Cherokee Indians


The Five Civilized Tribes are the most well known Indian tribes in Oklahoma. These five tribes are Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw. The Cherokee were the most civilized of the five. They came from the Southeastern part of the United States. The Cherokee were mainly an agricultural society. Their capital in Oklahoma is Tahlequah. The Cherokee were heavily influenced by the whites. They blended into white culture better than most of the other tribes. They began to give up their tribal customs. Then, gold was found in the Carolinas, which, at that time, was Indian land. The government then kicked them out of the Carolinas and moved them to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The majority of the Indian population in Oklahoma is Cherokee. The removal of the Cherokees began in 1830. The land they were on was given up to lottery, which allowed white man to establish rights for gold. The Cherokees were not allowed to oppose the white man. They couldn’t conduct business with them, propose contracts or testify in court against a white person. They also couldn’t mine for gold.


They were the first tribe to have their own alphabet. It was created by Sequoyah and his daughter. They presented it to the council and the council thought it was a good idea. The Cherokees then adopted it as the official alphabet. It was taught by one person teaching someone and then they taught another person and they taught someone else. This alphabet allowed them to write a formal constitution. The white man soon began to realize that they weren’t savages as they had first thought. The Cherokees received a printing press from the government. When they sent it down to the Cherokees, they also sent a person to help them learn how to work it. They were soon able to print Bibles and other important books in their own language.


The Cherokees were very deep and intellectual thinkers. They had their own government within the tribe. The Cherokees had the first woman to ever be elected chief. Her man was Wilma Mankiller. The name “Mankiller” probably came about because her family was in charge of guarding the village at night. Wilma was like the president of the tribe. She was elected in 1987. Her main goal was to bring the education standards up.


Another person that greatly influenced the Cherokees was John Ross. He was one-eighth Cherokee. He was very proud of his Indian heritage. At age 19, he was used as an Indian agent. He helped negotiate treaties. His main goal was to improve Indian and white relations. At an early age, he was able to show his leadership and diplomacy abilities. In 1802, the government guaranteed that they would not take the land away from the Cherokees. John Ross and many other Indians fought with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. These Indians were being loyal to their country and then they got kicked off their land a few years later.


In 1817, only 15 years after the government promised not to take their land, the government decided that they wanted the land that the Cherokees were living on. This split the tribe into two divisions. One of the divisions voluntarily went on the Trail of Tears. This division was given money for voluntarily leaving their land. The other division stayed but then got kicked out later and were given no money at all. John Ross was a member of this division. The leader of the people that stayed was Major Ridge. In 1835, the government declared that anyone with one-fourth Indian blood was Indian. Ross Still lost his land even though it was illegal. He was not considered an Indian under the government’s new standards.