In aboriginal and early-contact times settlements were clustered near streams and rivers. Because of the rugged topography, they were often separated by considerable distances but were linked by intricate trade networks. Up to sixty towns existed, with populations of 55 to 600, but averaging 250-300 persons. Larger towns were built around a council house and a field for stickball and served as economic, social, and Religious centers for smaller surrounding towns. Warfare, disease, and trade attending European contact undermined the nucleated settlement pattern and resulted in more linear, dispersed settlements.
Since the removal, mixed-blood Cherokee in Oklahoma have tended to settle on rich bottomlands near railroad centers while full-bloods have tended to settle in small isolated villages in the Ozark foothills. At the Qualla Boundary Reservation in North Carolina, the Cherokee population is concentrated in four bottomland areas comprising five townships. Each township has a small center, but most families live on isolated farmsteads on the edges of the bottomlands and along creeks and streams. The community of Cherokee in the Yellow Hill township is the site of numerous tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants. The aboriginal Cherokee house was of wattle-and-daub construction, oval or oblong, with a single door, no windows, and a pitched roof of thatch, reeds, or poles. Today, much Cherokee wood-frame housing is substandard, although improvements have been made Recently.