In the 4th season, claire, Jamie and Ian settle in the hinterland of North Carolina. Barely planted the stakes delimiting the plot granted by the governor, the Fraser find themselves confronted by a Cherokee tribe worried about seeing their territory still and always requisitioned by the colonists.
The Cherokee people, although not belonging to the 6 great Iroquois nations, shared however the Iroquoian language, which allowed exchanges between the various tribes, even very distant.
They lived mainly in the smoky Moutains, a mountain range of North Carolina and Tennessee, south of the Appalachians.
Their villages, united in a very flexible confederation, consisted of rectangular houses, large and airy, covered with four-slope roofs made of thatch or braided rush mats. The dwellings were surrounded by small family gardens cultivated by women.
On particularly fertile ground, collective fields where everyone, even the chiefs had to work, ensured the supply of the community.
They cultivated beans, squash, pumpkin, sunflowers, tobacco and above all corn, of which they produced several varieties adapted to various uses.
Hunting, fishing, harvesting many wild plants, raising turkeys, along with agriculture, provided them with plentiful and varied food.
During the summer, their light clothes were made of vegetable fibers, replaced in winter by suede clothes. The dignitaries wore coats of turkey feathers or wild birds during the ceremonies, reminiscent of those of the civilizations of Central America
The Cherokee nation was made up of a confederation of red cities for war and white cities for peace, the chiefs of which were subordinated respectively to the supreme war chief and the supreme peace chief. The 'white' chief called 'The Most Loved', and who could be a woman, was in charge of civil affairs, justice, religious ceremonies.
The 'red' chief dealt with the war, as well as the game of 'lacrosse', the ball game widespread in all the tribes of the East, and which one called 'the small war'. A 'Woman of War' accompanied the warriors, giving them assistance and advice and deciding the fate of the prisoners.
While in the white cities asylum was offered to criminals, in the red cities war ceremonies took place. The Cherokee were divided into seven clans probably related to the seven 'mother cities' of the Cherokee nation; each of them had their hereditary chief in maternal line.
The Cherokees' first contact with the Whites took place around the middle of the 16th century. The Spaniard Hernando De Soto who traveled the South East around 1540, very impressed by their richness and the refinement of their culture and the number of their warriors, dared not confront them.
The English seek the alliance of this powerful nation and the Cherokees count on the weapons which the English provide to them to ensure supremacy over the other Indian nations.
In 1730, the Cherokee chiefs went to London where they signed a treaty of friendship with the British crown. But from 1738, terrible epidemics of smallpox severely reduce the Cherokee population.
Having resumed the war against the Creeks, they see their cities of Etchoe and Estatoe burned by the Creek warriors. It wasn't until 1753 that the Cherokees made peace with the Creeks and rebuilt their cities.
In 1758, to take revenge for having been taken hostage by the colonists for an ordinary story of horses, the chief Oconostata launched an attack against the English colonies, seizing Fort Loudon, in the Great Valley of the Appalachians. The English assembled an army of several thousand men and attacked the town of Estatoe, which they completely destroyed. Then the city of Etchoe succumbs after fierce resistance. The capture of Etchoe opens up to the Whites the heart of the Cherokee country which is ravaged by regular soldiers, militias and Indians allied with the English.
In 1768, then in 1775, the Cherokees had to accept important cessions of territory and everything could have calmed down, but in July 1776, the young chief Dragging Canoe, dissatisfied, allied with the Iroquois, the Delawares and the Shawnees and destroys the British colony of Holston, then turns its attacks against the border of Caroline and Georgia, while the Georgian militias destroy the villages cherokees. The price of the Cherokee scalp rises to seventy-five dollars. A militia of two thousand men, with four hundred Catawbas, sinks into the mountains and succeeds in seizing the city of Estatoe which had been once again rebuilt. From Estatoe, soldiers launch raids against Indian villages. Chased Cherokees Flee Among Florida Creeks and Seminoles
In 1777, the chiefs asked for peace at the cost of another abandonment of land. Dragging Canoe, which still resists with its thousand warriors, retreats to the mountains, joined by several hundred Creeks, near Chickamauga Creek. They will now be known by this name.
In April 1779, the Chickamaugas allied with the English against the rebellious American colonists who coveted Indian lands. These revenge themselves by reducing to ashes eleven Indian villages, then launch out the assault of the Cherokee territory during the winter and spring 1781 and settle on the conquered lands. The Chickamaugas however continue the fight in increasingly difficult conditions, supported by the majority of the Cherokees.
In 1786, the Chickamaugas were surprised in the Coldwater Creek valley. Old Tassel, the old chief, surrenders with a white flag. He's assassinated. Her son Young Tassel continues the fight. In January, the village of Young Tassel was destroyed. Dragging Canoe died in 1792 and Young Tassel succeeded him.
In September 1794, General Robertson assembled thousands of American volunteers who besieged and destroyed a large Chickamauga village, killing hundreds of Indians. General Anthony Wayne's victory over a large Indian coalition at Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794 demoralizes the Cherokees who demand peace in December.
From this moment, the Cherokee nation will take another path. Not having been able to resist the assaults of the Whites and protect her way of life, she will embark on 'the path of Civilization'.
Thanks to their hard work, skill and tribal solidarity, the Cherokees have achieved an enviable level of prosperity over the past 20 years. They found a capital, New Echota, in memory of their destroyed city. Many Cherokees have farms, beautiful plantations that arouse the jealousy of their white neighbors.
Sequoyah, invents an alphabet which makes the Cherokee language the first written Indian language. They publish a newspaper 'Tsalagi Phoenix' written in Cherokee and in English. They have schools where we work in both languages. They are the first mixed schools in America. Many Cherokees have become Christians. They adopted the dwellings, the clothing, the way of life of the Whites. The tribe has many mestizos who, for the most part, have wealth and have studies that allow them to negotiate with whites. Several hundred whites married to Cherokees live among them.
The institutions of the Cherokee nation are modeled on those of the United States. They have a constitution, an elected parliament, courts of law. Traditional tribal solidarity has been maintained and the chiefs always ensure that no member of the tribe misses out on necessities.
In May 1830, President Andrew Jackson promulgated the Indian Removal Act, the Indian Removal Act.
There is great pressure on the Cherokees to leave, especially since gold has been discovered on their territory. The State of Georgia has a survey of Cherokee lands to be allocated to the settlers by lot. The Georgian National Guard carries out terror raids in Cherokee villages. President Jackson reiterates that the only solution for the Indians is exile.
In March 1831, John Ross, a Métis elected chief chief of the nation, brought the conflict before the United States Supreme Court. In February 1832, the Court declared that the Cherokee nation was a separate society, entitled to govern itself, and that it did not have to submit to the United States government. This declaration will remain a dead letter. Cherokee properties pass to the colonists with their cattle and cultivated fields. Public buildings, Cherokee schools fall into the hands of whites who destroy them. A group of a few thousand Métis agreed to leave for the West in 1835. The majority of the Cherokee nation grouped behind John Ross would try to resist the deportation.
In May 1838, two soldiers from the Georgian National Guard came to capture Tsali, his wife and two sons who lived in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, leading traditional Indian life, living from farming and hunt. They are ordered to drive them to one of the enclosures where the Cherokees deported by order of President Andrew Jackson wait for the route of exile. As his wife did not walk fast enough at the will of the soldiers, one of them struck her with a bayonet. Indignant, Tsali and her sons throw themselves on the soldiers with their bare hands. In the fight, one of them is killed, probably accidentally, by his own rifle, while the other manages to flee.
Tsali and her family are hiding in a cave in the Smoky Mountains. They are soon joined by three hundred Cherokees who refuse deportation to the Indian Territory. General Winfield Scott sends a message to Tsali in which he promises that if he and his sons surrender, the military will not prosecute the other rebels.
A few days later, knowing the fate that awaits them, Tsali and his sons constitute themselves prisoners. All three are shot after a court martial. The army keeps its promise and the Cherokee resistance fighters can continue to live in their country. Tsali is now honored as a martyr for the Cherokee cause.
In July 1838, President Jackson ordered the forcible expulsion of the Cherokees. Those who had kept their homes and their fields are brutally driven out. While waiting for their departure, thousands of Indians are parked in pens in appalling conditions. Children are captured by the National Guard to force their parents to surrender.
In the early fall, about twenty thousand people, the Cherokees are flown west in small groups. Before leaving, they kiss the trees that surround their homes, like friends they will never see again. Some have carts where children and luggage are piled up. Most go on foot, pushed by the soldiers' bayonets. The white inhabitants of the regions crossed committed all kinds of violence against the deportees, and the soldiers made little effort to protect them. Soon the cold and snow add to sickness, hunger and exhaustion. The Indians die in their thousands along what they will call the 'Trail of Tears'. It is estimated that at least a quarter of the Cherokees will have died during their rally and their journey to the Indian Territory.
A thousand Cherokees have managed to hide in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, living from hunting and gathering. They will later obtain the right to remain in their homeland. Their descendants still live on their land and formed the eastern Cherokee tribe, living on the Qualla reservation in the Smoky Hills.
The Cherokees are trying to rebuild their lives and their torn nation. They have good land in the eastern Indian Territory. The United States has paid them substantial compensation that allows educated and influential Métis to restore their fine properties. The poorest are assured of a small farm.
The Cherokee nation is coming back to life. It reconstitutes its government, its justice, reopens its schools, resumes the publication of its newspaper. The Cherokees have a new capital, Tahlequah. In 1843, the Cherokee organized in Tahlequah a meeting of eighteen Indian nations from the Indian Territory and neighboring regions in order to define a common policy vis-à-vis the government. The emphasis is on the peaceful defense of Indian sovereignty.
The Cherokees will not long enjoy their tranquility. The American Civil War, which began in 1861, would bring them death and unhappiness, as it did to the other nations of Oklahoma. Having fought alongside the Confederates, under the command of Chief Stand Watie appointed general of the Southern Army, the Cherokees will face reprisals from the victorious North.
More and more whites are settling on Indian lands, brought by the railroad which crosses the Indian Territory. Mines are opened, cities arise. In the 1880s, the pressure to open up to the Whites of the Indian Territory became irresistible. In 1889, Cherokee lands were divided into individual lots among members of the tribe, in accordance with the Dawes law, and what remained was open to settlers. This is the first 'rush for the land' a race in which the settlers strive to secure the best prizes. In 1890, the Oklahoma Territory was established with these lands 'open to civilization'.
The Cherokee and Choctaw governments reject the application of the Dawes law which breaks their tribal unity. Congress then passed the Curtis Act of 1898 which dissolved the governments of the Indian nations of the Indian Territory, submitting them to the authority of the United States.
The Indian Reorganization Law of 1934 allows the Cherokees to reconstitute an autonomous government. But the territories monopolized by the Whites are lost forever. The Cherokee lands of Oklahoma, which do not have reserve status, are however under the protection of the federal government (trust lands).
Today, the Cherokee population, very mixed with whites or other Indians, reaches nearly three hundred thousand people. Some Cherokees got rich thanks to petroleum. The majority of Cherokees lead a life comparable to that of their white neighbors.
While they have lost most of their ancestral traditions, the Cherokees are united by their tragic history and a strong national sentiment. Every year, they give Tahlequah a big show called 'La Piste des Larmes' which evokes the drama experienced by their ancestors.
On their North Carolina reservation, descendants of the Cherokees who remained in the East based their economies on logging, crafts, and tourism. They made themselves famous with their 'Eagle Dance', a very spectacular ceremonial dance that has passed on from generation to generation.
By Valérie Gay-Corajoud