Cherokee Chief Junaluska
|Chief Junaluska Memorial
|Robbinsville, North Carolina
Cherokee Chief Junaluska
(ca. 1775 - November 20, 1858)*
The script on the bronze plaque,
bolted to a great hunk of native stone, reflects: “Here lie the bodies of the Cherokee Chief, Junaluska, and Nicie,
his wife. Together with his warriors he saved the life of General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, and for his bravery and faithfulness North Carolina made him
a citizen and gave him land in Graham County.”
An organization known as “Junaluska’s Friends” was recently organized, and restored the Junaluska grave
site. Their work will be primarily devoted to keeping alive the memory of this Chief.
|Cherokee Chief Junaluska
Junaluska, the Cherokee
who saved Andrew Jackson’s life and made him a national hero, lived to regret it. Born in the North Carolina mountains (present-day
Murphy, North Carolina) around 1775, he made his name and fame among his own people in the War of 1812; when the "mighty
tribe of Creek Indians allied themselves with the British against the United
States." At the start of the Creek War, Junaluska recruited about 800 Cherokee warriors to
"go to the aid of Andrew Jackson" in northern Alabama. Joined
by reinforcements from Tennessee, including more Cherokee, the Cherokee spent the early months
of 1814 performing duties in the rear, while Jackson and his Tennessee
militia moved like a scythe through the Creek towns. In March, however, word arrived that the Creek Indians were massed behind
fortifications at Horseshoe Bend. Jackson, with an army of 2,000 men, including 500 Cherokee led by Junaluska, advanced towards
the Bend, 70 miles away. There, the Tallapoosa made a bend that enclosed 100 acres in a narrow
peninsula opening to the north. On the lower side was an island in the river. Across the neck of the peninsula the Creek had
built a strong breastwork of logs and hidden dozens of canoes; if retreat became necessary.
The fort was defended by 1,000
warriors. There were also 300 women and children. As cannon fire bombarded the fort, the Cherokee crossed the river at a ford
three miles below the fort and surrounded the bend to block the Creek escape route. They took position where the Creek fort
was separated by water. The battle raged throughout the morning. There were dead and wounded on both sides. Among the frontiersmen
fighting for Jackson that day were Sam Houston & Davy Crockett. Although David (Davy) Crockett
allied himself with General Andrew Jackson against the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Tennessee Congressman strongly
and openly opposed President Jackson's (7th President 1829-1837) Indian removal policies, which ultimately cost Crockett his political career. Consequently, Crockett
relocated to Texas and died in the Battle of the Alamo.
In the presence of Jackson, a few captured Creeks
were being questioned, when one broke loose, snatched a knife, and lunged for Jackson.
Junaluska, witnessed it and quickly responded by sticking out a foot and tripping the Creek warrior, saving Jackson’s life. As the battle continued, Junaluska conceived a brilliant plan. Without
notifying Jackson, he gathered a dozen Cherokees, sneaked
to the river’s edge behind the fort, plunged into the water, and swam over to where the Creek canoes were moored. Junaluska
and his braves freed the canoes and maneuvered them to the opposite bank where other Cherokee warriors piled into them and,
under cover of a steady fire from their own companions, returned to the opposite bank, thus breaching Creek defenses. When
more than half the Creeks lay dead, the remnant retreated into the river, only to find the banks on the opposite side lined
with blazing guns. Of the 1,300 Creeks inside the stockade, including women and children, not more than 20 escaped. Of 300
prisoners, only three were men. Two weeks after the decisive battle, Billy Weatherford, the greatest of the Creek chiefs,
surrendered to Jackson, turning the general into a national
When the battle of Horseshoe
Bend concluded, Jackson is reported to have told Junaluska:
“As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there shall be friendship between us, and the feet of the Cherokee shall
be toward the east.” In a few short years Junaluska would have occasion to recall those words with bitterness. When
the great removal of the Cherokee began, Junaluska said: “If I had known that Jackson
would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe.”
Today’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are direct descendants of the Cherokee Indians who avoided, or survived,
the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears.
Junaluska was among the Cherokee
removed to the West during the Trail of Tears in 1838. But he returned to the mountains of his birth in 1842, walking all
the way from what is now Oklahoma. And when he returned,
the state of North Carolina intervened and recognized the debt that America owed him. By a special act of the state legislature in 1847, North Carolina conferred upon him the right of citizenship and granted him a tract of land in what is
now Robbinsville, Graham County.
Junaluska died on November 20, 1858, and was buried on a hill above the town where, in 1910, the General Joseph Winston Chapter
of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument to his memory.
Junaluska has been memorialized
by Lake Junaluska, Junaluska Assembly, Junaluska
Creek, Junaluska Gap, Junaluska Ridge, Mount Junaluska, and Junaluska Rock.
*Dates provided courtesy Eastern
Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Museum of the Cherokee Indian.
Sources: Eastern Band of Cherokee
Nation; Museum of the Cherokee Indian; National Archives.
Recommended Reading: Trail of Tears (Hardcover). Description:
Insightful, rarely told history of Indian courage in the face of White expansionism in the 19th century. Truth-telling tale
of the ruthless brutality that forced the Native American population into resettlement camps and reservations, with a look
at the few white Americans who fought to help them. This is an amazing book. Continued below...
and the author's gift of vision and words produce a magnificently readable narrative of the American Indian Removals. It is
very balanced with no point of view overlooked. Include many surprising appearances and plenty of twists which will make you
laugh out loud and break your heart. A very human book and an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to learn history through
the eyes and ears (and hearts) of those that experienced it. You won't be able to put it down.
The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears: The Penguin Library of American Indian History series (Penguin Library
of American Indian History) (Hardcover). Description: Today, a fraction of the Cherokee people remains in their traditional
homeland in the southern Appalachians. Most Cherokees were forcibly relocated to eastern
Oklahoma in the early nineteenth century. In 1830 the U.S. government shifted its policy from one of trying to assimilate American Indians to one
of relocating them and proceeded to drive seventeen thousand Cherokee people west of the Mississippi.
The Cherokee Nation and the Trail
of Tears recounts this pivotal moment in American history and considers its impact on the Cherokee, on U.S.-Indian relations,
and on contemporary society. Guggenheim Fellowship-winning historian Theda Perdue and coauthor Michael D. Green explain the
various and sometimes competing interests that resulted in the Cherokee’s expulsion, follow the exiles along the Trail
of Tears, and chronicle their difficult years in the West after removal.
The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford
Series in History and Culture) (Paperback). Description: This book tells the compelling story of American ethnic cleansing
against the Cherokee nation through an admirable combination of primary documents and the editors' analyses. Perdue and Green
begin with a short but sophisticated history of the Cherokee from their first interaction with Europeans to their expulsion
from the East to the West; a region where Georgia, North
Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama
connect. The reader is directed through a variety of documents commenting on several important themes: the "civilizing" of
the Cherokee (i.e. their adoption of European culture), Georgia's leading role in pressuring the Cherokee off their land and
demanding the federal government to remove them by force, the national debate between promoters and opponents of expulsion,
the debate within the Cherokee nation, and a brief look at the deportation or forced removal. Continued below...
Conveyed in the voices of the Cherokee and the framers of the debate,
it allows the reader to appreciate the complexity of the situation. Pro-removal Americans even made racist judgments of the
Cherokee but cast and cloaked their arguments in humanitarian rhetoric. Pro-emigration Cherokee harshly criticize the Cherokee
leadership as corrupt and possessing a disdain for traditional Cherokee culture. American defenders and the Cherokee leadership
deploy legal and moral arguments in a futile effort to forestall American violence. “A compelling and stirring read.”
Recommended Reading: Famous Indian Chiefs: Their Battles, Treaties, Sieges And Struggles With The Whites For The Possession
Of America (Hardcover) (516 pages). Description: This comprehensive
book, regarding famous 'Native American Indian Chiefs', is drawn from the chiefs'
own words from rare manuscripts, diaries, treaties, Bureau of Indian Affairs, special collections, national archives, and
repositories, and it vividly portrays the chiefs' struggles, thoughts and views. There are two sides to every story and this
is their story - the untold story and it has finally been explored and portrayed with this scholarly research. I highly recommend
500 Nations (372 minutes). Description: 500 Nations is an eight-part documentary (more than 6 hours and that's not including its interactive CD-ROM filled with extra features) that explores
the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-Colombian times through the period of European contact and colonization,
to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America. 500
Nations utilizes historical texts, eyewitness accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions
to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic
and tragic story of the Native American nations' desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds.
word "Indian," and most will conjure up images inspired by myths and movies: teepees, headdresses, and war paint; Sitting
Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and their battles (like Little Big Horn) with the U.S. Cavalry. Those stories of the so-called
"horse nations" of the Great
Plains are all here, but so is a great deal more. Using impressive computer imaging, photos, location film footage
and breathtaking cinematography, interviews with present-day Indians, books and manuscripts, museum artifacts, and more, Leustig
and his crew go back more than a millennium to present an fascinating account of Indians, including those (like the Maya and
Aztecs in Mexico and the Anasazi in the Southwest) who were here long before white men ever reached these shores.
the arrival of Europeans like Columbus, Cortez, and DeSoto that marked the beginning of the end for the Indians. Considering
the participation of host Kevin Costner, whose film Dances with Wolves was highly sympathetic to the Indians, it's no bulletin
that 500 Nations also takes a compassionate view of the multitude of calamities--from alcohol and disease to the corruption
of their culture and the depletion of their vast natural resources--visited on them by the white man in his quest for land
and money, eventually leading to such horrific events as the Trail of Tears "forced march," the massacre at Wounded Knee,
and other consequences of the effort to "relocate" Indians to the reservations where many of them still live. Along the way,
we learn about the Indians' participation in such events as the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as well as popular
legends like the first Thanksgiving (it really happened) and the rescue of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas (it probably didn't).
The Cherokee Nation: A History. Description: Conley's book, "The Cherokee Nation: A History" is an eminently readable, concise
but thoughtful account of the Cherokee people from prehistoric times to the present day. The book is formatted in such a way
as to make it an ideal text for high school and college classes. At the end of each chapter is a source list and suggestions
for further reading. Also at the end of each chapter is an unusual but helpful feature- a glossary of key terms. The book
contains interesting maps, photographs and drawings, along with a list of chiefs for the various factions of the Cherokee
tribe and nation. Continued below...
In addition to being easily understood, a principal strength
of the book is that the author questions some traditional beliefs and sources about the Cherokee past without appearing to
be a revisionist or an individual with an agenda in his writing. One such example is when Conley tells the story of Alexander
Cuming, an Englishman who took seven Cherokee men with him to England in 1730. One of the Cherokee,
Oukanekah, is recorded as having said to the King of England: "We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our Father,
and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white our hands and hearts are joined together..."
Conley wonders if Oukanekah actually said those words and points out that the only version we have of this story is the English
version. There is nothing to indicate if Oukanekah spoke in English or Cherokee, or if his words were recorded at the time
they were spoken or were written down later. Conley also points out that in Cherokee culture, the Sun was considered female,
so it is curious that King George would be looked upon as the Sun. The "redness" of Native American skin was a European perception.
The Cherokee would have described themselves as brown. But Conley does not overly dwell on these things. He continues to tell
the story using the sources available. The skill of Conley in communicating his ideas never diminishes. This book is highly
recommended as a good place to start the study of Cherokee history. It serves as excellent reference material and belongs
in the library of anyone serious about the study of Native Americans.