Urban Indians

All the Native adults on the Reservations lived below the poverty level, with no belief in the Federal Government's rhetorical promises of change.  Some Cherokee did not want the confinement or poor living conditions of the Reservation and migrated to the northeastern urban areas in search of a better life.  "City Indians," and later, "Urban Indians," the cognomens given us in the turbulent 1960s, brought us more hardship, trauma, and bias.  The majority of us found ourselves in other ethnic communities; yet we clung to our Cherokee culture and worked hard to keep our traditions alive amongst our families.  Leaving the reservation, seeking a more prosperous way of life, and continual miscegenation, in northeastern urban areas severed our umbilical cord to our tribe and caused the gradual loss of our traditions with the passing of each generation.  Today, we have lost much of our culture, but we have never forgotten that we are Aniyvwiyahi.  

In 1971, after residing in the northeast for some time, Ukuwiyuhi Okena Tsali Littlehawk- Long Hair Clan, located and united our northeastern fragmented Cherokee family and established the Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians thereby creating a traditional foundation for those of Cherokee descent in the northeastern United States --with the goal "...to promote and facilitate the preservation of the Cherokee method of culture, customs, and way of life...."    

To accomplish this ongoing, difficult goal, the Tribal Council has invested thousands of dollars on the necessary operating expenses.  These expenses have been paid by the Tribal Council and its member's donations, but more financial aid is needed to supplement our expenditures.  As you navigate our website--understand how we Cherokee have changed with each new generation--please remember our worthy goal and donate whatever amount you can (individual donations, or a tax-deductible grant, or project funding, would be truly appreciated.)  If you have any questions about the tribal programs we offer, please contact us at the address below or send us an electronic missive @: urbanrezhdfc7@verizon.net

Please help us insure the future of our Cherokee customs and language with your generous donation.


Please make check or money order payable to Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and mail your donations to:

Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 400 East 161 Street  Urban Rez, The Bronx, New York 10451

Donations can also be securely made by clicking on the PayPal "Donate" icon below, or on various pages on this website,

Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians is not-for-profit and tax-exempted:  New York State [section 402] / Federal [section 501(c)(3)]

D-U-N-S #03-643-5667

New York State Registration #40-16-76 ( www.ag.ny.gov ) ( www.charitiesnys.com )

DISCLAIMER:  "The Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians is not a satellite of, nor in any way affiliated with, and does not speak for the citizenry  of

                               *United Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee Nation

                              * Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation

                              *Cherokee Nation of Mexico

                              *Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; or any of the Cherokee Nation of OK businesses, corporate, real estate, agricultural  or defense  contractor interests, some of which are Cherokee Casino Resort, Cherokee Hills Golf Club, Cherokee Nation Industries, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Cherokee Nation Enterprises, L.L.C. or any of the registered and unregistered 'satellite communities' of the Cherokee Nation of OK, some of which are in Albuquerque, NM: Cherokee South West Township.  California: San Diego, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Bay Area, Inland Empire, Central, Orange County, N. Central Valley.  Cherokees of Central Florida."

The Tribal Council:

Ukuwiyuhi Littlehawk, Long Hair Clan    The Long Hair Clan is also known as the Twister, Wind, or Strangers Clan.  Those belonging to this clan wear their hair in elaborate hairdos and walk in a proud, vain manner, twisting their shoulders.  The UKU usually comes from this clan and wears a white feathered robe.  Many UGV (chief's or headmen) have also been known to come from this clan, as well as the other six.  The members of the Long Hair Clan are the traditional teachers and keepers of the traditions.  Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus a common interpretation of the name "Stranger."  The clan color is white.

Grey Wolf, Wolf Clan    The Wolf Clan is the largest and most prominent of the Seven Cherokee Clans providing the majority of the war chiefs. Wolves are known as the protectors of the Cherokee people.  The Wolf Clan is the keeper and tracker of the wolf and the only clan whose members were allowed to kill a wolf after performing sacred ceremonies.  This clan is also known as a Red War Clan.  The clan color is red.

C. Littlehawk, Bird Clan    The Bird Clan is responsible for keeping the sacred birds and feathers, as well as the bird medicines.  The belief is that the birds are the messengers between the earth and heaven, or People and the Creator of Breath who gave this clan the responsibility of caring for the birds.  The members of the clan were often messengers.  Eagle members of this clan were the only ones who could hunt the eagle and distribute the eagle feathers.  Subdivisions in the Bird Clan are Eagle, Raven, and Turtle Dove.   The clan color is sky blue.

Vera Christyne, Blue Clan    The Blue or Panther Clan makes the blue medicine from a special blue plant to keep their children well.  They also made tea for vapor therapy specific to each ailment.  Subdivisions in the Blue Clan are Bear, Panther, and Wildcat.  The clan color is dark blue.

E. Crawford, Deer Clan    The Deer Clan is the keeper and hunter of the deer.  The members are the deer hunters, trackers, tanners and seamers (seamstress).  Members of the clan are known as fast runners and foot messengers, as well as hunters, and are responsible for the care of the animals that live among the tribe.  This clan is also known as the White Peace Clan.  The clan color is lavender.

P. Booker, Paint Clan    The Paint Clan or War Paint Clan is the clan of the shamen, sorcerers, medicine men, and priests. This is the smallest and most secretive clan.  They are the "Keepers of the Sacred Flame," the Soul of the Cherokee.  Those who belong to this clan make the red paint.  The members were traditionally the medicine people.  Medicine was often "painted" on a patient after harvesting, mixing and performing the healing ceremony.  The red paint was also used for warfare and painted on the warriors and their weapons.  This clan was also known as the Red War Clan.  The clan color is black.

T. Cooper, Wild Potato Clan    The Wild Potato Clan, or "Keepers of The Land." They are known to gather the wild potato plants in swamps along streams to make flour or bread for food.  Subdivision of the Wild Potato Clan is Blind Savannah is  The clan color is yellow.


(Thank you for reading)

original, unedited, version by Charlene Smith

We, Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians, have a long history of struggle to keep our language and traditions.  Although we are now far from the place and time of our ancient origin, we continue to celebrate our heritage and teach our future generations the worthy ways of our Aniyvwiya ancestors.  Most importantly, we promote amongst our Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians the resurrection and perpetuation of our ancient culture and our beautiful Cherokee language of colorful, soft and flowing sounds with its eighty-five characters--a set of symbols called syllabary invented by Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian.  We have limited funds to do this and are reaching out to all Americans for support and financial help in retaining this significant part of Americana.  We, the Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians, have been living in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area since our return migration after a long absence, from the southern and western Rezervations in the 1930s. At that time farming was in decline and industrial job opportunities in urban areas were significantly increasing luring the Cherokee off the Reservation.


Thousands of Cherokee died during the Trail of Tears, nearly a quarter of the Nation.  They suffered beyond imagination...and when they finally arrived in Indian Territory, they arrived almost without any children and with very few elders, in a way they arrived with no past and no future." 

Rich-Heape Films, Inc. "Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy" 

"Many proposals have been made to us to adopt your laws, religion, your manners and your customs.  We would be better pleased with your beholding the good effects of these doctrines in your own practices, than with hearing you talk about them." 

Old Tassell (Kaiyahtah Koateehee, 1728-1788), Chief of the Tsalagi (Cherokee)

"As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there shall be friendship between us, and the feet of the Cherokee shall be toward the East." 

Andrew Jackson 

Excerpt from a speech after his life is saved by JUNALUSKA, a Cherokee Warrior, at the battle of Horseshoe Bend                 27 March 1812

"If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe." 

Junaluska regrets (during The Trail of Tears) saving Andrew Jackson's life 

After this horrific experience, those of us who survived thought there was nothing more that could be done to us.  We were so naive.  By 1850 there was more devastation when families of our people were cruelly disrupted and forced to relocate to Reserves (kanohiyvhi--told to stay here).  Soon many of the children were forcibly taken by the Government from their families and relocated far away to residential schools to learn the white man's "civilized" ways and assimilate.

The Assimilation of the Indian Policy 

Captain Henry Pratt (1840-1924) founded and supervised the Indian boarding school system and opened the Carlisle Indian Industrial School on 6 October 1879 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  At this school, and others that followed, the Office of Indian Affairs had a "compulsive attendance" policy to expedite assimilation.  The mission of all the boarding schools was, "Kill the Indian, and save the man."  

The children were stripped of their Indian identity by giving them "white" names, wardrobes, and cutting their long hair.  They were forbidden to practice any Native customs or to "speak Indian."  Any violation of these rules was met with rapid and severe punishment.  Children could not go home to visit their families, it was feared they would have to be retrained when they returned.  During the summertime when school was not in session, the majority of these children were sent to live with white families to perform house chores and continue to learn the white man's "civilized" ways.  At least half of these children did not survive the experience and those who did were left permanently scarred.  The resulting alcoholism, suicide, and the transmission of trauma to the victims' own children, led to social disintegration that can only be described as genocidal.  

The Office of Indian Affairs used extraordinary effort to force White religion onto, and Native religious practices out of, the children.  The Government viewed our religious practices as savage and, as such, these practices did not have a place in a civilized society.  Between 1880 and 1934, the Federal Government converted to Christianity as many Native people as possible.  The Government allowed different Christian denominations to establish churches on the Reservations.  The churches were unwanted by the Native people.  The dogma of the different denominations--Catholic, Lutheran, Unitarian, Episcopal, Methodist, the Dutch Reformed and others--only confused the Native people, as each church made the same claim to be the word!  To clear up the confusion, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs stepped in and demanded that each Indian must choose one.  Several generations of Native people were subjected to this experience and as a result of this kidnapping of our culture many Cherokee today do not know our spiritual and religious practices and cannot speak the Cherokee language. ‚Äč

At the time of first European contact, the Cherokee Indians were a settled agricultural people living in approximately 200 villages consisting of 30 to 60 long-houses and a large seven-sided tribal council house.  The Cherokee tribe became known amongst the European settlers as "civilized" and was referred to as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes" that included the Muskogee-speaking Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.  All five tribes inhabited the southeastern part of America.  The Cherokee ethics are noble and ancient.  Very basic to the Cherokee belief system is the premise that good is rewarded, while evil is punished.  Living in harmony is a strong Cherokee ethos. Cherokee mothers parented in a way that the harmony, or natural development of their children's lives, was promoted through passive forbearance.  The mothers did not parent in a way that controlled their children's development, but rather parented in a way that enhanced their children's natural development through unobtrusive, respectful behaviors like listening, observing, and being an example, or passive forbearance.  Another Cherokee ethos is group support and collaboration instead of competition.  Cherokee were matriarchal, matrilineal, and matrilocal before the European invasion. (In 1690, Alexander Dougherty--a Virginia trader--was the first white man to marry a Cherokee.)  Within 150 years of first contact, Native people lost 95% of their population from European diseases. 

"Then... there came the reign of terror.  From the jagged-walled stockades the troops fanned out across the Nation, invading every hamlet, every cabin, rooting out the inhabitants at bayonet point.  The Cherokee hardly had time to realize what was happening as they were prodded like so many sheep toward the concentration camps, threatened with knives and pistols, beaten with rifle butts if they resisted." 

Samuel Carter III, Author Cherokee Sunset: A Nation Betrayed



Most indigenous tribes are not called by their origin names.  Many of the tribal names today were originally monikers given by neighboring tribes, usually referring to some peculiarity.  Consequently, a tribe had a different name in each neighboring tribal language.  These names would continue to change as the early-arriving Spanish, French, Dutch and English tried to emulate the sounds of the names they heard from the various tribes.  Cherokee is a foreign word to our tribe.  Our ancient tribal name is Aniyvwiya and it translates as "Principal People."  The word Cherokee possibly came from the Choctaw language--it is said they described the Aniyvwiya as "Chilukikbi" (People coming out of the hole, pit, cavity, or the cave People).  Corrupted delivery over time of the original Choctaw pronunciation rendered at least fifty pronunciations of the word chilukikbi.  This word also was pronounced differently by the Principal People in their different accents: Tsalagi in the Otali accent (Overhill, Western Cherokee), Jalagi in the Kituwah accent (Middle Cherokee) and Tsaragi in the Elati accent (Lower Cherokee, which is now extinct.)  Today, the most recognized form of the word is Cherokee. (The accurateness of the above is continually debated by linguists, ethnologists, anthropologists, and various Cherokee.)  

The Cherokee place of origin, which they occupied thousands of years before Europeans arrived, was the southern Appalachian Mountains that encompassed parts of what are now eight states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.  The total land area was estimated to be about 135,000 square miles.  Our struggle began, in the province of Chelaque, with the arrival on 10 May 1540 of the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto--the first White man ever seen by the Cherokee.  He was passing through our land searching for gold, which began the slow decimation over several centuries of the Cherokee Indians caused by infectious disease, forced imprisonment in concentration camps, a death march from the East to the West across the Mississippi River, forced miscegenation and assimilation, and many broken treaties.  Twenty-seven years later, a written description of the tribe by the Spanish explorers, Sergeant Hernando Moyano de Morales and Captain Juan Pardo, made note of the wide range of racial features in the Cherokee tribe from "Negro, to light skinned and fair."  In the years between 1666-1676 an exploring party sent out by the Governor of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley, came to a field with settlements located along a river when the Indian guides refused to go any further.  When asked why, they said a powerful tribe dwelled there and they never suffered strangers who discovered their towns to return alive.  The tribe that they were speaking of was the ANIYVWIYA!

The Rape of the Aniyvwiyahi 

When white men discovered gold on our land in 1828, they demanded from their Federal Government our removal.  With Government approval, lawless men raided our land, plundering, raping and killing the Aniyvwiya without mercy.  The United States Government passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 during President Andrew Jackson's administration.  What followed was the continual forced removal of the Cherokee from our Eastern ancestral lands that culminated in the "Trail of Tears" (Aniyvwiya Digejiyalvstanv--the Trail Where We Cried), the five month death march West through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas into rugged Indian territory--present day Oklahoma.  Approximately 13,000 Aniyvwiya began the death march in October of 1838. Divided into 13 detachments they were led by Lt. Edward Deas, Lt. R. H. K. Whiteley, Lt. L. B. Webster, Major General Winfield Scott, which resulted in more than 4,000 dead from hunger, disease and exhaustion. 

"I saw the helpless Cherokee arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven by bayonet into the stockades.  And in the chill of the drizzling rain I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into wagons and started toward the west.  Chief Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children waved their little hands goodbye to their mountain homes."

A U. S. Army Private

"We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our Native land, the country that the Creator of Breath gave our Fathers.  We are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth... it is with great sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood... we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear." 

Charles Renatus Hicks (1767-1827), Tsalagi (Cherokee) Vice Chief on the impending removal of his tribe from the East. 

"I issued a sufficient quantity of Cotton Domestic to the Indians for Tents to protect them from the weather.  I have done so in consideration of their destitute condition, as they were for the most part separated from their homes without having the means or time to prepare...." 

Lt. Edward Deas

"Spare their lives, expose them not to the killing effects of that strange climate, under the disadvantages of the present inauspicious season, without a house or shelter to cover them from the above, or any kind of furniture to raise them from the bare ground... they are naked, barefoot, and suffering from fatigue...." 

Chief Going Snake, Assistant Chief George Lowry, Lewis Ross, Hair Conrad , Thomas Foreman ,                                                                        (Petition to Superintendent Nathaniel Smith to stop the march to the West) 

"They refuse shoes, clothing, and tents.... they have diarrhea and dysentery....  They are well provided with transportation and subsistence, I determined they should go on and so informed them." 

Superintendent Nathaniel Smith (The Federal Agent petitioned by a committee of Cherokee to stop the march to the West)