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The homelands of the Cherokee (chair-oh-key) includes the southern Appalachian Mountains, present-day western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama, southwest Virginia, and the Cumberland Basin of Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Alabama. Currently, the Cherokee live in eastern Oklahoma. There are also Cherokee in North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.
Iroquian, but Cherokee differs significantly from other Iroquian languages.
Many Cherokee live on reservations and work hard to preserve their rich cultural history. Others have moved across the United States and have assimilated into the dominant culture.
At the time of European contact, the Cherokee were a settled, agricultural people. Homes were usually a circular framework interwoven with branches and plastered with mud. Agriculture relied heavily on corn, beans and squash supplemented by hunting and gathering of wild plants. In less than 30 years the Cherokee underwent radical change. The clan system of government was soon replaced by an elected tribal council. A written constitution modeled after that of the United States was added in 1827. Many Cherokee became prosperous farmers with comfortable houses, beautiful cultivated fields and large herds of livestock. Christian missionaries arrived by invitation, and Sequoia invented an alphabet that gave them a written language and overnight made most of the Cherokee literate. They published a newspaper, established a court system, and built schools. Although the poor Cherokee still lived in simple log cabins, many Cherokee were more prosperous and acculturated than their increasingly envious white neighbors. When gold was discovered on Cherokee land in northern Georgia, miners arrived and Indian removal was suggested. The Indian Removal Act was introduced in Congress in 1829. This was the beginning of the Trail of Tears. Forced to abandon most of their property, the Cherokee were marched west without adequate shelter, provisions, or food. As many as 4,000 died.