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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 us.

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 pages.

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 and language.

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 address.

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 throughout history.
Mission Statement
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 self-sufficiency.
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 and elders.
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.

Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
630 County Road 1281
Falkville, Alabama 35622
Phone: 256-734-7337
Fax: 256-734-7373