Take a Journey to the Home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
The Qualla Boundary – The Original Home of the Cherokee
The Qualla Boundary is the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Cherokee people do not live on a reservation, which is land given to a native American tribe by the federal government. Instead, in the 1800’s, the tribal members purchased 57,000 acres of property. This land, called the Qualla Boundary, is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and kept in trust by the federal government. Qualla Boundary encompasses untouched mountains, rivers, and forests and is located next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
How the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Formed
The Cherokee have a rich and storied history. In the early 1800’s, the Cherokee adapted the tribal governing structure to include a written constitution. Cherokee courts and schools were established and, in 1821, a Cherokee scholar named Sequoyah invented a written Cherokee language. In 1828, just 7 years later, a Cherokee language newspaper began publishing. Unfortunately, despite the Cherokee’s efforts to adapt to European culture, the federal government of the United States decided it was no longer important to maintain a strong allied relationship with the Cherokee nation. In 1838 the desire for more land and Georgia gold gave the government an excuse to forcefully remove Cherokee in the Southeast. More than 16,000 native people were marched on what would historically become known as the Trail of Tears and relocated to Oklahoma. Between 25% and 50% of the Cherokee tribe died on the Trail of Tears.
The Connection between the North Carolina and Oklahoma Tribes
Some members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians living in modern day WNC are descendants of Trail of Tears survivors, some of whom made it to Oklahoma and then walked back home. Others are descended from Cherokee who managed to keep land they owned and did not march West. Under the 1819 treaty some Cherokee had taken land and were allowed to remain. Others hid in the mountains and refused to be relocated. In 1850 the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians numbered approximately 1,000. Presently, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation with over 14,000 members.
Membership in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is only open to people over eighteen years old. Prospective members must prove they have an ancestor on the Baker Roll of 1924. They must also have proof that they are at least 1/16th Cherokee by blood.
A Sovereign Nation
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation located within the borders of the United States and is governed in a similar way. The Cherokee government consists of the following:
- An Executive Branch with a Principal Chief and a Vice-Chief
- A Legislative Branch made up of a 12 member tribal council – two representatives each from six townships
- A Judicial Branch
All government officials are elected using a democratic voting system. Voter turnout for the last major election was 70%. Tribal members are also allowed to vote in state and national elections. The tribe financially pays for schools, water, sewer, fire, and emergency services without assistance from the federal government. Cherokee schools teach the Cherokee language. In fact, the New Kituwah Language Academy teaches only in the Cherokee language. To learn more about the amazing history of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, come visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.