Cherokee History

Beard-Moose, Christina Taylor. Public Indians, Private Cherokees: Tourism and Tradition on Tribal Ground. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009.

Public Indians, Private Cherokees is an anthropological study of contemporary tourism on the Eastern Band's Qualla Boundary reservation. Christina Taylor Beard-Moose analyzes the ways in which tribal institutions and reservation businesses represent Cherokee culture to the outsiders who arrive in droves each year. In particular, Beard-Moose describes Cherokee efforts to maintain boundaries between the highly exposed public space of tourism and a more private community realm. The book includes valuable examinations of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Oconaluftee Village, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, the annual Fall Fair, and the drama, Unto These Hills.

Conley, Robert. A Cherokee Encyclopedia. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007.

Robert Conley’s encyclopedia provides concise biographies and histories of numerous Cherokee individuals and topics. Covering both the Western Cherokee and the Eastern Band, the encyclopedia includes historical as well as contemporary entries. Craft related topics include entries on Cherokee artists to individual biographies of Cherokee crafts people including Will West Long and Amanda Crowe. JSW

Conley, Robert. The Cherokee Nation: A History. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Robert Conley’s detailed history, The Cherokee Nation, examines the entire story of the Cherokee peoples from pre-contact through the 20th century. While Conley’s synthesis will appeal to the general reader, his inclusion of suggested reading and glossary sections accompanying each chapter prove especially useful for teachers and students of Cherokee studies. JSW

Duncan, Barbara R. and Brett H. Riggs. Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

While this book is a guide to heritage travel in the southeast, it contains far more cultural and historical material than one might expect from a tourism publication. Paying particular attention to the Eastern Band, it offers one of the best available introductions to the Cherokee past and present in western North Carolina. As a travel book, it imparts a strong sense of the geography of the Cherokee experience--the extent to which Cherokee culture and history are rooted in particular places.

Finger, John. The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Finger, John. Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

While historians have produced a vast literature on the Cherokees, much of this work ends with the Trail of Tears or follows the Cherokee Nation to the West. As a result, historians have paid relatively little attention to Cherokees who avoided Removal and remained in the East. John Finger's two books address this issue by providing a tribal history of the Eastern Band, from its emergence in the early nineteenth century through the 1980s. Finger focuses on political and economic developments, while providing some analysis of Cherokee cultural adaptation. The first volume is particularly valuable for its description of Cherokee political relations with North Carolina and the United States in the decades following the Trail of Tears. In the second volume, Finger's best material deals with the crucial era of the 1920s through the 1950s, a period when the Eastern Band fended off dangerous federal policies while participating in the transformations brought to western North Carolina by an expanding tourism economy. Readers may find Finger's description of modern conditions somewhat dated, in that he completed his work just prior to the arrival of casino gaming.

Hatley, Tom. The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians Through the Era of Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

This examination of Cherokee relations with South Carolina is one of the best available books on the tribe's colonial-era history. Hatley focuses on the ways in which the politics, economies, and cultures of the two groups overlapped and intertwined in the century between the founding of Charleston and the American Revolution. He describes the emergence of a complex intercultural borderland between the tribe and the colony, a fragile but workable system of trade, communication, and diplomacy. He then charts the unraveling of that system in the era of the Seven Years War and American Revolution. 

Hudson, Charles M.  The Southeastern Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.

In this highly influential book, Charles Hudson describes the Native peoples of the Southeast before colonization and in the early contact period. Hudson does not write specifically about Cherokees but rather outlines practices and cultural characteristics shared widely across the region. He pays special attention to the Mississippian cultural tradition, in which most of the Southeastern peoples participated. Hudson bases his account on a deftly constructed synthesis of archeological evidence, oral tradition, and descriptions left by early European travelers, explorers, and diplomats.

Mankiller, Wilma and Michael Wallis. Mankiller A Chief and Her People. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1993.

Wilma Mankiller’s autobiography blends her own powerful narrative with the history of the Cherokee people. The primary focus of the book is on the post removal story of the Cherokee and Mankiller’s own experiences in the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma. Mankiller and co-author Michael Wallis also examine the broader topics of Cherokee culture, government relations, and Native American civil rights, which prove insightful to those interested in Cherokee history. JSW

McLoughlin, William Gerald. Cherokee renascence in the New Republic. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.

William G. McLoughlin's book is the definitive work on Cherokee political history during the early nineteenth century, the era that witnessed the creation of a Cherokee constitutional republic and the struggle against the Removal policy. By the late eighteenth century, McLoughlin argues, Cherokee society had all but collapsed under the pressure of war, epidemic disease, and the decline of the deerskin trade. In this dire situation, Cherokee leaders worked to remake the tribe, forging stronger ties with an expanding American market economy and crafting new political institutions. McLoughlin describes the emergence of Cherokee politicians like The Ridge, Charles Hicks, and John Ross, while charting the debate within the tribe over the construction of a more centralized Cherokee government. He ends the book with a detailed account of that government's determined, if ultimately failed, effort to fend off Removal.

Miles, Tiya. Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom. Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 2005.

During the early nineteenth century, the Cherokee warrior Shoe Boots fathered five children by an enslaved black woman named Doll. In this award-winning book, Tiya Miles carefully reconstructs the experience of this Afro-Cherokee family, using their story to illuminate the complex history of slavery and race among the southeastern tribes. Miles artfully situates the family story in the context of Cherokee political and cultural change, writing Doll's children and grandchildren into the narrative of the Cherokee Nation's founding and the traumas of Removal and the Civil War. A moving narrative rooted in meticulous research, Ties that Bind is one of the best works in an important emerging literature on black Indians.

Moulton, Gary. John Ross: Cherokee Chief. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978.

Though brief and over thirty years old, this book is still the most reliable biography of John Ross, the Cherokee Nation's longest-serving Principal Chief and its most important nineteenth-century leader. Gary Moulton focuses on political events, describing Ross's rise to authority, his role in the creation of the Cherokee national government, and his leadership of resistance to Removal. He also examines Ross's labor to reestablish the Cherokee Nation (and his own power base) in the West after the Trail of Tears and his complex maneuvering during the Civil War. Overall, the book depicts Ross as a dedicated nationalist and a shrewd political operator. It is worth noting that Moulton has also produced an invaluable collection of Ross's correspondence and other writings (The Papers of Chief John Ross. 2 vols., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985).

Neely, Sharlotte. Snowbird Cherokees: People of Persistence. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Sharlotte Neely's ethnography is the only book-length examination of Snowbird, a Cherokee community located in Graham County, North Carolina, some forty miles from the main reservation. Neely describes Snowbird Cherokees' interactions with and attitudes toward both the surrounding white community and the Cherokees of the Qualla Boundary. She pays particular attention to the sense of Cherokee identity expressed by Snowbird residents, who are often said to be among the most traditional members of the Eastern Band. The book includes interesting descriptions of the Trail of Tears Singing, a community event emphasizing cultural revitalization, and a political battle in the early 1970s over community representation on the Tribal Council, an issue that at times still animates tribal politics today.

Perdue, Theda. Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

Like many Native American peoples, Cherokees drew very sharp distinctions between male and female realms. Men and women had distinct work, social obligations, and cultural roles, and ideally these male and female categories balanced one another, helping to maintain health, peace, and order in the Cherokee world. Noting that most Cherokee histories have focused on male leaders, Theda Perdue reexamines the Cherokee experience in the colonial era and early nineteenth century from the perspective of Cherokee women. She argues that, while the arrival and expansion of Europeans disrupted all Cherokees' lives, women displayed "remarkable cultural persistence," and she suggests that women experienced less change, and less wrenching change, than did Cherokee men. By focusing on women, Perdue presents Cherokee history as a story of careful adaptation within traditional categories rather than as a narrative of loss and disorientation.

Perdue, Theda and Michael Green. The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears. New York: Viking, 2007.

This short narrative history is the best available introduction to Cherokee Removal, the subject of countless books and articles. Theda Perdue and Michael Green provide a clear, well-supported account of Cherokee political and cultural change in the early nineteenth century, the rise of the Removal policy, and the Cherokees' defense of their homeland. Their discussion of the tribe's internal struggle over Removal is judicious, while the description of the Trail itself is quite moving. Like most books on Removal, it would benefit from further discussion of those Cherokees who remained in the East; however, it still represents the proper starting point for any reader interested in the subject.

Strickland, Rennard. Fire and the Spirits: Cherokee Law from Clan to Court. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.

Rennard Strickland's Fire and the Spirits is a legal history of the Cherokees from the pre-colonial period to the dismantling of the Cherokee national government in Oklahoma at the end of the nineteenth century. The early chapters offer a valuable description of traditional Cherokee legal ways, with particular attention paid to the role of the kinship system in law and law enforcement. Strickland then examines the changes of the early nineteenth century, when Cherokees began to adopt written laws and to form more centralized governing institutions. Strickland effectively explains the conditions and motives behind these new laws, using the emerging legal code to examine the broader political and cultural changes taking place in the Cherokee Nation. The book follows the Cherokee Nation west in 1838, describing the reestablishment of the national government in the Indian Territory and the further elaboration of Cherokee law after the Trail of Tears.

Bibliography and annotations by Andrew Denson