Indian Removal

From 1817 to 1827, the Cherokees effectively resisted ceding their full territory by creating a new form of tribal government based on the United States government. Rather than being governed by a traditional tribal council, the Cherokees wrote a constitution and created a two-house legislature. In addition to this government, Cherokees learned to speak English and created a written language and adopted Christianity, becoming one of the "civilized" tribes that adopted features of white culture in place of their own. Elias Boudinot, a young Cherokee who was educated in Connecticut, founded a newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix, which printed the news in both English and Cherokee.

During the 1820s, the state of Georgia began pressuring the United States government to force the Cherokee Nation off its lands in that state. The Cherokee tribe emphasized the assimilation of its culture and sent yearly delegations to Washington to lobby on their behalf. But when the tribe wrote its constitution in 1827, the Georgia government saw the move as an assertion of Cherokee sovereignty - that the tribe could become an independent nation within the state of Georgia. The 1830 Indian Removal Bill, backed by President Andrew Jackson, was the first step towards removing the Cherokees from their land for good.

In response, the Cherokees took legal action to try to save their lands. In their second Supreme Court case, Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was entitled to federal protection over those of the state laws of Georgia. The Court ruled the Indian nation was a "distinct community in which the laws of Georgia can have no force" and into which Georgians could not enter without the permission of the Cherokees themselves or in conformity with treaties. Although the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, the state of Georgia confiscated the Cherokee lands. The Treaty of New Echota, negotiated in 1835 and signed in 1836, was made by a small contingent of Cherokees led by John Ridge against the wishes of the majority of the tribe and its leader, Chief John Ross. As a result, the Cherokees had to leave their lands, traveling 800 miles to the Oklahoma Territory over what came to be called "The Trail of Tears."

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