Frequently Asked Questions



History Frequently Asked Questions

When did Cherokee people first encounter Europeans?

The first recorded encounters with the Europeans were with Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540. DeSoto and his conquistadors were on an expedition seeking gold which took them across much of the "new world," including trekking through what is now Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Where were the original Cherokee homelands?

Cherokees are thought to have descended from southeastern mound-building cultures and for centuries inhabited what became the southeastern U.S. in parts of northern Georgia and Alabama, along with southern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Our hunting areas extended into Kentucky and Virginia. Neighboring tribes included the Muscogee, Yuchi, Chickasaw, and others.

What is the Dawes Rolls?

The Dawes Act of February 8, 1887, was a turning point in determining tribal citizenship. The Act developed a Federal commission tasked with creating Final Rolls for the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The Commission prepared new citizenship rolls for each tribe, incorporating names of approved applicants while simultaneously documenting those who were considered doubtful and ultimately rejected. Upon approval of the Rolls, the Dawes Commission allotted a share of communal land to the approved individual citizens of these Tribes in preparation for Oklahoma statehood (1907). The Dawes Commission required that the individual or family reside in Indian Territory to be considered for approval. While the official process started with the 1896 Applications, these were eventually declared null and void. Two years later, the Curtis Act amended the process and required applicants to re-apply even if they had filed under the original 1896 process. With new guidelines in place, the Commission continued to accept applications from 1898 through 1907, with a handful accepted in 1914. The list of approved applications created the "Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory." –source archives.gov

Today the Dawes Rolls of the Cherokee Nation is used as the base roll for citizenship in our tribe.

Are there any Cherokee history books you can recommend?

There are many wonderful history books, but we are especially partial to our newest published book “Cherokee Nation: A History of Survival, Self Determination, and Identity.” (Authors Bob Blackburn, Duane King, and Neil Morton) The book takes readers through the challenges and opportunities that have shaped our tribe.