Examining Conclusions

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?

An Example to Get You Started -

As an example, let's consider the Rev. Ely's claim that the Cherokee were an idle people. A complete list of the categories from the census is included with the Examining Conclusions worksheet. Looking at the list you can see that there are a number of categories of information that could be used to examine the truth of Rev. Ely's claim. These include:

Acres in cultivation
Wheat Grown (bushels)
Corn Grown (bushels)
Wheat sold (bushels)
Corn sold (bushels)

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. Let's look at how common farms were among the Cherokee.

My World
• Click on the Analyze button and select to analyze By Value.

Set-up the analysis as follows:

• Click OK

• Select Selection >> Select by Attribute from the main menu.

• Define the selection pictured below: Double click on the FARMS field name to include it in the selection rule, single click on the >= sign, and type 1.

• Click OK.

The resulting map is striking. Almost all of the households are selected:

Open the table showing the households selected. Notice that 88 of 101 records were selected meaning that 87% of the Cherokee households in the sample included at least one farm.

Your turn. Prepare similar maps and tables from the available Census data analyzing how extensive wheat and corn farming were and how extensive the sale of these crops was among the Cherokee.

To Start You Thinking -

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.

Last modified in July, 2008 by Rick Thomas