A new plow in old ground
Jurgelski, William Martin
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The transfer of Native American lands to Anglo-American possession was a relentless process that began with the arrival of the first European settlers in the 16th century and continued for centuries thereafter. This dissertation describes one episode in this lengthy process – the Treaty of February 27, 1819 between the Cherokee Indians and the United States. The focus of the dissertation is on the prelude to and aftermath of the treaty in western North Carolina, and on conflicts that erupted in the state over individual reservations or allotments taken by some Cherokee under the terms of the treaty. Around one quarter of all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River were ceded to the United States as a result of the Treaty of 1819. This included about 680,000 acres in western North Carolina, as well as land in Georgia, Tennessee, and present day Alabama. The proximal purpose of the treaty was to provide land for Cherokee who had previously emigrated to Arkansas. Under the terms of the treaty the Arkansas Cherokee were to receive federal lands in proportion to the amount of land surrendered by the Cherokee who remained in the East. A significant aspect of the treaty was that it allowed Cherokee heads of households who lived on the ceded lands the option of taking 640 acre individual reservations in lieu of leaving their homes. The treaty represented one of the first attempts on the part of the federal government to allot collectively held tribal lands to individual tribal members. Some 75 Cherokees in western North Carolina applied for individual reservations, but state officials surveyed much of the reserved land and sold it to white settlers. This led to physical conflicts and extensive litigation between the Cherokee reservees and incoming settlers. Government commissions eventually quieted the controversy by purchasing most of the reservation claims. However, the reservations left an important legacy. Although they were not able to remain on their land, some North Carolina reservees elected to remain near their former homes. These people eventually coalesced to form the core of what became the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
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