Trail of Tears Trial of Tears and the Five Civilized Tribes During the early years of 1800s, valuable gold deposits were discovered in tribal lands, which by previous cessions had been reduced to about seven million acres in northwest Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and southwest North Carolina. In 1819 Georgia appealed to the U.S. government to remove the Cherokee from Georgia lands. When the appeal failed, attempts were made to purchase the territory. Meanwhile, in 1820 the Cherokee established a governmental system modeled on that of the United States, with an elected principal chief, a senate, and a house of representatives.
Because of this system, the Cherokee were included as one of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes. The other four tribes were the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and the Seminoles. In 1832 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Georgia legislation was unconstitutional; federal authorities, following Jacksons policy of Native American removal, ignored the decision.
About five hundred leading Cherokee agreed in 1835 to cede the tribal territory in exchange for $5,700,000 and land in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Their action was repudiated by more than nine-tenths of the tribe, and several members of the group were later assassinated. In 1838 federal troops began forcible evicting the Cherokee. Approximately one thousand escaped to the North Carolina Mountains, purchased land, and incorporated in that state; they were the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Band.
Most of the tribe, including the Western Band, was driven west about eight hundred miles in a forced march, known as the Trail of Tears. The march west included 18,000 to 20,000 people, of whom about 4000 perished through hunger, disease, and exposure. The Cherokee are of the Iroquoian linguistic family. Their economy, like that of the other southeastern tribes, was based on intensive agriculture, mainly of corn, beans, and squash.
Deer, bear, and elk were hunted. The tribe was divided into seven matrilineal clans that were dispersed in war and peace moieties (half-tribes). The people lived in numerous permanent villages, some of which belonged to the war moiety, the rest to the peace moiety. In the early 19th century, the Cherokee demonstrated unusual adaptability to Western institutions, both in their governmental changes and in their adoption of Western method of animal harvesting and farming. Public schools were established and in the 1820s, a tribal member invented an 85-character syllable script for the Cherokee language. Widespread literacy followed almost immediately. In 1828 the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, began publication.
Today in Oklahoma, much of the culture has remained the same. Their traditional crafts are most strongly preserved by the Eastern Band where their basketry is considered to be equal to or better than that of earlier times. In Oklahoma the Cherokee live both on and off the reservation, scattered in urban centers and in isolated rural regions. Their occupations range form fishing to industrial labor to business management. In North Carolina, farming, forestry, factory work, and tourism are sources of income. As of 1990 there were 308,132 Cherokee descendants in the United States.
Another member of the five tribes is the Seminoles, a Native American tribe of the Muskogean language family. Most now live in Oklahoma and southern Florida. The Seminole tribe developed in the 18th century from members of the Creed Confederacy, mostly Creeks and Hitchiti, who raided and eventually settled in Florida. After the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the territorial governor, Andrew Jackson, initiated a vigorous policy of tribal removal to open the land for white settlers. After the capture of their leader Osceola in 1837 and the end of the Second Seminole War in 1842, several thousand Seminole were forcibly moved west to Indian Territory.
At the end of the Third Seminole War in 1858, about 250 more were sent west. The rest were allowed to remain, and their descendants signed a peace treaty with the United States in 1935. In 1964 the Miccosukee signed a 50-year agreement with national Park Service that allows the Miccosukee access to more than 300 acres of the Everglades. The Florida Seminole have five reservations. They farm, hunt, fish, and some run tourist-related businesses. Many still live in thatch-roofed, open-sided houses