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Western Carolina University

Cherokee Studies

A guide for those researching Cherokee history, culture, and language. This guide focuses primarily on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.


It is helpful to understand that the word “Cherokee” refers both to the Cherokee Nation, located in Oklahoma, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who live in western North Carolina. 

Quick Links


Baker Roll: "An act of Congress of June 4, 1924 (43 Stat. 376), established the Eastern Cherokee Enrolling Commission to determine membership for the Eastern Band of Cherokees and to place its tribal lands into Federal trust. Charged with identifying membership for the Eastern Band of Cherokees, the Commission created, collected, and compiled data from older rolls and tribal censuses. Known as the Baker Roll, after Fred A. Baker, these records include indexes, applications, testimony, correspondence, decisions of the Eastern Enrolling Commission, and reports. Note, the roll can include deceased individuals" (National Archives).

Cherokee: "The Cherokee, who once inhabited the southern Appalachian Mountains, live today in widely separated areas. Their traditional name is Aniyvwiya, meaning 'The Real People.' Those of the Eastern Band live in western North Carolina on or near the Qualla Boundary, as the Eastern Reservation is called; those who claim membership in the Western Band live in Oklahoma" (Dennis et al.103) 

Cherokee Nation: "The Cherokee Nation slowly evolved in the old Cherokee country in the Southeast with the development of the role of a "head person": from trade commissioner to "emperor" to president and finally to principal chief. With this evolution came written laws, a constitution, and recognition by the U.S. government through treaties. . .in 1839, and the Cherokee Nation continued in what is now Oklahoma following the Trail of Tears"(Conley 56). The U.S. Government gradually took away the Nation's power until 1973 when "President Richard NIxon and the U.S. Congress gave elections back to the Cherokee people, and the Cherokee Nation began a revitalization program" (Conley 56).

Cherokee Phoenix: "The Cherokee Nation of Indians published some 260 issues of a national newspaper under the titles Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Phoenix, and Indians' Advocate from 1828 to 1834. Both English and Cherokee language articles appeared in the Phoenix, with approximately 30% of the column space devoted to articles written in the Cherokee syllabary" (WCU Special Collections).

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI): "During the forced removal of Cherokees ot the West in 1838, a small band of about a thousand Cherokees managed to avoid the roundup by hiding in the mountains of North Carolina...They gradually purchased the land on which they lived...In 1868 the Eastern Cherokees met in general council to draw up a constitution, under which the chief was to be elected to serve a term of two years...[the term was later changed to] four years, at which it remains today" (Conley 91).

Five Civilized Tribes: "the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole...where called 'civilized' because they adopted constitutional governments, some of their people converted to Christianity, and they formed tribal school systems"  (Dennis, et al. 226)

Dawes Act: "The Dawes Act [sponsored by Senator Henry Dawes and passed in 1887] called for the allotment of tribal Indian land to individual landowners, with all the "excess" lands to be sold to white people. The Indian-alloted land would be held in trust of the Indian owner by the U.S. government...on March 3, 1893, the Dawes Commission was set up to deal with the Cherokee Nation and the other tribes of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes" (Conley 80).

Dawes Roll: "The population roll to determine membership in the Cherokee tribe...When it was finished [in 1914], the U.S. Congress declared it to be the Final Cherokee Roll and closed it. No one can be added to the roll (Conley 81).

Guion-Miller Roll:  The "United States Court of Claims acquired jurisdiction, pursuant to an act of July 1, 1902 (32 Stat. 726), over claims arising under treaty stipulations with the Cherokee tribe. Three suits were brought against the United States under the Treaty of New Echota (May 23, 1836) and the Treaty of Washington (Aug. 6, 1846): The Cherokee Nation v. The United States (general jurisdiction case 23199), The Eastern and Emigrant Cherokees v. The United States (general jurisdiction case 23212), and The Eastern Cherokees v. The United States (general jurisdiction case 23214)." (National Archives)."The U.S. Court of Claims ruled in favor of the Eastern Cherokee Tribe's claim against the U.S. on May 18, 1905. This resulted in the appropriation of $1 million to the Tribe’s eligible individuals and families. Interior Department employee Guion Miller created a list using several rolls and applications to verify tribal enrollment for the distribution of funds" (National Archives).

Qualla Boundary: "The Qualla Boundary, the official name for the Cherokee Indian Reservation in western North Carolina, was officially surveyed and its present boundaries were established in 1876. The tract owed its creation to the alliance and efforts of the Cherokee people and to William Holland Thomas, the white Cherokee chief. Thomas pruchased lands for the Cherokee people under his name in the 1840s and 1850s, and in 1866 the United States recognized the right of the Cherokee to own and control the lands. Ten years later, the land was surveyed and demarcated as Cherokee land, outside of federal and state government jurisdiction." (Hill NCpedia).

Removal: "The Removal of all Indians east of the Mississippi River was first called for by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803...In 1830, Andrew Jackson pushed [a] removal bill through Congress and had it passed into law" (Conley, 2007, p. 184). "In 1835, a small, unauthorized group of about 100 Cherokee leaders (known as the Treaty Party) signed the Treaty of New Echota (Georgia), giving away all remaining Cherokee territory in the Southeast in exchange for land in northeastern Oklahoma. Principal Cherokee Chief John Ross collected more than 15,000 signatures, representing almost the entire Cherokee Nation, on a petition requesting the U.S. Senate to withhold ratification of this illicit treaty. The Senate, however, approved the treaty by a margin of one vote in 1836. The treaty gave the Cherokee people two years to vacate their mountain homeland and go west to Oklahoma" (Anderson et al. NCPedia).

Trail of Tears:  "President Martin Van Buren, who had succeeded [Andrew] Jackson in 1837, dispatched federal soldiers commanded by Gen. Winfield Scott to round up Cherokees in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama and place them in various internment camps and stockades. The horrible conditions facing his people at these poorly planned facilities led Ross to appeal to the president for a delay in the removal until fall, when water and game would be more plentiful. Van Buren agreed, and between October 1838 and March 1839, the Cherokee moved west. The journey was mismanaged; there was a shortage of supplies; and the troops rushed the Indians onward, refusing to allow them to minister to their sick or bury their dead. Of the approximately 15,000 who began the trek, an estimated 4,000 perished" (Anderson et al. NCPedia).

Worcester v. Georgia: "In the court case Worcester v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1832 that the Cherokee Indians constituted a nation holding distinct sovereign powers. Although the decision became the foundation of the principle of tribal sovereignty in the twentieth century, it did not protect the Cherokees from being removed from their ancestral homeland in the Southeast" (Garrison New Georgia Encyclopedia). Full text of Worcester v. Georgia 31 U.S. 515 available here:

Works Cited/Further Reading

Anderson, et al. "Cherokee: Part v: The Trail of Tears and the Creation of the Eastern Band of Cherokees." NCPedia. 10 Aug. 2017,

Conley, Robert J. A Cherokee Encyclopedia. University of New Mexico Press, 2007.

Dennis, Yvonne Wakim, et al. Native American Almanac: More than 50,000 Years of the Cultures and Histories of Indigenous Peoples. Visible Ink Press, 2016.

Garrison, Tim A. "Worcester v. Georgia (1832)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 4 August 2017,

Hill, Michael. "Qualla Boundary." NCPedia. 10 Aug. 2017,

National Archives. Records of the United States Court of Claims. 10 Aug. 2017, and