center now provides a quick and simple way for people of Cherokee blood to register online, document their heritage, and learn more about who they are.

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