One of the earliest significant contacts between the Carolina colonists and the Cherokee took place in 1693 when twenty Cherokee chiefs visited Charles Town with offers of friendship and a request for the help of Governor Philip Ludwell against the Esau and Coosaw tribes who had captured and carried off some Cherokees earlier that year.
The Savannah Indians had apparently raided the Cherokee and took Cherokee captives and then sold them into slavery. The Cherokees implored for help concerning the return of the Cherokees that had been sold. Governor Ludwell offered to protect the Cherokee from more trouble from these other tribes, but told them there was not much that could be done about the Cherokees who had been sold, as they had already been shipped to the West Indies and it was impossible for him to return them since they were in Spanish hands.
In the early 1700s, the Cherokees began moving further and further west of their traditional lands to follow the game and to avoid the English settlers that were taking Cherokee Lands - a westward movement that had just only begun. This westward migration now placed the Cherokees in conflict with other Indian tribes which often resulted in hostilities between the Cherokee and those other tribes - those that had peaceful conditions prior to the arrival of the English.
In 1715, the Cherokee allied with the Yamasee and the Creeks and this alliance declared war against the settlers of South Carolina. It became known as the Yamassee War and lasted for two years. At the war's conclusion, Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina took a census of the Cherokees - it was estimated that they had over thirty towns, a population of approximately 11,000, and could assemble more than 4,000 warriors.
This number decreased dramatically in 1738 due to a smallpox epidemic, which decimated many local tribes, including the Cherokee. It is estimated that the plague of 1738 had reduced the Cherokee numbers by at least half.
The first formal treaty between the Cherokees and the English took place in 1721, which was a treaty of peace and commerce attended by Governor James Moore of South Carolina. Peace was established by the smoking of the pipe and the presentation of presents to delegates from thirty-seven Cherokee towns. Boundries were also confirmed in this treaty and an Indian agent was appointed by Governor Moor to superintend their affairs with the colonists.
In 1730, North Carolina sent Sir Alexander Cumming to make a treaty with the Cherokees in which delegates of the Cherokee Tribes acknowledged King George as their Sovereign. This was followed by six Cherokees being taken to England to give homage to the crown.
These treaties angered many Cherokees whom began leaving the Carolinas for lands outside of the political influence of those chiefs whom had allied themselves with the English, and some of these Cherokees eventually supported the French in later years.
Several times between 1740-1742, the English colonists attempted to encourage Cherokees to attack the French on the Mississippi River, however the Cherokees refused because of the existing peace between the Cherokee and their tribal alliances already in Canada. Some Cherokees ceased supporting the English around 1748 and began actively supporting the French around 1754. As a result of this alliance with both the French and Canadian tribes loyal to the French, the Cherokee virtually controlled the Mississippi River and its tributaries in French-claimed territories.
The increasing encroachment of Cherokee lands by the Carolina colonists caused the Cherokee to again seek lands further west. This resulted in hostilities between the Cherokee and the Creek Indians for lands that together they had traditionally shared. And, it led to the Battle of Taliwa in 1755, in which a small band of Cherokee defeated a much larger band of Creek Indians and took possession of these lands. These newly-acquired lands helped the Cherokee who supported the British in the French and Indian War and was very valuable in the region for trade and commerce for the Pro-British factions among the Cherokee Nation.
In 1755, the Cherokees entered into a treaty with the English in which they ceded enormous amounts of lands to South Carolina - this includes the present-day counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Laurens, Union, Spartanburg, Newberry, Chester, Fairfield, Richland, and York.
In 1756, England declared war against France, and in this same year there was a council held at New Orleans between the Cherokee and the French, where the French promised that if the Cherokee supported them during this war that they would provide the means such as arms and other goods to encourage the Cherokee to make war against the English.
In 1760, the Cherokees allied with the French. As a result, Governor William Henry Lyttleton of South Carolina marched against the Cherokees and attacked their villages killing many which resulted in yet another treaty. This treaty demanded of the Cherokees to kill or imprison any and all French who should come into Cherokee Territory as long as England was at war with France.
Cherokees still continued to fight the English, which again resulted in several more battles between the Cherokee and English that resulted in the burning of Cherokee crops and the destruction of fifteen Cherokee towns. This led to yet another treaty, the treaty of 1761, at Charles Town.
In order to re-establish peace between the Indians and colonists, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting English settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Which was not enforceable.
In 1768, the Cherokees were offered yet another treaty and land purchase by the English colonists. This purchase was alleged to protect the Cherokee from further encroachments on their lands by English settlers and by fixing permanent boundries in the region. Due to more encroachments on the Cherokee Lands after the treaty of 1768, a new treaty and purchase was made with the Cherokee in 1770. This again was promised to ensure the protection of Cherokee Lands from English settlers.
In 1773, another treaty was made with both the Cherokees and Creeks by the Engish, where again the natives ceded aother large amount of land to South Carolina - this one located between the Broad and Oconee Rivers that included many square miles of traditional Indian lands.
Just prior to the U.S. Revolution, several treaties were signed by the Cherokee Chiefs that deeded massive areas of lands that many Cherokees greatly opposed. These events opened up even more traditional lands for English settlement and thousands of white settlers arrived that resulted in the wild game leaving, and the absolute destruction of traditional Indian hunting grounds used by many tribes.
This angered the more traditional war chiefs to such an extent that war was declared by the Cherokees as a means to stop further encroachment on Cherokee lands by colonial settlers. As a result of these conditions, there was a division between the Cherokees whom believed that it was necessary to drive the settlers off the lands by war, and those who were more in favor of accepting the treaties they had already signed.
In 1775, the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals was signed, and this was the breaking point for many Cherokees. The people opposed to this treaty chose to leave the Old Nation rather than agree to its demands. The area of Sycamore Shoals was a very well known area to the Cherokees for both trade and commerce with the Creek and other nearby tribes.
A group of Cherokees with some British loyalists attacked South Carolina in June, 1776. In July, Nancy Ward whom was known as the "War Woman," broke the sacred code of silence and warned local settlers by letter that the Cherokee were about to attack several settlements. With the loss of a surprise attack, the attackers were unsucessful in their attempts to once again uproot the colonial settlers.
These attacks began many years of hostilities between the emerging American nation and the Cherokee Indians. Many Indian tribes attempted to stay out of the Revolutionary War, yet many Cherokees joined the side of the British as a way to make war on those settlers who had already encroached on Cherokee Lands. In 1775, the British began to supply large amounts of guns and ammunition and offer bounties for American scalps.
Many historians are convinced that the persistance of the Cherokees in attacking the American patriots greatly prolonged the Revolutionary War. Indeed, the new Continental Congress ordered troops from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to attack the Cherokee Indians whenever possible, along with any assisting the British army or the loyalists.
During the U.S. Revolution the Patriots destroyed over fifty Cherokee towns and murdered and killed many innocent Cherokees. The Americans also began setting up slave auctions and sold Cherokee women and children to raise money for their militia. In 1777, the Cherokee in the Carolinas essentially gave up and signed yet another treaty, again ceding many more lands to the white man. These never-ending treaties and land purchases outraged the more traditional Cherokees and many more left the Cherokee Nation in the Carolinas.
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson made an offer to the Cherokees to move them west of the Mississipi River to join their western allies whom had been established in the area earlier. They refused this initial offer. In 1809, a new Cherokee delegation arrived in Washington, DC - to request the United States government to permit them to settle west of the Mississippi. Since it had been his original idea, President Thomas Jefferson agreed and then made arrangements for the emigration of the Cherokees to lands in the new Arkansas Territory.
Circa 1817, as a result of talks between the Cherokee and the United States government, an agreement was drawn up and a voluntary removal was proposed in trade for old lands in the east for new lands in the west. The eastern Cherokees were strongly against going west of the Mississippi, as they believed that voluntary emigration would encourage the United States government to once again remove the Old Nation even further west of the Mississippi where their allies were already established. They foresaw the inevitable - west forever.
The treaty of 1817 gave lands in Arkansas to the Cherokee, and under the terms of this treaty over 4,000 ceded their lands east of the Mississippi River to move peacefully to the Arkansas Territory. By 1819, it is estimated that there were over 6,000 Cherokees known to be living on these new lands.
President John Quincy Adams broke this treaty and ordered the sale of Cherokee lands without their consent or knowledge. The Arkansas Territory Cherokee never received any word concerning their lands, so they sent another delegation to Washington, DC to address these issues directly with the U.S. government.
President Adams then profferred yet another treaty that would force the Cherokee to trade their lands in the Arkansas Territory for lands in what is now Oklahoma - even further west. The Cherokee delegation was initially opposed to the treaty of 1828. However, President Adams threatened that if the Cherokee did not sign immediately that he would, by Presidential order, take by force several million acres of Cherokee land in the Arkansas Territory and then surround them with more American settlers. Which eventually happened.
Click Here for the entire treaty of 1835 (started in 1828), which ended the Cherokee lands in the Carolinas and elsewhere east of the Mississippi River.
Unfortunately, many of the white settlers living near the Cherokee took up a policy of harassing women and children and building fences on Cherokee lands and taking game illegally from private property and generally being extremely hostile towards the Cherokee. For many Cherokee families, this became intolerable and by reason of the encroaching settlers made the choice to leave and go west, rather than continue suffering under unspeakable discrimination.
Between the years of 1835 and 1838, a mass exodus of Cherokees - living in the east from states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama - all "chose" to head west towards the setting sun. Thus was the "Trail of Tears," the removal of thousands of unhappy Cherokee from the Carolinas and elsewhere to Oklahoma.