There is a letter written by Young Beaver and published in the Cherokee Pheonix on September 17, 1828. If nothing else sets the stage for how the People were feeling at the moment, this letter does.
As I stated in the end of last weeks blog – they had no land, no homes although they were as free as those, living with whites. Those, that took the oath and swore allegiance to the state of Georgia.
The Cherokee worked to retain their cultural identity operating “on a basis of harmony, consensus, and community with a distaste for hierarchy and individual power.” According to my friend, this oath was considered a type of betrayal.
Tsali had sacrificed his family so that The People could be free to come down out of the caves. This was so important as they were starving. He had no way to know that sacrifice would in later years prove to be the start of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
My question was, what of those that were considered betrayers? The Cherokee belief that they are one People meant that those who took the oath would take them in those from the caves if need be. They held no grudge toward each other, only a sense of family. Those that came down still had nothing of their own, but they were welcome to stay. Ms. Nancy tells me this is true today. A member of the tribe in good standing could show up, say at an elder’s home, and be welcomed to stay as long as they wish. As a matter of fact, her grandfather almost always had someone staying.
This underlying loyalty to those of the People eventually lead to the recognition of the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
Eastern Cherokee Enrollments and Census Enumerations, 1835–1940
The Eastern Band of Cherokees originated in 1838, when more than 1,000 Cherokees, resisting
efforts by the Federal Government to forcibly relocate the nation to reservations west of the
Mississippi River, fled to the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Approximately 300
Cherokees were living on tribal lands in 1838 and claimed U.S. citizenship. By 1848, the U.S.
Congress agreed to recognize the Eastern Cherokees as long as North Carolina also recognized them
as permanent residents. North Carolina did not do so until almost 20 years later. In 1882 the Eastern
Cherokee Reservation was established on approximately 56,668 acres in Cherokee, Graham,
Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties, North Carolina.
This is how those that stayed, lived, and worked as one. Honored the ways of their ancestors and still learned the new way of life they were being expected to live. Remember that in their world oral history was everything. What you knew were the lessons and stories you had heard all your life. This will become of great interest and value soon.
Enter William Thomas – Thomas made his home near the modern day town of Whittier. He operated a merchant store, primarily trading with the Cherokee, but also with the growing population of European settlers pouring into the mountains. Thomas bought large tracts of land, eventually opened several additional small trading posts, and became firmly immersed in the Cherokee culture–in essence becoming a member of the clan. When the U.S. Government began removing and relocating the Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1838, Thomas negotiated a deal allowing the 60 Cherokee families residing in Quallatown the right to remain on their land.
His end was sad, but that does not diminish the impact William Holland Thomas made on western North Carolina and the Cherokee people. For many years he used Cherokee money, as well as his own, to purchase land for the tribe. These purchases make up much of today’s Qualla Boundary within the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Communities like Paint Town, Bird Town, Big Cove, Wolf Town, and Yellow Hill were named by Thomas. He is remembered in the outdoor drama Unto These Hills. I have seen this and greatly recommend it to anyone looking for more history about this area.
Thank you for spending some time with us today and as always
Welcome to the Mountains
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