John Ross - Encyclopedia

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JOHN ROSS, or KooESxoowE (1790-1866), chief of the Cherokee Indian Nation, was of Scotch-Indian descent, and was born among the Cherokees in Georgia in 1790. In 1819-1827 he was president of the Cherokee national committee, in July 1827 he presided over the Cherokee constituent assembly, and under the constitution which it drafted he was principal chief from 1828 until his death. In 1830-31 he applied to the Supreme Court of the United States for an injunction restraining the state of Georgia from executing its laws within the Cherokee territory, but the court dismissed his suit on the ground that it had no jurisdiction. There was a small party among the Cherokees under the leadership of John Ridge, a subchief, who were early disposed to treat with the United States for the removal of their nation west of the Mississippi, and in February 1835, while negotiations with Ridge were progressing at Washington, Ross proposed to cede the Cherokee lands to the United States for $20,000,000. The United States Senate resolved that $5,000,000 was sufficient. The treaty negotiated by the Ridge party and the proposal to treat on the basis of a $5,000,000-payment were both rejected in a full council of the Cherokees held in October 183 5. The council authorized Ross to renew negotiations, but before leaving for Washington he was arrested by the Georgia authorities on the ground that he was a white man residing in the Indian country contrary to law. Ross was soon released, but in December of this year a few hundred Cherokees met the United States Indian commissioner at New Echota and concluded with him a treaty of removal. When Ross learned this he called a council to meet in February 1836, and at this meeting the treaty was declared null and void and a protest against the proceedings at New Echota was signed by more than 12,000 Cherokees. Notwithstanding Ross's opposition, the Senate in the following May ratified the treaty by a vote exceeding by one the necessary two-thirds majority, and in December 1838, Ross, with the last party of Cherokees, left for the West (see Georgia). During the Civil War, Ross first urged upon the Cherokee Nation a policy of friendly inactivity; in May 1861, proclaimed a strict neutrality; in October 1861, signed a treaty with the Confederate States; in the summer of 1862 was forced (by Union sympathizers in the Nation) to proclaim neutrality again; soon afterwards went over to the Union lines; and was in Washington treating with the Federal government in February 1863 when the treaty with the Confederate States was abrogated by the Cherokees. He died at Washington on the 1st of August 1866. See C. C. Royce, "The Cherokee Nation of Indians" in the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1887), and T. V. Parker, The Cherokee Indians (New York, 1907).

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