Cherokee Journey is the product of over five years of identifying, collecting, and interpreting a vast collection of primary historical documents and maps relating to the Cherokee people of western North Carolina, their towns, farmsteads, genealogy, and geography. Funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and guided by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Wild South, a non-profit, educational organization has traveled to repositories across the East to photograph over 100,000 rare maps, surveys, journals, records, and original documents related to the ethnogenesis of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
These documents and maps are accessible to the Eastern Band at the Qualla Boundary Public Library. Used in conjunction with other research sources, such as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian’s Research Center and online database, tribal members as well as the public can research, interpret, and write their own history.
By extracting and assimilating bits and pieces of related history, we can construct maps that show the location of Cherokee farms, trails, and roads. Hundreds of Cherokees are listed in the records, including Old Axe, Standing Wolf, Old Bushyhead, John Owle or Chinoque of Hanging Dog, Walkingstick, John Welch, Nelly Hickorynut, Persimmon Carrier, and Yellow Bear. Many of their testimonies are recorded with detailed descriptions of their farms, houses, and orchards.
Our research is focused on, but not limited to, the period from 1817 to 1829, which might be thought of as a “black hole” in Cherokee history. It began with the coerced treaties of 1817 and 1819 that stripped away the heart of the Cherokee country (known today as Swain, Macon and Jackson counties.) A provision in these federal treaties allowed for the heads of Cherokee households to claim 640 acres of land and become citizens of the United States.
The General Assembly of State of North Carolina promoted land speculation and refused to accept Cherokees as citizens and integrated landowners. About 75 to 100 Cherokees applied for reserves along the Oconaluftee, Tuckasegee, and Little Tennessee Rivers in an attempt remain on their traditional town sites and farmsteads of that day. The federal government began surveying the reserves for the Cherokee families and the State of North Carolina moved swiftly to authorize Robert Love of Haywood County to survey, subdivide, and sell the Cherokee reserves. From these records, largely untold histories are being revealed.