July 13, 2012

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians


The federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in the state of North Carolina. The Eastern Cherokee are those Cherokee people who remained on their traditional homelands when most of the Cherokee were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma. 

Official Tribal Name: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Address:  P. O. Box 455, Cherokee, NC 28719
Phone:  828-497-2771
Fax:  828-497-7007

Official Website: 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Aniyunwiya – Principal people

Common Name: Cherokee

Meaning of Common Name:

Cherokee –  from a Muskogee Indian word for “speakers of another language.”

Tsalagi – The spelling and pronunciation of Cherokee in the Cherokee language.

Alternate names: Formerly Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina

Alternate spellings / Misspellings:

Name in other languages:

  • Allegheny (or Allegewi, Talligewi) used by the Delaware people
  • Baniatho used by the Arapahoe People
  • Caáxi (or Cayaki) used by the Osage people
  • Chalaque used by the Spanish people
  • Chilukki (dog people) used by the Choctaw and Chickasaw people
  • Entarironnen (mountain people) used by the Huron people
  • Gatohuá used by the Muscogee (Creek) people
  • Kittuwa (or Katowá) used by the Algonquin people
  • Matera (or Manteran) (coming out of the ground) used by the Catawba people
  • Nation du Chien used by the French people
  • Ochietarironnon used by the Wyandot people
  • Oyatageronon (or Oyaudah, Uwatayoronon) (cave people) used by the Iroquois people
  • Shanaki used by the Caddo people
  • Shannakiak used by the Fox people
  • Tcaike used by the Tonkawa people
  • Tcerokieco used by the Wichita people.

Region: Northeastern

State(s) Today: North Carolina

Traditional Territory:  Their first village site is the Kituwah Mound in Swain County, in central North Carolina.

Confederacy: Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Iroquois


  • Treaty of November 28, 1785
  • Treaty of July 2, 1791
  • Treaty of June 26, 1794
  • Treaty of October 2, 1798
  • Treaty of October 24, 1804
  • Treaty of October 25, 1805
  • Treaty of October 27, 1805
  • Treaty of January 7, 1806
    • Elucidation of a Convention, September 11, 1807
  • Treaty of September 8, 1815
  • Treaty of March 22, 1816
    • Second Treaty of March 22, 1816
  • Treaty of September 14, 1816
  • Treaty of July 8, 1817
    • Reservation Roll of 1817
    • Understanding the Reservation Roll
  • Treaty of February 27, 1819
  • Treaty of May 6, 1828
    • Disbursements to Cherokees under the Treaty of May 6, 1828
    • Improvements to Annexed Cherokee Lands
  • Treaty of February 14, 1833
  • Agreement of March 14, 1835
  • Treaty of August 24, 1835
  • Treaty of December 29, 1835
  • Treaty of August 6, 1846
  • Agreement of September 13, 1865
  • Treaty of July 19, 1866
  • Treaty of April 27, 1868

Reservation: Eastern Cherokee Reservation, also known as Qualla Boundary, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Qualla Boundary includes the town of Cherokee, as well as several other communities. 60% of tribal members live on the reservation.
Land Area:  56,000 acres
Tribal Headquarters:  Cherokee, North Carolina
Time Zone:  Eastern

Population at Contact:

In 1708 Gov. Johnson estimated the Cherokee at 60 villages and “at least 500 men.” In 1715 they were officially reported to number 11,210 (Upper, 2,760; Middle, 6,350; Lower, 2,100), including 4,000 warriors, and living in 60 villages (Upper, 19; Middle, 30; Lower, 11).

In 1720 were estimated to have been reduced to about 10,000, and again in the same year reported at about 11,500, including about 3,800 warriors. In 1729 they were estimated at 20,000, with at least 6,000 warriors and 64 towns and villages.

An estimate in 1730 placed the Cherokee at about 20,000.  By 1758 they were computed at only 7,500. The majority of the earlier estimates are probably too low, as the Cherokee occupied so extensive a territory that only a part of them came in contact with the whites.

Those in their original homes had again increased to 16,542 at the time of their forced removal to the west in 1838, but they lost nearly one-fourth on the journey, 311 perishing in a steamboat accident on the Mississippi. Those already in the west, before the removal, were estimated at about 6,000.

The civil war in 1861-65 again checked their progress, but they recovered from its effects in a remarkably short time, and in 1885 numbered about 19,000, of whom about 17,000 were in Indian Territory, together with about 6,000 adopted whites, blacks, Delawares, and Shawnee, while the remaining 2,000 were still in their ancient homes in the east.

Of this eastern band, 1,376 were on Qualla reservation, in Swain and Jackson Counties, North Carolina; about 300 on the Cheowah River, in Graham County, North Carolina, while the remainder, all of mixed blood, were scattered over east Tennessee, north Georgia, and Alabama.

The eastern band lost about 300 by smallpox at the close of the civil war. In 1902 there were officially reported 28,016 persons of Cherokee blood, including all degrees of admixture, in the Cherokee Nation in the Territory, but this includes several thousand individuals formerly repudiated by the tribal courts.

There were also living in the nation about 3,000 adopted black freedmen, more than 2,000 adopted whites, and about 1700 adopted Delaware, Shawnee, and other Indians. The tribe has a larger proportion of white admixture than any other of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Registered Population Today: About 13,000 enrolled members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:

Black Cherokee Surnames recorded on the Dawes roll


Name of Governing Body:  
Number of Council members:  
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  


Language Classification: Iroquoian -> Southern Iroquoian -> Cherokee

Language Dialects:

The Cherokee language has three principal dialects:

  1. Elatĭ, or Lower, spoken on the heads of Savannah River, in South Carolina and Georgia;
  2. Middle, spoken chiefly on the waters of Tuckasegee River, in western North Carolina, and now the prevailing dialect on the East Cherokee reservation;
  3. A´tăli, Mountain or Upper, spoken throughout most of upper Georgia, east Tennessee, and extreme western North Carolina. The lower dialect was the only one which had the r sound, and is now extinct. The upper dialect is that which has been exclusively used in the native literature of the tribe.

Number of fluent Speakers



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Cherokee Legends / Oral Stories

Art & Crafts:






Economy Today: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel is one of Cherokee’s largest employers.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs


Famous Cherokee People

Catastrophic Events:

They are said to have lost 1,000 warriors in 1739 from smallpox and rum, and they suffered a steady decrease during their wars with the whites, extending from 1760 until after the close of the Revolution.

Tribe History:

Traditional, linguistic, and archeological evidence shows that the Cherokee originated in the north, but they were found in possession of the south Allegheny region when first encountered by De Soto in 1540. Their relations with the Carolina colonies began 150 years later.

In 1736 the Jesuit (?) Priber started the first mission among them, and attempted to organize their government on a civilized basis. In 1759, under the leadership of A´ganstâ´ta (Oconostota), they began war with the English of Carolina. In the Revolution they took sides against the Americans, and continued the struggle almost without interval until 1794.

During this period parties of the Cherokee pushed down the Tennessee River and formed new settlements at Chickamauga and other points about what is now the Tennessee-Alabama line.

Shortly after 1800, missionary and educational work was established among them, and in 1820 they adopted a regular form of government modeled on that of the United States. In the meantime large numbers of the more conservative Cherokee, wearied by the encroachments of the whites, had crossed the Mississippi and made new homes in the wilderness in what is now Arkansas.

A year or two later Sequoya, a mixed-blood, invented the alphabet, which at once raised them to the rank of a literary people.

At the height of their prosperity gold was discovered near present day Dahlonega, Georgia, within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, and at once a powerful agitation was begun for the removal of the Indians.

After years of hopeless struggle under the leadership of their great chief, John Ross, they were compelled to submit to the inevitable, and by the treaty of New Echota, Dec. 29, 1835, the Cherokee sold their entire remaining territory and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi to a country there to be set apart for them-the present (1890) Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.

The removal was accomplished in the winter of 1838-39, after considerable hardship and the loss of nearly one-fourth of their number, the unwilling Indians being driven out by military force and making the long journey on foot.

On reaching their destination they reorganized their national government, with their capital at Tahlequah, admitting to equal privileges the earlier emigrants, known as “old settlers.”

A part of the Arkansas Cherokee had previously gone down into Texas, where they had obtained a grant of land in the east part of the state from the Mexican government.

The later Texan revolutionists refused to recognize their rights, and in spite of the efforts of Gen. Sam Houston, who defended the Indian claim, a conflict was precipitated, resulting, in 1839, in the killing of the Cherokee chief, Bowl, with a large number of his men, by the Texan troops, and the expulsion of the Cherokee from Texas.

When the main body of the tribe was removed to the west, several hundred fugitives escaped to the mountains, where they lived as refugees for a time, until, in 1842, through the efforts of William H. Thomas, an influential trader, they received permission to remain on lands set apart for their use in western North Carolina.

Their descendants are the present Eastern Band of Cherokee, residing chiefly on the Qualla reservation in Swain and Jackson counties, with several outlying settlements.

The Cherokee in the Cherokee Nation were for years divided into two hostile factions, those who had favored and those who had opposed the treaty of removal.

Then the Civil War began. Being slave owners and surrounded by southern influences, a large part of each of the Five Civilized Tribes of the territory enlisted in the service of the Confederacy, while others adhered to the National Government.

The territory of the Cherokee was overrun by both armies. By treaty in 1866 they were readmitted to the protection of the United States, but obliged to liberate their black slaves and admit them to equal citizenship.

In 1867 and 1870 the Delawares and Shawnee, respectively, numbering together about 1,750, were admitted from Kansas and incorporated with the Cherokee Nation.

In 1889 a Cherokee Commission was created for the purpose of abolishing the tribal governments and opening the territories to white settlement, with the result that after 15 years of negotiation an agreement was made by which the government of the Cherokee Nation came to a final end March 3, 1906.

The Indian lands were divided, and the Cherokee Indians and native adopted became citizens of the United States.

In the News:

Role model for Indian Country

Arkansas Cherokee Indians  
Census rolls and historical records that contain clues to Cherokee genealogy  
Cherokee Center Puts Documentation Services Online  
Cherokee Chief not ready to end fight to keep out Freedmen  
Cherokee healer says to remember and follow the traditions  
Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Freedmen to let judge decide citizenship  
Cherokee Nation license plate goes on sale in Oklahoma  
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is trying to break a treaty signed in 1866  
Cherokee Nation to offer tribal photo IDs in Colorado  
Cherokees must recognize Freedmen, tribunal rules  
Cherokees to Vote: Can Freedmen be Native American?  
Cherokees Vote Out Slaves’ Descendants  
Eastern Band of Cherokee announces new art school  
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Enrollment Requirements  
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina  
Finding your Cherokee ancestors  
Native American Roots, Once Hidden, Now Embraced  
Northern Cherokee typically are not associated with Kansas: Family histories say  
Old Indians mounds claimed by Eastern Cherokee tribe  
Quarterback Sam Bradford is source of pride for the Cherokee Nation  
The Cherokee War of 1839  
The Raven Mocker is the most dreaded of Cherokee witches  
Tribal court rules in favor of “Freedmen”  
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indian enrollment requirements  
Where to start your Cherokee genealogy research  
Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee (1945-2010)


Further Reading:

Eastern Band Of Cherokees: 1819-1900
The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century
A Guide for Tracing and Honoring Your Cherokee Ancestors
Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyah’s Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life  

US Tribes E to G
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