Bitter Controversy, Cherokee County, Oklahoma

Soon after their arrival here a bitter controversy arose between those who first left their Eastern homes and those who emigrated a few years later as to their respective property rights in and to their new reservation, and delegates representing the two factions met at Illinois Camp Ground, near Tahlequah, and on the 12th day of July, 1838, consummated the following:

“Act Of Union Between The Eastern And Western Cherokee

Click here to read the signers for the Eastern and Western Cherokee. There is additional information on that page, and is different from the information on this page.

“Whereas, Our fathers have existed as a separate and distinct nation, in the possession and exercise of the essential and appropriate attributes of sovereignty, from a period extending into antiquity, beyond the records and memory of man; and,

“Whereas, These attributes, with the rights and franchises which they involve, remain still in full force and virtue ; as do also the national and social relations of the Cherokee people to each other, and to the body politic, excepting in those particulars which have grown out of the provisions of the treaties of 1817 and 1819, between the United States and Cherokee Nation, under which a portion of our people removed to this country and became a separate community, but the force of circumstances have recently compelled the body of the Eastern Cherokee to remove to this country, thus bringing together again the two branches of the ancient Cherokee family, it has become essential to the general welfare that a Union should be formed and a system of government matured, adapted to their present condition, and providing equally for the protection of each individual in the enjoyment of all his rights ;

“Therefore, we, the people composing the Eastern and Western Cherokee nations, in national convention assembled, by virtue of our original unalienable rights, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree to form ourselves into one body politic under the style and title of the Cherokee Nation.

“In view of the Union now formed, and for the purpose of making satisfactory adjustments of all unsettled business which may have arisen before the consummation of this Union, we agree that such business shall be settled according to the provisions of the respective laws under which it originated, and the courts of the Cherokee Nation shall be governed in their decisions accordingly.

Also, that the delegation authorized by the Eastern Cherokee to make arrangements with Major General Scott for their removal to this country shall continue in charge of that business with their present powers until it shall be finally closed. And, also, that all rights and titles to public Cherokee lands on the east or west of the river Mississippi, with all other public interests which may have vested in either branch of the Cherokee family, whether inherited from our fathers or derived from any other source, shall henceforward vest entire and unimpaired in the Cherokee Nation, as constituted by this Union.

“Given under our hands at Illinois Camp Ground, this 12th day of July, 1838.

From the date of the arrival of the first body of emigrants, Tahlequah was a busy place on account of the numerous tribal meetings and conventions.

Although not much of a town for some time, it began to make history rapidly. Around the council house, which was located in the center of the block of ground reserved for public gatherings, were erected several improvised hotels for the accommodation of the numerous delegates in attendance upon the frequent conventions and council meetings. Thomas Wolf, Susan Taylor and Johnson built the first hotels or rooming houses, and the first stores were established by Messrs. Meigs and Murrell. After the Act of Union was effected, John Ross, their old Georgian chief, who had so strongly opposed their giving up their eastern .home, followed them to the Indian Territory and built a fine residence at Park Hill, three miles south of Tahlequah, was chosen as their first chief, which position he continuously held from that date until his death in Washington city on August 1, 1866. As early as 1841 the Cherokee Council began to make provision for establishing schools which finally resulted in making Tahlequah the greatest educational center ever conceived by any tribe of Indians. David Carter and Stephen Foreman were the first superintendents of schools and their first appropriation provided for the establishment of eleven Cherokee schools. The arrival of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory very naturally created jealousy and friction between them and the half-civilized tribes whose members had roamed this country unmolested from time immemorial and who resented the movements of the new-comers toward destroying any part of their hunting grounds by building homes and developing farms. The Cherokee took the lead in endeavoring to settle these growing dissensions by calling a convention of all the tribes inhabiting this country at that time. This convention was held in Tahlequah in the Summer of 1843, and was attended by representatives of about twenty different tribes. An immense council fire was built in the center of their capital square in Tahlequah and around it was gathered one of the most picturesque and far-reaching assemblies of Indians ever convened in the -history of America. George Lowery, an old Cherokee who at that time was assistant chief of the Cherokee, was chosen as the presiding officer of the great conclave. The proceedings of the “powwow” were characterized by solemn ceremony and resulted in bringing about a feeling of friendliness among the various tribes and as an evidence of their determination to live in peace with one another forever afterward, a great belt of wampum beads was stretched upon the ground at the conclusion of their convention and in solemn procession, the delegates from the twenty tribes marched around it. Although disputes occasionally arose thereafter between the tribes, the results of this council gathering continued to exert a salutary influence upon the tribes interested, and it deserves to be recorded as one of the greatest Indian conferences ever held in the United States.

Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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