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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Cultural Heritage

If the ultimate goal of the Cherokee people was to preserve their cultural heritage, was removal (living away from white influence) or remaining on traditional land (Native Americans believed that their land and culture were inseparable) the best way to achieve this objective?

 

In 1780 the Cherokee people were known as the most civilized tribe out of all the Native Americans. Though they started to face challenges with the new “white” America, they stood for what they knew to be true and fought hard for their culture. The Cherokee were strong, but the Treaty of New Echota of 1835 made them subject to possible removal and relocation to a new land. This act caused a great deal of stress for the Cherokee and if they should decide to move or stay. Though the two options had both positives and negatives, the Cherokee needed to stay on the land to preserve their cultural heritage because they had a great knowledge of their land and hunting grounds, had very sacred sites, and they didn’t have a guarantee of what could happen because they were uncertain with the move.

The Cherokee had a great amount of knowledge about their land and developed a certain way to hunt so they could provide for their people. If they decided to move, they would have to start all over again to learn how to adapt to the new land and how to survive and provide. They knew how their land worked and developed a set routine of what their daily lives consisted of. A Cherokee leader responded to the removal act and stated “My design is to offer a few disconnected facts relative to the present improved states, and to the ultimate prospects of that particular tribe called Cherokees to which I belong….At this time there are 22,000 cattle; 7,600 horses; 46,000 swine; 2,500 sheep; 762 looms; 2,488 spinning wheels; 172 wagons; 2,943 ploughs…18 schools” (Responses To Removal, Elias Boudinot, 1826). If the Cherokees were to relocate, they would most likely lose a great amount of their livestock, tools, transportation and education. It would be very difficult to transport all their materials to a new place, and they would most likely have to leave some behind. By doing that, they would lose that knowledge about their grounds, hunting, and daily activities would become harder.

A very important part of not only the Cherokees but all Native Americans cultural heritage is sacred sites. It plays a huge role in their beliefs and practices. If the Cherokee moved, they would be losing a huge part of their culture and it could possibly be destroyed if they left. They needed to stay in their land to preserve these extremely special sites so they could continue to practice their religion. Andrew Jackson said that “Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers… Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home” (Jackson Defends The Removal Policy, Andrew Jackson, 1830). If they were to leave their lands, they would have to leave quite a bit of their historical sites behind and they wouldn’t be able to recreate them in the new land. These special places were very crucial to the Cherokees and without them it would lead to a decline in their cultural history.

If the Cherokees were to move to the new land there would be no certainty or guarantee of what the land was like or what could happen. The United States promised that it would “purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode” (Jackson Defends The Removal Policy, Andrew Jackson, 1830). There was no guide or help for the Cherokee to start over in their “new life”. They were many factors to be worried about such as weather, crops, hunting situations, and resources. They would have to adapt to a totally new and different environment. That change would be very sudden and quite hard to adjust to. It would almost make it harder to survive and carry on that heritage that they have passed down for generations.

The Cherokee needed to stay on the land to preserve their cultural heritage because they had a great knowledge of their land and hunting grounds, had very sacred sites, and they didn’t have a guarantee of what could happen because they were uncertain with the move. If the Cherokee we relocated, they would lose some of their knowledge about their land and would not have the same but crucial daily routine. It would become harder to provide for their tribe because they would lose a lot of livestock and crops. The second reason is that without sacred sites they would lose a huge amount of their religion and history. If they were to move it would be impossible to take these sites with them. Once the “white” America moved in they would most likely ruin these sites, causing a lot of heartbreak and lost practices. The last reason why the Cherokee should stay on their land is because they outcome of their move would not be determined. They were not aware of the many drastic changes that could possibly arise, resulting in in many devastating loses. Though leaving the land could have had many benefits, it was best that the Cherokee stayed in their land to protect and continue their cultural heritage.

Works Cited

Boudinot, E. (1826). Retrieved from Digital History: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=670

Jackson, A. (1830). Retrieved from Digital History: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=666

 

 

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