The chart below divides the Cherokee historic era from the late 1600s to after the 1838 Removal of most of the Cherokee Nation to the West. While there are conspicuous overlaps and gaps, this is a good way to collect and integrate data by subject and time period.
Each of these categories has its own web page and appendix pages. A simplistic style has been adopted that is info-graphically designed for those who want to employ pictures to supplant a thousand words.
Three hundred years ago, the southern Appalachians were home to the sovereign Cherokee Nation. Over fifty towns and settlements were connected by a well-worn system of foot trails, some of which later became wagon roads turnpiked by Cherokee turnpike companies. This Indian trail system, which climaxed around 1800, was the blueprint for the basic circuitry of the region’s modern road and interstate system.
Stagnant European economies and the discovery of new natural resources sparked competitive world markets that led to wars between nations to procure land, gold, furs and slaves from North America. By the 1700’s, the British, French and Spanish were fighting for control of the modern Southeast.
The early Indian trails had evolved logically and inevitably— the result of thousands of years of Native Americans’ interactions with animals, tribal migration, relocations, population shifts, and lifestyle changes due to European contact and trade. They evolved within a landscape of obstacles and destinations, following corridors that combined efficiency with the path of least resistance.
Geological features were the key factors that led to the establishment and development of village sites and trail locations. Dividing ridges, passes and gaps, springs, river shoals, shallows, waterfalls, fords, and valleys all determined ultimately where trails and sometimes even tribal boundaries were established. Travel routes considered good camping sites with springs and sometimes natural shelters, such as rock overhangs along bluffs.
Deerskins had become the material of choice for the “designer jeans” of the day. Fad and fashion in the streets of London were the beginning of the end of freedom for the Native Americans from whom we inherited our first road system. From the late 1690’s on there was fierce competition between the French and the English to monopolize the trade of the Native Americans.
The demand for deerskins would seduce the Indian tribes of the Southeast into a dependency on manufactured European trade goods. Pack trains leaving from Charles Town, South Carolina delivered manufactured European goods such as metal pots, cloth, knives, blankets, guns, powder balls, and rum. Traders returned laden with deer, beaver, bear, and other animal skins. Deerskins served as currency, and the value of a traded item was measured in deerskins. In 1732, a pistol traded for five buckskins or ten doeskins, and a knife for two buckskins or four doeskins.