The Cherokee Indians
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in
Western North Carolina. The Eastern Band members descended from two groups of Cherokee who avoided
the forced Western "Trail of Tears Removal" and land seizure. The 800 mile forced march which took
place in the dead of winter was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cherokee along the way to
resettlement in Oklahoma. The town of MURPHY, NC located in Cherokee County was one of the
origination points of this military action initiated by President Andrew Jackson. Not all of the
Eastern Cherokee were removed on the "Trail of Tears". William Holland Thomas, store owner &
legislator from the Western North Carolina Mountain area of Jackson County, helped over 600
Cherokee from Qualla town (the site of current day Cherokee, NC) obtain North Carolina citizenship.
As citizens, these Cherokee were exempted from forced removal to the West and were able to keep
their land. In addition, over 400 other Cherokee hid from Federal troops in the remote Snowbird
Mountain lands of nearby Graham County North Carolina under the leadership of Tsali (the subject of
the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills' held in Cherokee, NC. Together these groups were the basis
for what is now known as the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
The Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation lands, officially known as the Qualla Boundary are located
in the WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA MOUNTAINS just South of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The
main part of the reservation lies in Eastern Swain County and Northern Jackson County but there are
many smaller non-contiguous sections to the Southwest in CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC and Graham County NC.
Despite the lack of physical and visible proof, archaeologists have evidence that
suggest that there was Indian existence in Cherokee County reaching as far back as 10,000 to 8,000
B.C. Cherokee Indian presence was noticed historically during Hernando De Soto's search for golf in
North America. He and his men marched up the eastern coast of Florida stopping at the village of
Guasili, which lies near the mouth of Peachtree Creek located in present-day Cherokee. There, the
native Cherokee Indians treated their guests with grand respect. The Cherokees entertained the
Spaniards, supplied them with food (including around 300 dogs), and provided sleeping arrangements.
In fact, De Soto and his officers were placed in a townhouse on top of the Indian mound, which was
indicated to have existed since the Archaic Period.
In 1735, the Natchez relocated from Mississippi to a location just about Peachtree Creek.
Eighty-nine years following their move, the Natchez were found residing with the native Cherokee
Indians. Together, these two tribes created their own written language, functioning government,
and newspaper. However, in 1835, the Cherokee and Natchez were removed from their home and
forced into Oklahoma due to the Treaty of Echota. Some Cherokee hid in the hills for a long
period of time to escape from having to relocate. Later, these Indians were granted land in
present-day Cherokee County.
Presently, CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC
consists of many full-blood and part Cherokee descendants. They own
many thousand acres in the county and represent the history of the county's previous Indians.