History of Cherokee NC
It is unknown how long the Cherokee have occupied Western North Carolina. Artifacts have been found that indicated people lived there more than 11,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. Ancient Cherokee tales describe hunting the mastodon that once lived here.
When the first Europeans came in the 1500s, the Cherokee were settled, agricultural people living in villages. The villages consisted of 30 to 60 houses and a large council house that were usually made from interweaving river cane into a circular frame then plastering it with mud.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the Cherokee had expanded their territory to include part of southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia and Alabama. The virgin land was abundant in natural resources which allowed the Cherokee to flourish.
The Cherokee changed their government to a written constitution in the early 1800s and established their own courts and schools. Utilizing an alphabet of 86 characters, created by the Cherokee scholar Sequoyah, almost the entire Cherokee Nation became literate in a short amount of time.
When the 1830s rolled around, the federal government no longer needed the Cherokees as allies. Many land speculators wanted the rich land for plantations and the gold that was discovered in North Georgia. In 1838, the government forced the Cherokees to leave their land and moved them east to Oklahoma. Out of the 16,000 Cherokee that began the march one quarter to half died along the way. This event later became known as the “Trail of Tears”.
The Cherokees found in Western North Carolina today are descendants from those Cherokees who were able to survive or return after the “Trail of Tears”. With more than 13,000 enrolled members, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians now live in a sovereign nation of 100 square miles. The Cherokee’s heritage is now respected and preserved throughout the community of Cherokee, North Carolina.