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The Cherokee entered Georgia from the east during the 1400's, as the Moundbuilder culture began to decline. Over the next 3 centuries they pushed west, pressured by European settlers from the coast. During this time period they frequently did battle the Creek Indians who controlled the land.

In 1755, after a victory at the battle of Taliwa, the Cherokee established their border as the first ridge south of the Chattahoochee River. Slowly, the Cherokee populated the former Creek lands. By the end of general hostilities with the settlers in 1793 the Cherokee controlled all the land that now encompasses North Georgia's Chieftains Trail.

Cherokee leaders included James and Joseph Vann (original owners of the Vann House), Major Ridge (builder of today's Chieftains Museum) and John Ross, leader of the Cherokee Nation. It was Ross who led the nationalist movement, including the building of the first Capital, New Echota, to prevent its destruction by the intrusive (and illegal) laws of the state of Georgia.

Ross and Ridge, as representatives of the Cherokee Nation, struggled to keep their homeland. Developing after Georgia's Sixth Land Lottery, a group of Cherokee known as the Treaty Party advocated voluntary removal to the so-called "Indian Lands" (present-day Oklahoma). Ridge was slowly being drawn into the Treaty Party by the erudite arguments of his son and nephew, both of whom were members.

In 1835 the Treaty Party signed the Treaty of New Echota, which gave the Cherokee Nation to the Federal Government. At the time less than 500 (out of 17,000) Cherokee belonged to the Treaty Party. In spite of attempts by the Cherokee to have the treaty rejected, the Senate approved the treaty by a single vote. Three years later the Nation was forced to move west against its will on The Trail of Tears.



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