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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
Flag of the Eastern Band Cherokee
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Western North Carolina
English, Cherokee
Christianity (mostly Protestant), traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
Iroquois (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora), Nottoway, Meherrin, Coree, Wyandot, Mingo

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation or the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), (Cherokee: ᏣᎳᎩᏱ ᏕᏣᏓᏂᎸᎩ, Tsalagiyi Detsadanilvgi) is a federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States of America, who are descended from the small group of 800 Cherokee who remained in the Eastern United States after the Indian Removal Act moved the other 15000 Cherokee to the west in the 19th century, but only on the condition that they assimilate and renounce Cherokee identity.[1] The history of the Eastern Band closely follows that of the Qualla Boundary. The EBCI also own, hold, or maintain additional lands in the vicinity, and as far away as 100 miles from the Qualla Boundary. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are primarily the descendants of those persons listed on the Baker Rolls of Cherokee Indians.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the others being the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, both in Oklahoma. Its headquarters is in the namesake town of Cherokee, North Carolina in the Qualla Boundary.


  • History, language and religion 1
  • Contemporary language and religion 2
  • The Eastern Cherokee Indian Land Trust (Qualla Boundary) 3
    • Gaming relations with North Carolina 3.1
  • Notable members 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

History, language and religion

Joel Queen, award-winning Eastern Band sculptor and ceramic artist

The Eastern Band members are primarily descended from Cherokee who did not participate in the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Principal Chief Yonaguska, with the help of his adopted European-American son, William Holland Thomas, managed to evade removal. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians still practice many of the original tribal ceremonies. Many prominent Cherokee historians are affiliated with, or are members of the Eastern Band.

Tsali (pronounced ) opposed the removal. He remained in the traditional Cherokee lands with a small group who resisted the U.S. Army and tried to thwart the removal on what became known as the Trail of Tears. Tsali was eventually captured. He was executed by the United States in exchange for the lives of the small band he protected. They were allowed to remain in the Cherokee homeland, and their descendants have been recognized as the modern Eastern Band.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian exhibits an extensive collection of artifacts and items of historical and cultural interest, from the early Mississippian Period through modern times, related to the Cherokee Culture. The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, located near the museum, sells traditional crafts made by its members. Founded in 1946, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is country’s oldest and foremost Native American crafts cooperative.[2]

Contemporary language and religion

A stickball dance on the Qualla Boundary. 1897.
Cherokee teen, grandson of Myrtle Driver, who learned Cherokee as his first language from his grandmother. He now has an active role in the preservation of use of Cherokee in traditional ceremonial stomp grounds on the Qualla Boundary, and the language's continued use in immersion schools for children.

More than two dozen Christian churches of various denominations are located within the Qualla Boundary. Many of the traditional religious practices of the Eastern Band have, over time, blended with new age views and customs according to Cherokee traditionalists. They have diverged as the result of cultural isolation of the various factions of Cherokee society. Many traditional dances and ceremonies are still practiced by the Eastern Band.

The Eastern Band has begun a language immersion program requiring all graduating high school seniors to speak the tribal language beginning 2007. Of the total population in the Qualla Boundary, there are approximately 900 speakers, 72% of whom are over the age of 50.[3]

The Eastern Cherokee Indian Land Trust (Qualla Boundary)

The Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, officially known as the Qualla Boundary, is located at in western North Carolina, just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The main part of the reservation lies in eastern Swain County and northern Jackson County, but smaller non-contiguous sections are located to the southwest in Cherokee County (Cheoah community) and Graham County (Snowbird community). A small part of the main reservation extends eastward into Haywood County. The total land area of these parts is 213.934 km² (82.600 sq mi), with a 2000 census resident population of 8,092 persons.[4] The Qualla Boundary is not a reservation, but rather a "land trust" supervised by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. The land was a fragment of the extensive original homeland of the Cherokee Nation. The people had to purchase their land to regain it after it was taken over by the US government.

Today the tribe earns most of its revenue from a combination of Federal/State funds, tourism, and the Harrah's Cherokee Casino, instituted in the early 1990s.

Gaming relations with North Carolina

In 1988, the United States Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allowed federally recognized tribes to establish casinos on tribal property. Under the act, tribes are limited to offer casino games that correspond to the existing level of gaming allowed under state law. North Carolina was unique in permitting the Cherokee to establish a casino offering Class III gaming, well before the state allowed a lottery. The typical pattern has been for states to offer a lottery, followed by an agreement between the state and the Indian tribe to allow establishment of a casino or other form of gambling operation.[5]

The first major casino in North Carolina, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino (in partnership with Caesars Entertainment Corporation), was opened on the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the western part of the state on November 13, 1997.[6] The casino was the result of nearly ten years of negotiations among tribal, state, and federal officials. Tribal Chief Jonathan “Ed” Taylor and North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt developed a plan for a casino that would meet state laws and satisfy local and tribal concerns.[5]

Tribal leaders wanted to be able to offer more than bingo and other Class I forms of gambling, in order to attract large crowds and generate revenue. The tribe had previously opened a small casino offering forms of video poker and electronic bingo. This had been challenged by the Asheville, North Carolina U.S Attorney on the grounds that the tribe was offering a form of gambling that was not legal elsewhere in North Carolina. The tribe wanted to ensure agreements with the state to prevent such problems.[5]

Many Cherokee leaders opposed the establishment of a casino on tribal lands. The tribe’s spiritual leader, Walker Calhoun, said in 1995 that “gambling would be the Cherokee’s damnation.”

The tribe and Governor Hunt came to agreement: the casino would be allowed to offer electronic games that required “skill or dexterity” and with a maximum jackpot of $25,000; table games were to be prohibited; and alcohol was not permitted. One half of the annual casino earnings were to be divided among all members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee tribe as an annual bonus.[5]

Since the inception of the North Carolina lottery in August 2005, Harrah’s Cherokee casino has been permitted to extend its offered games to include Class II and III gambling. As thousands of people visit Harrah’s each year and the casino’s popularity continues to increase, the economic benefits of the casino have become evident. Annually, at least $5 million of casino profits is given to the Cherokee Preservation Fund; an institution that pays for projects that promote non-gambling economic development, protect the environment, and preserve Cherokee heritage and culture.[7] Another portion of casino profits goes to improving tribal health-care, education, housing, etc. Part of the revenue goes to the state of North Carolina, as provided by the agreement drafted by Taylor and Hunt.[5]

The casino earned $155 million in yearly profit in 2004, which yielded approximately $6,000 to each tribal member in that same year.[5]

In 2015, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians will open a second Harrah's Casino in Murphy, North Carolina.

Notable members

See also


  1. ^ "Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians." (retrieved 25 July 2011)
  2. ^ Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., Smoky Mountain Host of North Carolina (retrieved 1 July 2014)
  3. ^ Comprehensive Cherokee Language Survey, EBCI Dept. of Cultural Resources. Cherokee, NC. 2005.
  4. ^ United States Census Bureau, Eastern Cherokee Reservation, North Carolina
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sedgwick, Jessica. "This Month in North Carolina History: November 1997 – Cherokee Casino Opens." Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 1997 (retrieved 18 December 2009)
  6. ^ North Carolina Education Lottery. "About Us, Introduction and Timeline." Cited October 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "Cherokee casino should be granted the option other tribal casinos enjoy," Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, North Carolina. 12 December 2005.
  8. ^ "Private First Class George" Congressional Medal of Honor Society ( Apr 7, 2011)


  • Finger, John R. Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the 20th Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8032-6879-3

External links

  • Official Website of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (tribal forms)
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian
  • Cherokee Preservation Foundation
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