BY HUGH T. CUNNINGHAM
With spear upraised, the red man gives the sign
In the faraway past of four hundred years ago, a little band of white men ventured into the inner fastnesses of the New World, and encountered there a powerful tribe of warriors of the southern and eastern forests. The white men were members of the exploring expedition of Hernandez De Soto, discoverer of the Mississippi River, and the Indian nation was that of the Cherokees. Such is the first appearance in recorded history of "the largest and most important tribe originally east of the Alleghenies, the highest in culture and intellectual receptivity north of Mexico."1
Aeons after the disappearance of the glaciers from the temperate zones of North America, at the time when the fabled Atlantis was at the height of its mystical civilization, a nation began to form in this New World. Its people were obviously from a southern country, as the soft, pleasant tones of their speech were a great contrast to the harsher dialects of the north. The tribe moved gradually to the north and east, according to the evidence of mounds discovered recently, containing a number of articles in use by the people up to fairly modern times. It is believed that they were stopped in their eastward march by a huge confederacy of belli-
cose Iroquois, but instead of waging war the tribes evidently became friendly, and mingled with each other to the extent that their languages soon had many characteristics in common. There were a number of warlike tribes, however, which doggedly resisted the new tribe's efforts to win northern lands, but the latter finally reached the Appalachian range, where they held all enemies at bay and created a neutral strip, extending to the Ohio River, on which no other tribe might trespass with impunity. The band strengthened its power and grew apace until the Spanish conquistador found them a great thriving nation. Such were the beginnings of the Cherokee people.2
The first definite information about the Cherokees (also known as the Tsaraki or Tsalaki tribe), finds them located in a section about 120 miles square. They were divided into two main branches, speaking different dialects: the Atali Tsalaki, or Upper Cherokees, and Elati Tsalaki, or Lower Cherokees. The main settlements of the former were found around the headwaters of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and the latter groups centered in northern Georgia and southern North Carolina, around the headwaters of the Savannah and the Chattahoochee. The upper branch later moved into the region of the lower and united with them into one great tribe. There they carried on, their affairs in such a way that Joseph B. Thoburn, the well known authority on Oklahoma history, has said of them, "Of a most virile and self-reliant disposition, they have always taken a leading place among the American Indians."3
Although it is generally believed that the American Indian of early times was a nomad, without settled towns or cultivated fields, it is almost certain that the great number of the aboriginal tribes lived in established towns tilling the soil. De Soto found that all the tribes he visited, from Florida to the Mississippi, planted maize and other food products Jacques Cartier, the first European to ascend the St. Lawrence River, found "good and large fields of corn;" Captain John Smith and his Jamestown colony depended largely on the produce of Indian cultivation for subsistence, as did all of the earlier colonies, and La Salle and his companions found
the Mississippi tribes cultivating large crops of maize. Just as we are indebted to the Indians for maize, without which the peopling of America might have been delayed for a century, we are also indebted for the red man's methods of planting, storing, and using it. The Cherokees seem to have been particularly advanced in the various phases of agriculture.4
Among the arts and industries highly developed by the Cherokees were the construction of buildings, sculpture and carving, plastic work, metallurgy, textile work—, basketry, needlework, beadword, quillwork, and embroidery—, painting, engraving, and others. In all of these a definite love of the esthetic, a cultured taste for the beautiful, and great skill were shown. Of the more useful arts, the Cherokees were also masters. Utilizing all of the products of nature and the known mechanics of physics, they devised plans for Industrial activities including the use of raw materials, development of transportation facilities, manufacture of mediums of exchanges, and others. Included in their industrial arts were stonework, use of water (irrigation, and finding, carrying, storing, and heating water), earth construction work, ceramic art, metalcraft, woodcraft, trapping, fishing, and so forth.5
The religion of the early Cherokees deserves special comment. When the early missionaries came among the tribesmen, they were astounded to learn that in many ways the redmen's beliefs were almost identical to their own. Although a small part of the tribe worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, another part believed in a faith which said there were three sacred deities, who created all things, and who were eventually the judges of all human beings. Much like our Trinity, they were called Uhahetaqua, the Supreme Power, and Atanati and Usquahula. Although they were three distinct beings they were always unanimous in thought and action; they sat on white thrones in heaven, and ruled the affairs of men through their hosts of angels, their messengers. The Cherokees also believed in a great king Yehowa (cf. Jehovah), who was at the same time a spirit and a human being. His name was never mentioned in common conversation, and he commanded his people to rest every seventh day and to devote it to talking and thinking of God. Yehowa
created the world at Nutatequa, the first full moon of autumn, when the fruits were all ripe; he fashioned the Indian out of red clay—all people before the flood were thought to have been Indians—and made woman from one of the first man's ribs. The tribe had prophets who warned them of approaching destruction by water and then by fire. They believed in life after death, and that there was a heaven and a hell. Their story of the deluge, of Aquahami (Abraham), of Wasi (Moses), and of other incidents and people coincide so exactly with the Old Testament stories that the belief has arisen among some ethnologists that the Cherokees must have been of Semitic origin. Other theories have been advanced, but the peculiar relation (it cannot be mere coincidence) between the two religions has never been satisfactorily explained. Due to the close resemblance of the Christian faith to the Cherokee beliefs, it was a comparatively easy task to convert the Indian from a tribe of savages to a Christian nation within the short period of thirty years. When they were converted, through the teaching of the missionaries the Cherokees cast aside every vestige of their ancient customs to such an extent that not any of their other mythology has been preserved, even among the tribesmen who speak the Cherokee tongue solely.6
The life of the Cherokees was not destined to be smooth and undisturbed for many years, however. In 1732 came the English under Oglethorpe to trespass upon the sacred fatherland of the home-loving Cherokees. Little need be said about the early relations of the Cherokees and the colony of the old English philanthropist, except that they were at all times harmonious. James Oglethorpe always treated the natives with the utmost prudence, wisdom, and skill. When the slightest hint of resorting to the sword might have brought complete disaster to the few English settlers, Oglethorpe's conduct was always conciliatory, and won him the highest respect and friendship of all the tribes.
It was one of Oglethorpe's highest ambitions to educate the unlettered red men. As early as 1735 he built a school house, called "Irene," for the sole accommodation and instruction of Indian children, and according to accounts, a lively interest was maintained in the project among the tribes. At the request of General Oglethorpe, an English
divine, Rev. Dr. Wilson, wrote "The Knowledge and Practice of Christianity Made Easy to the Meanest Capacity, or an Essay towards an Instruction for the Indians." It was published by the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, but was never used extensively among the people for whom it was intended. The work was dedicated to "That most worthy gentleman's (Oglethorpe's) great and generous concern for both the present and future interests of these natives, and his earnest endeavors to civilize them first, and make them capable of instruction in the ways of religion and civil government, and his hearty wishes that something might be done to forward such good purposes."7
On several occasions the Cherokees joined the colonists of Georgia in battle against their common enemy, the Spanish. More than 1,000 Cherokees fought with General Oglethorpe in his attack on Florida and siege of St. Augustine, and did their work quite thoroughly, it is related. "To the efficient aid of his Indian allies," says Jones, the Georgia historian, "was Oglethorpe on more than one occasion indebted for the consummation of important plans. It would not be an exaggeration to affirm that to their friendship, fidelity, and valor, was the colony largely beholden not only for its security, but even for its preservation....However, much we may be inclined to criticise the conduct of this native race when demoralized by contact with the vices of Europeans, cheated by traders, despoiled of their ancient domains, and inflamed by outrage, robbery, and murder, it must be admitted that in the beginning the Indians were hospitable, kind and geerous. In an hour of feebleness and want they were staunch friends of the colony of Georgia. During all the early years of its existence, the province suffered no violence at the hands of the original proprietors of the soil."8
In 1721 was begun the long series of treaties between the whites and the Cherokees, for a document was signed in that year by the Cherokee chief and Governor Nicholson of South Carolina providing for peace and commerce and defining the Cherokee boundaries. When De Iberville founded Biloxi as the capital of Louisiana in 1699, and moved it to Mobile (1702), and later to New Orleans (1718), many of the tribes, including the Chickasaws and Choctaws, made
treaties with the French; soon, of all the tribes east of the Mississippi, the Cherokees were the only one to remain friendly to the English. Early in the year 1830 Sir Alexander Cumming, an English peer of numerous wild and impracticable ideas, came on a visit of investigation to the Cherokee Nation. When he decided to return to England, he persuaded two chiefs (the famous Attacullaculla and Oconostata) and five other braves to accompany him. He presented his prizes to the king, and after much ado the Indians were loaded with gifts and speeded on their long journey homeward.9
A succession of friendly treaties and alliances bound the Cherokees even more closely to the English. In 1730, by a second treaty with North Carolina, the Cherokees recognized the sovereignty of the king of England, and agreed to trade only with the English. In 1775 the Cherokees sided with the English in one of the most important battles of the French-and-Indian War, Braddock's defeat. Although hopelessly outnumbered, the Cherokees and other tribes were of such aid to the British that young Col. George Washington said, "Without Indians we will be unable to cope with the cruel foes of our country." During the war, under the able leadership of Chief Attacullaculla ("Leaning Stick," one of the greatest of Indian, diplomats, orators, and warriors), the Cherokees saved the lives of many of the Southern colonial leader's on more than one occasion, from the treacherous ambushes of the Shawnees and other tribes allied with the French. In numerous other ways the Cherokees made themselves indispensable to the British, even though they were double-crossed by them more than once.10
Turning against their benefactors, the British waged ruthless war upon the Cherokees for two long years. The most heinous single deed was the incursion of Lieutenant Francis Marion, later known as "The Swamp Fox," into the center of the Nation, burning every human habitation, destroying all crops, and killing great numbers of the Indian warriors and even women. Finally a peace treaty was effected with South Carolina in September, 1761, and calm reigned for fifteen years.11
In 1768 a treaty for purchase rights was made with the
same colony, and in 1770 another South Carolina treaty settled more definitely the boundary of the Cherokee Nation. Virginia concluded a treaty of purchase with the Cherokees in 1772, and in 1773 a similiar document was signed by the British government. In the midst of the Revolution, the Cherokee territory was practically confiscated by North Carolina, and the dispute was not settled until 1783, but even then the settlement so favored the whites that the Indians could not but feel themselves betrayed.12
The Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Creeks were all alligned on the side of the British during the war for American independence. Dr. Thoburn gives two excellent reasons for this choice, namely (1) their tribal agents and most of the traders were loyalists, and used their influence in such a way as to hold the friendship and allegiance of the Indians, and (2) the triumph of a foreign power seemed to promise less in the way of further aggressive extension of white settlements.13
The Anglophil Indians were finally subjugated by General Pickens of the American forces, and by the Treaty of Hopewell, November 28, 1785, the Cherokees acknowledged the supremacy of the United States. Prisoners were exchanged, and peace and friendship were pledged. Article Nine of the treaty allowed Congress to pass laws regulating trade with them and to manage all their affairs for their protection and comfort; they were to be allowed to send a deputy to Congress, and no whites were to be permitted to settle on their lands. But the most important clause of all was that by which the United States recognized the Cherokees as "a nation, capable of making peace and war, or owning the lands within its boundaries, and of governing and punishing its own citizens by its own laws."14
"These white men speak with forked tongues—beware!"
To halt the spoilation of their race;
The guarantee that the Cherokees might exist as "a separate and independent Nation, with power as a body politic, and to be dealt with as one Nation deals with another," was expressly repeated in nineteen successive treaties with the United States, and judicially determined in the Cherokees' favor by the Supreme Court. In 1794, letters patent issued for the Cherokee lands by the government bore the signature of President George Washington himself.
The Treaty of Hopewell did not bring about the desired peace. There was mutual dissatifaction with its provisions, the whites objecting because they thought the Cherokees had been allowed too much territory, and the Indians protesting because of the encroachments of the white people. In September, 1788, Congress issued a proclamation forbidding unwarranted intrusion upon the Indians' territory, but scant respect was paid to it by the offenders whose actions called it forth. In 1789 Secretary of War Knox characterized these encroachments as a disgraceful violation of the Hopewell treaty by the whites. Angered by the failure of the whites as individuals to respect their rights, and of the government to protect them in those rights, the Indians kept the neighboring settlements in a state of uncertainty and terror by sudden, hostile incursions. A second attempt was made in 1791 to secure a permanent peace, and the result was the Treaty of Holston.1
By the provisions of the document, a final exchange of prisoners and permanent boundary lines were arranged. The United States agreed to pay an annuity of $1,000 for the extinguishing of a claim to territory lying beyond a certain described line. The provisions of the treaty in general were much like those of the Hopewell pact, so the ill-
feeling was not lessened to a great extent. The treaty was reaffirmed by another in 1794. By one means or another, nevertheless, whites slowly but surely closed in on the Cherokee Nation, and some even settled on the Cherokee lands. Though the Indians protested bitterly, and though the federal government was fully aware, that its treaties were being broken by white men, little or nothing was done. Gradually the Cherokees were literally forced into selling or ceding small tracts of lands, even against their will.2
Even in the eighteenth century the Indian problem was realized to be one of national importance. Thomas Jefferson was one of the few men of his day who saw a solution, and later, in one of his messages to Congress, he presented his idea of the correct policy, which was finally put into actual practice a century later: "In truth, the ultimate point of rest and happiness for them (the Indians) is to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix and become one people. Incorporating themselves with us as citizens of the United States is what the natural progress of things will bring on; it is better to promote than to retard it. It is better for them to be identified with us and preserved in the occupation of their lands than to be exposed to the dangers of being a separate people."3
All of the amicable agreements between the United States and the Cherokees were broken suddenly, however, in 1802, by a compact between the state of Georgia and the federal government, a compact to which the Cherokees were not a party and of which they were but the helpless victims. Agitation for their removal was begun by Georgia in Jefferson's regime; it was fanned into flame when John Quincy Adams was in the White House, and burst all bounds under Jackson. "The mild but persistent energy of the Cherokees, their diplomatic ability and shrewdness, above all the evident Justice of their cause, made them world renowned," says J. H. Beadle. "The sympathetic heart of Whittier has overflowed in rhythmic plaints for their wrongs, and the story of their fortitude was embellished by the genius of Halleck."4
In spite of all the molestations of white intruders and the opposition of the states and even of the federal government, the Cherokees made great advances as a people. They formed a government, modeled closely after that of the United States; they established churches of several denominations, a school system in all villages, a judicial system, and national courts of law; they developed a written language and introduced printing, and worked their gold mines most successfully. As early as 1800 the Cherokees were manufacturing cotton cloth, and each family had a farm under cultivation. Many of the Indians were Christians and are said to have led exemplary lives. "The Swamp Fox," General Marion, in describing his meetings with the Cherokees, tells of being greatly surprised at the superior dwellings and great progress of the tribe.
The Cherokees had a written constitution long before 1800, though the oldest extant laws of the tribe date back to Broom's Town, Georgia, September 11, 1808. One of these laws reads, "Be it known, That this day, the various clans or tribes which compose the Cherokee Nation, have unanimously passed an act of oblivion for all lives for which they may have been indebted, one to the other, and have mutually agreed that after this evening the aforesaid act shall become binding upon every clan or tribe; and the aforesaid clans or tribes, have also agreed that if, in the future, any life should be lost without malice intended, the innocent aggressor shall not be accounted guilty.
"Be it known, also, That should it happen that brother, forgetting his natural affection, should raise his hand in anger and kill his brother, he shall be accounted guilty of murder and suffer accordingly, and if a man has a horse stolen, and overtakes the thief, and should his anger be so great as to cause him to kill him, let his blood remain on his own conscience, but no satifactoin shall be demanded for his life from his relatives or the clan he may belong to.
"By order of the seven clans,
Later acts forbade marriage with negroes, the holding of property by negroes, and so forth, and settled other
mooted questions. Any person sanctioning an Indian-Negro marriage was to be fined fifty dollars; a Cherokee marrying a Negro woman was to be subjected to fifty-nine stripes on his bare back, and a Cherokee woman marrying a Negro man was to be given twenty-five stripes.
The Cherokees, whom the United States government was trying to civilize, passed and enforced a law strictly prohibiting intoxicating beverages more than a hundred years before their more advanced brethren, and even suppressed gambling. One of their laws begins, "Whereas, the great variety of vices emanating from dissipation, particularly from intoxication and gaming at cards, which are so prevalent at all public places, the National Committee and Council, seeking the true interest and happiness of their people, have maturely taken this growing evil into consideration, and being fully convinced that no nation of people can prosper and flourish, or become magnanimous in character, the basis of whose laws are not found upon virtue and justice; therefore to suppress, as much as possible, those demoralizing habits which were introduced by foreign agency." Heavy fines and severe punishments were meted out to "any person or persons, whatsoever, who shall bring ardent spirits within three miles of the General Council House, or to any of the court houses within the several Districts and dispose of the same so as to intoxicate any person or persons whatsoever," and upon anyone "who shall game at cards in the Cherokee Nation," or who even sold playing cards.5
Early in 1817 the Cherokee Nation adopted a short but most explicit body of laws as their constitution. Their legislation until about 1825 consisted for the most part of acts encouraging missionaries, establishing schools, preventing forest fires, and dealing with other national problems. On one occasion the National Council investigated a certain scheme rather similar to our Credit Mobilier or dark fame, but the Council members involved were found blameless. Good constructive legislation was the order of the day, therefore, until 1825, but then began the great agitation at Washington for the Cherokees' removal, so subsequent acts referred to their dealing with the whites, always striving
peace and yet never willing to give up their just claims.
The year 1821 had probably a more far-reaching effect on Cherokee history than any other. It was then that an American Cadmus announced that he had invented an alphabet for his people. The Cadmus was Sequoyah, and the Cherokee alphabet was the first ever invented in the New World.
In Sequoyah's alphabet—more correctly termed a "syllabary"—there were eighty-six symbols, each representing a syllable, so that every Cherokee word could be written by these signs. It was impossible to misspell a word, and a Cherokee had but to know the alphabet in order to read or write anything in the language, thereby opening up to the Cherokee people the doors of knowledge without requiring them to go through the tedious process of learning a foreign language. The alphabet could be learned in from two or three days to three weeks at the most, it is said. The invention was all the more valuable because it was impossible to transcribe the various sounds in the Cherokee language by means of the English alphabet, which represents the system of sounds of the English language; it was all the more praiseworthy because its inventor was wholly unable to read, write, or even to speak any language save his own.
Believed to have been born the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother of an important tribal family, Sequoyah (George Guess, Guyst, Guist, or Gist, as his English name was variously rendered) grew up ignorant and untutored. He was born in the Cherokee Nation sometime between the years 1760 and1775, the exact date or place being unknown; tradition says that his father was Nathaniel Gist, a Dutch or German trader, reputed to be the son of Cristopher Gist, the guide and friend of George Washington on a number of his western expeditions, although such a contention cannot be proved.
For some reason the elder Gist disappeared—he may have been killed while on a trading trip—before his son was born, so Sequoyah grew up under the care of his mother, who died in the early nineteenth century. The young man married, and gradually became widely known for his skill as a silversmith, until in 1809 he decided to direct his energies toward the invention of a means of writing the Cherokee lan-
guage. At first he tried to make a symbol for each word, but finding this impracticable, he invented a character for every possible syllable instead, making a total of eighty-six.
It is not to be imagined that Sequoyah was able to frame his syllabary in a few days or weeks. The effort was a continuous labor for over twelve years, involving constant research, study, and experimenting, before he finally completed his work and demonstrated its value by teaching the young people of his tribe to read and write. Although at first he was scoffed at, and steps were actually taken to have him and his daughter executed as sorcerers, his people soon saw the worth of his invention; types were cast, books and newspapers were printed in Cherokee to the exclusion of the English language, and the Caucasian world witnessed the spectacle of a whole nation acquiring education and culture almost overnight.
Sequoyah was greatly honored by his people, and his memory is revered by them to this day. He first visited the Western Cherokees in 1822, becoming their principal chief and serving until 1838, when the Eastern Cherokees migrated to the Indian Territory with John Ross as chief of the united branches. During his later years he conceived a desire to make an universal alphabet for use by all the Indian tribes, and he made several western journeys among the plains Indians with this project in mind, but his hope was never realized. While on one of his trips, said to have been undertaken for the purpose of inducing the Rio Grande branch of the Cherokees to rejoin the Indian Territory Cherokees, the great leader died in New Mexico territory in July or August, 1843.
The inventor is the only Oklahoman yet selected to represent the state in Statuary Hall, the "hall of fame" of the federal government in Washington. When the statute of Sequoyah was unveiled in 1917, a most impressive ceremony was held and a number of notables eulogized the Cherokee. Honorable Camp Clark, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said in part, "It (the invention of the Cherokee alphabet) is one of the greatest performances ever conceived by the human intellect. Cadmus invented different letters. Gutenberg invented movable type. Sequoyah invented the only sensible alphabet ever invented in the world."
"It is a strange thing," said former Senator Robert L. Owen of Oklahoma on the same occasion, "that no alphabet in all the world reaches the dignity, the simplicity, and the value of the Cherokee alphabet as invented by Sequoyah."
One of the greatest tributes paid the Cherokee Cadmus was the naming of the great red cedars of California in his honor. In 1847 the name Sequayah gigantea was suggested for the trees by the great Viennese botanist Endlicher, and today the cedars are known as "Sequoias," because, according to Senator Owen, "they are typical of the greatest North America Indian."
The following well known poem by Alex Posey, the famous Creek poet, shows the great esteem in which Sequoyah's name is held by his Indian brothers:
"The names of Waite and Bouinot—
Immediately after Sequoyah's invention, an iron printing press was purchased with Cherokee and English types, from which The Cherokee Phoenix was published at New Echota, Georgia, under the auspices of the National Council
and edited by Stephen Foreman and Elias Boudinot. The latter came from a high Cherokee family and was educated by the famous philanthropist, Elias Boudinot, who gave the boy his English name, in Cornwall, Connecticut. He was most influential among his people for a number of years. The Phoenix was discontinued in 1835 and another newspaper, The Cherokee Advocate, was established in the Indian Territory ten years later.
An important event in the musical history of America was the visit of John Howard Payne, the actor and playwright, to the Cherokee Nation in 1822. At one time he criticised the state of Georgia for the treatment it was according the Cherokees, and was thrown in jail on the charge of encouraging an insurrection. Rattling Gourd, a Cherokee chief, became so disconsolate over the injustices toward his tribe that he committed suicide; Payne was permitted to attend the funeral, and at the close of the services sang "Home Sweet Home." He was asked where he learned the song, and replied that he had written both words and music himself. General Bishop, the commanding officer who had arrested him, secured Payne's copy, considered it carefully, and is reported to have said, "Well, a man who can write and sing like that is no criminal. I am going to set you free." The next year Payne visited Europe and incorporated the song into one of his plays, but it is claimed on good authority that it was sung for the first time at the Cherokee chief's funeral.6
Aflame at last with deep and burning hate,
Has nigh exhausted, in the hard-fought race,
Another notable event transpired in 1828; John Ross, the second greatest Cherokee, became principal chief of the eastern division of the tribe. He was born October 3, 1790, near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, of a Scotch father and a Cherokee mother, and was educated at Kingston, Tennessee. When only nineteen years of age, he was sent as the agent to the Western Cherokees, and served as adjutant of a Cherokee regiment in the War of 1812. In 1817 he became a member of the national council of the Cherokee people, and president a year later, also presiding over the convention which framed the constitution of the Nation. In 1827 he became associate chief, in 1828 he became principal chief of the eastern branch, and in 1838 he was named principal chief of the united branches, holding that position until his death, August 1, 1866. His long administration of forty years as principal is said to have been autocratic and imperial, rather than republican or representative, but his method of governing was at all times as well adapted to the circumstances as possible. He was a wonderful chief, and led his people better than many another contemporary executive did.7
At about the same time that Ross was selected to lead the eastern branch, the Nation adopted a new national constitution, providing for a republican government, having legislative, executive, and judicial departments, which served as a model for the organization of the governments of the other civilized tribes. The powers of each department was clearly defined, and the whole instrument was worded in such a way that misinterpretation was impossible, something which can hardly be said of the constitution of the United States. The document, with the treaties and laws of the Nation, was printed in two editions, one in English and the other in Cherokee.
In the midst of this cultural advancement, however, a thunderbolt was cast which tore the whole Nation from its moorings. Georgia, in whose successful founding the Cherokees had played such a large part, began active efforts to
force the Cherokees from within the boundaries of the state. Although treaties are a part of the supreme law of the land, which every state must uphold; although a treaty guaranteed the Cherokees' lands to them forever; and although Georgia, as one of the United States, was a party to the treaty, the legislature of that state passed a series of discriminating laws against the Cherokee people, and demanded that their governor enforce them.
By an act of December 20, 1828, the legislature divided the Cherokee Nation into five parts, adding each to one of the counties of the state, sand extended the jurisdiction of the state over them. By the same act, all laws, usages, and customs of the tribes were declared null and void, and provison was made that a Cherokee could not witness for or against a white man. An act of December 19, 1829, extended state laws over all persons white or Indian—the previous act had affected only the whites in the Nation—in the Cherokee country; it provided punishment for any Indian resisting state writs, and made executions, under the Cherokee law against the sale of common lands by individuals, murder in the first degree. By the act of December 21, 1830, the lands of the Cherokees were authorized to be surveyed and laid off in small tracts to be distributed by lottery among the people of Georgia! The Cherokees were declared incapable of making contracts with white citizens by act of December 23, 1830, and the improvements of the Cherokee landholders, including their gold mines, were seized by the state. By act of December 22, 1830, the tribe was forbidden under heavy penalties to hold legislative assemblies or courts, or to execute the writs issued by their national courts. The Cherokee Phoenix was forced to suspend publication and its editor was arrested. Two white missionaries, Dr. Elizur and Rev. S. A. Worcester, were sentenced to four years in prison for their work among the Cherokees without the oath of allegiance to Georgia. One of them appealed to the supreme court of the United States, and his release was commanded by that body, but the governor of Georgia threatened violence if federal authorities attempted to free the man.8 All this took place in a nation which fifty years before had waged a desperate war for its own liberty—provoked to rebellion by almost exactly the
same injustices which the Indians received at the hands of the white people they had befriended. It is remarkable with what rapidity the United States was able to forget the principles for which it was founded.
In her own eyes, Georgia's conduct in passing this heinous legislation was wholly just and excusable. "By the presence within her borders of two exceptionally able and intelligent nations (Cherokee and Creek)," it is explained in the Cyclopaedia of Political Science,9 "the state of Georgia was thus threatened with the permanent establishment of an imperium in imperio, over which state laws did not operate, a district of refuge within which any criminal, if agreeable to the Indians, might set state officers and writs at defiance . . . .With this grievance as a vehicle, it was natural that the greed for the rich Creek and Cherokee lands should urge not only private speculators, but the state government also, to active efforts to oust the rightful owners, despite the supreme law of the land, and the solemn guarantee given by the United States."
It is not to be supposed that the Cherokees remained passive or quiescent during the harsh treatment of them by the Georgia legislature. The printing presses at New Echota, their capital, and elsewhere, were loaded with memorials to the president and Congress, appealing for justice. In 1829 began the series of journeys to Washington to plead in person for the rights denied them on very side.
Although Andrew Jackson has become the epitome of impartial law enforcement, his reputation must have been gained solely by his attitude toward South Carolina's threat of nullification. When Worcester and Butler were arrested by the state of Georgia and their release was ordered by the United States supreme court, to which Reverend Worcester appealed, Georgia flatly refused to obey the mandates of the court and threatened to offer armed resistance if the federal government made any attempt to enforce the decision. Jackson not only disregarded this flagrant act of nullification on the part of an individual state, but is currently supposed to have remarked concerning the supreme court's action in the
Worcester case, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!"10
Meanwhile the Cherokee Nation had divided itself into two distinct parties—no one knows exactly when—called the Upper and Lower branches. The former made every progress possible toward Caucasian civilization, but the Lower Cherokees preferred to fish and hunt, and to eke out a somewhat doubtful existence in the forest. They soon complained of the scarcity of game, and therefore were willing to be persuaded by Congress to go to a land west of the Mississippi, while the more settled Upper Cherokee clung to their old homes. As early as 1785 a band of Cherokees had crossed the great stream and settled in Arkansas, then a part of the province of Louisiana and therefore in the dominions of Spain. In 1808 some eastern tribesmen asked permission to settle beyond the Mississippi, and they too moved to Arkansas, forming a tribe known was the western Cherokees. They were great hunters and farmers, and the region was wealthy in game and natural resources, particularly in rich farming soil.11
For a time they were molested by the Osages, a warlike tribe continually raiding the territories of the Pawnees and Comanches. The Cherokees did not tolerate their depredations for long, however, and soon organized expeditions of their own to avenge their losses. Tooantuh (Spring Frog), a leading chief, convened the tribal council in the "strawberry moon" (May and June) of 1818, and marched upon the Osages near the Verdigris River. As the Osages had nothing but bows and arrows and the Cherokees were equipped with then-modern rifles and were fighting with terrible fury, the latter easily overcame their foes, although they too fought well. They retreated to a point know as Claremore Mound, in Rogers County, and prepared to make a last stand. Again the Osages were overpowered and this time were put to complete rout. The Cherokees were never disturbed by any tribe after that, but bad feeling continued between them and the Osages until a minor skirmish took place near the present town of Coweta. Following this struggle the two tribes made a treaty of peace which was never broken.12
But now came the creation of an Indian Territory, west of the Cherokees' lands. In his message to Congress of 1824, James Monroe advised that a tract of land west of Missouri and Arkansas be set aside in which to colonize the eastern tribes. John Quincy Adams made the same suggestion, but neither was acted upon. In 1830, however, Jackson signed a bill for the creation of such a territory, and large cessions of land were secured by treaties with western tribes including the Kansas, Omahas, Pawnees, and Osages.
In the meantime the whites were crowding the lands of the Western Cherokees. Much ill-feeling arose, so the Cherokees made a treaty with James Barbour, Secretary of War, on May 26, 1828, whereby the tribe exchanged its Arkansas lands for a tract farther west, having an area of seven million acres, where the game was better and where they would not be molested. The land was located west of Arkansas and north of the Arkansas and Canadian rivers. The treaty also stipulated that the Georgia and North Carolina Cherokees might occupy the land. All improvements in the tribe's old homes were to be paid for; George Guess—Sequoyah—was to receive $500 as a reward for his invention of the Cherokee alphabet, and $1000 was to be spend in the purchase and establishment of a printing press to carry on the work of education made possible by Sequayah's invention. "Thus the stage was set," writes Evans, "for the most remarkable tragedy in American history—the forcible expulsion of the larger part of this lofty-minded, home-loving people from their native land.13
Alone and silent there he sits, a king
The world has ever seen; give, oh, give him now
There had always been missionaries among the Cherokees in their eastern homes, so as soon as possible after the western emigration, missions were established among most of the tribes of the Indian Territory. In 1821 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had established the Dwight mission, named after Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University, among the Western Cherokees in Arkansas, and in 1829 this mission was moved and reestablished in the Indian Territory. Now, more than one hundred years later, it is still thriving, preparing a great many Indian youths and maidens for practical vocations or homemaking. In 1828 the same board established a second mission among the western tribesmen, and it too was moved to the new Nation in 1829, taking the name of the Fairfield Mission. Other missions established were the Union and the Hopefield, founded by the United Foreign Missionary Society and the board. In 1830 the board founded its third mission, located at the forks of the Illinois River; six years later it was moved to Park Hill, a few miles south of Tahlequah, and took the name of that town.
Dr. Elizur Butler, the medical missionary imprisoned in Georgia, came west and was stationed at Dwight, and Rev. S. A. Worcester,14 his missions partner, became superintendent of Park Hill Mission. Under Worchester the latter institution became the largest and most important of all Indian Territory missions. Besides having excellent teaching facilities, the school possessed a most valuable printshop. Much of the mission printing—testaments, song books, etc.—not only for the Cherokees but also for the Choctaws and Creeks was done here, as the press was the first in Oklahoma. It was here that "Poor Sarah, or The Indian Woman," by Elias Boudinot, was published, the first book to come from an Oklahoma press. Other features of the schools were grist mills, shops, stables, extensive farming systems, book binderies, large school buildings, and boys' and girls' dormitories.15
14Rev. Worcester was the grandfather of Miss Alice Robertson, of Muskogee, the founder of the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma's only woman member of the House of Representatives.
But there was another band of the adventurous people seeking peace in other lands. When Congress was too slow in making the appropriations necessary to comply with the Western Cherokees' treaty of 1817, a part of the tribe became dissatisfied and, under the leadership of a famous chief known as Bowl or Bowles, a veteran of former campaigns, they journeyed into the Spanish-Mexican province of Texas. After the treaty of 1828, by which the Cherokees gave up their Arkansas lands for territory farther west, another band joined the first in eastern Texas—the Cherokees were the first people, white or red, to colonize this section of the country—and eventually became members of a confederation of Cherokee, Caddo, Delaware, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Quapaw, and other tribes.
The Cherokees sought to secure a title to their lands from the Mexican government, but the Texas Revolution intervened, with the result that the Indians had a new force to deal with in the young Texas Republic. Two months before the epochal battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836, which established the freedom of the Texans, General Sam Houston, a staunch friend of Cherokees who had lived among their fellow-tribesmen in Tennessee and the Indian Territory,16 used his influence to bring about a treaty council between the Cherokees and the new government.
The result of the conference was a friendly treaty drawn up and signed by Sam Houston and Colonel John Forbes, for the Texans, and by the Cherokee leaders, for the Indian confederation. The pact declared that there should be "a firm and lasting peace forever;" "that the Indians shall be governed by their own regulations and laws within their own territory not contrary to the laws of Texas," and that no individual Indian could sell or lease any of the tribal lands to anyone but members of the same tribe.
When the victory at San Jacinto permitted the Texans to establish a permanent government, Houston was named president of the republic by an almost unanimous popular vote. Immediately he tried to secure ratification of the treaty by the new Texas Senate, but the body opposed him at every turn, and
16Houston settled in. Fort Gibson, opened a general store, and married an Indian girl, Talihina Rogers. The writer once heard many stories of Houston's sojourn and his love for Talihina, from Mrs. H. Waldo, a fine old lady of Welling, Oklahoma.
his efforts failed. The Cherokees were accused of being in league with the Mexicans to drive out the Americans, but the charge was without foundation, it is generally believed.
Houston's successor as president of Texas was a Mirabeau B. Lamar, of Georgia, who despised the Cherokees with the traditional hatred of his native state. In his inaugural address he announced that he was going to pursue a policy of forcible expulsion of every Indian tribe from the republic. Soon he put this policy into execution, and the Cherokees were notified that they must leave within a few months their rich farms in the valleys of the Angeline and Neches rivers. At the same time certain Mexicans invited them to join in a revolt against the republic, and Texas, hearing of this, demanded immediate removal. When they refused to obey the demand, the Cherokees were set upon by a superior force of Texan troops and were defeated and dispersed in two one-sided engagements. A large number of the tribesmen were killed, including Bowl, who is said to have been brutally assassinated while lying wounded on the field. Many of the survivors joined the main branch of the tribe in the Indian Territory, but a few crossed the Rio Grande and took refuge with Mexico, where their descendants still live.
It was but another story of the white man breaking faith with and betraying his Indian benefactor. Years later, in the United States Senate, Sam Houston said of the Cherokees, expulsion from Texas: "The Cherokees had ever been friendly, and when Texas was in consternation, and the men and women were fugitives from the myrmidons of Santa Anna, who were sweeping over Texas like a simoon, they had aided our people, and given them succor—and this was the recompense. They were driven from their homes and were left desolate."
The treaty with Texas had read, "We (The Republic) solemnly declare that we will guaranty to them the peaceable enjoyment of their rights to their lands, as we do our own. We solemnly declare that all grants, surveys, or locations of lands, within the bounds hereinbefore mentioned, made after the settlement of the said Indians, are, and of right ought to be, utterly null and void." It was signed as a "pledge of the public faith, on the part of the people of Texas," by that people's greatest soldier and statesman, President-General-
Senator Houston himself. It was never put into effect, and the Cherokees were driven out by main force, but that violated treaty is still in existence, having been brought to the Territory in a blood-stained canister supposed to have been taken from the dead body of Bowl, who had carried it with him night and day. The patent and deed are the basis of a hard-fought suit which has been before the supreme court of the United States for a number of years, naming the state of Texas as the defendant and the Cherokee tribe as the plaintiff, and involving a huge sum of money claimed by the latter reparations.