“In the mid-1700s, the Spanish invited the Ani-Tsalagi, known as Cherokees, to move into their frontier area. The Spaniards offered the red men land for their families. The Spanish wanted them located on the eastern frontier to be a buffer between them and the English Colonies to the east.
“I have seen my people strive to make a living ever since the last bunch of Cherokees arrived over the trail of tears to the present time. I have seen many of our tribe deed away their land to satisfy a mortgage of which they were not able to cope.
“I have had many ask me the difference in an ‘Old Settler Cherokee’ and an ‘Eastern Emigrant.’ An old settler is a Cherokee who came with the first bunch from Georgia without being forced by the government. An eastern emigrant is one that remained behind and was forced by the government to remove to the new country, west of the Mississippi and this movement was known as the ‘Trail of Tears.'”
As the fever of independence was growing amongst the colonists of North America, so was the fever of expansion. In the late eighteenth century, the Cherokee found themselves in a perpetual struggle to hang on to their ancestral lands while trying to deal with and appease their long-time trading partners, the British. When the colonists declared their independence and went to war against Britain, the Cherokee were faced with a no-win decision. Should they side with the colonists who were blatantly stealing their land or side with the British who they had a trade agreement with? They chose to honor their agreement and side with the British.
Over the centuries, since the Cherokee people’s first contact with Europeans, there have been many attempts to preserve the pre-Columbian culture. It seems that the more passionate attempts met with the most tragic demise while the more casual and indirect acquaintances have survived. I point to the encounters and reports by European adventurers, traders, priests or ethnographers whose works, notes, and books have successfully preserved hints of the culture, albeit from a foreign perspective. James Adair is a prime example.