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Chickamauga Timeline
The History of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain -The Indians

General History

Cherokee Nation

Trail of Tears

Indian Trails

Famous Indians

General History

For at least 2000 years, native Americans have lived on and around Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga. Indian remains dating to 200BC-400AD have been found in Lookout Valley near Trenton (about 15 miles south of The Point).

The two Indian tribes that predominated this area from the 1600's to the early 1800's were the Cherokees and Creeks. During this time, the Cherokees occupied the northern end of Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga and areas north/east (East Tennessee, Carolinas, Virginia, Northeast Georgia). The Creeks occupied the areas to the south in Alabama and Georgia.

In the mid-1600's, its estimated there were about 50,000 Cherokee. Diseases brought by white explorers and settlers killed many Native Americans. Smallpox was perhaps the most deadly of these diseases. Smallpox epidemics in 1729, 1738, and 1753 killed about half the Cherokee. The Creeks suffered also. By the mid-1700's there were around 20,000 to 25,000 Cherokee and about 30,000 Creeks. Creeks

The Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee (Tsalagi) Nation during the mid 1700s was based on a loosely knit union of 70 to 80 tribal towns, each independent with its own chief. The Cherokee’s primary alliance, however, was to his or her clan. There were seven clans and clan members lived in each town. All chiefs were members of the Cherokee National Council. The leadership consisted of a Principle Chief, a head War Chief, and a head Peace or Civil Chief.

Cherokee women were given more authority than white women. Cherokee women could divorce their husbands. Women had their own clan council. Nancy Ward was the last Chief Woman of the Female Council.

In 1775, the Cherokee Nation was split when Dragging Canoe, opposed to a treaty giving up Cherokee hunting lands, moved with hundreds of Cherokee warriors to the Chickamauga area on the east side of Lookout Mountain.

With Sequoyah’s alphabet, the Cherokee made great cultural advances beginning in the early 1820s. They adopted a constitutional government based on the U.S. constitution and in 1828 the Cherokee Phoenix (Tsa La Gi Tsu lehisanunhi) was published as the first bi-lingual newspaper. Despite this, the Cherokee were removed in 1838.

Cherokee I | Cherokee II

The Trail of Tears

Between 1790 and 1819 several thousand Cherokee and Creeks migrated west to the “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma. The Creeks were forced out of Georgia in 1827 (“gold fever” was a primary reason), Alabama in 1832, and were removed to the Indian Territory shortly thereafter.

In 1835 about 500 leading Cherokees signed a treaty selling all remaining Cherokee lands to the U.S. government for $5.7 million and land in Indian Territory. Several of these leaders were later assassinated. Despite disagreement and protest from the huge majority of Cherokee, in 1838 about 18,000 were removed. About 4,000 died on the trip from hunger, disease, and exposure. About 1000 escaped to North Carolina and today form the eastern tribe. The Indian lands were opened to white settlers in Sept. 1838. Trail of Tears I | Trail of Tears II

Indian Trails Around Lookout Mountain

Many important Indian trials passed along the slopes of Lookout Mountain and through Chattanooga. The Great Indian Warpath and the St. Augustine and Cisca Trail, two of the most important Indian trails, passed along the northern and western slopes of Lookout Mountain. The National Park trails along the slopes of Lookout Mountain cover the same ground and trails used by Indians for hundreds of years.

Famous Indians

Dragging Canoe was born in 1732 and died in 1792. A legendary Cherokee War Chief. He got his name as a boy when he hid in a canoe going to war. When discovered, his father, Little Carpenter, told him that if could carry the canoe across the portage he could go. He grabbed the canoe and started to drag it and was thereafter called Dragging Canoe.

He left the Overhill area in 1775 in response to the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals which gave up a significant portion of the Cherokee hunting lands. He left with hundreds of warriors and their families and established a number of towns on the east side of Lookout Mountain. These towns were destroyed in 1779 and he reestablished them on west side of Lookout Mountain.

In 1778, there were about 1200 warriors with Dragging Canoe who was then the most powerful Indian leader in the South. This group became known as the Chickamauga Confederacy. The Confederacy consisted primarily of Cherokees, but also consisted of a large number of Creeks and many Shawnee, Chickasaws, Choctaws and adopted or captured whites, blacks, and Tories. For 17 years, Dragging Canoe lead a bloody battle against the white settlements along the Carolina, Virginia, Middle and East Tennessee borders.

Legend has it that whites believed Dragging Canoe had supernatural powers. There were many stories of his death (one has him dying in hand to hand combat with John Sevier). When he died in 1792 at Lookout Mtn. Town of natural causes, (one source says of a small bullet wound that became infected) white soldiers dug up his body (buried near Nickajack) and cut it in half. Half was left there and the other half was transported away so Dragging Canoe could not resurrect. At Dragging Canoe’s death, he had not been defeated and the Chickamaugas were still at war with the newly created United States of America. Dragging Canoe I Dragging Canoe II

Nancy Ward was made Ghighan or Most Honored Woman of the Cherokee in 1755 at the age of 17. This position gave her, among other things, the power over life and death of captives. She was born in 1738 in Chota and died in 1822 at the Ocoee River. She was a member of the Wolf Clan.

During the Battle of Tawalee against the Creeks in 1755, she was with her husband Chief King Fisher (she was chewing bullets which caused them to rip and mangle the person shot) when he was killed. She grabbed his gun and lead the outnumbered Cherokees to victory. She married Bryant Ward after King Fisher’s death.

Nancy was friendly to the white settlers. She not only rescued a white female captive from being burned to death, but when Dragging Canoe went to war against the white settlers in 1775, she warned them and prevented a Cherokee victory. Nancy Ward

Sequoyah (George Guess) was born in the mid 1770s at the Cherokee town of Tuskegee (located near Ft. Loudoun, Tennessee). He died in 1843 in the Southwest looking for a lost Cherokee tribe. Sequoyah's father was a white man, a Virginia fur trader, named Nathen Gist (sometimes spelled Guess). His mother Wut-teh (Wurerth, Wurteh) was the daughter of a Cherokee Chief. She raised him in the Overhill area of the Cherokee Nation. Sequoyah was physically handicapped (either at birth or in a hunting accident) and he never attended school.

As a young man, he moved to an Indian settlement named Willstown (after Cherokee Chief Will). Willstown was located on the western slope of Lookout Mountain (about 25 miles south of The Point), near Ft. Payne, AL. Sequoyah joined the U.S. in its fight against the Creeks (and British) in the War of 1812. During the war, he realized the importance of the written language, and that this was the primary advantage whites had over Indians.

After the war, he moved back to Willistown and began to translate the spoken Cherokee language into a written form. Despite ridicule by family and friends, he completed the Cherokee alphabet (syllabary) of 85 characters in 1821. Sequoyah is the only person in history to singlehandly conceive and perfect an alphabet in its entirety. Sequoyah I | Sequoyah II | a differemt perspective-Sequoyah III

John Watts was born in 1750 and became Chief of the Chickamaugas in 1792 at Dragging Canoe’s death. He had a white father and Indian mother. Watts kept the Chickamaugas on the warpath with supplies from the Spanish who were located in Florida. Watts lead them on attacks of Nashville in Sept 1792 and Knoxville in Aug 1793. He was defeated in both (in the Knoxville campaign by John Sevier). When Spain withdrew its support (and two of his five towns were burned by the militia) John Watts and other Cherokee Chiefs signed a peace treaty in 1794.

Skyuka was a Cherokee Chief in command of the Chickamaugas who fought John Sevier on the northern end of Lookout Mountain on Sept 20 1782 (the Last Battle of the American Revolution). Skyuka Springs at the western base of Lookout Mountain (along the Park Trail system) was named after him.

Wauhatchie Glass was a Cherokee Chief of a town located in Lookout Valley just beneath Sunset Rock. He enlisted and fought for the U.S. against the Creeks in 1813 and was wounded in 1814. He was one of the chiefs who signed the Hiwassee purchase in 1817 and is recorded as one of those moved in the Trail of Tears. In 1863, a bloody Civil War battle was fought on the site of the town once governed by Chief Wauhatchie Glass.

John Ross was born on October 3, 1790 and died in 1866. He was 1/8 Cherokee and grew up in the St. Elmo area (just below Rock City) in Chattanooga Valley. John Ross was educated and fought for the U.S. against the Creeks. He returned to Chattanooga in 1816 and established a general store, a ferry, wharves, and real estate interest. This area became know as Ross’s Landing (the name was changed to Chattanooga in 1838).

John Ross became a member of the Cherokee Nation Committee in 1817, President in 1819, and Principle Chief in 1828. His estate in Rome Georgia was taken by the state of Georgia in 1834. Despite his efforts, the Cherokees were removed from Lookout Mountain and the rest of the southeast in 1838. John Ross


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