The following excerpt is from the interview of Thomas Buffington, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1899 to 1903. Buffington died at his home in Vinita February 11, 1938. He was known for many years as the “last Cherokee Chief” because his successor, W.C. Rogers, never had the power and authority usually exercised by tribal chiefs.
"I have seen my people strive to make a living ever since the last bunch of Cherokees arrived over the trail of tears to the present time. I have seen many of our tribe deed away their land to satisfy a mortgage of which they were not able to cope.
I have had many ask me the difference in an 'Old Settler Cherokee' and an 'Eastern Emigrant.' An old settler is a Cherokee who came with the first bunch from Georgia without being forced by the government. An eastern emigrant is one that remained behind and was forced by the government to remove to the new country, west of the Mississippi and this movement was known as the 'Trail of Tears.'"