The Cherokee and Wyandot Companies on the Overland Trails to California: Histories of Indigenous Migration and the Settler Gaze, 1849–1856
- The Journal of the Civil War Era
- The University of North Carolina Press
- Volume 11, Number 1, March 2021
- pp. 9-35
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The popular memory of the nineteenth century American West has long fixated on the thousands of trail emigrants who famously crossed the North American continent in search of wealth, adventure, and new lives. Historical and scholarly narratives have explored the ways that these massive overland migrations threatened, altered, and devastated Native American societies of the West. Often neglected in these historical narratives, however, are the many Native Americans who participated in these migrations, founded their own overland companies, and blazed some of the most important trail routes across the continent. Among the most numerous were several companies of Cherokee and Wyandot people who left Indian Territory for California, where they would participate in the Gold Rush. This article explores the complex histories and memories of these Indigenous migrants and settlers, from their journeys across the trails, their experiences in Gold Rush California, and their relations with other Native and settler communities.