|Western Cherokees? Who are we? In 1819 our Chief lead some 3,000 families across the Mississippi river into Missouri and Arkansas Territory. Under the Treaty between (5) Osage Chiefs and our Chief, we were allowed to move into this new land to settle and have forever. The Treaty was Govern by Captian Clark, Supertendance of Indian Affairs in Saint Louis. From 1819 to 1827 over 10,000 Cherokees moved west under this agreement. It was no easy life for our families. Many times we came under attact by the Osage Indians. They did not want us in their land. During this period of time, some of our families moved into Texas Territory under a land grant from the Mexican Government. This land grant is known as Cherokee County. When Texas became a state, our families lost their land and moved back into Missouri and Arkansas and some moved into Oklahoma Territory. With the forced move of the Eastern Cherokees in 1835, we saw our homes being lost too. It was during this time that most of our families begain to make their claim as being (Black Dutch or Low Dutch). Most of the Western Cherokees blended into the white culture claiming no Indian Blood. With the State Hood of Arkansas and Missouri no Native American could own property. Many were run off their property by the Law. Most just faded into the white culture as Black Dutch. When the census were taken most would claim Tennessee as their birth place. Some moved into Kansas as black Dutch claiming Iowa as their birth place. The Western Cherokees were as fish in the sea. They had become lost in the sea of the white culture. In all likely hood, the Western Cherokees are the Largest Native Tribe in America. The Western Cherokee blood flows from coast to coast and few know we exists
Al Hobaugh, 2/10/08
Western Cherokee History
By Dr. Timothy Jones
Anthropologist, University of Arizona
The western Cherokee began to separate from the Eastern Cherokee when a large number of Cherokee Towns and Clans split over the issue of weather to accommodate the movement of White settlers onto their lands. The Cherokee people and their leaders as a whole did not agree to make concessions by treaty (British or later American) in which they would be loosing control of their lands in the present southeast United States. Those leaders who did not agree to the treaties could not stop some leaders from making treaties with Britain and later the United States. Those Cherokee and their leaders began to move west to lands that they considered "traditional homelands" in the area of the present day Ozarks.
The first large historic emigration to the Ozark region was in 1694. The British colony of Carolina negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee that was signed by leaders who cooperated with the whites. Some of the faction that did not agree with signing the treaty left the southeast and moved west of the Mississippi. This formed the foundation for the historic Western Cherokee Nation in the Ozark region.
Other emigrations continued thoughout the late 1600s and early 1700s as the British settlement of the southeast further encroached on the Eastern Cherokee. These emigrations and natural population growth were sufficient to fully populate northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri by the time of the next major emigrations in the 1720s.
The major emigration in the 1720's occurred after another factional division among the Eastern Cherokee. A famous incident in which these Cherokee participated was the LaMotte mine massacre. The next major migrations took place about the time of the American Revolution.
In 1782 a group of Cherokee asked Spain if they could settle on land in Spanish Territory west of the Mississippi. These groups emigrated into the Western Ozark region along the Arkansas River on the southern edge of the Western Ozarks. Other emigrations took place in 1785 and 1794, these Cherokee settling on the White River with some settlements nearly in present day Oklahoma.
The Western Cherokee worked togeather to their mutual benefit. Some groups would participate in separate treaties with the Spanish though others were consulted for advice and opinions. The debates usually split between those who wanted nothing to do with the whites and those who though some discussions and accommodatioins were useful. Each individual group had their own leader and these leaders would gather when it was necessary to work together. Some famous leaders at the time were Takonee. The Bowl and Benjamin Green. Relaionships went well among the Western Cherokee until 1808 when a substantial migration of Eastern Cherokee under the leadership of Tahlonteekee migrated into north central Arkansas joining relatives who had emigrated there in the 1770s.
In 1775 a group of Eastern Cherokee signed the British Treaty of Sycamore Shoals. Those Cherokee who opposed the treaty emigrated into the central Ozarks in north central Arkansas and south central Missouri settling as far north as present day Columbia Missouri. These Western Cherokee groups had the strongest relationships with the new United States and would be those that played a central role in negotiating the Treaty of 1817 and the creation of the Western Cherokee Nation.
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 would affect all future Western Cherokee history. The United States bought the Ozark region as part of the purchase from the French and began to explore the area as a region for expansion and settlement.
The New Madrid earthquake in the fall of 1811 devastated the Arkansas St. Francis River region and the lowlands of southeastern Missouri making these areas uninhabitable for years. Many of the Western Cherokee decided to leave the area moving to higher ground in the Ozark mountains. Since most of the Ozarks were already settled many of these people were forced to move west of the Ozarks. This move brought the Western Cherokee into clashes with the Osage who had recently migrated into the western Ozarks.
The Western Cherokee split over whether to sign a Treaty with the United States to form the Western Cherokee Nation in Arkansas. This treaty was signed by groups in north central Arkansas and south central Missouri. Western Cherokee groups located in northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri and some groups in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri would not sign the treaty but agreed to participate in the Western Cherokee government. Tahlontesskee and later his brother John Jolly were major players in the new Western Cherokee Nation government. All Western Cherokee leaders though participated in the government by attending the Council of Leaders that served as a legislature.
The Western Cherokee Nation worked with the Eastern Cherokee Nation in negotiations with the United States. They wanted to unite the Cherokee under lands that principally constitute present day Oklahoma. Plans were going well, so much that the Oklahoma panhandle, known as the Cherokee strip, was negotiated by the Western Cherokee as a strip of land that would give them access to the southern Rocky Mountains where they often went for summer hunts.
During one of the negotiation teams meetings with United States Officials in 1828 the negotiation team was "wined", dined, paid, ect" and signed the Treaty of 1828 which ceded lands in the east and in Arkansas for lands present day northeastern Oklahoma. The Western Cherokee Nation leaders did not support the 1828 Treaty witnessed by the fact that none of the signers of the 1819 Treaty signed the 1828 treaty. Most Cherokee refused to leave their lands and the signers of the 1828 Treaty were sentenced to death for treason. Eventually some of the Eastern and Western Cherokee did move to the new lands in Oklahoma but their numbers were small. The United States was determined to remove Cherokee from their eastern lands. The Treaty in New Echota, Georgia in 1835 ended all Indian claims in the southeast and resulted in The Trail of tears in 1838. Though the government forced most of the Cherokee off their eastern lands most of the Western Cherokee in Arkansas and Missouri did not move and were not forced off their lands at the time.
After Missouri and Arkansas statehood Western Cherokee who tried to gain title to the land they had occupied for more then 100 years (remember that many Western Cherokee has arrived in the area as early as the late 1600s) were often denied legal title. In Missouri there were laws that prohibited Indians from hunting or roaming within the state (state of Missouri, 1835, Laws of Indians, Sections 1-7). Once Western Cherokee were denied title to their land they were considered to be landless and hence roaming withen the state. They could be forcibly removed from their property and the state. Under state law militia could be formed to remove the "roaming" Western Cherokee and if the militia felt threatened they could use lethal force. The law and the actions conducted under the law kept "Indians" from living in Missouri. This law and subsequent similar statues were not removed until the early 1900's. In Arkansas, Western Cherokee were removed to Oklahoma under the guise of the Treaty of 1828.
In addition to the laws, Indians were intimidated by settlers who wanted their land and would villainize Indians in order to control them. With blatant discrimination, acts of aggression and more tacit forms of oppression the Western Cherokee were forced to go "underground" still maintaining their government, associations and traditional life ways without making non-indians, other than some Cherokee sympathizers, aware of their existence. They dropped any outward appearance that would identify them as Cherokee, Ceremony was held in rural locations surrounded by fellow Western Cherokee or Cherokee sympathizers. Barns, chicken coups and rural homes housed Council meetings and other gatherings. Communications between chiefs, clan leaders and other were passed from mouth to mouth or letters were hand carried. Though Cherokee names were given they were not used in public or in public documents. Instead, English names were used officially. This is why people with the same lineage can have different last names or names with different spellings.
The CNO (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) has never had a historic presence in Missouri or Arkansas. As witnessed by the Western Cherokee Nation in Arkansas and their History in the Ozarks the Western Cherokee have participated in Missouri and Arkansas thoughout historic times and they trace part of their history in prehistoric Missouri and Arkansas. Relationships between that Western Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma have never been good, especially when the Western Cherokee did not move to Oklahoma after the Trail of Tears the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has had a "legal" relationship with the United States and gain their support from this relationship. The United States does not presently recognize the Western Cherokee despite the fact that the U.S. Government continued to communicate with the Western Cherokee as a separate Nation though the mid 1840s. The United States even signed an 1889 agreement (The Old Settler Treaty) with some of the Western Cherokee for loss of their lands in Arkansas though most Western Cherokee refused to sign up for this program.
Western Cherokee today do not wear traditional clothing; construct brush arbors in their yard or other visible signs of Western Cherokee culture. They had to stop practicing these easily visible behaviors in order to hide from persecution. Even those who still practice making traditional items usually only shared these with other Western Cherokee. There are many surviving behaviors that show that Western Cherokee roots continue in their everyday lives. As pointed out, they may seem familiar and common to you, but you need to remember that these behaviors and patterns are not found in most American Families.
In traditional Western Cherokee culture women held great power in the family and in the society.. Women also owned their own property and since the families were matrilineal (they followed their heritage though their mothers line rather than their fathers line like most Americans there were family matrons that maintained family control. Today there are still female family matrons in Western Cherokee familes. In Western Cherokee families women have always worked, like they do today, and have held positions of power in the community.
Western Cherokee valued nature and the skills necessary to live in nature Instead of viewing technology as the way to "conquer" nature (dominant in American belief systems) the Western Cherokee believed that humans are part of nature and lived within nature, learning from all of creation. Since they appreciated nature much of their time is spend outdoors hunting, farming and collecting. Many modern Western Cherokee still spend a lot of time in nature and have to "get out" in order maintaining sanity. They have learned this appreciation of nature as part of the Western Cherokee culture beliefs that were passed to them from their parents and grand parents.
Timothy W, Jones, Ph.D. Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721