by William D. Welge
For nearly twenty years certain groups of Cherokees split off from the western band due to the ever increasing number of white settlers encroaching upon lands set aside for the tribe by the federal government. However, the government didn’t abide by it’s commitment to remove the white intruders as specified by treaty. Consequently, individuals such as The Bowl and Richard Fields gathered up several groups of like-minded tribal members and moved south of the Red River in to Spanish Texas.
As early as 1807, a small party of Cherokees visited Texas with the prospect of possibly relocating there. (See: The Texas Cherokees: A People Between Two Fires, 1819-1840, by Dianna Everett).
With constanst warfare on-going between the Osage and Cherokee tribes, an influx of whites settling on to lands in western Arkansas, and the profound inaction of an indifferent federal bureaucracy, The Bowl with his followers left the Cherokee Nation – West for Texas around 1819.
All this now sets the stage for what transpires over the next two decades that changes the lives of thousands of Cherokees both east and west of the Mississppi River.
Cherokee Leaders 1760-1838
Before embarking upon aspects of the various factions or divisions within the Cherokee Nation, there are several tribal leaders that play key roles in the defense of their nation in the east and those who saw the floodtide of white encroachment, removed west of the Mississippi River to live their lives in peace, at least they hoped they would.
Before America, the Cherokees interacted with Europeans, primarily from Great Britian. In 1730, the British were north of the Cherokee Nation east, but were making forays into the domain. To the south was the Muscogee or Creeks in Georgia and Alabama. Farther south was Spanish held Florida.
West of the Mississppi by 1730, France was gaining territory expanding into Illinois, Ohio and encroaching upon Missouri coming up against Spain in it’s vast domain from west of the Mississippi clear to the Pacific.
It was therefore extremely beneficial to England to gain the trust of the Cherokee people because of the geo-political dynamics present in the early years of the 18th century.
Below are some of the principal leaders of the Cherokee Nation who were thrust into the turbulent colonial jockeying for favor and land all of which was detrimental to the Cherokee people. The leaders listed here is taken from Dr. Emmet Starr’s “History of the Cherokee”. Dr. Starr was himself a Cherokee, a historian of his tribe and a genealogist. His papers can be found in the Research Division at the Oklahoma Historical Society. And, before you ask, no they are not on line.
The earliest record of Principal Chiefs of the nation while in the east are;
Matoy – 1730-1760
Attacullaculla – 1760-1775
Hanging Maw – 1780
Old Tassell – 1780 -1788
Little Turkey – 1788-1801
Black Fox or Enoli – 1801-1811
Pathkiller – 1811-1827
One must also be aware that there were other tribal chiefs who governed that overlapped the chiefs mentioned above. To fully understand who those persons were and their roles while in the east, it is recommended reading both Starr’s work mentioned earlier and a more recent history written by Stan Hoig. As an example, Black Fox and Pathkiller were leaders in the east, but migrated west and were still considered tribal leaders after moving.
Another history about this time period was written by Mary Evelyn Rogers entitled: “A Brief History of the Cherokees”. This work was not widely published with slightly over 400 copies being produced by Gateway Press in 1986. The value of Ms. Roger’s work is that she places side-by-side by year what was taking place in the Cherokee Nation east, west and during it’s brief existence the Cherokees in Texas. Ms. Roger’s efforts in examining primary sources along with secondary sources is a valuable resource to understand what was transpiring both east and west. In other words, both Starr’s and Hoig’s works provide the context of events, Ms. Roger’s provides the timeline for those events.
To my knowledge, Ms. Roger’s work is not on line either. Thus, for one to conduct research, one must contact the institutions that house these and other resources that will hopefully guide you to find your ancestor(s).
Earlier I listed some of the principal headmen of the Cherokee Nation east of the Mississippi River. Some of the same leaders migrated west during the early years of the nineteenth century in order to avoid cultural conflict with incessant white settlers. Some of the first chiefs to relocate west into northwest Arkansas are as follows;
The Bowl or Captain Bowles, 1808 – 1813
Takatoka, 1813 – 1818
John Jolly, 1818-1838
John Looney, 1838-1839
John Brown, Spring 1839
John Looney, Summer 1839.
Please note that this was extracted from Dr. Emmett Starr’s work The History of the Cherokees.
Soon each will be confronted with duplicitious commissioners representing the United States. The most vile of all regarding the loss of tribal homeland at the hands of whites will be Andrew Jackson, president.
by William Welge
Throughout the 18th century the Cherokee Nation was under assault whether it was with the British or later the up start American’s. At one time before 1730, the lands claimed by this powerful tribal nation included most of what is now Virginia, parts of Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Georgia.
By 1768 and then again in 1770, their vast domain was reduced primarily to set a boundary whereby white settlers would not cross into lands held by the Cherokees. With these two treaties, tribal leaders such as Oconostota and Attakullakulla signed their names ceded all claims to lands in Virginia.
The rationale for this was due to the notion that if given enough land to the British, the settlers would be satisfied and that the Cherokees would be left alone. Sadly, the desire for more land led to more conflicts between the two nations.
Though no census exists at this time for the Cherokee people, among the holdings in the British Archives will be correspondence bewteen the leaders of these nations that helps the researcher better understand the shaping of events that would occur over the next decade.
An excellent study of this turbulent period in Cherokee history is Stan Hoig’s work The Cherokees And Their Chiefs, In the Wake of Empire published in 1998, The University of Arkansas Press.
by William Welge
Cherokee Morning Song
Arranged by Rita Coolidge and Robbie Robertson.
Album: Music for the Native Americans Read more
In the coming days/weeks, I’ll will be posting information that hopefully will aid researchers with vexing questions about the turbulent Cherokee history during the first third of the 19th century.
I will include information about the Old Settlers who voluntarily removed out west; the Texas Cherokees; the Treaty Party faction and the John Ross faction.
References will be gleaned from resources found at the National Archives, Oklahoma Historical Society Archives, the Indian Papers of Texas and other key reference materials.
It is hoped that this will guide the researcher in the right direction.
Published Author, Certification in Archival Preservation and has done numerous lectures & presentations specializing in American Indian history.
- William D. Welge, Certified Archivist & Historian
Photo of speaking appearance at the OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, Inc. http://www.okchoctaws.org/meetings.htm
click to enlarge photo
Phone 1 (800) 471-3928 or email