Cherokee Treaties

On the 20th day of November, 1785, while the American colonists were still operating under the defective Articles of Confederation, the First Treaty was concluded with the Cherokees, known as the Hopewell Treaty. This treaty was made by and between Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens, Joseph Martin and Lachlan McIntosh, commissioners representing the Colonies, and the headsmen and warriors of all the Cherokees, thirty-seven in number.

Article I provided that the Cherokees should restore to the Colonists all prisoners and property taken by them during the Revolutionary war.

Article II provided that the Colonists should restore to the Cherokees all Indians taken as prisoners of war.

Article III provided that all Cherokees were to be under the protection of the United States and of no other sovereign.

Article IV described the lands granted to the Cherokees for their hunting grounds as follows: Beginning at the mouth of Duck River, on the Tennessee, thence running northeast to the ridge dividing the waters running into the Cumberland from those running into the Tennessee; thence easterly along said ridge to a northeast line to be run, which shall strike the Cumberland forty miles above Nashville; thence along said line to the river; thence up said river to the ford where the Kentucky road crosses the river; thence to Campbell’s line to Cumberland gap; thence to the mouth of Claud’s Creek on Holston; thence to the Chimney Top Mountain; thence to Camp Creek, near the mouth of Big Limestone, on Nolichuckey; thence in a southerly course six miles to a mountain; thence south to the North Carolina line ; thence to the South Carolina Indian boundary, and along the same southwest over the top of the Oconee Mountain till it shall strike Tugaloo River; thence a direct line to the top of the Currahee Mountain; thence to the head of the south fork of Oconee River.

Article V provided that no citizen of the United States should settle upon lands reserved for the Indians.

Article VI provided that any Indian committing a robbery, murder or other capital crime against a citizen of the United States should be delivered up for punishment.

Article VII provided that any citizen of the United States, guilty of any such crime against an Indian, should be punished in the same manner.

Article VIII provided that no innocent person shall be punished by either party by way of retaliation.

Article IX provided that the United States shall have the right to regulate trade with the Indians.

Article X provided that United States citizens should be protected while trading with the Indians.

Article XI provided that the Cherokees shall notify the citizens of the United States of Any danger or trouble threatened by any other person or neighboring tribe.

Article XII permitted the Cherokees to send a deputy to Congress whenever they saw fit to do so.
Article XIII pledged that the hatchet should be forever buried and that peace and friendship should be restored between the parties to the treaty.

Second Cherokee Treaty

The Second Cherokee Treaty was made on the second day of July, 1791, by William Blount, governor of the territory south of the Ohio River, and forty-three Cherokee chiefs and warriors.

This treaty, executed at the Treaty Ground, on the bank of the Holston, reaffirmed the main provisions of the first treaty, but redefined the boundaries of the Indian reservation, relinquishing to the United States that portion of land lying east of Currahee Mountain. For this relinquishment the United States agreed to deliver “certain valuable goods” to the Indians and to pay them, annually, the sum of $1,000, which annuity was increased to $1,500 by Henry Knox, Secretary of War, on February 17, 1792.

One significant provision of this treaty is found in Article XIV, which provides:

“That the Cherokee Nation may be led to a greater degree of civilization and to become herdsmen and cultivators, instead of remaining in a state of hunters, the United States will from time to time furnish gratuitously the said nation with useful implements of husbandry.”

Some dissatisfaction arose among the Indians concerning the provisions of this treaty.
The Indians began to see their hunting grounds slipping away from them, and as they were not familiar with the boundaries of the new reservation, they were frequently found hunting outside of its boundaries.

White settlers nearby made complaint to the effect that some of their horses were being stolen.

Third Cherokee Treaty

In order to settle these complaints and misunderstandings, the Third Treaty was concluded between Secretary Knox and the Cherokee chiefs and warriors on the bank of the Holston River, on June 26, 1794, by which the United States government agreed to pay the Cherokees, with goods suitable to their use, of the value of $5,000 per annum, in lieu of all former promises to pay, and the Cherokees agreed to pay $50 for every horse stolen by any Cherokee from any white settler.

This treaty also provided that the boundaries of the present reservation should be ascertained and marked by three persons appointed by the government and three Cherokees.

This survey was not made until three years later, and in the meantime, white settlers kept encroaching on the lands claimed by the Indians, and the Indians frequently extended their hunting trips beyond the supposed limits of their reservation.

Fourth Cherokee Treaty

As these encroachments were causing bitter strife and threatened bloodshed, a Fourth Treaty was negotiated on October 2, 1798, in the Council House on Cherokee ground, near Tellico. By the terms of this treaty the Cherokees ceded another slice of their reservation on the north and east, upon certain portions of which white people had already settled and had begun to develop farms and villages.

The United States agreed to pay to the Cherokees as consideration for the land ceded herein, the sum of $5,000 in goods, wares and merchandise, and to add to the annuities heretofore given, the sum of $1,000.

This treaty also provided that the United States would continue the guarantee to the Cherokees of “the remainder of their country forever.”

The fertile valleys of the Tennessee River and its tributaries continued to be coveted by white settlers and in many instances they built cabins and cultivated various tracts of land inside the limits of the reservation without legal right or title, which encroachments naturally fostered friction between the two races.

The white intruders excused or condoned their acts of trespass by claiming that the Indians were not cultivating the lands, but the Indians saw in such cultivation the gradual destruction of their hunting grounds.

Fifth Cherokee Treaty

Their Fifth Treaty was negotiated at Tellico on October 25, 1805, by which the Cherokees were induced to give up that portion of their reservation lying north of Duck River, a tributary of the Tennessee River, for a consideration of $14,000 in cash or merchandise and an annual sum of $3,000.

Sixth Cherokee Treaty

Two days later, a supplemental (Sixth Treaty) was made between the same parties, by which a section of land near the present site of Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee, was ceded to the United States government, it being represented to the Cherokees that the Colonists desired to establish their state or territorial capital at this point, the Government having already established a garrison at Southwest Point, adjoining Kingston. For this relinquishment the United States agreed to pay the Cherokees the sum of $1,600.

By this supplemental treaty the Cherokees agreed that the United States government should have the free and unmolested use of a road from Tellico to Tombigbee, this road being a part of the mail route from Knoxville to New Orleans.

Seventh Cherokee Treaty

On January 7, 1806, the chiefs and head men of the Cherokees were called to Washington, D. C., where they entered into their Seventh Treaty, by which they gave up another tract of land on the north of Tennessee River, for which they were to receive the sum of $10,000, payable in five equal annual installments and the old Cherokee Chief, Black Fox, was to receive a life pension of $100 per year. This treaty also provided that the United States should build a grist mill and a cotton gin for the Cherokees and should endeavor to settle a dispute which had arisen between the Cherokees and Chickasaws concerning boundary lines between the reservations of those two tribes, south of the Tennessee River.

On September 11, 1807, by the terms of their Seventh Treaty, made with Black Fox, the government adjusted the differences between the Cherokees and Chickasaws, referred to in their Sixth Treaty, and the Cherokees relinquished all claims to the tract of land lying between the Tennessee River and Tennessee Ridge, for the consideration of $2,000.

Eighth and Ninth Cherokee Treaty

On March 22, 1816, two treaties (the Eighth and Ninth) were concluded at the City of Washington. The Eighth Treaty, after reciting that the Governor of the State of South Carolina had appealed to the President of the United States to extinguish the claim of the Cherokees to their lands in that state, provides for quit-claiming the South Carolina lands, upon the payment of $5,000 to the Cherokees by the State of South Carolina.

The Ninth Treaty, bearing same date as last above, settled a dispute concerning boundary lines between the Cherokee and Creek reservations in the vicinity of the Coosa River. An interesting provision of this treaty is contained in Article V, which provides that the United States should pay to individual Cherokees the sum of $25,500 for losses sustained by them in consequence of the march of the militia and other troops in the service of the United States through that nation during the second war with England.

Other events which occurred during that decade, but for which the Cherokees were not responsible, tended toward widening the breach between the white and red races. As the tide of emigration began to pour down the western slope of the Alleghanies and possess the rich valleys of the Ohio River and its tributaries, Tecumseh (or Tecumtha), an influential Shawnee chief, undertook to unite the Northern and Southern tribes in a war against the whites. He succeeded in getting a good many Creeks and some of the other Southern tribes to join his insurrection, but received but slight assistance and encouragement from the Cherokees. Just at this time the second war with England (1812) was declared, and Tecumseh, with many of his followers, joined the British army. They killed many whites in the new settlements, but were finally subdued and Tecumseh was killed in the battle of the Thames, in Canada. These rebellious acts of Tecumseh and his hostile followers did much toward increasing the already growing feeling of enmity of the whites toward the whole Indian race.

Soon after this war was terminated, many immigrants from various European countries came to America, and joined the New Englanders in the first great rush for homes in the Mississippi Valley. McMaster’s History, in describing this period of our country’s growth, says:
“All the great highways to the West were crowded with bands of emigrants. In nine days 260 wagons, bound for the West, passed through one New York town. At Easton, Pa., 511 wagons, containing 3,066 persons, passed in a month.”

As a result of this exciting rush for land and homes the Indians’ hunting grounds became dotted with the log cabins of the newcomers, regardless of treaty rights or law.

The frequency with which the government was called upon to negotiate treaties with the Cherokees during the early part of the nineteenth century furnishes evidence of the unsettled condition of affairs in our country during that period.

On the south and west of the Cherokee reservation were other tribes of Indians, not very friendly and not satisfied with their condition, while on the north and east the white pioneers were continually coveting the ‘fertile valleys of their hunting grounds. Every treaty meant a loss of territory for the Indians and a constantly increasing influx of white population.

The impartial student of that period of our history cannot fail to be impressed by the remarkable degree of patience and stoicism manifested by the Cherokee people, as they saw their favorite hunting grounds being gradually destroyed by the white man’s fences and plows.

Tenth Cherokee Treaty

The ink with which the signatures to the Eighth and Ninth treaties were inscribed, had scarcely dried when a misunderstanding arose as to the Cherokee’s western boundary, and Gen. Andrew Jackson and two other commissioners were sent by President Madison to negotiate Treaty Number Ten. Jackson met the Cherokee delegates at the Chickasaw Council House on September 14, 1816, and concluded this treaty, which was ratified by the whole Cherokee Nation at Turkey Town, on the fourth day of the following month.

By the terms of this treaty the Cherokees relinquished their claim to a good-sized tract of land along the western and southern sides of their reservation, including portions of the fertile valleys of Well’s Creek, Black Warrior Creek and Coosa River, for the consideration of an annuity of $6,000 to continue for ten years and an immediate cash payment of $5,000.

General Jackson had just returned from his victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans. He had also recently driven the Spaniards out of Pensacola, Fla., and had defeated the Creeks in a brutal skirmish down in Alabama.

His reputation as a warrior, therefore, caused the Indians to regard him with feelings of awe and fear.

The constant, never-ending encroachment of the white settlers upon the Cherokees’ reservation, had, by this time caused a division among the Cherokees themselves. Some of them who had already developed farms wanted to adopt the white man’s civilization, while others, mainly of the full-blood element, wanted to retain their hunting grounds and continue their old style of living.

During the latter part of the year, 1808, both of these factions sent delegates to Washington to make their wishes known to President Jefferson. What were known as Upper Cherokees represented that they were desirous of engaging in the pursuits of agriculture and civilized life in the country which they were then occupying, but that as the Lower Cherokees would not agree to do this they asked that the reservation be divided, giving them (the Upper Cherokees) the land north of the Hiwassee River, and allowing them to form a government and adopt their own laws.

The delegates from the Lower Towns expressed their desire to continue their old customs and habits of living, but as their wild game and hunting grounds were rapidly disappearing, they were willing to exchange their lands for territory beyond the Mississippi River where game was more plentiful and pale faces fewer.

President Jefferson informed them that the United States Government was friendly to both factions. He told them that those who desired to remain where they then lived, would be protected and assisted.

He also told them that those who were dissatisfied with their present surroundings might send an exploring party up the White and Arkansas rivers and that if they could find a desirable tract of land not claimed by other Indians, he would give it to them in exchange for their old reservation.

Eleventh Cherokee Treaty

A delegation, soon afterward, explored the Arkansas River country and reported that they had found a suitable tract which was not claimed by any other Indians, and on July 8, 1817, the chiefs, head men and warriors again met Gen. Andrew Jackson and two other United States commissioners at the Cherokee Agency and negotiated their Eleventh Treaty, by the terms of which the Indians ceded a large portion of their rapidly disappearing reservation east of the Mississippi in exchange for an equal number of acres out in the White and Arkansas rivers country. The United States authorities promised to furnish flat-bottomed boats and provisions to all Indians who desired to emigrate, and to pay a reasonable sum to those who had made valuable improvements on the lands which they were abandoning. This treaty also. provided that each head of a family that chose to remain upon their old reservation and accept United States citizenship should receive a square mile of land.

Twelfth Cherokee Treaty

The Federal authorities were, as usual, dilatory in executing some of the provisions of this treaty, such as causing a survey of the land to be made and a census of the Indians taken, all of which tended to aggravate rather than to quiet the feelings of unrest, uncertainty and dissatisfaction which prevailed quite generally, and in an effort to adjust these differences and misunderstandings, John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, summoned the Cherokee chiefs and head men to Washington, where, on the 27th day of February, 1819, their Twelfth Treaty was made. This treaty purported to define more clearly the boundaries of the land already ceded and also provided that certain tracts should be sold and the proceeds thereof held in trust by the government as a school fund for the Cherokees who remained on the east side of the Mississippi River.

Thirteenth Cherokee Treaty

The white man’s greed for Indian lands continued to manifest itself in the Thirteenth Treaty, which was made at Tellico on October 24, 1804, but which, it appears, was not finally proclaimed until May 17, 1824. By this treaty the Cherokees relinquished title to a small tract of land adjoining the northern boundary of Georgia, known as Wafford’s settlement.

For this tract, which appears to have been already partially settled by whites, the Cherokees were to receive $5,000 and an annuity of $1,000.

Some of the Cherokee emigrants, attracted by the fertile valley of the White River in the Territory of Arkansas, stopped there, on the western pilgrimage, and began to build homes and develop farms, as their Eleventh treaty had provided they should be permitted to do, but numerous white settlers also coveted those beautiful valleys, resulting again in serious friction between the two races, and the chiefs and head men of the Western Cherokees were called to Washington, where, on the 6th day of May, 1828, their Fourteenth Treaty was concluded, which treaty, as its preamble recites, was made necessary in order that the Cherokees might “free themselves and their posterity from an embarrassing connection with the Territory of Arkansas and guard themselves from such connections in future.”

This treaty defined the boundary line between Arkansas and the Indian reservations on the west and solemnly pledged to the Cherokees 7,000,000 acres of land in their new reservation adjoining Arkansas.

It is interesting to note that this treaty recites “that the United States anxiously desires to secure to the Cherokees a permanent home which shall, under the solemn guarantee of the United States, be and remain theirs forever a home that shall never, in all future time, be embarrassed by having extended around it the lines, or placed over it the jurisdiction of a territory or state, nor be pressed upon by the extension, in any way, of any of the limits of any existing territory or state.”

The United States agreed to pay for the improvements which the Indians had made on lands in Arkansas and to pay the Cherokee Nation various sums, amounting in all, to about one hundred thousand dollars, for the surrender of their claims to land in Arkansas Territory. This treaty reserved to the use of the United States a tract two miles wide and six miles long, for military purposes at Fort Gibson.

Soon after the Cherokees began to settle upon their new reservation in Indian Territory a dispute arose between them and the Creeks, as to boundary lines, the Creeks claiming that this last Cherokee treaty included some lands which had been previously included in their reservation.

Fifteenth Cherokee Treaty

In order to settle this dispute between the two tribes, the Fifteenth Cherokee Treaty was concluded at Fort Gibson on February 14, 1833, by which the Cherokees agreed to relinquish to the Creeks a small part of their new reservation on the west. In consideration of this relinquishment the United States agreed to erect and equip four blacksmith shops, one wagon-maker shop, one wheelwright shop and eight patent railway corn mills for the Cherokees.

Although several of the foregoing treaties provided that those Cherokees who did not desire to emigrate to their new western reservation, should have the right to retain their old homes in Georgia and would be entitled to the protection of the United States, yet those who chose to remain were constantly harassed by the white settlers who persisted in trespassing upon their lands. The State of Georgia, instead of respecting the treaty rights of the Cherokees, passed laws in direct conflict with many of the provisions of the treaties solemnly made by the United States authorities.

In 1828 the Legislature of Georgia enacted a law by which certain portions of the Cherokee reservation were added to the adjoining counties and made subject to the laws of the state.

In 1829 another act of the Legislature annexed certain other portions of the Indian reservation to various counties of the state and attempted to annul the laws and ordinances of the Cherokees therein.

In 1830 the Legislature of Georgia enacted a law providing for the survey and distribution of certain parts of the reservation to white citizens, and also purporting to take possession of the gold and silver mines belonging to the Cherokees.

During John Quincy Adams’ administration (1825-1829) arose one of the first bitter “States Rights” contests which, a third of a century later culminated in the Civil war.

President Adams believed that the solemn pledges made by the Government in its various treaties with the Indians, wherein the United States guaranteed that the Indians should not be molested by the whites, but should be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and privileges on their reservation were binding upon the Federal government, but the Legislature of Georgia, under the leadership of Governor Troup, contended that the state had the right to enact its own laws, free from Federal dictation. The governor resented what he termed “Federal usurpation of the constitutional rights of a state.”

Among other obnoxious laws enacted by the Legislature of Georgia was one which required that every white man who resided among the Indians should take an oath of allegiance to Georgia.

Under this law several missionaries, including Doctors Worcester* and Butler, were sentenced to serve terms in the state penitentiary.

Thousands of petitions were circulated, signed and sent to Congress by friends of the Indians throughout the North, protesting against the inhuman treatment of the Indians by the authorities of Georgia. The bill introduced in Congress in 1830 providing for the removal of the Indians to the territory west of the Mississippi occasioned much acrimonious debate, which involved, to a great extent the doctrine of states’ rights.

In defense of the laws passed by the Legislature of Georgia, a congressman from that state, in a speech in the House of Representatives at Washington, used this language:

“Georgia, sir, is one of the good old thirteen states. She entered the Union upon an equal footing with any of her sisters. She claims no superiority but contends for equality. That sovereignty which she concedes to all the rest, and would at any time unite with them in defending against all encroachment, she will maintain for herself. Our social compact, upon which we stand as a state, gives you the metes and bounds of our sovereignty; and within the limits therein defined and pointed out, our state claims entire and complete jurisdiction over soil and population, regardless of complexion.


“Pages may be filled with the sublimated cant of the day, and in wailing over the departure of the Cherokees from the bones of their forefathers. But if the heads of these pretended mourners were waters, and their eyes were fountains of tears, and they were to spend days and years in weeping over the departure of the Cherokees from Georgia, yet they will go. The tide of emigration with the Indians, as well as the whites, directs its course westwardly.”

When the Cherokees appealed to the United States Supreme Court to enjoin the State of Georgia from extending its laws over the Indian reservation, the governor of Georgia made the following recommendation in one of his messages to his Legislature:

“The Legislature has an unquestionable right to make it a highly penal crime for any citizen or inhabitant of the state to advise, aid or counsel in any measure, or issue or serve any process, which shall bring in question before any tribunal of this state, from the Second District of Oklahoma.

When Governor Wilson Lumpkin of Georgia learned that President Andrew Jackson would not agree to the enforcement of the act of the Legislature of Georgia which proposed to survey a portion of the Cherokee reservation and arbitrarily sell it to white settlers he wrote the following letter to the President on November 1, 1831:

“A crisis has arrived in our political affairs, in the Cherokee portion of Georgia, which cannot remain in its present attitude. A remedy must be applied. This subject is not only one of vital importance to Georgia, but your character, mine, and our common country are, and will be, deeply involved. Your opinions, private and public, will be venerated by me as coming from a father. The extension of our state laws and jurisdiction over the Cherokees has evinced the great difficulty of administering justice to a people circumstanced as the Indians are. A few thousand persons dispersed over a territory of 5,000,000 acres of land, abounding in rich gold mines ; the people indisposed and incompetent to aid in the administration of the law, presents an anomaly in the history of the world. Any laws which may be devised for the Government of this country in its present situation, to be efficient, must partake largely of a military character, and consequently be more absolute and despotic than would be admissible or necessary, in a country affording the materials for the administration of civil justice.


“The state cannot, with honor or justice to herself, retreat from any of the ground she has taken. To retrograde or stand still, will be ruinous. Would it not, then, be more manly and , honorable at once to place upon the unoccupied territory a virtuous freehold population, possessed of all the inducements of other citizens to maintain order and good government in this country? Carefully, at the same time, guarding, by our Legislature, the rights of the Indians to their entire improvements and property of every kind, together with an ample sufficiency of land to sustain them and their posterity in their present abodes, so long as they may choose to remain. I consider the present condition of Georgia a most delicate one. Prejudiced enemies, at a distance, may be tolerated and endured but rest assured that I speak advisedly when I say that the enemies of Georgia are alarmingly multiplying in her midst. The gold mines offer a rallying point for the concentration of bad men from all parts of the world. Even our domestics (negroes) may look to a controversy with the Cherokees with feelings of deep interest. And, many of our lawyers, judges and other distinguished selfish men, I have no doubt, begin now to look to and desire a continuance of the present state of things as affording the best prospect of a rich harvest for themselves.”

*Note: Dr. Worcester was the grandfather of Miss Alice Robertson, present member of Congress of the United States, our rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction over our entire population and territory.”

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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top