Address of the Committee and Council of the Cherokee Nation, in General Council Convened to the People of the United States

Address to the People of the United States by the General Council of the Cherokee Nation  (1830) 

Before we close this address, permit us to state what we conceive to be our relation with the United States. After the peace of 1783, the Cherokees were an independent people; absolutely so, as much as any people on earth. They had been allies to Great Britain, and as a faithful ally took a part in the colonial war on her side. They had placed themselves under her protection, and had they, without cause, declared hostility against their protector, and had the colonies been subdued, what might not have been their fate ? But her power [BG's one] on this continent was broken. She acknowledged the independence of the United States, and made peace. The Cherokees therefore stood alone; and, in the circumstances, continued the war. They were then under no obligations to the United States any more than to Great Britain, France or Spain. The United States never subjugated the Cherokees; on the contrary, our fathers remained in possession of their country, and with arms in their hands... We are aware, that some persons suppose it will be for our advantage to remove beyond the Mississippi. We think otherwise. Our people universally think otherwise. Thinking that it would be fatal to their interests, they have almost to a man sent their memorial to congress, deprecating the necessity of a removal. This question was distinctly before their minds when they signed their memorial. Not an adult person can be found, who has not an opinion on the subject, and if the people were to understand distinctly, that they could be protected against the laws of the neighboring states, there is probably not an adult person in the nation, who would think it best to remove; though possibly a few might emigrate individually. In the first half of the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Native Americans were violently removed from their lands, as the U.S. government led an expansion of its territory and power into the lands of the Cherokee and other Indian nations. In 1823, the Supreme Court ruled that Indian's "right of occupancy" was not as important as the U.S. government's "right of discovery". Four years later, the Cherokees responded by declaring themselves to be a sovereign nation. The State of Georgia, however, did not recognize their sovereign status, but saw them as tenants living on state land. The Cherokee took their case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against them. In 1839? President Andrew Jackson won approval of the Indian Removal Act, gaining the power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. These two accounts document resistance of the Cherokees to their removal, whether "by direct or by indirect measures." We are not willing to remove; and if we could be brought to this extremity, it would be not by argument, not because our judgement was satisfied, not because our condition will be improved; but only because we cannot endure to be deprived of our national and individual rights and subjected to a process of intolerable oppression. We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence, and our privileges and secure us against intruders. Our only request is, that these treaties may be fulfilled, and these laws executed. But if we are compelled to leave our court, we see nothing but ruin before us. The country west of the Arkansas territory is unknown to us. From what we can learn of it, we have no prepossessions in its favor. All the inventing parts of it, as we believe, are preoccupied by various Indian nations, to which it has been assigned. They would regard us as intruders, and look upon us with an evil eye. The far greater part of that region is, beyond all controversy, badly supplied with wood and water; and no Indian tribe can live as agriculturists without these articles. All our neighbors, in case of our removal, though crowded into our near vicinity, would speak a language totally different from ours, and practice different customs. The original possessors of that region are now wandering savages lurking for prey in the neighborhood. They have always been at war, and would be easily tempted to turn their arms against peaceful emigrants. Were the country to which we are urged much better that it is represented to be and were it free from the objections which we have made to it, still it is not the land of our birth, nor of our affections. It contains neither the scenes of our childhood, nor the graves of our fathers.

The white government consisted of the Peace Chief, an advisor, prime counselors (one from each clan unit), a council of elders, a chief speaker, messengers, and ceremonial officers. This organization made the decisions that guided the tribe during their times of peace, including domestic issues and ceremonies. He Cherokee National Council had passed a law in 1825 enabling the descendants of Cherokee fathers and white mothers to be full citizens of the Cherokee. Each Cherokee village had two governments: a white government which governed when the village was at peace, and a red government which governed during times of war.