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“Their Determination to Remain”:A Cherokee Community’s Resistance to the Trail of Tears in North Carolina

Lance Greene is a Professor of Anthropology at Wright State University. He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an historical archaeologist who specializes in Native American archaeology and history of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Much of Dr. Greene’s research has focused on the Cherokee Trail of Tears in North Carolina and how Cherokees found ways to evade deportation and maintain their communities. He is also doing research on Piqua, a late-18th century Shawnee town in southern Ohio. His research has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and his book, Their Determination to Remain, was published earlier this year by University of Alabama Press.

Countless examples of Native American resistance to forced migration during the Removal-era of the 1830s, important events in American history, have yet to be told. The evasion of deportation by several hundred Cherokees in North Carolina in 1838 is an extraordinary episode of resistance. Hiding in the mountains, they outlasted the US Army, although suffering incalculable loss. After the army left the region, around 100 of these people established Welch’s Town along the Valley River. There they maintained a traditional community for almost 15 years, until federal pressure to move westward had subsided. Historic documents and material culture from archaeological excavations are used to tell the story of the Welch’s Town Cherokee.

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