John Ross, Father of the Cherokee Nation

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The Cherokee Nation was a collaboration of five someone tribes, including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles. During the Revolutionary war, the Cherokee had chosen sides with the British, and now found themselves against odds with the U.S. government. Contemplating with their future, the Cherokees started to focus on the leadership of others in the tribe.

After the American Revolution, the U.S. Government developed a policy called Civilization. This policy was to fund missionary trips into Indian Territory’s to teach the Indians like of the Anglo Americans.

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The government promises that if the Indian tribes would become civilized, the Cherokees would be considered their equals. Thomas Jefferson even believed that the Cherokees would be equal even intermarrying.

One leader that the Cherokee had looked towards was a man named Major Ridge. After the Revolutionary war, he bargained with the U.S. Government to secure safety for his people. He had discarded his Indian beliefs along with taking up the civilized ways of the Americans.

Ridge although civilized in the eyes of Americans, did not speak English well and was not prepared to be the voice for the Cherokee. Believing his son could be the voice for the Cherokee, Major Ridge sent him along with his cousin to Cornwall for American education. John Ridge, although a sickly person from an unknown disease, excels in education even getting a degree in law.

During this time, another man named John Ross also begins advancing towards leadership. Born of a white man and a Cherokee mother, he was educated in the white ways of life. Even though he was educated and civilized, he felt a closer connection the Cherokee people.

John Ross even develops a new Democratic constitution for the Cherokee people, which mirror the U.S. Constitution. It is written in a way the Cherokee and never seen before, but had always believed. This constitution declared absolute sovereignty as their own nation away from the U.S.

President Andrew Jackson claiming to only be doing what the American people want to develop the Indian Removal Act. This Act it been put into place to move the Indian tribes to designated land West of the Mississippi River. At the time of this Act Gold and Silver was found in the areas that the Cherokee Indians were living.

John Ross becomes the new Cherokee chief and goes after the Indian Removal Act, claiming that they are their own nation and cannot be removed. With the help of former Attorney General William Hurt, more than a dozen cases were produced to counteract with two making it to the Supreme Court. One Supreme court ruled that the Cherokee was their own nation and could not be removed, which Andrew Jackson ignored.

Standing strong Ross pushes the Cherokee’s to stand strong and fight for their rights. Behind Ross’s back and in secret a group of prominent Cherokee men including the Ridges signed the treaty for the Removal Act, claiming their land to the West. Only 2,000 of the 18,000 Cherokee agree and move to the West. A petition is signed by 15,665 remaining Indians and is sent to the U.S. Government. The petition is pushed aside and Federal troops along with Militia are sent in to gather up the Indians.

The Indians once gathered up are put into stockade’s, with no formal shelters the Indians live filth. Ross goes and negotiates and agrees to leave for the West. They leave in early December and have a line that crosses from Illinois to Kentucky. Over this trek, some are separated by rivers, going a month or longer with no food or shelter. Over 4,000, Indians die during what is now called the Trail of Tears.

Once the remaining Cherokee Nation arrived in the West vengeance was taken out on the Ridge family due to the thought that they had sold out the Cherokee. Reestablished in the West John Ross pushed for education, with the Cherokee becoming one of the most educated Indian tribes in America. By 1860, Ross had restored the heart of his people and developed a new constitution.

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John Ross, Father of the Cherokee Nation. (2020, Oct 23). Retrieved from