Important dates in Cherokee history


1540---The Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto and his party are discovered by the Cherokees in their homeland.

1629---The first traders from the English settlements begin trading among the Cherokees.

1721---The Cherokee Treaty with the Governor of the Carolinas is thought to be the first concession of land.

1730---7 young Cherokees are escorted by Sir Alexander Cuming to England to meet King George II. They sign articles of friendship and commerce with representatives of the British Crown. Sir Alexander Cuming, an emissary of King George II, conferred the title of Emperor on Chief Moytoy at Tellico, Tennessee 

1756---War chief Ostenaco joins the English in a campaign against the French-allied Shawnee during the Seven Years War. Abandoned by the British, they "confiscate" horses from Virginians who retaliate by killing 24 of them. Raiding back and forth goes on for 6 years.

1762---The Cherokee capture Fort Loundon in Tennessee, but they eventually sue for peace. Ostenaco, Stalking Turkey, and Pouting Pigeon visit London to see King George III, accompanied by Lt. Henry Timberlake and interpreter William Shorey, who dies en route.

1785---The Treaty of Hopewell is the first treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokees.

1790---John Ross is born near Lookout Mountain in the western district of North Carolina on October 3rd.

1791---The Treaty of Holston is signed. It includes a call for the U.S. to "advance the civilization" of the Cherokees by giving them farm tools and technical advice. The chiefs are encouraged to use credit and then are forced by the government to settle their debts by land cessions.

1802---Thomas Jefferson signs the Georgia Compact in support of Indian removal.

1817---A treaty makes an exchange for land in Arkansas. "Old settlers" begin voluntary migration and establish a government there. In 1828, they are forced to move into Indian territory.

1821---Sequoyah's Cherokee Syllabary is completed and quickly leads to almost total literacy among the Cherokees.

1822---The Cherokee's Supreme Court is established.

1824---The first written law of the Western Cherokees is published.

1825---New Echota in Georgia is authorized as the Cherokee capital.

1827---The modern Cherokee Nation begins with a Cherokee Constitution established by a convention. John Ross is elected chief.

1828---The Cherokee Phoenix is published in English and Cherokee at New Echota. Elias Boudinot is editor. Andrew Jackson is elected President--the Cherokees will come to call him jagsgin, "devil." Gold is discovered in Georgia.  

1828-1830---The Georgia Legislature abolishes the tribal government and expands its authority over Cherokee country. Jackson signs the “Indian Removal Act”. Since the Cherokee have been interacting with the U.S. government on a true government-to-government relationship, there is a fear that the Cherokee will take steps to become a truly independent nation on the western boundaries of the U.S. Another motivation: greed. The whites in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Alabama want their lands and the U.S. military has the might to grant that wish.

1832---The U.S. Supreme Court decision Worcester vs. Georgia establishes tribal sovereignty and protects Cherokees from Georgia laws. Jackson refuses to enforce the decision. Georgia holds a lottery for Cherokee lands.  

1833---Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann (the second richest man in the Nation) has his mansion confiscated by Colonel William Bishop of the Georgia Guard. The neighboring Moravian mission school is turned into a brothel for the Georgia Guard headquarters.

1834---The Cherokee Phoenix ceases publication in May.  

1835---The Treaty Party signs the Treaty of New Echota, giving up title to all Cherokee lands in southeast in exchange for land in Indian Territory (Oklahoma.).  

1838-1839---Trail of Tears - The U.S. government forces removal of 17,000 Cherokees, in defiance of Supreme Court decision. More than 4,000 die from exposure, fatigue, and disease along the way.

1839---Treaty Party leaders Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot are assassinated for breaking the pact not to sign the Treaty of New Echota. Factionalism continues until 1846. A new constitution is ratified at a convention uniting Cherokees arriving from the east with those in the west.

1844---The Cherokee Supreme Court building opens. The Cherokee Advocate becomes the first newspaper in Indian territory.

1851---Cherokee male and female seminaries open. The female seminary is the first secondary school for girls west of the Mississippi.

1859---The original Keetoowah Society is organized to maintain traditions and fight slavery.

1860---Tension mounts between Union Cherokees and Confederate Cherokees.

1861---The Civil War begins. All 5 of the "Civilized Tribes"--the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Muskogee or Creek, and the Seminole sign treaties with the Confederate States of America and fight in the war against the Union. A treaty is signed at Park Hill between the Cherokee Nation and the Confederate government. The Cherokee Nation is torn by border warfare throughout the Civil War. The first Cherokee flag is that of the Cherokee Braves. It is present to principal chief John Ross on October 7th by the Confederate Indian Commissioner, Albert Pike. 

1865-1866---The Civil War ends. The Cherokee must negotiate peace with the U.S. government. John Rollin Ridge, Saladin Watie, Richard Fields, Elias C. Boudinot, Stand Watie, Joseph A. Scales, and William Penn Adair represent the Cherokee. The new treaty limits tribal land rights and eliminates the possibility of a Cherokee State and is the prelude to the Dawes Commission. John Ross dies in Washington, D.C.   Slavery is abolished.

1871---The Cherokee seal is designed to embrace the early government structure and the eternal endurance of the Cherokee Indians. It is adopted by Act of the Cherokee National Council and approved.

1887---The General Allotment Act is passed--it requires individual ownership of lands once held in common by Indian tribes.

1889---Unassigned lands in Indian Territory are opened by white settlers known as "boomers."

1890---The Oklahoma Territory is organized out of the western half of Indian Territory.  

1893---Cherokee Outlet is opened for white settlers. The Dawes Commission arrives. 

1898---The Curtis Act is passed, abolishing tribal courts.

1903---W.C. Rogers becomes the last elected chief for 69 years. 

1905---Land allotment begins after an official roll is taken of the Cherokees. 

1907---Oklahoma statehood combines the Indian and Oklahoma Territories and dissolves tribal government. 

1917---William C. Rogers, the last Cherokee Chief, dies. 

1921---The Cherokees ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review their claim to 1 million acres of land in Texas. 

1934---The Indian Reorganization Act established a landbase for tribes and legal structure for self government.

1948---Chief J.B. Milam calls a Cherokee Convention--the beginning of model tribal government of the Cherokee Nation.

1949---W.W. Bill Keeler is appointed chief by President Harry Truman. 

1957---The first Cherokee National Holiday is observed. 

1961---Cherokees are awarded 15 million dollars by the U.S. Claims Commission for Cherokee Outlet Lands. 

1963---The Cherokee National Historical Society is founded. 

1967---The Cherokee Foundation is formed to purchase land on which the tribal complex now sits. The Cherokee National Historical Society opens the Ancient Village. 

1969---The Trail of Tears drama begins.

1970---The U.S. Supreme Court confirms Cherokee Nation ownership of the bed and banks of a 96-mile segment of the Arkansas Riverbed. 

1971---W.W. Keeler becomes the first elected principal chief since statehood. 

1975---Ross O. Swimmer is elected to first of 3 terms as principal chief. The First Cherokee Tribal Council is elected. Congress passes the Indian Self- Determination and Education Assistance Act. The Cherokee National Historical Society opens its museum. 

1976---Cherokee voters ratify a new constitution outlining tribal government. 

1978---Stanley John, a full-blooded Navajo and husband to a member of the Cherokee Nation, designs a Cherokee flag. It is approved by the Tribal Council on October 9th. 

1979---Tribal offices move into a modern new complex south of Tahlequah. The new flag is officially raised over Tribal headquarters on September 30th. 

1984---The first joint council meeting in 146 years between the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the Cherokee Nation is held at Red Clay, Tennessee. Council meetings will be held bi-annually.

1985---Ross Swimmer is appointed by President Reagan as Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. He resigns to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

1987---Wilma Mankiller makes history and draws international attention to the tribe as the first woman elected chief.  Cherokee voters will pass a constitutional amendment to elect the council by districts in 1991. 

1988---The Cherokee Nation joins the Eastern Band in Cherokee, North Carolina to commemorate the beginning of The Trail of Tears

1989---The Cherokee Nation observes the 150th anniversary of arrival in Indian Territory. The Cherokee Nation is the second largest tribe and the largest non-reservation tribe in the country with more than 120,000 members. 

1990---Chief Mankiller signs the historic self-governance agreement, making the Cherokee Nation one of 6 tribes to participate in the self-determination project. The project authorizes the tribe to assume tribal responsibility for Bureau of Indian Affairs funds which were formerly being spent on the tribe's behalf at the agency, area and central office levels. 

1991---In the July, the tribal election selects the first council to be elected by districts since statehood--it includes 6 women. Wilma Mankiller wins a second elected term as principal chief with a landslide 82% of the votes cast. 

1994---Chief Wilma Mankiller announces in December that she will not run for re-election in 1995. 

1995---In June, the Tsalagi Cultural Center opens. In August, Joe Byrd and Garland Eagle are elected principal chief and deputy chief--the first time in nearly 200 years that full blood bilingual leaders occupy the top positions of the Cherokee Nation