How did adopting elements of white culture impact the traditional practices of the Cherokees? 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The adoption of elements of white culture was an ongoing process with the Cherokee, one that began with the establishment of European settlements along the eastern seaboard. One early example was the extent to which Cherokee hunting practices changed to suit the demand for deerskins by English traders. Cherokee hunters who formerly hunted for food, clothing, and other materials that could be taken from deer began taking only skins, a practice which ravaged the deer population in Cherokee-controlled hunting grounds, and led to conflict over new potential hunting grounds.

All along, Cherokee incorporated white tools into their own culture, especially guns. By the nineteenth century, the Cherokee began to specifically adopt aspects of white culture as a matter of policy. This led to profound changes in Cherokee life, as elites, often the offspring of European men and Cherokee wives, began to practice plantation agriculture using African-American slaves. This led to a sort of economic polarization among Cherokee, as many small farmers struggled.  Another major change was the establishment of a government along the lines of the United States Constitution, replacing the old tribal structure. Yet the new Cherokee nation was still dominated by powerful clan leaders, if in new contexts.

The drive to modernize while still preserving traditional culture could be seen in religion, as most Cherokees did not convert to Christianity, and in Sequoyah's famous alphabet, which established a form of writing using the Cherokee language. Despite their attempts to adopt white ways (indeed, perhaps because of these attempts) white settlers still pushed to drive Cherokees off of their lands. The Indian Removal Act facilitated this process, and the Cherokee, many wearing western dress and some accompanied by their black slaves, were forced to remove to Indian Territory in Oklahoma during the second half of the 1830s.

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