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The Cherokee are a Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). Linguistically, they are connected to speakers of the Iroquoian language family. The Cherokee refer to themselves as Tsa-la-gi (pronounced "Jah la gee" in the western dialect, "Zah la gee" or "Tsa lah gee" in the eastern Giduwa dialect) or A-ni-yv-wi-ya (pronounced "Ah knee yuh wee yah" (Western dialect) or "Ah nee yuhn wi yah" (Eastern dialect), literal translation: "Principal People" or Anikituwahgi (original dialect). The individuals listed below, both Native American and European American, are part of the historical record of the Cherokee nation.

Native Americans

  • Attakullakulla (Atagulkalu), known to whites as the Little Carpenter because of the rough English translation of his Cherokee name combined with his diminutive stature, he was the primary diplomat of the Cherokee in the mid-years of the 18th century and headman of Chota. He travelled to London in 1730, where he and six others signed the Articles of Friendship and Trade with George I of Great Britain. He served as the leading chief of the Cherokee until his death in 1775.
  • Bob Benge, a mixed-blood, was one of the most feared warriors of the Lower Cherokee on the frontier during the Chickamauga wars, especially during the laters years. Frequently operating with the band of Doublehead at Coldwater Town and the Shawnee living among the Cherokee as well as Dragging Canoe's warriors, his raids ranged into the Cumberland River valley, the Kentucky hunting grounds, southwestern Virginia, Georgia, western North Carolina, and South Carolina. He was killed in battle in 1794 and his red-haired scalp sent to the governor of Virginia.
  • Charles R. Hicks (Nunnehidihi, or "Pathkiller"), was part of the "Cherokee triumvirate" along with The Ridge and their mentor James Vann in the early 19th century. While The Ridge served as Speaker of the National Council, Hicks became Second Principal Chief to Pathkiller in 1811, and served as de facto Principal Chief from 1813 until Pathkiller's death in 1827, when he then succeeded briefly until his own death by disease two weeks later.
  • Doublehead (Taltsuska) was one of the chief war leaders of the Cherokee during the Chickamauga wars, he led a band that settled at Coldwater Town at the head of Muscle Shoals at the edge of Chickasaw territory. He became one of the triumvirate leading the Lower Cherokee after the death of Dragging Canoe, and the foremost leader after the death of John Watts in 1801. He was the author of many secret land deals with U.S. Indian Commissioner Return J. Meigs, Jr. until his assassination in 1807.
  • Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugunsini), son of Attakullakulla and onetime headman of Great Island Town (Amoyeli-egwa-yi) on the Little Tennessee River, he was the head general of the Cherokee during the Second Cherokee War of 1776-1777, and principal chief of the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee who continued fighting after 1777 during the Chickamauga wars. Allied with the Shawnee and the Upper Mucogee, he was the pre-eminent leader of resistance to encroachment by whites upon the frontier of the Southeast until his death on 1 March 1792.
  • Elias Boudinot (Galagina), also known as "Buck" Watie, was a statesman, orator, and editor. He founded the first Cherokee newspaper, which was written in the syllabary of Sequoyah, called the Cherokee Phoenix, and wrote Poor Sarah, the first Native-American novel.
  • Maj. George Lowery, Jr., was the Second Chief (Assistant Chief) of the Eastern Cherokee, and was a cousin of Sequoyah. He served as Assistant Chief under Principal Chief John Ross from 1843 until 1851.
  • James Vann, son of a Scottish trader surnamed Vann (first named John, James, or Clement), he himself became a trader in the Nation during the Chickamauga wars and fought alongside them in the later years of the wars. After the wars, he became the richest man not only in the Cherokee Nation but east of the Mississippi River, until his murder in 1809. Head of the "Cherokee triumvirate" of the Upper Towns in the early 19th century along with his proteges The Ridge and Charles R. Hicks.
  • John Ridge[1] (Skatlelohski), son of Major Ridge, was during his time one of the most respected and trusted statesmen, not only among his own tribe but all those of the Southeast, largely because of his formal education and because of his staunch defense of the rights of the Southeastern tribes to remain in their homes. The Muscogee (Creek) even tried to have him and his Cherokee legal partner, David Vann, sit in with their chiefs as chiefs themselves to negotiate the best terms once the Muscogee council had decided that removal was inevitable, a decision both Vann and Ridge had argued against. Ridge later became the foremost leader of the Treaty Party among the Cherokee after a conversation with Andrew Jackson in which the President demonstrated that removal for the Cherokee was also inevitable.
  • John Ross (Guwisguwi), longtime Second Principal Chief to Charles R. Hicks, he became the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation East under the constitution of 1828. A former protege of The Ridge, he remainied in that office until after the Cherokee removal in 1838 and becoming first Principal Chief of the reunited Cherokee Nation (East and West) in 1839, serving until his death in 1866.
  • Junaluska (Tsunulahunski) was a leading chief of the Cherokee in North Carolina and noted veteran of the Creek War who endured the Cherokee removal only to return to his home area to live on a homestead and farm granted to him by special dispensation of the state assemblly of North Carolina. His big regret in life was having saved the life of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
  • Major Ridge[2] (Ganundalegi), named Pathkiller during the Chickamauga wars and changed to The Ridge afterwards, was one of the foremost leaders of the Cherokee Nation in the early 19th century and one of the staunchest opponents of emigration to the west prior to 1832. He acquired the title "Major" during his service in the Cherokee unit serving with Andrew Jackson during the Creek War. A protege of Vann, he was part of the "Cherokee triumvirate" in the Upper Towns during the early 19th century along with Vann and Charles R. Hicks.
  • Ned Christie was a Cherokee statesman who was falsely accused of murder in 1887 and killed as an outlaw in 1892. Novels about him include Zeke and Ned, by Larry McMurtry and Diane Osana, and Ned Christie's War by Robert J. Conley.
  • Nimrod Jarrett Smith (Tsaladihi) was the fourth (or fifth) Principal Chief of the Eastern Band, he served the Eastern Band during some of its most turbulent years and helped secure a charter of incorporation for the band from the state of North Carolina. During the American Civil War, he served with the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders.
  • Oconostota (Aganstata), the more warlike counterpart of Attakullakulla, he became the chief war leader of the Cherokee in the years leading up to and including the Anglo-Cherokee War. After that conflict, he became more pacifist, following the line of his predecessor as leading chief, Attakullakulla, in the turbulent years of the early American Revolution.
  • Ostenaco (Ustanakwa) was one of the chief war leaders of the Cherokee nation, and is variously cited as living in Tomotley, Great Tellico, and Keowee. A diplomat and friend to the British, he nonetheless became one of their bitterest opponents when the Province of South Carolina betrayed the Cherokee by taking a number of their leaders hostage, which sparked the Anglo-Cherokee War. After that conflict, he accompanied Henry Timberlake to London to meet George III, King of Great Britain. During the Second Cherokee War, he led the warriors of the Lower Towns against South Carolina, and afterwards, along with Dragging Canoe, led those determined to resist the encroachment of illegal settlers west, he himself founding the town of Ultiwa on Ooltewah (Wolftever Creek).
  • Sam Houston (Kalanu) was the adopted son of Cayuga town headman and later Principal Chief of the Cherokee East John Jolly. He emigrated with his adopted father to Arkansas Territory along with his Cherokee wife; it was her death that moved him to migrate to Texas, to which the parties of The Bowl and Richard Fields had already moved. As President of the Republic of Texas, he became the leading advocate of treaties with the Indian tribes of Texas, especially with the Cherokee.
  • "Sequoyah" (Sikwayi), invented the Cherokee writing system. He is believed to be the only person of an illiterate society to independently invent a writing system.
  • Stand Watie (Degataga), Buck's younger brother, was a famous frontiersman and the last general of Confederate forces to surrender in the American Civil War. He was also the first and only Principal Chief of the Confederate Cherokee, an office to which he was elected overwhelmingly by the majority who remained in the Nation after John Ross and his retinue fled in 1862. (The division between the Confederate and Union Cherokee ended in 1866 with the Treaty of Tahlequah).
  • William Holland Thomas (Wiludsi) was Yonaguska's adopted son and anointed heir, succeeding him in 1839 upon the latter's death. Orphan of a white trader, he served the Eastern Band in the turbulent years of its formation and growth, the interests of the Band against the government of the State of North Carolina, the federal government of the United States of America, and white land speculators.
  • Yonaguska (Yanugunski) of Quallatown became the founding principal chief of what later became the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in 1824.[3]

Europeans & Colonial Americans

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