American Indians. That is what the white man calls us, but our people have been here for many generations, since the ice age; thousands of years before the white man claimed our land as theirs and called it America. We call ourselves the Cherokee or â€œAniyunwiyaâ€ Nation, but we are only one of many different tribes that roam these lands. Some of the states for which we inhabit are now known as Georgia and Oklahoma. Each of these tribes is self-controlled with all adults getting together to discuss the problems of our people in a council house. The men of our tribe are the hunters and fishers; the women are the gatherers, collecting wild foods and berries.
While our cultures and customs varied, our Indian beliefs were rooted in Animism, meaning that we believed the universe was bound together by the spirits within all natural life, from plants, animals, humans, water, and even the Earth itself. This is how our life went, free and in tune with nature, at least until the white man came. In the period of 1730 to 1838 when the first treaty was signed, this sparked the first set of our Cherokees being removed from our land.
They forced us off our land and forced us to move more than 2000 miles to a designated piece of land for which we were unfamiliar and terrified as to what might happen next.
Our people called this event â€œ Nunnadaul Isunyi.â€ â€œThe trail where we criedâ€. Many of our people died on this long journey, but the white people did not care. They made us carry on no matter how many died. Our people fought this expulsion from our sacred lands but the white man outnumbered us greatly, and in the end we were forced to abandon the lands which we had inhabited for generations. Soon assimilation of our beliefs and way of life would be threatened next.
Along with the Choctaw, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, our Cherokee families made up what white settlers referred to as the "Five Civilized Tribes." We were given this title because we had worked to adopt the customs of the white people. In other words, we assimilated to the white culture, forcibly. As white settlers began moving in onto our Cherokee land, they brought many things that would change our Cherokee way of life.
Horses and guns were two examples of this change. Most of our chiefs believed that if our people learned to live with the whites then Indian homelands would be honored but this was not always the case. Most of our Cherokee tribe members were seeking to live peacefully along side the whites. The majority of the men were farmers, the women wove their own fabric in order to make clothes similar to the whites, and log cabins replaced the mud huts of their ancestors. These were the first steps in extinction of the American tribes.
Learning English also became important to our Cherokee members, so schools were established. One Cherokee member, however, believed it was important to record the Cherokee language, as well. Sequoyah finally succeeded, and in 1821, in completing an alphabet to be used in teaching his people to read and write their own language. In another effort to try to protect their homeland, Cherokee leaders set up a government system designed after the United States system. Even with all.