Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

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Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation

Membership, Census Data Records, and Genealogy Tools

Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation Membership
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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Genealogy and Census

Cherokee Tribal Membership

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian membership is closed except to those who can prove that they have an ancestor on the "Baker Roll of 1924" and who can prove that they are at least 1/16th Cherokee by blood.
Enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is governed by tribal ordinance #284 dated June 24, 1996, and restricts enrollment to the following: direct lineal ancestor must appear on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Baker Roll is the base roll of the Eastern Cherokee and contains the name, birth date, Eastern Cherokee Blood quantum, and roll number of the base enrollees.

Today’s Eastern Band members are direct descendants of the Cherokee Indians who avoided the Indian Removal Act and "Trail of Tears." Their home today is the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


The largest section of the Qualla Boundary, approximately 50,000 acres, surrounds the Swain County town of Cherokee. Sixty miles away, in Graham County, a parcel of 2,250 acres is occupied by about 400 members of the Cherokee's Snowbird Community. Another 5,575 acres of Cherokee land lies in various parts of Cherokee County. Individual Cherokees can sell or exchange their land only to other Eastern Band tribal members.


Today there are more than 13,000 enrolled members of the Tribe, over 60% currently live on the Boundary. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation is a sovereign nation within the larger nation of the United States. The Eastern Band of Cherokee is governed by a Principal Chief and a Vice-Chief and a tribal council made up of twelve members; two representatives each from six townships. They are elected democratically and "voter turnout" at the last major election was 70%. Tribal members also vote in state and national elections. The tribe pays for its own schools, water, sewer, fire, and emergency services.


The Cherokee do not live on a reservation, which is defined as land given by the federal government to a tribe. The Eastern Cherokee own 57,000 acres of land which they bought in the 1800's, and which is now owned by them but held in trust by the federal government. This land, called the Qualla Boundary, is mostly woods and mountains in western North Carolina, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
For further information contact the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Enrollment Office at (828) 497-7000 or (828) 497-4771; fax: (828) 497-2952. You may also write to: EBCI ENROLLMENT DEPT-Eastern Band of the Cherokee, P.O. Box 455, Aquoni Road, Cherokee, NC 28719. Also, for your convenience, additional Cherokee Indian facts, history, heritage, research and genealogy information, including an online 1924 Baker Roll, are listed below. Includes recommended assistance and free online tools for researching your genealogy and heritage.

North Carolina counties which are likely to contain "American Indian" information:

Cherokee Membership Requirements
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Cherokee Indian Reservation Map

Cherokee Membership and Enrollment
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Cherokee Reservation

"The bulk of North Carolina county records pertaining to Native Americans concern the Cherokees of western North Carolina. Comprising the largest tribe of Native Americans in the state, the Cherokees entered into six separate treaties with the U.S. government between 1777 and 1835. In each case, federal authorities sought to extend the frontiers of white settlement by extinguishing Indian title to land. Following a pattern set by the first treaty, North Carolina Cherokees repeatedly ceded territory in exchange for compensation in money or goods and for the promise of a permanent homeland further westward." North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources: Raleigh, North Carolina

Albermarle County
One of the original counties created by the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, Albemarle contained the settled part of the seventeenth-century colony. As settlement expanded beyond the limits of the county after 1700, Albemarle ceased to exist as a political unit. References to Native Americans in the Albemarle records refer to those on the south side of the Albemarle Sound, rather than those on the north side. The most important Indian-related materials in this group are probably tax records reflecting the financing of the Tuscarora War (1711-1715). A few other scattered references to Native Americans can also be found.

Carved in 1839 from the last Cherokee cession in North Carolina, Cherokee is the westernmost county in the state. The early Indian-related records of the county largely pertain to the sale and transfer of land. Many Native Americans engaged in land transactions, and their names frequently appear in deed books in conjunction with that of William H. Thomas. Land in present-day Cherokee County was first offered for sale in September 1838. Purchasers could either pay the full purchase price or make a down payment and then pay the rest over a specified number of years. Those who chose to buy land in installments were required to furnish bond. Beginning in 1843, the General Assembly passed a series of acts designed to relieve the financial burden on bondholders who had not yet discharged their land debts. Original purchasers who could not meet their payments, and who surrendered their land to the state, were granted preemption rights to buy the land back at a lower price set by a special state valuation board. This data is contained in the Cherokee County Pre-emption Bond Book and Record of Solvent and Insolvent Principals, 1844-1845.
Eighth U.S. Census, 1860, Cherokee County: Identifies nine persons as "Indian" or "1/2 Indian.”
Ninth U.S. Census, 1870, Cherokee County: Identifies more than 450 persons as "Indian.”

Graham County
Established in 1872, Graham County consists of land that was once held by Cherokee Indians. Researchers should be aware that because Graham was formed from part of Cherokee County, some deeds to land in present-day Graham are recorded in Cherokee County deed books. Most of the Indians in Graham County have lived along the Cheoah and its creeks in the southwest near Little Snowbird Creek, and in central Graham along Buffalo Creek West. A number of them held title to their land by purchase and not by occupancy. Thus, many Native American names are recorded in the deed books of the county.
Tenth U.S. Census, 1880, Graham County: Identifies 156 persons as "Indian.”

Cherokee Membership Requirements
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Cherokee Membership Qualifications

(Right) Cherokee Indians. From Top, Left to Right: John Ross; Colonel Elias Cornelius Boudinot; Samuel Smith; Lilly Smith; Walini; Marcia Pascal; Lillian Gross; William Penn Adair; Thomas M. Cook. John Ross isn't Cherokee, does he even qualify for Cherokee membership, asked one of Ross' adversaries. But Ross, with 1/8th blood quantum, indeed met the requirements and qualifications for Cherokee membership, for 1/16th is the minimum blood required for enrollment. Ross was one of the principal chiefs and founding fathers of the Cherokee Nation, but his Cherokee Indian blood, was often used to create strife and division among the members. His rivals generally stated that Ross wasn't "Cherokee enough." Another chief was William Holland Thomas, and he was the only white man to ever serve as chief of the Cherokee Indians, but to the present-day, the Museum of the Cherokee mentions Thomas, although reluctantly, as merely an interim or acting chief. It was Thomas however who lobbied Washington for the Cherokee to remain in North Carolina on the Qualla Boundary, so to remove Thomas from Cherokee influence, one might as well remove the Cherokee from North Carolina. Simply stated, no Thomas, no Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation.
Haywood County
As the oldest of the western counties (1808), Haywood has generated an abundance of records relating to Native Americans. The original Haywood County, from which Macon and Jackson were later formed, consisted largely of land ceded by the Cherokee Indians under the Treaty of 1819. This treaty also provided that individual Native Americans who chose to remain in North Carolina and become citizens of the state would be granted 640-acre tracts within the ceded territory. The first public sale of Indian lands acquired in 1819 was held at Waynesville in 1820. Purchasers either paid the full price or put part of the money down and paid the rest in installments. Within the next few years a number of Indians sold their 640-acre tracts. These transactions are recorded in the court minutes and deed books of Haywood County. Many Cherokees who became citizens of the state settled at or near Qualla Town along the Oconaluftee River. Until the formation of Jackson County in 1851, this village was located in Haywood. Thus, many records relating to the Qualla Band can be found among the archives of Haywood County. For instance, the appointment of William H. Thomas as legal agent for the Qualla Indians is recorded in the Record of Deeds, for the year 1843.
Seventh U.S. Census, 1850, Haywood County: Lists 692 persons as “Indian.”

Cherokee Membership Enrollment Requirements
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Cherokee Indian Reservation and Cherokee Tribe Membership

Jackson County
Named in honor of Andrew Jackson, Jackson County was formed in 1851 from Haywood and Macon. Most of Jackson was originally part of the Cherokee cession of 1819. Under the terms of the treaty, a number of Indians chose to remain in North Carolina; they would eventually become citizens of the state. They settled in and around Qualla Town, along Soco Creek in the northwest corner of Jackson. Many Cherokees were compelled to emigrate from North Carolina in 1838; however, because of Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas's persuasive intervention at Washington, 1000 Qualla Indians were exempted from the forced removal. These Cherokees, consequently, demanded the same financial compensation received by Cherokees who had been forced west. Finally, in 1846 the Quallas were granted a financial settlement by the federal government. Since the Cherokees were not allowed to own land, they entrusted these funds to their agent, William Holland Thomas, and authorized him to purchase for the tribe thousands of acres in Jackson and other counties. Upon government recognition of the Cherokees' rights to the land, Thomas intended to convey the deeds to the Native Americans. Thomas subsequently became indebted, involved in four exhaustive years of the American Civil War, and title to the American Indian lands became the subject of years of litigation. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, of which the Quallas form a significant part, instituted a federal suit against Thomas in 1873. (See William Holland Thomas and the Results of the Civil War: The Emotional, Financial, and Physical Toll.) Three years later the tribe was awarded formal title to the Qualla Boundary and outlying tracts in Jackson and other counties. At one time more than a thousand Cherokee Indians resided in Jackson County. Indian names frequently appear in court minutes and deed books. Important material relating to the federal suit of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians against William H. Thomas et al is also contained in the archives of the county.
Eighth U.S. Census, 1860, Jackson County: Identifies 1063 persons as "Indian.”
Ninth U.S. Census, 1870, Jackson County: Identifies 920 persons as “Indian.”

Macon County
Formed from Haywood County and the remaining territory in western North Carolina in 1828, Macon consists of Indian land acquired by the Treaties of 1819 and 1835. Under the terms of the earlier treaty, Native Americans who chose to remain in North Carolina and become citizens of the state were granted 640-acre tracts within the ceded territory. The sale of a number of these tracts is recorded in the deed books of Macon County. Land acquired from the Native Americans in 1835 was surveyed, divided into tracts, and valued according to a series of Acts of Assembly. First offered for sale at Franklin in September 1838, more than three fourths of the land was disposed of within three weeks. Purchasers either paid the full price or made initial payment and paid the rest in installments. Buyers who paid on time were required to furnish bond. Many documents relating to Indians pertain to the sale of land, the transfer of titles, etc.
Eighth U.S. Census, 1860, Macon County: Identifies fifty-six persons as "Indian.”
Ninth U.S. Census, 1870, Macon County: Identifies forty persons as "Indian.”

Robeson County
The Lumbee Indians, most of who reside in Robeson County, constitute the largest group of Native Americans in eastern North Carolina. Although their exact origin is a complex matter, they are undoubtedly the descendants of several tribes, which occupied eastern Carolina during the earliest days of white settlement. Living along the Pee Dee and Lumber Rivers in present-day Robeson and adjacent counties, these Native Americans of mixed blood were officially designated as Lumbees by the General Assembly in 1956. During the Civil War, Robeson County Indians, having been classified with "free Negroes, free mulattos, or free persons of mixed blood" in the disfranchisement amendment to the North Carolina Constitution in 1835, were then prohibited from bearing arms. They were conscripted for service on Confederate fortifications near Wilmington to labor side-by-side with slaves. Discontented and humiliated, a number of Lumbees escaped into the swamps of Robeson County where they formed the nucleus of a band under the leadership of Henry Berry Lowry. Using familiar swamplands as their hideout, they remained an outlaw band for more than seven years. Although the records of Robeson County contain much material relating to the Lumbee Indians, certain identification of Lumbees in the county archives is not always possible. Most of the Native Americans have Anglo-Saxon names and they are generally designated as "black" or "mulatto" in nineteenth-century documents; for example, in the U.S. Censuses of 1850-1880, the designation for Lumbee families is usually "mulatto.” Nevertheless, a few common Lumbee family names, which appear frequently in the county records are likely to represent Indian individuals, especially when such names are found in records originating in Scuffletown (present-day Pembroke) and Lumberton. (See Famed Lumbee Indian and Guerrilla Leader Henry Berry Lowry and the North Carolina Lumbees.)
Some common Lumbee family names are Bullard, Chavis, Comboes, Dial, Drinkwater, Harding, Locklear, Lowry, Oxendine, and Sampson.

Swain County
Native American territory acquired by the state under the treaties of 1819 and 1835 comprises most of the land from which Swain County was formed. In 1819, individual Indians who chose to remain in North Carolina and become citizens of the state were granted 640-acre tracts within the ceded territory. These Native Americans, who formed the nucleus of the Qualla Band, settled along the Oconaluftee River in southwest Swain County. In later years they received treaty benefits from the federal government in the form of financial payments. The Eastern Band of Cherokees, of which the Quallas were a significant part, entrusted these tribal funds to William H. Thomas, authorizing him to purchase lands for them in his name. Thomas subsequently incurred a number of debts, and when Indian titles to land became entangled in his own financial affairs, the Eastern Band sued him in federal court. As a result, the tribe was awarded formal title to the Qualla Boundary (50,000 acres in Swain, Jackson, and Haywood Counties), and outlying tracts in Swain and several other counties. Documents relating to the case of the Eastern Band of Cherokees v. W. H. Thomas et al are contained in the archives of Swain County. Although there are scattered references to Native Americans in Swain County deed books, the names of Indians who bought and sold land in what is now Swain County are largely recorded in the official papers of the counties from which Swain was formed (Macon and Jackson).
Tenth U.S. Census, 1880, Swain County: Identifies 465 persons as "Indian.”

Transylvania County
Formed in 1861 from Henderson and Jackson Counties, Transylvania was inhabited by few Native Americans. It is quite possible that Cherokees who may have once lived within the borders of present-day Transylvania were forcibly removed westward or settled upon land in adjacent counties. This record group is not an important source of materials relating to Native Americans.

Can you prove that you are Cherokee?

Are you Cherokee? 


Are you the individual that has always been told that you are a Cherokee, but have no facts or records to prove it? To claim Cherokee membership means that you must prove it – you must have the facts, so toss the doubt away, get the facts, and claim what is rightfully your heritage by blood quantum. Now, are you ready to prove that you are a Cherokee? It’s not difficult if you take the time to locate the facts. Below are proven resources for tracing your family genealogy, the family tree, roots, bloodline, and for researching your ancestors to prove that you meet the blood requirements (qualifications) for Cherokee membership and tribal enrollment. Those that qualify as “Native Americans are American Indians” and are entitled to the rights and benefits of the tribe! Below is a proven “how to dos” written by the foremost expert in Cherokee history, genealogy and heritage. Cherokee membership is not like joining a gym or paying dues, it’s your blood, so claim it. Are you remotely interested in knowing that you are a “Cherokee Indian” or are you the individual that enjoys genealogy? Do you want to locate and preserve your Native American ancestry? Finding information about ancestors for genealogy and heritage is also a lot of fun. Moreover, you are preserving your own family history and heritage with your relatives and loved ones for generations and generations… Take a look below at exactly what is required to locate and organize and present your information to prove that you meet the qualifications as a member of the Cherokee tribe. Cherokee Proud, by Tony McClure, is referred to as the "Bible for Cherokee Genealogy." Cherokee Proud has also been rated a SOLID FIVE STARS by every person that has read and rated it. To see if you meet the 'Cherokee qualification and requirement for membership', then look no further -- purchase Cherokee Proud. Read the reviews below and see what people and organizations are saying about it.


Recommended Reading: Cherokee Proud, Second Edition, by Tony Mack McClure. Description: Absolutely the "Bible" of Cherokee Genealogy. New, 336 pages, 2nd Edition. If the information in this remarkable new book doesn't lead a person to proof of their Cherokee roots, nothing can! “It is an A-to-Z on organizing and locating the requirements / qualifications for membership.” Continued below...


"Cherokee Proud is the very best book I have ever seen on tracing Cherokee genealogy." -- RICHARD PANGBURN, acclaimed author of Indian Blood, Vol. I & II found in most libraries

"McClure unabashedly loosens his journalistic standards for portions of this book which reach him too emotionally. Understood. Fascinating and enlightening."

BACK COVER: Among the people of this country are individuals in whose blood runs the proud heritage of a noble and resilient people whose ways and talents rank with the finest civilizations the world has known. They are the " Tsalagi ". . . the Cherokee. This book will help you learn if you are one of them. -- BOOK READER

"The contents of Cherokee Proud are exceptional - valuable information that can be used by so many readers and researchers who have Native American (Cherokee) ancestry." -- DON SHADBURN, Famous Georgia historian and noted author of Unhallowed Intrusion and Cherokee Planters of Georgia

"This Cherokee guide is the best yet!" -- LAWTON CONSTITUTION

About the Author: Well known and acclaimed Cherokee author Dr. Tony Mack McClure, a native of Tennessee, is a certified member of the Native American Journalists Association, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and Committeeman for the Tennessee Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, over 250 newspapers, on all major television networks and many cable systems.

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Sources, Credits, and Additional Reading:

Recommended Reading: The Cherokee Nation: A History. Description: Conley's book, "The Cherokee Nation: A History" is an eminently readable, concise but thoughtful account of the Cherokee people from prehistoric times to the present day. The book is formatted in such a way as to make it an ideal text for high school and college classes. At the end of each chapter is a source list and suggestions for further reading. Also at the end of each chapter is an unusual but helpful feature- a glossary of key terms. The book contains interesting maps, photographs and drawings, along with a list of chiefs for the various factions of the Cherokee tribe and nation. Continued below...

In addition to being easily understood, a principal strength of the book is that the author questions some traditional beliefs and sources about the Cherokee past without appearing to be a revisionist or an individual with an agenda in his writing. One such example is when Conley tells the story of Alexander Cuming, an Englishman who took seven Cherokee men with him to England in 1730. One of the Cherokee, Oukanekah, is recorded as having said to the King of England: "We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our Father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white our hands and hearts are joined together..." Conley wonders if Oukanekah actually said those words and points out that the only version we have of this story is the English version. There is nothing to indicate if Oukanekah spoke in English or Cherokee, or if his words were recorded at the time they were spoken or were written down later. Conley also points out that in Cherokee culture, the Sun was considered female, so it is curious that King George would be looked upon as the Sun. The "redness" of Native American skin was a European perception. The Cherokee would have described themselves as brown. But Conley does not overly dwell on these things. He continues to tell the story using the sources available. The skill of Conley in communicating his ideas never diminishes. This book is highly recommended as a good place to start the study of Cherokee history. It serves as excellent reference material and belongs in the library of anyone serious about the study of Native Americans.


Recommended Viewing: The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy (2006), Starring: James Earl Jones and Wes Studi; Director: Chip Richie, Steven R. Heape. Description: The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is an engaging two hour documentary exploring one of America's darkest periods in which President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 consequently transported Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation to the bleak and unsupportive Oklahoma Territory in the year 1838. Deftly presented by the talents of Wes Studi ("Last of the Mohicans" and "Dances with Wolves"), James Earl Jones, and James Garner, The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy also includes narrations of famed celebrities Crystal Gayle, Johnt Buttrum, Governor Douglas Wilder, and Steven R. Heape. Continued below...

Includes numerous Cherokee Nation members which add authenticity to the production… A welcome DVD addition to personal, school, and community library Native American history collections. The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is strongly recommended for its informative and tactful presentation of such a tragic and controversial historical occurrence in 19th century American history.


Recommended Reading: Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. Description: One of the many ironies of U.S. government policy toward Indians in the early 1800s is that it persisted in removing to the West those who had most successfully adapted to European values. As whites encroached on Cherokee land, many Native leaders responded by educating their children, learning English, and developing plantations. Such a leader was Ridge, who had fought with Andrew Jackson against the British. Continued below...

As he and other Cherokee leaders grappled with the issue of moving, the land-hungry Georgia legislators, with the aid of Jackson, succeeded in ousting the Cherokee from their land, forcing them to make the arduous journey West on the infamous "Trail of Tears." ...A treasured addition for the individual remotely interested in American Indian history as well as general American history.

Recommended Reading: Footsteps of the Cherokees: A Guide to the Eastern Homelands of the Cherokee Nation. Description: Footsteps of the Cherokees divides the Cherokees' eastern homeland into 19 geographical sections and explores many of the historic Cherokee sites in these areas. Sites range from Moccasin Bend in Chattanooga, inhabited by Cherokees and earlier Indian cultures and considered one of the most important archaeological complexes within a United States city, to the Qualla Boundary, the home of the Eastern Cherokee reservation, where visitors can still experience the historic Cherokee culture. For each site, Rozema gives historical background, directions to the site, and the hours of operation and telephone numbers if the site is located within a park or museum area. The book also includes an overview of Cherokee history that sets the stage for the tours of the historic sites. Continued below...
About the Author: Vicki Rozema is the editor of Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East and Voices from the Trail of Tears (see page 15). She is currently working on a Ph.D. in early American history with a specialization in Cherokee history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, but she still maintains a home near Chattanooga.

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Recommended Reading for Cherokee History and History of the Cherokee Indian Nation: Storm in the Mountains, Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers. Description: Storm in the Mountains, by Vernon Crow, offers the Legion's American Civil War rosters and partial Confederate military service records (CMSR). Moreover, it offers a more detailed account of the Legion's inception and fighting history. Vernon spent ten years conducting extensive Thomas' Legion research.
Researching Family Lineage and Genealogy, Ancestry, History Heritage, Folklore, Myths, Culture, Customs, Blood Requirements and Qualifications for Cherokee Nation Membership, Requirement and list of Requirements for Cherokee Indians, Cherokees and Indian Genealogy. (Included are Native American and Detailed Native Americans Census Records and Data with Helpful Details.)

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