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The legal transaction that granted American citizenship and reserves of land in return for tens of thousands of acres in North Carolina was trampled on by North Carolina who surveyed and sold their houses, land and in many cases burned them out.

This story details the civil rights violations of Cherokee citizenship and land ownership provided for by the articles of the treaties of 1817 and 1819. About seventy-five Cherokee families in the vicinity of modern Qualla Boundary, Whittier, Bryson City, Cullowhee, Sylva, Cowee and Franklin, NC claimed 640-acre reserves allowed for by the treaties. Most of them included their existing farms, orchards and houses.

Local politicians including the Robert and Thomas Love families of Haywood and Macon Counties lobbied the Governor of North Carolina to authorize the surveying (subdivision) and sale of the Cherokee reserves provided by the said treaties.

The lands were surveyed in defiance of the federal government who was in the process of completing surveys for the Cherokee. Beginning in Waynesville, land sales sold the Cherokee’s homes and farms out from under them. The buyers included calloused and unscrupulous individuals who drove the Cherokee families from their homes by brandishing guns and threats. Some Cherokee homes were torched and the residents forced to flee in the night by the light of their burning houses. The more civilized whites went to court and got eviction notices. Gideon Morris, a white Indian countryman, unsuccessfully struggled to represent and plead for the Cherokees in courts where Indians were not allowed to testify.

Later, the federal government retaliated against the State and forced at least meager retributions to dispossessed Cherokees. The stacks of files of depositions, spoilations and claims in the State and National Archives recorded after the “Cherokee Land Grab” of 1819-1824 are filled with the shameful abuses that took place.

This period of Cherokee history, 1800 to 1820, was a contest of opinion on how to settle the fabricated “Indian question” by every special interest except that of the traditional Cherokee.

The social engineers of that day were convinced that the endowment of the Cherokee with the plow, loom and spinning wheel would replace their traditional hunting lifestyle. 

The land speculators and their political bed-buddies advanced the idea of trading Cherokee lands in the East for lands in the West. After all, they could continue to live wild and hunt there. It didn’t matter that the western lands across the Mississippi were occupied or claimed by western tribes. 


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