Some archaeologists differ regarding prehistory origins of the Cherokees, but most believe the Nation emerged out of South Appalachian Mississippian chiefdoms. Although originally a mound culture, by the time Europeans arrived extended families lived in dwellings arranged around a central council house. With the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1829, white intruders began to covet Cherokee homelands and despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Cherokee authority, the Indian Removal Act passed in Congress by one vote, over the objection of Daniel Boone and others, and was signed into law by Andrew Jackson.
In 1838, more than 15,000 Cherokee men, women and children were rounded up and marched more than a thousand miles to Indian Territory on a pathway that became known as dig e tsi lv sv i, "The Trail Where They Cried." About one quarter of the Cherokee people died in internment camps, on the trail and after arrival in what is now the state of Oklahoma. The Cherokee people rebuilt a progressive lifestyle from remnants of the society and culture they were forced to leave behind.
The years between the removal and the 1860s were called the "Cherokee Golden Age," a period of prosperity that ended with division over the Civil War. After the Civil War, more Cherokee lands and rights were confiscated by the government due to the Cherokee being persuaded to side with the Confederacy. What remained of Cherokee tribal land was divided into individual allotments, which were given to Cherokees listed in the census compiled by the Dawes Commision in the late 1890s.
Over the last 120 years the Cherokee people have again prospered. Their leaders promote the ancient practice of "ga du gi," work together for a common cause and encourage their citizens toward self-reliance and the creation of a happy and healthy Nation. The Cherokee language is being preserved and revitalized and the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah is home to the permanent Trail of Tears exhibit, two major art shows each year and a genealogy center. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, located in Tahlequah, offers visitors a look at the two passions of the Cherokee people - law and education. Open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, the museum details the evolution of Cherokee law from clan to court and the evolution of Cherokee journalism and the written Cherokee language.