Cherokee Nation officials reflect on 175th anniversary of Act of Union


In honor of the Act of Union, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden planted a dogwood tree at Capitol Square

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — This week marks 175 years ago that Cherokees who had recently arrived on the Trail of Tears started the process of establishing the tribe’s current form of government by signing the Act of Union on July 12, 1839.

That perseverance and bravery were honored by dozens Tuesday at the Cherokee National Capitol Square.

The Act of Union created a unified political body for two groups of Cherokees: the “Old Settlers” who relocated west prior to forced removal, and their fellow Cherokees who were forcibly sent across the Trail of Tears, a 2,200-mile trek from their original homelands in the Southeast.

“As a people and as a government, the Cherokee Nation rebuilt itself in Indian Territory after our forced removal. Our ancestors suffered abuse and loss 175 years ago, yet they never lost the will to endure,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “In our new home – present-day Oklahoma – the Cherokee people rebuilt a sophisticated society with a court system, a government administration, educational institutions and successful commerce.

“Today, we are a thriving sovereign government with a living culture because our ancestors were strong enough and visionary enough to ensure the Cherokee Nation would survive.”

In honor of this historic act, Cherokee Nation officials planted a dogwood tree at Capitol Square. The dogwood holds cultural significance to Cherokees. The tree can be found dotting the landscape of the Cherokees’ ancestral homelands in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia, across the Trail of Tears, and into the modern homelands throughout northeast Oklahoma.

Tuesday’s event is the fourth in a series focused on commemorating the 175th year since the last detachment of Cherokees arrived in Indian Territory, following their journey along the Trail of Tears.

A committee established by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, with appointments from the three branches of Cherokee Nation government, is planning the events. The committee is chaired by Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree and includes Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Attorney Dianne Barker-Harrold and Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones.

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