The Echota Cherokee Tribe
Rising from the Ashes
The members of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
are the descendants of those Indian people who escaped the infamous “Trail of Tears”
by hiding out in the mountainous backwoods and lowlands of the Southeast. Others
fled from the march after it began and others simply walked away and came home after
reaching Indian Territory. They kept to themselves, did not speak the language and
did not teach it to their children for fear the child might speak it in the presence
of someone who would learn the secret of their ancestry. If this happened, they
could immediately be taken into custody and sent to Indian Territory in the west.
Everything they owned could be given away by the State.
As much as possible our people assimilated into the white populace and claimed to
be “Black Dutch” or some other type of European to explain their slightly darker
color. Since nearly all work was done outdoors, most people had a tan anyway. However,
most of us remember stories of our family members who always wore large straw hats
and long sleeves in the summer because they did not want to become any darker than
they already were.
During the early gatherings of our people, old stories or “legends” were told, crafts
were demonstrated, and those who still knew a few words of the Cherokee language
shared it with all. We struggled then and struggle now to preserve our history and
culture. Everyone brought “covered dishes” to those gatherings and we enjoyed the
pleasure of potluck dinners. It was wonderful to fellowship with others who shared
the common bond. Friendships that were developed early on have lasted to this day.
Soon it was realized that we should have a “name” and become a more formalized group.
At a meeting in Opelika, Alabama on March 16, 1980 the name, “ECHOTA” was chosen.
The Phoenix was chosen as our symbol since we were rising from the ashes of our
burned villages and forced removal, to join and reclaim that which was almost lost
To conform to the standards of today’s world, corporation papers were filed and
we became a legal, legitimate entity. By-Laws were written as well as a Mission
Statement. A tribal newsletter was started and it has grown from one page to ten
We immediately entered into a four-year struggle to establish an Indian Affairs
Commission that would represent all the tribes in the state and to gain “State Recognition”.
This became a reality with the passage of the Davis-Strong Act in 1984. In the meantime,
we were researching our genealogy, history, traditional dress, dances, games, crafts
A dance team was formed and practiced relentlessly. Progress was slow and not without
its trials and tribulations. Birthing pains are never easy.
As tribal membership grew, Clans began to form and meetings were held in many areas
of the state. The dance team became the largest in the state and performed an average
of twice a month in Alabama and adjoining states, at its peak. The Team finally
ceased their activities after about ten years when there were not enough drummers
and dancers to continue.
Progress continued and six Indian Education Programs were implemented across North
Alabama. One tribal member was elected to the State Legislature, one as State Auditor
and on to the State Democratic Executive Committee. Many of our children have earned
scholarships and four members have written books.
The tribe bought nineteen acres of land in St. Clair County in 1990 and has recently
purchased fifty acres in Cullman County. In February 2002, the tribe was gifted
with ten acres on Smith Lake. Plans are to build a Cultural Center that will include
a museum, library, gift shop, meeting rooms, kitchen, a vault to store artifacts
and a Tribal Office Complex on the fifty-acre site. Additional plans include the
possibility of a campground, bathhouses, refreshment stand and Festival grounds.
We also hope to become involved in agribusiness to provide income for the Tribe
and jobs for our people. Everyone looks forward to having a central office and a
permanent gathering place.
It is the spirit of survival and perseverance that brought us together and gave
us the strength to reclaim our heritage. It is that same spirit that leads us on
the path the Creator has given us – the path of opportunity to finally make ourselves
known for who we are. This spirit also gives us the firm resolve to preserve our
heritage, make opportunities for our people in education, job training and health
services and make every effort to walk in harmony and balance on Mother Earth by
protecting the environment. One ancient Indian proverb tells us to: “Treat the earth
well. It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Since earliest contact with European explorers in the 1500’s, the Cherokee has been
recognized as the most advanced among the American Indian Tribes. With a culture
that thrived for 500 years in the Southeastern part of this Country, the Cherokees
developed and progressed in their own way by watching and learning from their non-Indian
neighbors. The Cherokee had developed a system of government and a cultural society
that matched the most “civilized” at the time. The Cherokee are the only race of
people in recorded history who are known to have developed an alphabet or syllabary
and learned to read and write in one generation. It is this progressive lifestyle
that gave the remnants of those left behind the endurance and ambition to preserve
the culture, even when it had to be done in secret.
The Tribe holds Pow Wows or Festivals each year for the purpose of having a gigantic
“family reunion”, and to share our culture with the general populace. We now have
another dance team that performs at Festivals and special events and we are extremely
proud to have so many young people on the team, for they are the future of our people.
There are seven Clans within the tribe and each Clan has their own agenda as far
as their activities are concerned.
The Governing Body of the Tribe consists of a Principal Chief, a Tribal Chairman,
a Recording Secretary, a Membership Secretary, a Records Keeper, a Treasurer and
a six member tribal Council.
With the opening of a tribal office on our land in Falkville, AL, we hope to take
some of the load off the many volunteers who have served in the above positions
for so many yeas. Our people will have someone to answer questions and offer assistance
and referrals. Also of great importance the Tribe will finally have a permanent
The Mission Goals of the tribe are still geared to the education of our people,
the preservation of our culture and the protection of the environment. We believe
that we are the keepers of seven generations. This has been the Cherokee belief
Reflecting the Goals of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
For the Cherokee the past has determined what the Tribe is today, and preserving
that past and the education of our people is our primary goal.
1. To encourage and promote socioeconomic development aimed at tribal and individual
2. To support the preservation of traditional Cherokee culture, language and values.
3. To improve education and training opportunities for tribal members.
4. To seek improved health care for our people with particular emphasis on children
5. To encourage our people to develop, as individuals, their talents as craftsmen,
dancers, artists, musicians, and writers.
6. To continuously strive to maintain the dignity of the American Indian by always
treating others with the utmost respect and courtesy.
Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
630 County Road 1281
Falkville, Alabama 35622