The city of New Echota was established in 1825 as the capital of the Cherokee Nation and it would remain so until 1838, at which point the Cherokee Nation capital moved to Indian Territory with the Trail of Tears. Yet, despite its short history, this city witnessed many significant events.
New Echota was, in many ways, the symbol of Cherokee assimilation into white society. The city was a planned community, laid out by Cherokee surveyors to be the capital for a new Cherokee centralized government modeled after that of the US — complete with executive, legislative, and judicial branches — embodied in the office of Principal Chief, the National Council, and the Supreme Court. The first Indian-language newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, was published here in 1828 and circulated throughout the Cherokee Nation, US, and Europe.
However, in 1830 the US Congress, at the behest of President Andrew Jackson, passed the “Indian Removal Act.” With this act, the US intended to remove all Indian people to Indian Territory, land west of the Mississippi River. Removal was “voluntary” in as much as the US government had to arrange removal by way of a treaty with each tribe.
The majority of the Cherokee people opposed removal, but a small group of Cherokees known as the Treaty Party gathered in secret at the New Echota home of Elias Boudinot (editor of the Cherokee Phoenix) to sign the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded the Cherokee Nation lands in return for land in Indian Territory.
The treaty was illegal according to Cherokee law, but was recognized by the US government. The state of Georgia began giving away Cherokee lands in a lottery and the Georgia militia made it impossible for the Cherokee to remain in New Echota. The signers of the Treaty of New Echota moved west, but those who wanted to remain east moved the Cherokee council to Red Clay in Tennessee, where they remained until removal. In May 1838, General Winfield Scott and a command of 7,000 men arrived in Cherokee lands with orders to remove the Cherokees from their homes and force them west. This event later became known as the Trail of Tears, or the Trail Where They Cried, where thousands of Cherokee perished.
Photos Copyright Christina Berry, All Things Cherokee
New Echota Travel Details
Open Wednesday – Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs $5.50-$7.00. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Directions: New Echota Historic Site is about halfway between Chattanooga and Atlanta just off of Interstate 75. For specific directions, click the “Directions” link in the location bubble of the map above and enter your starting location on the left.
GPS & Map: 34.542550289919895,-84.91517543792725