that the Cherokee migrated in prehistoric times from present-day
or northern Mexico to the Great Lakes area. However, wars with the
Iroquois and Delaware tribes, who controlled those lands, pushed the Cherokee
southeast to the mountains and valleys of the southern part of the
Appalachian chain. They eventually settled in modern
Virginia, North Carolina,
Georgia, and Alabama.
economy, like that of other Southeast
tribes, was based primarily on
agriculture, growing corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and tobacco.
Deer, bear, and elk were hunted with bows and arrows. Smaller game,
such as raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, and turkeys, were hunted with
long cane-stem blowguns that propelled wood-and-feather darts. For
fishing, hooks and lines, spears, and traps were used. Wild plant
foods, including roots, greens, berries and nuts were also gathered
for another source of nutrition.
women wore skirts woven from plants, while the men wore breechcloths
or leggings. The men would paint their skin and decorate it with
tattoos. The women would sew feathers into light capes made of
were divided into seven matrilineal clans who lived in numerous
permanent villages, typically placed along rivers and streams. Cherokee
families typically had two dwellings: rectangular summer houses with
cane and clay walls and bark or thatch roofs, and cone-shaped winter
houses with pole frames and brushwork covered by mud or clay. The Cherokee
crafted pottery as well as baskets.
The Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto,
first encountered them in the Appalachians in 1540. By 1715 smallpox
had reduced the Cherokee
population to about 11,000.
During the British and French struggle for control of colonial North
America, the Cherokee provided warriors in support of the British, but revolted
against them in 1760 in the Cherokee
War under Chief Oconostota. During the
American Revolution tribal members
aided Great Britain with sporadic attacks on outlying settlements, as the
pioneers continually encroached upon Cherokee
In 1785 a number of bands negotiated a peace treaty with the United
States, but Cherokee resistance continued for a decade thereafter. In
1791 a new treaty reconfirmed the earlier one; part of Cherokee
territory was ceded to the United States, and the permanent rights of
the tribe to the remaining territory were established. Between 1790
and 1819, several thousand of the tribe began to leave their lands,
becoming known as the
Chickamauga. Led by Chief Dragging Canoe, the
made alliances with the
Shawnee and engaged in raids
against colonial settlements, aided by the British.