Cherokee and British Relations



Although Hernando De Soto’s expedition had crossed Cherokee lands in 1540, the Cherokee didn’t have much contact with Europeans until the 1700s. This was partly because Cherokees lived in farming hamlets in isolated valleys in the Appalachian mountain region.
With the booming trade in deerskins, the Cherokee began a close relationship with the British. They traded deerskins for firearms, ammunition, and other trade goods. The firearms proved important as the Cherokee used them to successfully drive out other tribes and expand their territory, moving into what is now East Tennessee. This meant they could secure even more deerskins.
Through trade, the Cherokee and British forged a strong alliance in the first part of the 1700s. The Cherokee were dependent upon British trade goods, while the British needed the Cherokee as a defense against French attacks.
The war between England and France in North America began in 1754 and was later known as the French and Indian War.  England called on the Cherokee to fight on their side under terms of the treaty of 1730.  
The Cherokee agreed to fight with the British against the French in Virginia, but wanted protection for their villages left without warriors to defend them. The British agreed to construct a fort in what is now Tennessee. It was completed in July 1757 and was named Fort Loudoun.
Events surrounding the fort led to tragedy in 1758 when the Cherokees and settlers had a misunderstanding resulting in loss of life.  Your students will be given a handout with a short explanation of the tragedy at Ft. Loudoun.  They will identify instances of conflict and cooperation between the British and Cherokee and fill in a time line of important events.

In the second lesson, students will be asked to compare modern and historic maps of the Overhill Cherokee towns.

Guiding Questions:

  • What interactions occurred between the Cherokees and the British during the 1700s?
  • Why did the Cherokees initially fight on the side of the British during The French and Indian War?
  • What happened to Fort Loudoun?
  • Where, in what is now Tennessee, did the Cherokees have towns?  


  1. Students will recount the history of Fort Loudoun.
  2. Students will create a timeline of the significant events involving the Cherokees and the British during the 1700s.
  3. Students will summarize major causes of conflict and examples of positive interactions.
  4. Students will compare Timberlake’s Map of the Overhill Cherokee Towns to a modern map.


  • Have students write “journal” accounts of events of this period from the perspective of a Cherokee, an English soldier, or a colonist.
  • Have students list and discuss multiple causes of conflict between the Cherokees, the British, and colonists (land disputes, attacks and retaliation, mistrust, etc.) and multiple examples of positive interactions among the groups (intermarriage, trade, treaties). 


  1. Divide the class into teams of “historians”.
  2. Pass out copies of the Student Handout and of the Images from the TN4ME website and let the students read it.
  3. Project or show the students the drawings of the 1730 Cherokee delegation to London and the 1762 delegation to London.  Tell the students that the 1730 delegation met with King George II, while the 1762 delegation met with King George III. A lot of events happened between those two visits. Using the two readings have the students work in teams to complete the timeline.
  4. Have students share their answers. (Refer to the KEY to check students’ work.)
  5. Have students look up information about the fort reproduction now located at the Fort Loudoun site.  Ask the students if there is a reproduction village to represent the Overhill Cherokee villages that were around Fort Loudoun.  Why not?  Because the fort was built as a WPA project during the Great Depression.  During the 1930s, people were not as sensitive to the plight of the Cherokee.  Thus they saw nothing wrong with building a reproduction of a British fort which only stood for four years while flooding with a dam the site of Cherokee villages which had stood for more than 100 years.
  6. Project the Indian area map.  Help the students find Tennessee. (Show them a modern day map of Tennessee with the U-shape of the Tennessee River.  Which tribes were in Tennessee? Chickasaw & Cherokee.  Have students point out other tribes on the map that they have heard of. (Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles, etc.)
1.      Divide the class into teams of 4 “historians”.
2.      Pass out copies of the Timberlake map, the archeological sites map, & Overhill Cherokee town handout
3.     Make sure the students have the maps so that north is the same for both maps.
4.      Have the students use different colors to color-code each town on Timberlake's map and then use the same color for the town on the modern map.  (In Timberlake's time, people used a "long s" (which looks like a "f" for words that have double ss.  So Tennessee looks like Tennefsee to us today.)
5.      Help them locate the area that is now Tennessee on that map. (Show them a TN map with the major rivers and teach them to recognize the pattern of the U-shaped Tennessee River.)
6.      Go over the answers using the key.Project the artifacts from the Citico site so the students can answer the #7 question.  The artifact images are of a brass sleigh bell that was made by Europeans and an iron padlock.


  • Have students prepare an oral report on the biography of someone who played an important role during this period of Tennessee history.
  • Have students research what daily life was like among the Overhill Cherokees during this time period, using Henry Timberlake’s Memoirs.


"Fort Loudoun" Tennessee Encyclopedia for History and Culture, online at        


State Standards
  • Identify and examine perspectives of various cultural groups within early American history.
  • Read a timeline and order events of the past.
  • Recognize causes and consequences of conflict, (i.e., French and Indian War …).

            National History Standards:
Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
Standard 1B
The student understands the European struggle for control of North America.
Grade Level
Therefore, the student is able to

Analyze relationships between Native Americans and Spanish, English, French, and Dutch settlers. [Compare and contrast different sets of ideas]

Compare how English settlers interacted with Native Americans in New England, mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and lower South colonies. [Consider multiple perspectives

Analyze how various Native American societies changed as a result of the expanding European settlements and how they influenced European societies. [Examine the influence of ideas and interests

Analyze the significance of the colonial wars before 1754 and the causes, character, and outcome of the Seven Years War. [Analyze multiple causation

Analyze Native American involvement in the colonial wars and evaluate the consequences for their societies. [Consider multiple perspectives