A number of generalizations about the Cherokee and their way of life were made during the national debate over Indian removal during the early 1830s. You have read a number of the arguments involved - some in favor of and some opposed to moving the Cherokee west of the Mississippi. How well do these arguments hold up in the face of the census information you have about the Cherokee? That is the question you are going to examine in the following activity.
The Cherokees are idle, uncultivated, and destitute of most of the comforts of life.
- Rev. Ezra Styles Ely, Presbyterian minister, in an 1830 editorial in the newspaper the Philadelphian
Sir, the mass of the Cherokee people have built them houses and cultivated lands with their own hands.
- Rev. Samuel Worchester, Methodist missionary who lived among the Cherokee, in response to Rev. Ely's editorial
- ...possessed of savage habits
- ...the wilderness is filled with a few "savage hunters
- ...the Indian is a wandering savage
- President Andrew Jackson, 1830 speech
The present condition of both Creeks and Cherokees who still remain in the states is most deplorable. Starvation and destruction await them if they remain much longer in their present abodes.
- William Lumkin, governor of Georgia, in a letter to President Andrew Jackson, 1835
They [the Cherokees] took to agriculture, and, without entirely forsaking their old habits or manners, sacrificed only as much as was necessary to their existence.
- Alexis deTocqueville, French traveler in America in the 1830s who wrote about American institutions and people
Taken by themselves, these comments provide a fuzzy and fractured picture of Cherokee life. Certainly they need to be examined within the context of the political and social perspectives of their authors. But we can also look at them within the context of the data from the 1835 Cherokee census helping us address questions like these:
What type of people were the Cherokee?
Which descriptions of Cherokee life were most accurate?
How will our understanding of Cherokee life affect our judgement of the events surrounding tribal removal?
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Let's consider the Rev. Ely's claim that the Cherokee were an idle people. Looking at the complete list of categories in the census you can see that there are a number of them that could be used to examine the truth of Rev. Ely's claim. These include:
We could look at the percentage of Cherokee who farmed, the average number of acres cultivated, or the average amount of wheat and corn produced and sold. Each of these values would give some insight into how industrious or not the Cherokee were. Open the Cherokee Census map and the 1835 Census layer. Filter the data to determine how many of the Cherokee in the census sample had one or more farms (Farms is at least 1). The resulting map and table shows that 88 of the 101 families had more than one farm.
Prepare similar maps and tables from the available Census data analyzing how extensive wheat and corn farming were and how common the sale of these crops was among the Cherokee.
1) On average did the Cherokee produce more corn or wheat? Why do you suppose this was the case?
2) Who specifically were the wheat farmers amongst the sample you have and how much did they produce and sell?
3) How common was it for the Cherokee to sell their crops? Explain.
4) Summarize your conclusions about the accuracy of Rev. Ely's statement.
5) The example you have studied focused on the comments of Rev. Ely. Select one of the other quotes and develop an argument using the categories in the 1835 Cherokee census that give support or tend to disprove the observations made.
a) Identify specific categories in the census that you think will be important in examining the quote you have selected.
b) Briefly explain how you will analyze the data and any computation that you will have to perform.
c) Conduct your analysis and write a short summary of your conclusions. Include appropriate maps and statistics in your argument.