Eastern Cherokee Treaty Signers

It is useful to see the names of the Cherokee men who signed the various treaties made specifically with the Cherokee by the United States, beginning in 1785.  The names of some of the signers have become place names in the southeastern United States.

So that we can look at the signers’ names, I have arranged the treaties chronologically, and I have listed the signers for each treaty alphabetically by the first word of each name.   For perhaps obvious reasons, I have chosen to omit the Treaty of New Echota [1835], because this false treaty was signed by a group of Cherokee who were not authorized representatives of the tribe, and which formed the spurious legal basis for the Removal [“Trail of Tears”].  See this page for details of the Removal.

Because this list is long, please note the page numbers at the bottom of each page.   Click on the next page number to continue.

The majority of the Cherokee signers were not literate in English and the Cherokee had no written language until the early 1820s.  Signing was usually done by “his mark,” normally an “X.”   Because the name of the signer had to be written down beside his mark, it was mostly white people who had the task of creating some reasonable spelling of the Cherokee names.  The results were often quite strange, variable, and difficult to decipher even by one who knows a great deal about the Cherokee language.  Different transcribers often had quite different spellings and some of the transcribers—in my opinion—probably were very poor spellers in English, with distorted notions of how sounds should be written.  We all tend to hear sounds of some foreign language differently anyway. [Hobson-Jobsonism: altering foreign words or expressions to fit the speech and spelling patterns of another language, in this case, English.] Moreover, perhaps some of the transcribers may have been Cherokee or other Indians who also served as witnesses or even as signers and whose command of written English was less than perfect.

A good example of variability comes with the name Wyuka on the Treaty of Hopewell.  The same chief appears as Skyuka on the Treaty of Holston [1792] and the Treaty of Philadelphia [1791].  His name in Cherokee was probably Kiyuga, which retains its meaning as chipmunk, which we in the mountains call “ground squirrel” in English.

In a future post, I will provide more information about the meanings of some of the names of the signers, but, for now I will avoid making any notes directly in this list.

Treaty of Hard Labour, 1768

Chinistoe

Conanennah

Cotchatoy

Ecuy

Mankiller of Chote

Otacite of Quaratrie

Oucconnastotah

Raven of Newcassie

Raven of Tugaloo

Saliey

The Wolf of Keowee

Tiftoe

Tuckassie Keowee

Usteneca

Warrior of Cowie

Willinawaw

 

Treaty of Lochaber, 1770

Altahkullakulla

Chinista

Chinista Watoga

Chukamuctas

Ecuij

Kaheatoy

Kinnatitah

Kittagusta

Otacite of Higwassie

Oucconnastotah

Skaliloske

Tarrapin

Teutchkee

Tiftoy

Uka Youla

Wolf of Keowee

 

Treaty of Hopewell, 1785

Akonoluchta, the Cabin

Amokontakona, Kutcloa

Cheanoka, of Kawetakac

Chescoonwho, Bird in Close of Tomotlug

Chesecotetona, or Yellow Bird of the Pine Log

Chesetoa, or the Rabbit of Tlacoa

Chokasatahe, Chickasaw Killer Tasonta

Chonosta, of Cowe

John, of Little Tallico

Keukuck, Talcoa

Kolakusta, or Prince of Noth

Konatota, or the Rising Fawn of Highwassay

Kostayeak, or Sharp Fellow Wataga

Kowetatahee, in Frog Town

Lach’n McIntosh Koatohee, or Corn Tassel of Toquo

Necatee, of Sawta

Newota, or the Gritzs of Chicamaga

Onanoota, of Koosoate

Ookoseta, or Sower Mush of Kooloque

Ooskwha, or Abraham of Chilkowa

Scholauetta, or Hanging Man of Chota

Skeleak

Sketaloska, Second Man of Tillico

Tatliusta, or Porpoise of Tilassi

Toostaka, or the Waker of Oostanawa

Tuckasee, or Terrapin of Hightowa

Tuckasee, or Young Terrapin of Allajoy

Tulatiska, of Chaway

Tulco, or Tom of Chatuga

Tuskegatahu, or Long Fellow of Chistohoe

Umatooetha, the Water Hunter Choikamawga

Unsuokanail, Buffalo White Calf New Cussee

Untoola, or Gun Rod of Seteco

Will, of Akoha

Wooaluka, the Waylayer, Chota

Wyuka, of Lookout Mountain

Yellow Bird

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The Turkeytown Treaty

From 1721 through 1868, the Cherokee people had more than forty treaties with the white people, at first with the British and colonists and later with the American government.  So far as I can tell, all of them seem to have been broken.

One that is of interest to us here in dealing with place names of Cherokee origin is the Treaty of 1817, also called the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency.  There had been, in 1816, two other treaties which, as usual, required the Cherokee to cede more lands.  In March of that year, they had ceded all remaining lands in South Carolina,  a small section in and around what is now Oconee County.  In September, the tribe in a general meeting at Turkeytown [Alabama] had ratified the Treaty of the Chickasaw Council House, ceding most of their lands in Alabama and nearby border areas, some 3,500 square miles.

On 8 July 1817, the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency was signed by 31 Cherokee leaders from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, and by 15 Arkansas Cherokee chiefs, as well as by Major General Andrew Jackson—he did not become President until 1829—and by Governor McMinn of Tennessee.  It is often somewhat erroneously called the Turkeytown Treaty.  Including the Arkansas chiefs constituted the first formal recognition of the Western Cherokee.  Most of the Cherokee bitterly opposed this treaty and that of 1819.

Together with the Treaty of Washington in 1819, the Cherokee Nation ceded almost all their remaining lands in the East, except for northwest Georgia and some adjacent lands in Tennessee, Alabama, and the extreme western part of North Carolina.  The details of the cessions can be found in the map at this link.

A key provision of the Treaty of 1817 that came to affect some place names was Section 8:

“And to each and every head of any Indian family residing on the east side of the Mississippi river, on the lands that are now or may hereafter be surrendered to the United States, who may wish to become citizens of the United States, the United States do agree to give a reservation of six hundred and forty acres of land in a square to include their improvements which are to be as near the centre thereof as practicable, in which they will have a life estate with a reversion in fee simple to their children reserving to the widow her dower, the register of whose names is to be filed in the office of the Cherokee agent, which shall be kept open until the census is taken as stipulated in the third article of this treaty [June 1818]. Provided, That if any of the heads of families, for whom reservations may be made, should remove therefrom, then, in that case the right to revert to the United States. And provided further, That the land which may be reserved under this article, be deducted from the amount which has been ceded under the first and second articles of this treaty.”

The treaty promised a square mile of land to every Indian family east of the Mississippi River living on the lands that were ceded to the government if they would become citizens of the United States and give up their status as Cherokee [or other] Indians.  Six hundred forty acres for their very own, with their present home as nearly as possible to the center of that acreage–that was the promise.  All they had to do was file a request with the Indian Agent within almost a year.  Very few of the people had ever owned any land, and the concept was somewhat foreign to them.  Perhaps the main attraction for becoming “citizen Indians” may have been staying in the East, on familiar lands.  Only about 311 Cherokee people applied for the land.  A few of those actually got some land, usually less than the promised amount, and almost all of them lost what they did get.  Still, for a time, some of them remained among the white settlers.

Without going into historical details about the frustrations and thwarting of the allotments, we can see what effects some of these citizen Cherokees had on local place names.  [If you would like to examine some of the efforts by the states to deprive the Cherokee of the promised allotments, you could read the efforts of the state of Tennessee, which were probably typical of most of the states involved, possibly excepting North Carolina.  Georgians were especially inimical to the Cherokee, as later events would prove.]  You can find more depth on Cherokee history at this link.

Cherokee people who applied included The Cat, who lived near Sugartown [Cullasaja].  The creek he lived on is now called Cat Creek.  His name was probably a translation of Gvhe, wildcat, or  it may have been a translation of Tlvdatsi, the mountain lion, which the white settlers called “painter” [panther”].  Wesa was merely a Cherokee attempt at the English word “Puss,” the word used for a domestic cat.

One applicant, Little Betty, lived near the whites a little longer than most.  She was a widow with several children, we are told.  Her reserve was to be at Eastertoy, which later became Dillard, Georgia.  Betty’s Creek is named for her.  I am surprised to see its name showing up with increasing frequency as Betty Creek, an example of the gradual erosion and changing of place names as outsiders move into the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina.  Among people who grew up near Dillard, the name is always pronounced as if it were “Bettis Creek.”

Near Betty’s Creek is Betty Whitecloud Street.  As of now, I do not know if there is any connection with Little Betty, and I am inclined to doubt that there is.

Another applicant was Old Mouse, who lived “below Cowee,” that is, downstream from Cowee [NC].  He is remembered in the names of Old Mouse Creek and Mouse Mountain.  His name is a translation of the Cherokee word talasgewi [or possibly tsisdetsi or tsistetsi], with “Old” having apparently been appended in English.

The reservee listed in application documents as Musk Rat was living on Cartoogechaye Creek [on Ca-tur-as-joy Creek, the document says].  Muskrat Creek, Muskrat Valley, and Muskrat Road are named for him. His English name was a translation of salaquisgi [or salagisgi or selagisgi].

Otter Creek, about halfway between Franklin and Robbinsville, in the Nantahala Community, takes its name from citizen Cherokee Otter.  His name is a translation of Tsiyu.  His neighbor to the northwest was one Taylor Eldridge, white husband of Pathkiller’s daughter Ailcey.  Pathkiller himself had applied for his reserve about 2½ miles above the mouth of Sweetwater Creek, further to the northwest in the same general area.  Otter’s daughter Jane, while working for some of the white settlers, is said to have been killed by a panther [tlvdatsi, mountain lion].  Her name was given to Jane Otter Creek, a tributary of Otter Creek.

In 1818, Eu-chu-lah of Cowee applied for his 640-acre reserve just west of the Cowee Mound, and it seems to have been granted.  In old documents, it is recorded as the Euchella Farm.  It seems to have been taken over by the state of North Carolina almost immediately, whether by sale or by force.  In 1821, 299 acres of it was sold by the state to Joseph Welch.  The name survives in Euchella Cove, Euchella Church, and some other modern developments some miles to the west of the original farm.

About Turkeytown, Alabama:  The present community lies about halfway between Weiss Lake and Gadsden; the historical Cherokee town site, Gvna-digaduhvyi, is under the water of the lake.  The community, Little Turkey Road, and Turkeytown Gap are named for Gvna [or Gvnastee, Gvnusdi], the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  His name translates to Turkey [or Little Turkey].  John Ross was born at Gvna-digaduhvyi in 1790, and he was one of the people requesting a reserve under the “Turkeytown Treaty.”

The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Removal

The Cherokee Removal from Georgia, 1838-1839

The Trail of Tears

This subject has been much overdone, but I present it here in the hope that readers of this blog who may not know this history will find it of value. I will post some additional history later. For a map showing the various routes taken in The Removal, click here.

A brief review: In 1815, a Cherokee boy found a gold nugget along the ChestateeRiver, in Georgia. Within four years, the Cherokee were forced out of all their lands east of the Chestatee. Prospectors for gold were everywhere. Laws were made to take advantage of the Indians of Georgia. No one of any Indian blood could sue a white man or testify against whites. Any contract made between a white man and an Indian was not valid unless there were two white witnesses. All the laws and customs of the Cherokee Nation were declared null and void, and the Cherokee were forbidden to hold councils or to assemble for any purpose at all or to dig for gold on their own lands.

Georgia “annexed” all the remaining Cherokee territory inside the state, mapped it out into counties and surveyed it into 160-acre land lots and 40-acre “gold lots.” These lots were distributed by lottery tickets given to every white citizen of the state. “Winners” of the lots could and did simply force the Cherokee families off their lands and out of their homes, and any Indian resisting the white takeover of his home could be imprisoned. An Indian family might be sitting in the living room of their well-built frame house when some white man and his friends would arrive and tell them that the house and land now belonged to the white man and the family had no choice but to leave, often without any of their personal belongings.

In December of 1835, a treaty was signed at New Echota by twenty Cherokee men, agreeing to the removal of the Cherokee to Indian Territory [now Oklahoma]. Not a single one of the officers of the Tribe was present or even represented. It is very important to understand that a treaty was signed by some Cherokee men, but not one of them represented the Tribe. The Cherokee Nation did NOT make this treaty! The U.S. Congress ratified the “treaty” late in May of 1836. [You can find a copy of this false treaty at this site. The first signature on it was that of Reverend J. F. Schermerhorn, acting as a commissioner for the Federal government; the marks or signatures of the twenty Cherokee follow his signature.]

The Cherokee had strong supporters in Congress, who were aware of the fraud taking place and who opposed it strongly. These friends included Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Davy Crockett of Tennessee was a strong friend of the Cherokee, but he had left politics in disgust a few years before after losing an election–mostly because of his support of the Cherokee–, had moved to Texas, and had died in the defense of the Alamo in March, 1836.

The governor of Georgia, who pushed very hard to have the Indians removed, was George Gilmer, for whom Gilmer County is named. Governor Gilmer even threatened to “collide” with the Federal Government if the Removal were not carried out promptly. John Ross was the chief of the Cherokee Nation at the time of the Removal.

Troops were sent in and the Cherokee were forcibly disarmed. The Indians were given until 26 May 1838 to leave. About 2000 of the 17000 people did leave by then, seeing that there was no other hope; the rest refused.

The leaders of the soldiers sent in to disarm and round up the Cherokee were sympathetic and did not want to do what they were ordered to do, but they had no choice. It became apparent, however, that most of the people were not about to leave peacefully, so General Winfield Scott was sent in to command about 7000 troops and volunteers with orders to move the now weaponless Cherokee. When he arrived in the Cherokee country, he set up headquarters at New Echota, the capital. He issued a proclamation to the Cherokee people, telling them that they must begin moving out immediately and that, before another moon had passed, every Cherokee man, woman, and child must be on the way west to Indian Territory. He warned that he had thousands of troops all around them and more on the way, that escape and resistance were hopeless, and that if they tried to hide themselves in the woods and mountains his troops would hunt them down and shed blood if needed. About 13,000 Cherokee people were rounded up into stockades and holding camps..

Here is what James Mooney wrote in his report to the Bureau of Ethnography in the 1890’s. His sources were many: official military and government records, and long interviews with those who were involved in the Removal, both white and Indian.

“The history of the Cherokee removal of 1838, as gleaned by the author from the lips of actors in the tragedy, may well exceed in weight of grief and pathos any other passage in American history. . . . Under Scott’s orders the troops were disposed at various points throughout the Cherokee country, where stockade forts were erected for gathering in and holding the Indians preparatory to removal. From these, squads of troops were sent to search out with rifle and bayonet every small cabin hidden away in the coves or by the sides of mountain streams, to seize and bring in as prisoners all the occupants, however or wherever they might be found. Families at dinner were startled by the sudden gleam of bayonets in the doorway and rose up to be driven with blows and oaths along the weary miles of trails that led to the stockades. Men were seized in their fields or going along the road, women were taken from their [spinning] wheels and children from their play. In many cases, on turning for one last look as they crossed the ridge, they saw their homes in flames, fired by the lawless rabble that followed on the heels of the soldiers to loot and pillage. So keen were the outlaws on the scent that in some instances they were driving off the cattle and other stock of the Indians almost before the soldiers had fairly started their owners in the other direction. Systematic hunts were made by the same men for Indian graves, to rob them of the silver pendants and other valuables deposited with the dead. A Georgia volunteer, afterward a colonel in the Confederate service, said, ‘I fought through the civil war and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.

To prevent escape the soldiers had been ordered to approach and surround each house, so far as possible, so as to come upon the occupants without warning. One old patriarch, when thus surprised, calmly called his children and grandchildren around him, and kneeling down, bid them pray with him in their own language, while the astonished soldiers looked on in silence. Then rising he led the way into exile. A woman, on finding the house surrounded, went to the door and called up her chickens to be fed for the last time, after which, taking her infant on her back and her two other children by the hand, she followed her husband with the soldiers.

All were not thus submissive. One old man named Tsali [Charley] was seized with his wife, his brother, his three sons and their families. Exasperated at the brutality accorded his wife, who, being unable to travel fast, was prodded with bayonets to hasten her steps, he urged the other men to join with him in a dash for liberty. As he spoke in Cherokee the soldiers, although they heard, understood nothing until each warrior suddenly sprang upon the one nearest and endeavored to wrench his gun from him. The attack was so sudden and so unexpected that one soldier was killed and the rest fled, while the Indians escaped to the mountains. Hundreds of others, some of them from the various stockades, managed to escape to the mountains from time to time, where those who did not die of starvation subsisted on roots and wild berries until the hunt was over. Finding it impracticable to secure these fugitives, General Scott finally tendered them a proposition, that if they would surrender Charley and his party for punishment, the rest would be allowed to remain until their case could be adjusted by the government. On hearing of this proposition, Charley voluntarily came in with his sons, offering himself as a sacrifice for his people. By command of General Scott, Charley, his brother, and the two elder sons were shot near the mouth of the Tuckasegee, a detachment of Cherokee prisoners being compelled to do the shooting in order to impress upon the Indians the fact of their utter helplessness. Those fugitives permitted to remain became the present eastern band of Cherokee.

In October, 1838, the long procession of exiles was set in motion. A very few went by the river route [by which the Army had taken the earlier groups]; the rest, nearly all of the 13,000, went overland. Crossing to the north side of the Hiwassee at a ferry above Gunstocker creek, they proceeded down the river, the sick, the old people, and the smaller children, with the blankets, cooking pots, and other belongings in wagons, the rest on foot or on horses. The number of wagons was 645.

It was like the march of an army, regiment after regiment, the wagons in the center, the officers along the line and the horsemen on the flanks and at the rear. They crossed the Tennessee River a short distance above Jolly’s island, at the mouth of the Hiwassee. Thence . . . through McMinnville and on to Nashville, where the Cumberland was crossed. Then they went on to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where the noted chief Whitepath, in charge of a detachment, sickened and died. His people buried him by the roadside, with a box over the grave and poles with streamers around it, that others coming on behind might note the spot and remember him. Somewhere also along that march of death—for the exiles died by tens and twenties every day of the journey—the devoted wife of John Ross was lost, leaving him to go on with the bitter pain of bereavement added to heartbreak at the ruin of his nation. The Ohio was crossed at a ferry near the mouth of the Cumberland, and the army passed on through southern Illinois until the great Mississippi was reached opposite Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It was now the middle of winter, with the river running full of ice, so that several detachments were obliged to wait some time on the eastern bank for the channel to become clear. Memories still exist of that halt beside the frozen river, with hundreds of sick and dying penned up in wagons or stretched upon the ground and only a blanket overhead to keep out the January blast. The crossing was made at last in two divisions, at Cape Girardeau and at Green’s ferry, a short distance below, whence the march was on through Missouri to Indian Territory, the later detachments making a northerly circuit by Springfield, because those who had gone before had killed off all the game along the direct route. At last their destination was reached. They had started in October, 1838, and it was now March, 1839, the journey having occupied nearly six months of the hardest part of the year.”

At least 4,000 Cherokee died as a direct result of the Trail of Tears. Hundreds died in the stockades and holding camps before the journey began. About 2,500 died on the way, and more than a thousand others died soon after arrival, because of sickness from the cold and exposure on the way.

One hundred seventy years after the people of Georgia so viciously and mercilessly forced the Cherokee people out of the state, robbing them of all they had in worldly possessions and taking even their human dignity, I notice that attitudes toward Indians have greatly changed. About every third person I meet in North Georgia wants to tell me proudly about his or her family’s Cherokee blood. And some of these family stories of a distant Indian ancestor are valid, for traces of Cherokee blood flow in the veins of many of the Appalachian mountain people. Let everyone who has that pride of a Cherokee ancestor learn more of the history of the Indians in the Southeastern United States; in that way, at least, you can pay some tribute to your heritage. Do not forget that a thousand generations of Indians lived here and their spirits walk among you. White people have lived in GilmerCounty for only half a dozen generations.

For a historical view of the Removal, as related to Ellijay, Georgia, I recommend this excellent article.

A Claymation video about the Trail of Tears, in spoken Cherokee with subtitles, can be found at this link. Another video, running about 7 minutes, which is a preview of a longer video about the Trail of Tears, but which has a good example of spoken Cherokee, with better sound, is this one.  For good measure, here is a link to Amazing Grace [in Cherokee], which was sung in the hard times on the Trail of Tears. [You should be aware that the Cherokee words to the song are not merely a translation of the English words; the lyrics and a free translation are found at this link.  I personally would have spelled some of the words differently, in both English and Cherokee characters; however, spelling is not standardized in Cherokee and no one who knows the language would have any trouble reading either my version or this one.]

A few days ago, I discovered this Trail of Tears song on YouTube.  In it, you will hear authentic Eastern Cherokee words properly pronounced.  In fact, I highly recommend that you search for work by Tsasuyeda on YouTube.  There are nearly 50 highly informative videos on the Cherokee language that she has posted there.  I commend her for excellent work!  She also has a blog that is worth a look.