Permanent Exhibits

Historic Native Americans: The Cherokees

Cherokee SyllabaryUnder intense pressure from whites moving into the area, Cherokee Indians in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia began migrating west to Arkansas in the late 1700s. An 1817 treaty between the United States and a tiny minority of eastern Cherokees exchanged land in Tennessee and South Carolina for 4.2 million acres in the Arkansas Ozarks. This was in spite of the fact that the vast majority of the eastern Cherokees were opposed to giving up their homeland.

White settlers in Northwest Arkansas were not pleased with the treaty. The Cherokees stood in the way of complete white takeover of the Arkansas Territory. The Osage Indians were unhappy as well, because even though they had given up their Northwest Arkansas lands in an 1808 treaty, they felt they still had a right to hunt here. Fort Smith was established in 1817 to keep peace among the Osage, Cherokee, and illegal white settlers.

In 1828, amidst continuing pressure to move once again, the Cherokees exchanged their land in Northwest Arkansas for seven million acres in Indian Territory (present-day eastern Oklahoma). Within a year most of the Cherokees living in Arkansas moved to this new home to escape harassment by white settlers.

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