Native American History in Chattanooga

Native Americans have continually inhabited the Chattanooga area for the past 12,000 years and their rich history and influence can be seen in many ways today. Chattanooga's name comes from a Creek word for the iconic Lookout Mountain, meaning "a rock rising to a point." 

Historical Significance of Ross's Landing in Chattanooga

The city as we know it today can be traced back to 1816 when Ross’s Landing was established along Chattanooga’s riverfront by John Ross, a Chief of the Cherokee Indians. With the organization of Hamilton County in 1819, Ross’s Landing served not only as the Cherokee trade center but also as a convenient business center for the county.

In 1838 Ross’s Landing became the scene for a more tragic chapter in history, serving as the starting point for the forced removal of Cherokee and other native tribes from the area as they were sent West on what became known as the Trail of Tears where an estimated 4,000 Cherokee people died.  

Today, the area encompasses four acres surrounding the Tennessee Aquarium and overlooking the Tennessee River and scenic landscapes. Markers, art, and recognition of the area's role in Native American history can be found throughout the area. Historic quotations along the footpath between the Tennessee Aquarium's River and Ocean Journey buildings document the events leading to the Cherokee removal. Some of the pavers are cracked to symbolize the broken promises made to the tribes. Also etched in the pavement of this area are symbols from the Cherokee syllabary, a language system created by Sequoyah and used in the tribe’s bilingual newspaper. The Passage, a splash area with water cascading down steps that lead to the river during the summer serves as a permanent interactive outdoor exhibit and memorial commemorating the Cherokee and the forced removal from their homeland which began in this spot.

Chattanooga's Indigenous History

From atop Lookout Mountain to the Tennessee River and valley below, archeological studies point to continuous habitation by Native Americans in the Chattanooga region for over 12,000 years. Many of those original locations are still easily accessible today, such as the Moccasin Bend Archeological...

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About Chattanooga's Native American History