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The Family Tree - August/September 2003
My grandmother was a Cherokee Princess

RIVERDALE, GA: I am Will W. Rogers, Director, National Cherokee Library, Moultrie, GA. I was born in Claremore, Rogers County, Oklahoma, March 7, 1941, and raised in California. I was named after a great comedian of the early 20th Century, Will Rogers and his pilot, Wiley Post. I am a federally recognized Cherokee through the Sovereign Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

I served in the Army for over 30 years. I retired as a sergeant major. While on active duty, for five years, I served as an instructor, a writer, and a developer for course curriculum while assigned to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In addition to my tour of duty in the Army, I have participated in stage, film and video productions. The film and videos were for training chaplain assistants to set up a chapel and for field services. After I retired from the Army, I continued to work as an actor, stage and film director, and producer for screen, television, and commercial. I have written a screenplay: Someone Special; the radio play: The Hallowe'en Show; and an infomercial for Lithia Springs. My webpage is at

Wherever I go or wherever I speak, I am taken with the amount of mis-information and misconception that is perpetuated concerning membership in the Cherokee Nation and about being Cherokee. It seems that everyone is Cherokee or has a relation who "has the features of a Cherokee." This reminds me of the Walt Disney song from "The Aristocats:" "Everyone wants to be a cat." "Cat" can be substituted with Cherokee. There have been occasions where I have heard "my grandmother or great grandmother was an Indian princess." If this were the case, she was busy and caused the "birth of a nation." Though, there is some truth in this statement since the British appointed Chief Moytoy Emperor of the Cherokees. Moytoy was appointed emperor so that they could work with one representative who spoke for the Cherokee. In reality, the Cherokee Nation was democratic. The Cherokee Nation was part of the Iroquoian Confederacy. An elected chief and elected representatives governed the confederacy. Representatives from each tribal group were voted in by popular vote of the people. This was perpetuated until Moytoy. After Moytoy' s death, the Cherokee Nation returned to its democratic government. The democratic form of government remains even today. The Cherokee Nation has just completed elections for Principal Chief, Deputy Principal Chief and for its council members.

Traveling in the past and exploring family history makes discovery of new family members quite exciting. Sometimes family history entwines with the historical past and helps make historical facts more personal. For example, my great, great, great grandfather James Foster was a captain in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, 1814. He fought under the command of General Jackson. Another grandfather fought in the War of 1812.

One of the best sources to begin your research is to go to the Cherokee Nation web page at This will take you to the Cherokee Heritage Center and to its Genealogy Department. From there you can find hyper links to other Cherokee genealogical web pages. For a given fee the genealogy staff, Heritage Center, will research your request. Another source of information is now at New Echota Museum, New Echota, and Georgia. Ms. Martha A. Redus, genealogist, passed away recently. Her research concerning Cherokee history and family history is well known. She could always be found at the National Archives in East Point, Georgia. After her death, she bequeathed all her papers and research to the New Echota Museum.

This article just touches on the highlights of Cherokee genealogy. I plan in subsequent articles to discuss the rolls, treaties and some of the history of our people. This will be just enough to hopefully create an interest in pursuing further information and correct those misconceptions about the Cherokee Nation-past and present. Censuses, rolls, rosters and other means of accounting for the Cherokee were devised. There are approximately 52 different rolls available at the National Archives, Fort Worth, Texas and East Point, Georgia. I will also discuss some of the books available for research. There are numerous books on the subject and I will write on the main ones. There are many important and great nations. The Cherokee Nation is one of them. More later...

-By Will W. Rogers, Cherokee

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