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The Cherokee Heritage Center, located in Park Hill, Okla., sits on the former site of the Cherokee Female Seminary.
Upon earliest contact with European explorers in the 1500s, Cherokee Nation was identified as one of the most advanced among Native American tribes. For over 100 years, Cherokees traded with Europe, South America, and Asia. Cherokee society and culture continued to develop and shape a bicultural government and society that matched the most civilized of the time. All prospered, but competition for resources and profit soon began.

In 1829, gold was discovered in Georgia. The settlers began to covet the Cherokee homelands, and despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Cherokee authority, the Indian Removal Act passed in Congress by one vote, over the objection of Daniel Boone and others, and was signed into law by Andrew Jackson.

In 1838, more than 15,000 Cherokee men, women and children were rounded up and marched over a thousand miles to Indian Territory on a pathway that became known as  Di-ge-tsi-lv-sv-I , The Trail Where They Cried. About one quarter of the Cherokee people died in internment camps, on the trail and after arrival into Indian Territory, what is now the state of Oklahoma.

From Turmoil to Transcendence
Survivors of the removal, led by Principal Chief John Ross, ended their journey near present-day Tahlequah, Okla., where a majority of Cherokees met in 1839 and established one constitution under their newly formed nation. Tahlequah, Indian Territory, the new Cherokee capital, and nearby Park Hill, became hubs of business and cultural activity.

In 1844, The Cherokee Advocate, printed in both Cherokee and English, became the first newspaper in Indian Territory.  Soon, the Cherokees’ education system of 144 elementary schools and two higher education institutes, the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries, rivaled the best systems in the U.S. Many white settlements bordering Cherokee Nation took advantage of the superior school system and paid tuition to have their children attend Cherokee schools. Other bilingual materials, which had been made possible by Sequoyah’s syllabary in 1821, led Cherokees to a level of literacy higher than their white counterparts, all prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907.

Cherokees rebuilt a progressive lifestyle from remnants of the society and culture they were forced to leave behind. The years between the removal and the 1860s were called the Cherokee Golden Age, a period of prosperity that ended with division over the Civil War.

After the Civil War, more Cherokee lands and rights were taken by the government due to the Cherokees’ decision to side with the Confederacy at one point during the war. What remained of Cherokee tribal land was divided into individual allotments, which were given to Cherokees listed in the census compiled by the Dawes Commission in the late 1890s. Today, descendants of those original enrollees make up a Cherokee Nation of more than 370,000 official tribal citizens.

Today’s Cherokee Nation
Modern Cherokee Nation encompasses 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation holds significant businesses, corporate, real estate and agricultural interests. Cherokee Nation is a powerful and positive political force in Oklahoma. Cherokee citizens benefit from a growing economy, equality and prosperity.

Cherokee leaders are promoting the principle of working together for a common cause, encouraging citizens toward self-reliance and independent sovereignty.

The Cherokee language is being preserved and revitalized. Historic sites are being restored, museums endowed. Ancient history, culture and ceremonies are being honored and revived.

Walk along the pathways of our ancestors and let our unique cultural offerings ignite a fire within you.

Visit Cherokee Nation today.