"We are overwhelmed; our hearts are sickened; our utterance is paralyzed, when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed by the audacious practices of unprincipled men ..."
—Memorial from the Cherokee Nation
As the Cherokee's nation first elected leader, Chief John Ross dedicated himself to preserving his nation.. Ross came to power at the height Cherokee modernization efforts. In the years right before and after his 1827 election, the Cherokee people employed commercial agricultural methods, developed a written language, published a newspaper, and wrote a constitution modeled after the American Constitution. When the Cherokee nation was threatened by the state of Georgia and President Jackson's 1830 Indian Removal ActThe act empowered the president to negotiate removal treaties with Indian nations. , Ross embraced the American legal system, ultimately winning his case in the Supreme Court. Ross continued to fight removal even after Jackson ignored the Supreme Court decision and United States government officials accepted a fraudulent treaty signed by an unauthorized group of Cherokees. Faced with no other options, in 1838 he worked with the federal government to plan the forced relocation to Oklahoma. Ross witnessed the "Trail of TearsThe 1838 forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their homeland." and suffered the loss of his wife during the tragic move. He would go on to lead the Cherokee nation until his death in 1866.
Growing up in a mixed-blood home, Ross learned the customs of both the Cherokees and European-based cultures. He was educated at South West Point in Tennessee before working at his father's store. In his youth he proved his bravery, fighting the Creeks at one of General Jackson's first great victories, the Battle of Horseshoe BendJackson's successful attack on the Creek Indians during the Creek War of 1813-1814.. Ross gained valuable experience as a Cherokee diplomat and a member of the Cherokee National Council in the years leading up to his election and the Indian removal crisis faced by his people.