Ross, John, whose name in Cherokee is Kooweskoowe [key], 1790–1866, Native American chief, b. near Lookout Mt., Tenn., of Scottish and Cherokee parents. He was educated at Kingston, Tenn., and in the War of 1812 served under Andrew Jackson against the Creeks. Elected principal chief of the eastern Cherokee in 1828, Ross struggled valiantly to hold the ancestral lands of his people but was unable to withstand the constant pressure of the state of Georgia for removal. In a treaty (1835) of questionable validity, a small minority of the Cherokee ceded the lands and moved west. Ross and the majority refused to acknowledge the cession, but resistance was unsuccessful, and in 1838–39 he led them on the long, hard journey to present-day Oklahoma. Thousands died on the trip, known in Native American lore as the “trail of tears.” From 1839 until his death Ross was chief of the united Cherokee nation (the western Cherokee had migrated at the beginning of the century). He counseled neutrality in the U.S. Civil War, but the Cherokee ultimately supported the Confederacy.
See biography by G. E. Moulton (1986).
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