At the beginning of the 18th century, the Cherokee Nation occupied or claimed all that region south of the Ohio River and west of the Great Kanawha River, extending as far as the northern parts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Their first contact with whites was De Soto in 1540. During the last quarter of the 17th century, commercial relations between the Cherokee and Virginians and South Carolinians were established, followed by the French around 1700.
The Cherokees developed an alliance with the British in 1730 and on their behalf, the British built Fort Loudon in 1757 on the Tennessee River as a defense for themselves and the Cherokees against the Shawnees, allies of the French. The Cherokees gave up their allegiance to the British towards the end of the French and Indian Wars, capturing Fort Loudon and massacring many of the prisoners.
The process of reducing the Cherokee territory through treaties with the whites began in 1721 and by 1819, the Cherokees were reduced to a small fraction of their original territory, mostly in Georgia. The Cherokees determined to resist any further encroachments by treaty. They had taken on many of the civilized characteristics of the Europeans and produced their own alphabet and written constitution.
Georgia did not intend to allow an independent nation to exist within its borders and insisted the the Cherokees give up their remaining land and move west to Indian territory (now Oklahoma). The tribe fought them to the Supreme Court twice and won, but Georgia simply ignored the result. In 1835, with a sympathetic President Jackson in the White House, the Treaty of Echota was signed with a minority of Cherokee members and within three years, nearly all had been forced from their land and homes.