SUBMITTED BY LYN DILBECK –
For many years the area of the Ouachita Mountains and surrounding areas were home to the native people of Cherokee Nation West. According to our Tribal Historian, at one time there were 88 of our communities across Indian Territory which consisted of, most of Arkansas, the lower portion of Missouri and a small part of eastern Oklahoma. All of these communities made up Cherokee Nation West.
“Many people think we were a part of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma but this is incorrect. They came to Oklahoma from the Trail of Tears,” Lyn Dilbeck explained. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Native American nations in the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal included members of the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. to an area west of the Mississippi River.
“The people of Cherokee Nation West were here many, many years before 1830. Our people made Treaties with the US Government in 1817 and again in 1819,” said Lyn Dilbeck. Each individual community holds its own government and traditions. The people that lived in the Ouachita Mountain area were called the Ouachita Cherokee.
In the early 1800’s there were thousands of Ouachita Cherokee scattered all over Indian Territory. Many local people have heard they have Cherokee bloodlines down thru the years. “You may have searched and never found your Cherokee linage, but you must remember that our people didn’t keep rolls, we had an oral tradition,” said Lyn.
Keeping rolls was something the government did. So many of the Cherokees were not on any roles. If you can trace your people being in Indian Territory in the early 1800’s odds are, in this area you are Cherokee. Also, if your ancestors ever told you that you are part black Dutch, you may also be Cherokee. That was a term used by the Cherokee people for many years that were passing as white. For many years, a native person could not own land, work in the public, or purchase food and supplies, so the silent term, black Dutch, was used by many.
Dilbeck welcomes everyone to, “stop in and visit with us.” The Tribal Office is located at 616 Mena St. “We would be pleased to try to point you in the right direction. You are also invited to our fall, Gathering of the Clans on October 3rd at the Polk County Fairgrounds.”