Public Domain Photo, courtesy of Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians
This is the seventh in a series of blog posts offering brief information on every constitutionally-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 1828. [Though this series portrays constitutionally-elected Principal Chiefs, Chief Harris was included here due to the importance of the ceding of the Cherokee Outlet (Cherokee Strip)]
Colonel Johnson Harris, born 19 April 1856, in Forsyth County, Georgia, was a grandson of Parker Collins, one of the early “mixed blood” Cherokees of the early Cherokee Nation. His father was a Caucasian named William Harris, his mother, Susan Collins, a Cherokee. Colonel (his given name, not a rank) Harris was an enrolled Eastern Cherokee who eventually made his way to the Indian Territory. Like many Cherokee of the day, he married more than once due to early spousal deaths.
In 1880, at twenty-three, Harris was selected as a senator in the Canadian District for the Cherokee National Council. In 1887, he was chosen as a delegate to travel to Washington, D.C. for the purpose of perpetuating tribal business. By 1890 he was serving as Executive Secretary to the Cherokee Council. In 1891, following the death of Chief Mayes, he was appointed Principal Chief. During his tenure, Harris participated in the relinquishment of the Cherokee Outlet, or Cherokee Strip, which encompassed what is now known as the Oklahoma Panhandle. The United States government pressured the Cherokee Nation (a frequent occurrence) and purchased it for 8 ½ million dollars.
Colonel Harris died 25 September 1921 and is buried in Tahlequah City Cemetery.
***Bryan D. Jackson’s new release, Chattahoochee Rain (ages 12 and up), is on sale now. It is a historical fiction account that paints a portrait of events during the months leading up to the Treaty of New Echota and features some of Bryan’s direct ancestors.