Members of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama are the descendants of Cherokees who either escaped the Trail of Tears by hiding in the mountains, were able to escape during the march, or returned after being brought to Indian Territory. The language and culture were kept hidden and secret, for fear that if someone would find out they would be taken to Indian Territory and everything they had would be taken by the state. In order to hide their ancestry they would claim to be "Black Dutch" or similar and keep covered with hats and long sleeves at all times to avoid being any darker then they were.
During the late 70s people whose ancestors had been forced to hide were able to start coming out. Crafts, stories, and language were shared at gatherings. In 1980 it was decided that a formal name and entity needed to be established. At a meeting in Opelika, Alabama on March 16th the name Echota was chosen and the phoenix became our symbol since we were rising from the ashes of burned villages and the trail of tears to come back and reclaim what we had almost lost.
In 1981 Articles of Incorporation were filed for the tribe and members of the tribe, lead by Principal Chief Joseph "Two Eagles" Stewart began working on a way to gain state recognition and create an Alabama Indian Affairs Commission. Over the next several years Echota members would travel to Montgomery to lobby for an Indian Affairs Commission and state recognition. In 1984 the Davis-Strong Act was passed creating the commission and giving the Echotas and the six other Alabama tribes state recognition. The phrase "Progress Through Indian Unity" was added to the tribal seal since the seven tribes were able to unite peaceful and gain the act for the Native Americans in Alabama.
The Echota tribe continues to grow and has obtained tribal land in St. Clair County, Cullman County, and around Smith Lake. A tribal office was able to be opened in Falkville, Alabama. Annual dances, pow wows, and gatherings are held to celebrate our growth as a tribe.