This scholarly study illuminates how the precursors to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians were able to remain in southwestern North Carolina despite President Andrew Jackson’s determination to remove all Cherokees from their homelands and take them on what became known as the Trail of Tears to settle in Oklahoma during the 1830s. Cherokees evaded being rounded up by the U.S. Army in two ways: by escaping to live way back up in the mountains, as illustrated in the story of Tsali, or by living on land deeded to white people. The most well-known example of the later was the white Cherokee trader, William Holland Thomas’s provision of land for Cherokees near Cherokee, North Carolina. This study shows how these two paths came together. It focuses on John Welch, a Cherokee whose wife, Betty was white and was thus able to provide land on their plantation for what became the community known as Welch Town. It was located about 50 miles southwest of Cherokee not far from the Snowbird Watershed that concealed many Cherokees who escaped into the mountains. Many of them came back down to settle in Welch Town and preserve their traditional ways. The fact that the Welchs owned nine enslaved African-Americans adds another layer to this story. “In Their Determination to Remain, Lance Greene tells the fascinating, but heretofore little-known story of the Cherokee Welch family, slaveholding planters who resisted removal in the 1830s and helped to establish a new Cherokee community in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina after the Trail of Tears. Combining archaeology with meticulous archival research, Greene explores the methods used by Cherokee people to rebuild their lives in the wake of removal, while tracing relationships among the Welches, their enslaved African American workers, and the culturally traditional Cherokee community that shared the family's land. Microhistory at its best, the book represents a significant contribution to the literature on Cherokee and southern Appalachian history, as well as studies of slavery in Indian country.”—Andrew Denson. “Their Determination to Remain is a wonderful book. Lance Greene unearths stories from soil and archives alike to craft a vivid and humane Cherokee history. The writing is clear and concrete, bringing characters to life in a cacophony that reverberates across the hills and valleys of the Great Smoky mountains. We have much to learn not just from Greene’s narrative but also from the methods by which he creates it.” - Elizabeth Fenn. Lance Greene is an anthropology professor at Wright State University.
Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2022. 200 pages with Index, Bibliography, Notes, maps, illustrations, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket.