Native American History

Cherokee IndiansNothing more clearly evokes Dahlonega’s past than its very name, coming from the Cherokee Indian word “ta-lo-ne-ga.” The Cherokee name speaks of the time when the area was part of the Cherokee Indian Nation (and before that, was also home to the Creek Indians). The meaning of the word ta-lo-ne-ga, “yellow,” speaks volumes about what eventually drove the Cherokee out on the infamous Trail of Tears— gold!  Cherokee for Da-lo-ni-ge English phonetics: dah low knee gay. In 1833 the city was named Talonega by the Georgia General Assembly on 21 December 1833. The name was changed from Talonega by the Georgia General Assembly on 25 December 1837 to Dahlonega, from the Cherokee-language word Dalonige, meaning "yellow" or "gold."

Both white men and the Indians knew of the gold in the area for hundreds of years. Indians panned for gold in the early 1540s, joined by Spanish miners until they were expelled by the English in the 1730s.

The discovery of gold was one of the major reasons behind Cherokee Removal, in which the state of Georgia expelled Cherokees from their ancestral lands in 1838.  President Andrew Jackson supported Georgia's aspirations to control Cherokee land, and in 1830 he drafted the Indian Removal Act, which paved the way for Indian removal west. In 1838, the Cherokee removal (also known as the Trail of Tears) began, and in that same year Dahlonega, which is Cherokee for "yellow money," became a branch mint of the United States Mint.  With the Cherokee forced out in 1838, the white miners and settlers had the gold and the land to themselves

Dahlonega was home to many Creeks and Cherokees and still is today. There are a few Creek and Cherokee descendants in Dahlonega today, though they are not in communities but scattered throughout Dahlonega. Most of the descendants are Creek-Cherokee mixed.

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Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau  |  13 South Park Street  |  Dahlonega, GA 30533  |  (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.