After the Trail of Tears: The Cherokees' Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880

Synopsis

This powerful narrative traces the social, cultural, and political history of the Cherokee Nation during the forty-year period after its members were forcibly removed from the southern Appalachians and resettled in what is now Oklahoma. In this master work, completed just before his death, William McLoughlin not only explains how the Cherokees rebuilt their lives and society, but also recounts their fight to govern themselves as a separate nation within the borders of the United States.

Long regarded by whites as one of the 'civilized' tribes, the Cherokees had their own constitution (modeled after that of the United States), elected officials, and legal system. Once re-settled, they attempted to reestablish these institutions and continued their long struggle for self-government under their own laws- an idea that met with bitter opposition from frontier politicians, settlers, ranchers, and business leaders. After an extremely divisive fight within their own nation during the Civil War, Cherokees faced internal political conflicts as well as the destructive impact of an influx of new settlers and the expansion of the railroad. McLoughlin brings the story up to 1880, when the nation's fight for the right to govern itself ended in defeat at the hands of Congress.