Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain History and Culture
Follow us on... Twitter Become a Fan... Highlander on Facebook Mountain Blogs... Highlander Blogs Mountain Events
& Festivals
Calendar of Events Sign up for
Highlander Newsletter
Messages from the Mountains

The Cherokee Nation

North Georgia, Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, was home to the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee people were known as the civilized tribe. They built and lived in log homes, and many became Christians with the more prosperous individuals, being slave owners.

Sequoyah, (native Cherokee) founded a system of writing in 1821. It was meant to help the Cherokee people in their dealings with the white government. The Cherokee referred to the treaties as "talking leaves." So adapted were the Cherokee to the newly formed U.S. government, (only 47 years old at the time) that in 1823, the Cherokee adopted parts of the U.S. Constitution into their own Cherokee Nation Constitution. They were slowly evolving into U.S. citizens under specific territorial agreements.

Being completely enclosed by high ranges, the Cherokee of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains lived a life of remote pleasure, hunting, fishing, farming and trading with the white settlers. The Cherokee also enjoyed warring with other local tribes over territory. Games were often used to settle disputes, with harsh consequences to the losers.

The first encounter the Cherokees had with European explorers came in 1540. DeSoto and the Spanish Conquistadors were searching for the "legendary gold." Starting in Florida, the Conquistadors traveled north through Georgia and on into parts of Western North Carolina. It took nearly three hundred years for the legacy of DeSoto to manifest like a fire storm.

DeSoto came up short of any significant discovery of gold. The influence of these explorers and those to come, played a strong role in the local Native American lifestyle. Tools, weapons, supplies and some of the white man's ways offered benefit to the tribes. The downside...disease, whisky and several hundred years of genocide.

The continuation of self government were the major concerns of the Cherokee people. From 1721 to 1828, the Cherokee signed 37 treaties, losing more land and rights with each new treaty.

Originally the mountains had little to no appeal to white settlers. The mountain terrain was too steep, difficult to farm, and had poor access, "so let the 'Indians' have it." That all changed in a heart beat. Gold was discovered in North Georgia in 1828, and gold fever captivated the mind of fortune seekers.

In 1832 the U.S. government allowed the Cherokee land to be divided by lottery. The land was separated into gold lots of 40 acres, and land lots of 160 acres. More prospectors than allotted began to force their way into the treaty lands.

The Cherokee continuously protested, and on May 23, 1836, "The Treaty of New Echota" was signed by President Andrew Jackson. This treaty forced the removal of the Native Americans from Blue Ridge Mountains and outlying areas to lands west of the Mississippi River. This forced evacuation peaked in 1838 and is known as the "Trail of Tears." This journey of hardships, took the lives of thousands of the Cherokee people before they reached the new treaty lands in Oklahoma.

A small number of the native inhabitants chose to hideout in the high country, eventually trading and working with the new arrivals, posing no threat or rightful claim to land they were allowed to remain. Thanks to those that stayed behind, the Blue Ridge Mountains are still enriched with Native American history and customs.

Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains
Sign up for the Blue Ridge Highlander Newsletter, Messages from the Mountains
to find out first about our new feature stories, road trips and special offers

Your e-mail addresses will not be sold or given away to anyone.

Highlander Privacy Policy

Let our visitors tell you about the Highlander...

Click the feathers to go to the Highlander site map...
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain Highlander



designed, produced and hosted by
Travel and Real Estate Guide to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, including North Georgia, Western North Carolina, Tennessee River Valley and Up Country South Carolina

The Blue Ridge Highlander logo, all photography, design, graphics, artwork, writing, digital images, etc are the Copyright ©
of C. Wayne Dukes and Sherry Bell Dukes. 1996 - 2017, except where otherwise stated. All rights reserved, reproduction,
downloading, and/or duplication of any sort is strictly prohibited, all violations will be prosecuted. Legal Policy.
If you have any questions, or comments, regarding this site, e-mail the Highlander.

Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain Highlander