This site is focused on the history of the Cherokees who remained in the mountains of western North Carolina from 1776 up until the recognition of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) by the United States Congress in 1866. The site was created through funding by Google Earth, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation (CPF), and The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC), with additional support provided by the EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO).
Our first project working with the EBCI was the mapping of Cherokee trails located in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and North Alabama and radiating throughout the East. Our mapping included Cherokee towns circa 1700 to the mid nineteenth century. During the process of the original work, we found that countless valuable archives and records documenting the geography and history of the Cherokees were not located in Cherokee, NC, but instead were scattered all over the country. For that reason, we have spent several years collecting primary Cherokee documents and creating a records database for the Tribe.
As we populate the website, the public will find abstracted and concise historical facts and information including maps that you will not find anywhere else. We are already uploading salient material and will be adding more weekly. We are also including a Cherokee Journey blog where Cherokee people, our staff, and the public can interact and contribute to this fascinating history.
Our mission is to share valuable cultural knowledge with those who are interested in Cherokee history, especially those from the communities of the Qualla Boundary and surrounding areas. Using Google Earth as a tool, we can plot trails and towns and associated history. In order to protect cultural resources, no archaeological, sacred, or sensitive materials will be displayed on the site.
Of particular significance to this work has been the use of early journals or diaries of individuals and military expeditions. Many of these journals detail the trails, mileages, and geography. Years of studying rare historic maps, records, and documents has provided the groundwork that enabled us to produce layers of maps of old Indian trails that can be overlaid onto modern roadmaps, Google Earth, and GIS mapping. To date, Wild South has logged well over a thousand miles of trails and located about sixty Cherokee towns and settlements. This research includes the help of the older generation of Cherokee Elders who possess a collective memory that recalls the trails and roads used by parents and grandparents.
Over the past eight years, we have collected over 100,000 files, many of which are primary Cherokee documents that are rare and unpublished. From this database, we are extracting the most important records that impacted the course of history surrounding the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Hundreds of personal testimonies, affidavits, claims, spoliations, etc., can be found in the twenty years of litigation following the ejection of Cherokee American citizens off of their property from 1820 to after 1824. While numerous books have been written about the mass Cherokee Removal of 1835 to 1838, little has been written about the earlier civil rights crisis of the 1820’s. From the musty, crumbling parchment papers vaulted away in our national archives, native voices can be heard speaking through the ages.
Daniel Webster once said, “There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.” So it is when reading the actual history that was driven by undercurrents of greed, racial prejudice, and exploitation during the Cherokee historical era. The real history stands out blatantly in contrast to the curriculum taught to American students and thousands of articles and books circa 1800 to 2015. Most of these books are clearly leavened with biased Anglo-American and European cultural perspectives. Our hope is that our presentation of historical facts will enlighten all. In addition to pure history, our focus will be on historical geography and ecology.
The ancient paths that wound through the Nantahala, Cowee, Snowbird, Blue Ridge, and Great Smoky Mountains were the travel arteries that accessed multiple Cherokee ecosystem types. Retracing these trails can help to provide a glimpse into the world of Cherokee geography, culture, and history.
- Teachers: you will find historical abstracts of general subjects and also important and sometimes little known events, persons, geographical information.
- Students: you will find not only fresh information, but also graphics and maps to illustrate your reports and projects.
- Family researchers and genealogists: you will find ancestors, relatives and relations in both pre and post Removal records.
- The general public: You will find our records fascinating, inspirational, and educational.
Walking Cherokee Trails Today
Some Indian trails in Western North Carolina have become designated and maintained trails. We will provide maps and directions. By walking these ancient trails, we are traveling through corridors of time. Today, people can stand in the deeply worn recesses of an ancient trail and look at the surrounding mountains with the assurance that they are experiencing the shapes, colors, ridge tops, balds, and wooded slopes from exactly the same viewpoint seen by the Cherokee as they walked a thousand years ago. Whether you explore the trails online or in person, Wild South invites you to experience the Cherokee Journey.