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Chieftain's Trail

Before the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, the region known as the "Enchanted Land," was home to the Cherokee and Creek Nations. Two of the five tribes called the Civilized People that lived in the Southeastern United States. The mountainous lands and valleys of North Carolina, Tennessee, and North Georgia were the homelands of the Cherokee and Creek people since before the time of DeSoto's Expedition in the mid 1500's.

Between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Cumberland Mountains to the west is a valley corridor, averaging 30 miles across. The valley begins in North Georgia and continues northeast, past the western wall of the Great Smoky Mountains and travels further northeast into Virginia. Today this geographical land mark is often referred to as the Tennessee River Valley.

At the far southern end of this valley and ridge corridor, in North Georgia, there was a heavy concentration of tribal towns. This region is highly fertile with a mild winter climate, ideal for cultivation with trade routes along the valley floor's river waterways. Until the 1830's this was the center of power and commerce.

The Creek Nation, a major tribe of the Creek Confederacy, migrated into this region from the Southwest sometime in the 18th Century. Their large towns, ceremonial plazas, customs and government were similar to the Etowahians, their predecessors. Because of their similarities in customs and government the people of the Creek Nation are believed to be the descendants of Etowahian's who lived in the area until the early 1700's.

The Cherokee people were also late arrivals to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. They are the descendants of the Iroquoian lineage who occupied the Great Lakes region of the Midwest. After the Cherokee were defeated by the Delaware and Iroquois, the Cherokee people moved south into the mountain lands of the Southern Appalachains and surrounding foothills. By 1650 A.D. they had a population of 22,500 people in 200 towns over an area of 40,000 square miles. Cherokee towns consisted of 30 to 60 homes, windowless log cabins with bark roofs. A council house was located in every town, there, the sacred fire of the Cherokee burnt unceasingly before general meetings and sacred ceremonies.

Animosities between the white settlers and Creek and Cherokee were always brewing. The Creek and Cherokees showed loyalty to the British and French during previous war campaigns. After losing vast tracts of land as a consolation for backing the wrong party, the Cherokee Nation decided to, in there own way, join the winning team. Keeping to their treaty lands, the Cherokee began to assimilate the white culture. They formed a government modeled after the U.S. and aided Andrew Jackson against the Creek. The Cherokee also used white methods of farming, wore European style of clothing, owned stores, built modest to luxurious homes and churches, develop plantations and were slave owners.

The Cherokee syllabary was invented by Sequoyah in 1821. Syllabary, a system of writing in which each symbol represents a syllable, a method that caught on quickly with the Cherokee people. A prosperous native people could now keep formal records for a flourishing time, translate Christian scriptures, create a written constitution and print the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix in 1828. All this happened in North Georgia.

Things seemed to good to last, by the late 1820's and early 1830's, gold was discovered in North Georgia and a large population of agitated white prospectors and profiteers were determined to force the Cherokee off their land. Hence forth came the infamous Trail of Tears brought about by the Treaty of New Echota in December of 1835. This is the end of the Nations' way of life in a land they called the "Enchanted Land."

Chieftain's Trail: is a journey through the historical river valley of North Georgia, geographically called the Great Valley. Designated as a state historical trail in 1988, in retrospect of the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Tears. The Chieftain Trail takes you to historical sites preserved for the education and the posterity of the noble Cherokee People, and a way for us to learn of a people we never really knew.

Chieftain's Museum: Located on the banks of the Ostanaula River in a gracious 19th century, white clapboard plantation house. The museum depicts the story and life of Major Ridge a prominent Cherokee leader who struggled to maintain his native heritage while adapting the white man's culture. Located in Rome, Georgia on Riverside Parkway between Georgia 53 spur an U.S.27.

Etowah Indian Mounds: A flat top, 63 foot high temple mound covering three acres. It is the center piece of the Etowahian people, along with other flat topped earthen mounds and artifacts. Located five miles southwest of Cartersville off I-75 exit 12A.

Chief Vann House: Cherokee Chief James Vann, was the son of a Scottish trader and a Cherokee woman. In 1804 he built a house that was called the "Showplace of the Cherokee Nation." Chief Vann invited the Moravian missionaries to teach the Cherokee Christianity. Located three miles west of Chatsworth in Murray County at the intersections of Georgia 225 an 52A.

Fort Mountain State Park: An ancient rock wall measuring 855 feet in length sets perched high upon a mountain top above Chatsworth in Murray County. The wall has no apparent history, it was here prior to the Cherokee and Creek. Some believe that it was is a natural formation while others believe it was constructed by an ancient people. Fort Mountain is located in Fort Mountain State Park on Georgia 52 eight miles east of Chatsworth, Georgia.

New Echota, Cherokee Capital: New Echota became the capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1825. At the government seat of the independent nation you will find the reconstructed Supreme Courthouse, the Council House and the print shop where the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper was printed. Located on Georgia 225, one mile east of I-75 exit 131 near Calhoun, Georgia.

The John Ross House: Chief John Ross was considered one of the greatest chief's of the Cherokee Nation. His house, built in 1797 is a two story log cabin with plank floors, rock chimney and assembled with wooden pegs. Located off U. S. 27 on Lake Avenue in Rossville, Georgia.


 Nearby Attractions

New Echota State Historic Site (Cherokee capital)
Fort Mountain State Park
Cohutta Wilderness Area
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Carter's Lake
Funk Heritage Center (Reinhardt College)
Red Clay State Historical Area
Chickamauga National Battlefield
Southern Highroads Trail

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