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Extended History (1 of 4)


During the latter part of the 1700s and early part of the 1800s, the Cherokee commonly married French, English, German, and Scotch-Irish. Both the Cherokee and the United States Government encouraged these marriages. Some historians credit the marriages for the rapid acculturation of the Cherokee Nation. Many of the children of these marriages rose to positions of leadership within the Cherokee Nation Some of the most noted and influential of the leaders included John Ross, Major Ridge, and his son John Ridge. John Ross received his support from the more traditional,full-blood Cherokee while the Ridge family obtained its support from the more acculturated mixed-blood Cherokees.

Major Ridge

The 1800s moved the Cherokee Nation even closer to the United States in ties via trade, familial interaction and customs, but the years brought the demise of the majority of the Cherokee in their original homeland.

The State of Georgia grew impatient with the lack of fulfillment of the United States government's 1802 promise to evict the Cherokee from the territory between Atlanta and Tennessee in exchange for Georgia's relinquishment of its claim to the territory extending west all the way to the Mississippi River. Georgia lacked the wealth that other earlier established colonies, (the states) had acquired and Georgia's population blamed the Cherokee for holding back the state's development. To heighten the dismay of the Georgia citizenry, many Cherokees had surpassed the average Georgian in wealth and commercial ability. In 1828, the State of Georgia decided to take matters into its own hands by passing legislation to annex Cherokee territory. Georgia then made laws that purported to "annul" all laws made by the Cherokee and went as far as forbidding Cherokees to own land, to vote or to be a witness against a white person in a court of law. Georgia's effort in stripping the Cherokee of citizenship in their own Nation resulted in a holocaust to the Cherokee residing in the territory claimed and "annexed" by Georgia by the 1828 actions. Georgia unmercifully began to beat, rob, and slaughter Cherokees with the consent of the State of Georgia.

John Ridge brought suit in the United States court's in an effort to thwart this outrage against the Cherokee. The litigation became known as the "Cherokee cases" that established many precedents for the principles of Indian Law and relations in the United States today. In the first of these series of cases, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall avoided what he knew would be a decision that would be unpopular among United States citizens by stating, "..."since the Cherokee Nation was a nation inside a nation, the Supreme court was not a high enough court to render a decision, or hear the case."

Georgia's citizenry saw this first decision and the abdication of Supreme Court responsibility to be Georgia's cue that the federal government would not protect the Cherokee and the citizenry pressed forward in annihilating the Cherokee. Disappointed, but determined John Ridge personally lobbied Congress, President Jackson and employed Daniel Webster to represent the Cherokee.

The Georgia legislature then passed a law that no white man could live in the Cherokee territory without the consent of the Georgia legislature. This law struck directly at the very concept of allowing mixed-blood marriages and undermined the established U.S. and Cherokee law on property ownership and the right to travel freely. Many mixed-bloods moved to other states to escape Georgia's tyranny. Georgia placed a bounty on Cherokees and made it clear that the State legal system would support and defend any citizen who killed a full-blood/mixed-blood Cherokee. In addition, Georgia instituted the Lottery system whereby the State asserted its dubious authority to divide the Cherokee Nation into 160 acre tracts. Any Georgia citizen that took the initiative to kill the Cherokee family that occupied the tract could then acquire property rights to the tract with the full protection of the Georgia Militia and the court system.

This second Georgia Act resulted in a second United States Supreme Court "Cherokee Case" that challenged the arrest of a white missionary. The white missionary's crime had been that he lived with the Ridge family within the Cherokee Nation in violation of the Georgia law. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall remembered the results of his first indecision and rendered an authoritative determination that "Georgia Laws could have no effect within the limits of the Cherokee Nation." President Jackson, on hearing the Court's decision, made his famous statement that "Well, John Marshall has made his decision now let him enforce it." In effect, President Jackson would not lend support to the Supreme Court's decision and Georgia could continue to urge the destruction of the Cherokee people.

John Ross viewed the Supreme Court's favorable decision as evidence that the Cherokee would eventually prevail. John Ridge, on the other hand, viewed the lack of the President's support of the Supreme Court to mean that the Cherokee faced nothing less than genocide. He again met with President Jackson who assured Ridge that the end result would either be forced removal of the Cherokee or complete destruction, either way, the Cherokee would not remain in Georgia. John Ridge then decided to put the lives of his people ahead of a false hope that the Cherokee would be able to remain in their homeland against the tide and force of land-hungry Georgian settlers and others. Resigned to the inevitable, John Ridge then negotiated a Treaty with the United States for the humane preservation of the lives of his countrymen and the continued U.S. recognition of the Cherokee Nation as a viable government.

The difference between John Ross's and John Ridge's perceptions of the harsh realities and how to resolve them erupted into a bitter feud between the two leaders. Each accused the other of wrongdoing. John Ridge saw John Ross as having a callous disregard for the atrocities that Georgians had inflicted on the Cherokee. Ridge could not understand Ross's efforts to negotiate with Mexico concerning the interests of the Cherokee. John Ross saw John Ridge's efforts to trade the Cherokee's eastern lands for an equal amount of land in Oklahoma to be traitorous. This feud transformed into a split of the Cherokee Nation between the full-bloods led by John Ross, and the mixed-bloods led by John Ridge.

On November 11, 1834, at his home in Running Waters, Georgia, John Ridge, the son of Cherokee Chief Major Ridge, officially organized the Ridge Band of Cherokees, also known as the Treaty Party.(House Document 91, 23rd Congress 1834). President Jackson, the U.S.Congress, and the State of Georgia immediately recognized the Ridge Band. The Ridge band members included the mixed-blood leaders that negotiated the "Treaty of New Echota," which traded Cherokee lands in the East for an equal amount of land in Oklahoma, with the Cherokee to receive and additional $5 Million Dollars for reparations against the State of Georgia. The Treaty allowed those Cherokees that wished to remain in the east to do so and become citizens of the states in which they chose to reside. Andrew Jackson balked at this Article within the Treaty, but the provision survived. Years later, the Court in (U.S. vs Boyd) looked to this provision in recognizing that the Eastern Band of Cherokees had the right to remain in North Carolina. The 1896 Indian Commissioners Report also acknowledged this provision as key to the Eastern Band's rights (pp.633-635). In a substantial degree, the Eastern Band of Cherokees owe a great deal of its current status to John Ridge's lobbying and draftsmanship that came about from his establishment of the Ridge Band in 1834.


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