By 1835, the time of removal, the Cherokee owned an estimated total of 1500 slaves of African ancestry (the most black slaves of any of the Five Civilized Tribes). Within five years of removal, 300 mixed-race Cherokee families, most descendants of European traders and Cherokee women for generations, made up an elite class in the Indian Territory. Most owned 25–50 slaves each. Some of their plantations had 600 to 1,000 acres; cultivating wheat, cotton, corn, hemp, and tobacco. Most of the men also had large cattle and horse herds.
By 1860, the Cherokee held an estimated 4,600 slaves, and depended on them as farm laborers and domestic servants. At the time of the Civil War, a total of more than 8,000 slaves were held in all of the Indian Territory, where they comprised 14 percent of the population.