Tsalagiyi Nvdagi means Cherokees in or of Texas or the Sunland.
Tsalagi is what you will hear most often when referring to the Cherokee people and this is a word in our language that comes from a-che-la or “fire” and ah-gi or “he takes”. As Tsalagi people we also refer to ourselves as Ani-Yunwiya or the Principle People and we are governed traditionally by the Ugaya or 7 Clan system. All of the Ani-Yunwiya or Principle People are born to one of 7 matrilineal clans and in our old beliefs if you were not a member of a clan you were an anomaly. You could live as a human but you were not considered a human being because you had no clan affiliation. The Ugaya or Seven Matralineal Clans system included the Ani Sahoni (Panther Clan), Ani giholi (Long Hair Clan), Ani Tseekwa (Bird Clan), Ani Wodi (Medicine Paint Clan), Ani Awi (Deer Clan), Ani gato gewi (Wild Potato Clan), and Ani Waya (Wolf Clan).
Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Timeline:
1540: Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto and his expedition are the first to encounter the Cherokees along the Keowee River in present day South Carolina. The Cherokee inhabited parts of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama and our territory reached from the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east to the Cumberland Range on the west and as far south nearly to present Atlanta Georgia.
1730: The Cherokee were invited to London, England for an official visit for the purpose of signing the “Treaty of Dover”.
1750: Faced by the increasing encroachment of white settlers in the east and due to factions and arguments in council, the Eastern Cherokee sanctioned a “hoop” or splitting of the tribe, which they sent to explore west of the “Big River” (Mississippi) and to establish a new nation. This was 26 years before the United States even came into existence.
1785: The Treaty of Hopewell is the first treaty made between the United States Government and the Cherokee. The Cherokee agreed to give up some land in exchange for money and gifts. This would be the beginning of our trail of broken treaties.
1788: Cherokee leader Toquo or Turkey petitioned Don Manuel Perez, residing in St. Louis as Governor of Spanish Illinois to “grant him the favor of giving refuge to his whole nation in the territory of the Great King of Spain.” Estaban Miro Commandant General of Louisiana approved the emigration of up to 6 Cherokee villages.
1791: The Treaty of Holston, was an agreement with the United States which said the Cherokees would be provided with manufactured and other goods on an annual basis.
1794: The Chickamauga Cherokee who would later become known as the Texas Cherokee, under the leadership of Duwali or Chief Bowles were encamped on the Tennessee River at Mussel Shoals in the vicinity of the present town of Florence Alabama. On June 9, 1794 several Cherokee were invited on to river boats where they were given large amounts of alcohol before the river boat traders began trading beads, mirrors, and other cheap goods at exorbitant prices. When the Cherokee sobered up they returned to the boats to demand their money back. A river boat trader killed one Cherokee man with a metal boat pole so the Cherokee retreated. When the Cherokee returned with reinforcements they killed the white men on the boats only sparing the women, children, and slaves. For fear of reprisals the Chickamauga Cherokee moved from Alabama to the St. Francis River region of present day Missouri and Arkansas and settled among Cherokee living there under Spanish authority. The Mussel Shoals Massacre was investigated by the U.S. Government, who found that the Cherokee were fully justified in their actions.
1807: In August a delegation of immigrant Indians, led by Pascagoula Chief Pinaye arrived in Nacogdoches, the eastern most Spanish town in Texas. Presenting himself to Captain Francisco Viana, Commandant of local Troops, Pinaye claimed to represent the Pascagoula as well as a number of villages of Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Shawnees. The Chief sought permission to settle members of those tribes in Tejas or Texas. The request went from Viana to Antonio Cordero, Governor of Tejas, who then forwarded it to his superior Nemesio Salcedo, Commandant General of Spain’s Internal Provinces. Salcedo approved the transfer of the Pascagoulas, Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Shawnees into the territories of Tejas on September 4, 1807.
1808: On September 11, 1808 the ancient law of Blood Revenge was abolished by the Cherokee National Government in the East. This act of abolishment was seen to have advanced the Cherokee in civilization by the European settlers however traditional Cherokee people saw this as pandering to the U.S. government and many more people left the east to join family and friends across the Mississippi River in the West. This act help grow the Cherokee population in the Spanish territory and Tejas greatly.
1811: December 16, 1811, the New Madrid Earthquake struck the Missouri and Arkansas area where many Cherokee had settled. The ground swayed hard enough that trees and houses fell. The Cherokee villages shook and the people saw this as a sign that the Great Spirit was not pleased and they should move from this place. This earthquake is believed to have been a magnitude of 8.0 or higher on today’s Richter scale and perhaps the strongest to shake the United States since its settlement by Europeans to that date.
1812-1819: Due to increased pressure on food sources encroachment of white settlers and natural disasters many more Cherokee families and villages moved west in to Spanish territory and Tejas.
1819-1820: Chief Bowles and the original members of his Texas Cherokee Nation crossed the Red River and settled on land along the Trinity River in the vicinity of present Dallas, Texas. Bowles and his tribal leaders appealed directly to Mexican authorities seeking clear and present title to the lands along the three forks of the Trinity River where they planned to make their new home. The Cherokee were the first “civilized” tribe to settle in Texas and were the first immigrants from the United States into the area of northern Texas that would become Dallas.
1821: The Republic of Mexico, headed by an Emperor, declared its independence from Spain, affording the Cherokees the opportunity to open diplomatic relations with Mexico and properly secure their land claims.
February 24, 1821: the revolutionary government of Mexico adopted the “Plan of Iguala”, which made all people including Indians, citizens of the Monarchy or Mexico.
1822: The Cherokees began building homes, clearing brush, and planting crops in the un-settled region north of Nacogdoches, on the upper branches of the Neches, Angelina and Sabine Rivers. This is where my family settled and had a farm that provided the people of Nacogdoches with vegetables and meat. Chief Bowles was a man of great power and he was regarded as the Chief Diplomatic man for the other tribes with which the Cherokee formed a loose confederacy. These other Indian bands included the Alabama, Biloxi, Caddo of the Neches, Choctaw, Coushatta,, Delaware, Ioni, Kickapoo, Mataquo, Quapaw, Shawnee and Tohocullake.
November 8, 1822: The Texas Cherokee sign the Articles of Agreement with Don Jose Felix Trespalacious, Governor of the Province of Tejas at San Antonio de Bexar.
1829: Chief John Jolly, Principle Chief of the Western Cherokee admitted Sam Houston a longtime friend of the Eastern Cherokee as a Citizen of the Texas Cherokee. Houston grew up with the Cherokee of the East, could speak our language and had a tribal name, Ka-lon-neh, which means The Raven. Houston was also married to a Texas Cherokee woman and he had a great love and respect for our people.
1833: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became President of Mexico and in the two years that followed he undermined the country’s existing constitution of 1824 and established his dictatorship. Texas settlers became increasingly unhappy and talks of separation from Mexico began to increase.
1835: Governor Henry Smith was elected as the leader of a new provisional Texas government with James W. Robinson acting as Lieutenant Governor.
November 13, 1835: the interim government leaders pledged the public faith of the people of Texas to give the Texas Cherokee and their twelve associated bands the land they had occupied in east Texas for over 70 years. Governor Smith sought to gain a better understanding between white settlers and the Cherokees and their associated bands. Sam Houston and two other emissaries were sent to the Cherokees in late November to begin negotiating a treaty and setting the boundaries of the Cherokee land claim. The entire 54 member body of the provisional government of the Republic of Texas signed and unanimously adopted the Treaty which was known as the “Solemn Declaration” or the Consultation of San Felipe de Austin.
1836: February 23, 1836: the commissioners of the provisional government of Texas concluded the Treaty of the Texas Cherokee and twelve associated bands with Cherokee Chief Bowles.
General Lopez de Santa Anna arrived with his forces in San Antonio de Bexar, now San Antonio, Texas, to begin the famous siege of the Alamo Mission. Historians generally agree that had the Treaty not been struck with the Texas Cherokee and affiliated tribes thereby securing the eastern flank for the Texicans, the outcome of the April 21, 1836 Battle of San Jacinto may have ended quite differently for the Texas revolutionaries.
March 4, 1836: The Republic of Texas came into existence.
September 5, 1836: Sam Houston is elected the first President of the Republic of Texas. With Houston’s election the 1836 Treaty between Texas and the Cherokee and associated bands and their rights to the land they lived on in east Texas were secure. The new government of Texas followed suit with that of the Spanish and Mexican governments and appointed Duwali or Chief Bowles to be the administrator for all Indians and tribes in east Texas.
1838: December 10, 1838: Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar took office as the new president of the Republic of Texas. Lamar held a personal hostility toward Indians and a strong faith in “States Rights”. Before coming to Texas he served as the personal secretary for the Cherokee and Creek hating Governor George Troup of Georgia who forced Indians from their lands in that state under the guise of “States Rights.”
December 21, 1838: President Lamars first policy statement to the Texas congress was that he intended to remove the Cherokees from Texas. He felt that their eviction was necessary because their Treaty with Houston “was never ratified by any competent authority.” Even though the entire provisional government of the Republic of Texas unanimously signed and agreed to the Treaty therefore it was and still is a legal and binding agreement. There was no need for it to be ratified.
1838: This year marked the culmination of the Eastern Cherokee legal battle with the State of Georgia. Although the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Marshall ruled the actions taken by Georgia against the Cherokee and Creek were unconstitutional, Pres. Andrew Jackson sided with the Georgians and in the winter of 1838-1839 forcibly expelled the Indians from their guaranteed homeland. This episode is known by the Cherokee as the Trail Where they cried or the “Trail of Tears”.
A few months later the Texas Cherokee were to meet a similar, but even worse fate at the hands of the Army of the Republic of Texas.
1839: July 14-16: the Army of the Republic of Texas forcibly drove the Texas Cherokee and associated bands from their east Texas land at gun and knife point. This culminated in the Battle of the Neches on July 16, 1839 and the death of 83 year old Chief Bowles on the battle field.
The Texas Cherokee and associated bands of Indians were scattered, some hid out in the Piney Woods and Big Thicket, others traveled north to Indian Territory only to be turned away at the border for fear of retaliation by the Texas Army. Many also traveled south to the freedom of the Republic of Mexico. These refugees asked the courageous Mexican leaders for help and were granted “amparo” or political amnesty. They were granted permission and settled in the Mexican states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon, with the majority choosing to settle in the mountainous Coahuila near the historic city of San Fernando, now known as Zaragosa. There were even a group that traveled west to the Big Bend country and split up with some crossing over into Mexico and some assimilating into the Hispanic community of the area.
1842: Sequoyah, the remarkable eastern Cherokee who developed the Cherokee syllabary and writing system was dissatisfied with the affairs of things in Indian Territory so he journeyed west into Texas and Mexico. Sequoyah wanted to live free and find the “lost Cherokee”. He found a group of Texas Cherokee who he lived with and traveled in to Mexico and passed on at over 70 years old. An Indian agent and scout named Lacy, later certified his death as 1843 in 1845.
1843-1844: Sam Houston is once again elected President of the Republic of Texas and takes up the cause of the Texas Cherokee Treaty and land claim. Attorney Generals G.W. Terrell and John Birdsall both give formal Legal Opinions for Houston that the Cherokee were entitled to the land granted them under the 1836 Treaty. The Attorney General “Opinions” were brought before the Texas Congress and again all talk of the Treaty and Cherokee rights were refused.
March 28, 1843: President Houston sent a delegation of Texas commissioners including Attorney General G.W. Terrell to the Tehuacana Creek Council Meetings to negotiate a Peace Treaty with the remaining Texas Cherokee and other Indians left in Texas.
September 29, 1843: the Treaty of Birds Fort was negotiated and signed and it was one of the few treaties to ever be ratified by the Texas Senate on February 3, 1844. The Treaty of Birds Fort was signed by President Sam Houston.
1845: The Republic of Texas is annexed to the United States of America and becomes a State. Under the law of State succession the United States Government was suppose to assume all the debt of the Republic of Texas, which included the land claim of the Texas Cherokee. The U.S. Federal Government refused, even though they assumed the debt Texas owed to several land empresarios, and Hispanos citizens. To date our people have never received any compensation in the form of land elsewhere in the State of Texas or any monetary settlement to purchase our own land reserve.
May 29, 1925: The 36th legislature second session convened and appointed a State Librarian and five assistant librarians and charged them with recovering manuscripts held in the Texas State Archives and recording them in their proper place within the state of Texas.
September 21, 1925: at 2:00 pm, Fannie M. Wilcox, Asst. Texas State Librarian, filed a certified copy of a copy of the Treaty of 1836 between the Republic of Texas and the Texas Cherokee and twelve associated bands.
September 29, 1925: at 2:45 pm, W.E.Hudnall, clerk under Deputy Annie Beaird, recorded our Treaty in volume 176, page 307, Deed Records of Smith County Texas.
Although the deed to all of our original land grant is technically in our hands, and legally we should own all of that land that was stolen from our ancestors, we have never received any of it back and have never received any mineral rights or royalties.
1975: Many Texas Cherokee were considered a part of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as reflected by briefs filed before the Indian Claims Commission. Following the Adoption of the Cherokee Nation constitution in 1976 the Texas Cherokee were excluded from citizenship. This was just another slap in the face to Texas Cherokee descendants because when the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma did not receive monetary claims on Texas Cherokee land claims they had no further use for us.
August 14, 1993: four men, D.L. Utisidihi Hicks, A.J. Bucktail Jessie, Douglas Wasini Watson, and David Adastiyali Hicks, Jr., met in Troup Texas to re-instate the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi, or Cherokees in Texas, which had been inactive in public as a tribe since they were forced by gun and knife to leave their homes and planted fields on July 16, 1839. The Tsalagiyi Nvdagi was reconstituted to represent all Texas Cherokee and their brother tribesmen throughout the United States. A provisional government was formed to write a constitution, appoint leaders, who would later be elected, and decided on the many subjects and concerns that must be addressed when reconstituting the government of the Texas Cherokee.
August 4, 2001: President Vicente Fox historically signed Mexican Constitutional amendments to reflect the legal presence and protected cultural status of all the Indigenous people of Mexico. This profound act of respect for Indigenous cultures by the Republic of Mexico is unique among all countries of the World.
August 22, 2001: The Texas Cherokee and Mexican Cherokee petitioned Coahuila Gov. Enrique Martinez y Martinez to confirm, through formal recognition the strong continuing bond that exists between the Cherokees and Mexicans. Gov. Martinez y Martinez acted without hesitation to extend the hand of continuing friendship and ancient brotherhood with formal recognition of the Cherokee in the same courageous Mexican spirit as the Governor of Coahuila in 1839 and the Governor of the Province of Tejas in 1822.
April 20, 2013: 175 years after or ancestors were forced off of our Treaty Land in east Texas members of the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribe came together and purchased a small portion of our original land grant back. This land that is located between Troup and Arp Texas was Proclaimed Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribe Sovereign Land. Since the land purchase we have cleared several trails and have built traditional council meeting places and a spiritual medicine wheel. Every year the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribal Annual Gathering and Council Meeting are held here on Land of Spirits. Deputy Chief Ron Standing Elk Trussell has staked the land and is its caretaker for the remainder of his life.
January 16, 2016: Walelu Township Chief William Crazy Bear Hoff petitioned the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribal Council to form the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribe Treaty and Reconciliation Committee. The Committee was approved by Ugu Hicks and blessed by all Tribal officers. The Committee goals are to address and reconcile the loss of our Treaty Land base as outlined in the Treaty of 1836, which made up approximately 2.5 million acres of Tsalagiyi Nvdagi land that was taken without just compensation from the Republic of Texas, State of Texas, or the United States Federal Government.
October 10, 2019: Governor Greg Abbott granted the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi Tribe Official Recognition on behalf of the State of Texas in response to the 200th Anniversary 1819-2019 of our permanent settlement in Texas.