Source:Alderman, Pat. Nancy Ward - Dragging Canoe

Source Nancy Ward - Dragging Canoe
Cherokee chieftainess and Cherokee-Chickamauga war chief
Author Alderman, Pat
Place North Carolina, United States
Tennessee, United States
Cherokee Nation East
Year range 1715 - 1824
Surname Attakullakulla, Blount, Brown, Cameron, Christian, Fivekiller, Henderson, Henry, Hildebrand, Kingfisher, Martin, Oconostota, Old Tassel, Ostenaco, Raven, Robertson, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Stuart, Thomas, Timberlake, Ward, Williams
Subject Ethnic/Cultural
Ethnicity / Culture Native American
Publication information
Type Book
Publisher Overmountain Press
Date issued c1978
Place issued Johnson City, Carter, Tennessee, United States
Alderman, Pat. Nancy Ward - Dragging Canoe: Cherokee chieftainess and Cherokee-Chickamauga war chief. (Johnson City, Carter, Tennessee, United States: Overmountain Press, c1978).
Family History Library
Google Books website


This is a documented, capsuled, contemporary story of two outstanding Cherokee personalities. Nancy Ward was a Cherokee Chieftainess and Most Honored Woman of the Cherokee Nation. Her cousin, Dragging Canoe, was Cherokee-Chickamauga War Chief.

The two decades between 1730 and 1750 were filled with events which would greatly influence the Cherokee Nation during the last half of the 18th century. Among them were the voyage of the seven Cherokee to London; the birth of (Dragging Canoe), son of Attakullakulla; and the arrival of Nanye-hi (Nancy Ward), born to the sister of Attakullakulla.

One of the most lasting results of the trip to London by the seven Cherokee was the impression made on the youngest man in the party, Attakullakulla. The greatness and power of the British seems to have molded and dominated the diplomatic policies of Attakullakulla, who became a Chief during the 1730s. These impressions were evident in his talks and actions during the remainder of his years.

Both Nancy and her cousin (Dragging Canoe, The Carpenter's son), must have received many lasting impressions from these recitals. Nancy was likely more impressed by the diplomatic image created, judging from the direction her life followed in later years. must have been more impressed by stories and descriptions of the mighty armies, the power of the big guns on the warships that ruled the waves.

Nancy Ward became an advocate of peace as she matured into tribal leadership. Her cousin Dragging Canoe became the Cherokee patriot savage warrior who spread terror among frontier settlers.

Book Review

Do not be fooled by this book's cover art or small size. This is not a kid's book! It provides the only solid history book avaliable on Nancy Ward (Nan-ye'hi) (1738-1822), warrior, political leader, cultural broker, and peacemaker of the Cherokee.

Nancy Ward's powerful role in Cherokee politics derived from the nation's matrilineal clan and kinship social system. Because of her distinguished lineage and bravery in battle when she took up her slain husband's weapons and led the Cherokee to victory over their Creek rivals in the Battle of Taliwa in 1755, Nancy Ward was honored with her nation's highest position for a woman.

She became the Ghigau, or "Beloved," "Honored," "Red," or "War" Woman of the Cherokee, and head of the Women's Council. This council had authority over vetoing wars (hence the internal Cherokee political conflict with her cousin Dragging Canoe), war parties, and deciding the fate of prisoners. She would use all of these powers during her eventful lifetime. As the Beloved Woman, she was also an influential spokesperson in the chief's councils. She also acted as a "cultural broker" to many European Americans who crowded in on the Cherokees in the southern Appalachian highlands.

This book could be used as a short and inexpensive supplement for any high school or lower-level college course on U.S. History prior to 1840 or Native American history, especially if you want to focus on an American Indian woman in action who is a much more compelling figure than Pocahontas or Sakagawea. Ward's story illustrates that Indian women have always formed the backbone of the Native nations of North America.

It is clear that the author admires Nancy Ward, and perhaps romanticizes her a bit. But Alderman avoids the usual overly positive stereotypes of Ward and one-sidely negative ones for Dragging Canoe. The four star rating rating is only because the author did not quite grasp how Dragging Canoe's actions disrupted the balance and harmony of Cherokee politics. For that story you have to read Tom Holm's brilliant essay, "Politics Came First: A Reflection on Robert K. Thomas and Cherokee History" in the tribute anthology "A Good Cherokee, A Good Anthropologist: Papers in Honor of Robert K. Thomas."

--by "JMS" as posted in's book review entitled A Little Gem of Cherokee History on February 23, 2007

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