United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees
Keetoowah Cherokee believe that "Kituwah" or "Keetoowah" is the true name of the Cherokee people given to them by the Creator atop a mountain peak known as Kuwahi. This site today is referred to as Clingman's Dome and straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Keetoowah Cherokees also received their laws and sacred fire in their ancestral homelands (present day North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama) and still see themselves as the guardians of traditional Cherokee ways today. This does not mean that the tribe of the 21st century stands back as the world passes it by. The tribe administers millions of dollars in state, federal, and casino-generated funds; issues its own license plates; adjudicates legal matters in its own court system; and provides a variety of services to tribal members of all ages, functioning as a sovereign nation.
Keetoowah Cherokees trace their governmental lineage to the Old Settler Cherokees who settled in Arkansas by treaty in 1817 and moved to present-day northeastern Oklahoma, also by treaty, in 1828. The arrival of the main body of Cherokees over the Trail of Tears in 1838 and 1839 led to a power struggle with the Old Settlers over the structure of the government. The contest ultimately ended in a bloody civil war. During the American Civil War, Keetoowah Cherokees fought on the side of the Union, but the bulk of the Cherokee Nation sided with the Confederacy.
Once the war ended, Keetowah Cherokees censured the Cherokee National Council for negotiating the postwar treaty with the United States. The Keetoowah Cherokees strongly opposed allotment and single statehood. Before the national government of the Cherokee Nation was dissolved in 1906, the Keetowah Cherokees continued to operate as such until receiving federal tribal recognition under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act with a ratified constitution in 1950, making the United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma the first federally recognized Cherokee tribal government in the state of Oklahoma.