Thursday, June 8, 2017

Major Ridge, the Cherokee Constitution, and the Treaty of Echota

(Cruising through the Badlands studying Indian History, we read about Indian War Bonnets, colorful feathered headdresses to show greatness in battle.)

  "Where now are our grandfathers, the Delawares? We had hoped the white man would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains; now that hope is gone.  They have passed the Mountains, and have settled on Cherokee lands... The remnant of the Ani-Yunwiya, the Real People, once so proud and formidable,will be obliged to seek refuge in some distant wilderness."  -Dragging Canoe, Cherokee, 1768

The following is a short history of Major Ridge and the Cherokee Constitution.  The Cherokee are a Native American people originally indigenous to the Southeastern United States including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas.  On July 4, 1827, after decades of political developments, the Cherokee nation adopted a national constitution modeled after the United States with three branches of government and Bill of Rights.  Ten years early, Major Ridge, a Cherokee Chief, helped establish the Laws Against Cherokee Land Sales which became a capital offense to sell off ancestral  lands without approval from the National Council.  
(This is a buckskin dress worn by a Native American Women, my daughters joked... "It looks like a Christmas sweater!" But we all know... It's better than: Abercrombie and Fitch!)

 On December 3, 1828, the Georgia Sovereignty Law is passed in the state legislature asserting the state government's sovereignty over all people within its boundaries, including the Cherokee.  

On May 28, 1830, Congress passes the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the president to pursue ownership of all Indian lands east of the Mississippi River.  

In February, 1835, after mounting political pressure, a small fraction of Cherokees, labeled the Treaty Party and led by Major Ridge, sold all of the Cherokee's territories to the U.S. for $4.5 million.  This caused chaos among the Cherokee people.
(Native Americans used beads to tell stories and histories of their people. Commonly these were called: Wampum Belts... but, I just think they look super cool!)

On December 29, 1835, a small group of about 500 Cherokees sign a second agreement with the United States government agreeing to the sale of their lands and removal west of the Mississippi River.  The was called the Treaty of Echota and was ratified on May 18, 1836.  This led to the Trail of Tears.

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