By the 19th century, European settlers in the United States classified the Cherokee of the Southeast as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes," because they were agrarian and lived in permanent villages and began to adopt some cultural and technological practices of the European American settlers. The Cherokee were one of the first, if not the first, major non-European ethnic group to become U.S. citizens. Article 8 in the 1817 treaty with the Cherokee stated Cherokees may wish to become citizens of the United States.
The Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 tribal members, making it the largest of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States. In addition, numerous groups claim Cherokee lineage, and some of these are state-recognized. A total of 819,000-plus people claim having Cherokee ancestry on the US census, which includes persons who are not enrolled members of any tribe.
Of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Cherokee Nation and the UKB have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The UKB are mostly descendants of "Old Settlers," Cherokee who migrated to Arkansas and Oklahoma about 1817 prior to Indian Removal. They are related to the Cherokee who were later forcibly relocated there in the 1830s under the Indian Removal Act. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is on the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina; their ancestors resisted or avoided relocation, remaining in the area. Western Cherokee still call North Carolina Tsalaguwetiyi - "the Old Cherokee Place."
A Cherokee language name for Cherokee people is Aniyvwiyaʔi (ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ), translating as "Principal People." Tsalagi is the Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ) word for Cherokee.
Many theories—though none proven—abound about the origin of the name "Cherokee". It may have originally been derived from the Choctaw word Cha-la-kee, which means "people who live in the mountains", or Choctaw Chi-luk-ik-bi, meaning "people who live in the cave country". The earliest Spanish transliteration of the name, from 1755, is recorded as Tchalaquei. Another theory is that "Cherokee" derives from a Lower Creek word, Cvlakke ("chuh-log-gee"). The Iroquois Five Nations based in New York have historically called the Cherokee Oyata’ge'ronoñ ("inhabitants of the cave country").