The Cherokee Indians were originally part of the Iroquois tribe of the Great Lakes region of America, but at some point before the arrival of the Europeans, they were forced to move to the southeast. The Cherokee first came in contact with Europeans in 1540 when members of Hernando De Soto's expedition traveled through Cherokee lands of Appalachia.
For 100 years after their encounter with Spanish explorers, the Cherokee had little if any additional exposure to Europeans. In the 1670s, the tribe began a period of regular contact with Europeans. This sustained contact with Europeans led the Cherokee to adopt certain European mannerisms and customs, which in turn led to the tribe's classification as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes."
In the early 1700s, Emperor Moytoy unified various bands of Cherokee into a single tribe and assumed the role of tribal emperor in 1730. Emperor Moytoy agreed to recognize King George III as protector of the Cherokee people. During the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee supported the British in battle.
From the early 1800s onward, a number of Cherokee migrated westward in an attempt to escape the white culture they felt was encroaching on the traditional way of life. Upon the discovery of gold in Georgia, the whites who until that time coexisted with the Cherokee decided that the tribe should be removed in order to access the gold on tribal land. Thus, in 1830, the federal government enacted the Indian Removal Act, which forced the Cherokee from their homelands. The tribe's forced migration west has since become known as the "Trail of Tears."