This 1895 Department of Interior map outlines the Cherokee Nation heartland– all the areas in red, blue, and yellow. In the early 1800’s, this territory had been an independent nation under the “protection” of the United States, though by those years Cherokees relied for their independence not on force, but on the emerging American democratic political system.
It can be seen here that in the United States in the early nineteenth century, the same land could be represented on two different and mutually exclusive maps. There was a white man’s map and an Indian map. On the white man’s map, the map of the United States, Cherokee leader John Ross lived in north Georgia. On the Indian map, he lived within the yellow lines, in Cherokee territory that according to the U.S. Constitution was not to be governed by Georgia.
Jacksonland recounts how Ross aspired to make the Cherokee Nation a federal territory or state. He wanted a permanent place in the United States; “we consider ourselves a part of the great family of the republic of the U. States,” he wrote in 1816. Instead, as shown here, their territory was lost in a series of treaties of increasingly dubious legality. First the area in blue was taken, then the area in red, and finally the Cherokee heartland in yellow, through an 1835 treaty that was executed in May 1838.