Qualla Boundary

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Cherokee Indian Reservation sign
Qualla Arts and Crafts Center in Cherokee, North Carolina

The Qualla Boundary (or The Qualla) is territory held as a land trust for the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who reside in western North Carolina. It is part of their historic territory in this area. The indigenous Cherokee, an Iroquoian languages people, have occupied the area for much longer than Europeans. They were here for centuries before European invasion, having migrated from the Great Lakes area. As a trust, the land is technically not a "reservation" per se, in that tribal members can buy and own the land, provided they are enrolled members of the Tribe of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.


"Qualla Indian Reservation" sign in North Carolina; text of 1975 sign included in article

The Qualla Boundary is located at 35°30′N 83°16′W / 35.500°N 83.267°W / 35.500; -83.267Coordinates: 35°30′N 83°16′W / 35.500°N 83.267°W / 35.500; -83.267.

The main part of the Qualla Boundary lies in eastern Swain and northern Jackson counties (just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park). The trust lands include many smaller non-contiguous sections to the southwest in Marble, Hiawassee and Hanging Dog areas of Cherokee County and the Snowbird community in Graham County counties, also in North Carolina. A small part of the main trust lands extends eastward into Haywood County. The total land area of these regions is 213.934 km² (82.6 sq mi), with a 2000 census resident population of 8,092 people.


Cherokee teen on the Qualla Boundary.

The Cherokee have long occupied this area, having migrated here centuries before the European invasion. During their colonial expansion west, European settlers sometimes came into conflict with the Cherokee, who had territory extending into present-day Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The Cherokee were forcibly removed from much of this area, especially the Black Belt in Georgia and Alabama, under authority of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, and were relocated to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

The Qualla Boundary was first surveyed in 1876 by M. S. Temple under the auspices of the United States Land Office. These pieces were embodied in a map published as the "Map of the Qualla Indian reserve".[1]

The Qualla Boundary is not a reservation, but rather a "land trust" supervised by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. The land is a fragment of the extensive historical homeland of the Cherokee in the region. It was considered part of the Cherokee Nation during the nineteenth century prior to certain treaties and Indian Removal in the 1830s. William Thomas, adopted as a boy by the chief Yonaguska, bought much of the land for use by those Cherokee who remained in North Carolina after removal. Although he had assimilated as a Cherokee, he was white and able to buy land, which the Cherokee could not do.

The Qualla Boundary was considered a reservation as recently as 1975. A United States Department of Interior sign, entitled "Qualla Indian Reservation", reads:

Law and government[edit]

The tribal community functions like most municipalities, operating schools, law enforcement and rescues services (police, fire, EMS, and wildlife management), as well as their own hospital and casinos. Tribal police have exclusive police jurisdiction on Indian lands, though the FBI and other federal agencies also have jurisdiction to handle major federal offenses. NC State Troopers, motor vehicle inspectors, wildlife officers, state alcohol agents, SBI agents and other state peace officers assigned to counties that overlap with the reservation are commissioned as "special officers" of the Department of Interior and have limited federal police powers on Indian lands, mainly to enable them to enforce laws on Indian land in Indian court and to assist tribal officers, if called to do so. The Tribe runs a court system and tribal police since 1987 also have state powers to charge non-Indians in local county courts.

Representation in media[edit]

In the mid-1950s, much of Disney's five-part television series, Davy Crockett (starring Fess Parker), was shot here.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]