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Dragging Canoe

see also Dragging Canoe & The Chickamauga Cherokees

see also How Dragging Canoe Got His Name

CHEROKEE DRAGON © Talmadge Davis
Wes Studi as Dragging Canoe - click image!

Dragging Canoe was one of the greatest warriors of Cherokee recorded history. A cousin to Nancy Ward he was one of the first to propose a united Native front against Westward colonization. Dragging Canoe founded the Chickamauguas Cherokee's, made up of many nations to fight with the British against the colonist.

"Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man's advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delewares? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi (Cherokee) land. They wish to have that usurpation sanctioned by treaty. When that is gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the Tsalagi (Cherokees). New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country, which the Tsalagi (Cherokees) and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of the Ani Yvwiya, The Real People, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Tsalagi (Cherokees), the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than to submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will hold our land." - Chief Dragging Canoe, Chickamauga Tsalagi (Cherokee) 1775


Overhill Cherokee Treaty (Sycamore Shoals)

The Transylvania Land Company aka Henderson Purchase, for most of Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, led by Richard Henderson of Hillsborough, North Carolina, the largest private real estate transaction in United States' history. For the price of 2,000 pounds sterling and 8,000 pounds in goods (about six wagon loads of goods worth), he purchased 20 million acres of land from the Cherokee Nation that included the Cumberland River watershed and lands on the Kentucky River (all of eastern and central Kentucky).

During these dealings, the local settlers "purchased" the right to remain on the Cherokee land that they were living on in the Watauga settlement. One of the minor chiefs, Dragging Canoe, opposed to the selling of the Cherokee ancestral hunting grounds, warned the whites that they were purchasing a "dark and bloody ground."

Dragging Canoe embarked on a war trail against settlements in Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas that would last for seventeen years. The Chickamaugan Cherokee were over 2000 warriors from the Carolinas, Northern Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and these warriors were mostly from the Wolf Clan of the Cherokee Nation, which was the warriors that protect the Cherokee Nation.

These where the best warriors from this tribes, from the Cherokee were the Chickamaugan Cherokee Warriors, and from the Creek where the Red Lance Warriors. To help you understand what they where, they were similar to the Cheyenne Dog Warriors of the Cheyenne Nation.

1776 March 1

Dragging Canoe went to Mobile, AL, to escort 2 British Commissioners, Cameron (Dragging Canoe's adopted brother), to bring a pack-train to the Cherokee back to Chota & give the British line re. the upcoming American Revolution. Dragging Canoe was in full agreement.

1776 April

Back at Chota, Alexander Cameron advises Indian neturality because there were Loyalists among whites - Indians wouldn't know the difference. Cameron & Stuart sent letters to whites in the area. Text was altered to foment anti-Indian sentiment (fear of attack).

Delegations of northern Indians, predominantly Shawnee (Cornstalk?), came to Chota requesting a Cherokee alliance against the American. Raven of Chota led an attack against the Carter Valley setniments - burned houses, but Americans had withdrawn. Nancy Ward, a "Beloved Woman of the Cherokee," having been a warrior in her day, forewarned the Americans.

Abram of Chilhowee led the attack against Fort Wautaugo where Sevier was at the time. They laid siege, and nothing happened, so the Cherokee withdrew. Dragging Canoe went against the Holston River settlements, including the Eton Station fort, but the Americans, forewarned by Nancy Ward, were prepared and successfully defended themselves. The Cherokee attacked, Dragging Canoe got shot through both legs; his brother, Little Owl, also got hit.

The Cherokee withdrew for lack of numbers. Elders, indluding Oconostota, wanted to capitulate and offered a reward of 100 pounds on the heads of Dragging Canoe and Alexander Cameron. No record of known attempts on their lives. Dragging Canoe responded by withdrawing from the area and moved with his people to the Chattanooga area. Joined by survivors of the Lower Towns of South Carolina.

1776 July

700 Chickamauga attacked two American forts in North Carolina: Eaton's Station and Fort Watauga. Both assaults failed, but the raids set off a series of attacks by other Cherokee and the Upper Creek on frontier settlements in Tennessee and Alabama. The Wataugans, led by their popular and soon-to-be-famous Indian fighter John Sevier, repulsed the onslaught and swiftly counter-attacked. With the help of militia from North Carolina and Virginia, they invaded the heartland of the Cherokee and put their towns to the torch.


At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he leaves his father Attakullakulla up north Knoxville way, moves families downriver to Chickamauga & Chattanooga & Running Water Creeks ... Upper & Lower Towns. [At the beginnging of the year Dragging Canoe wanted to attack the American whites, and vice versa. However, most of the Cherokee were opposed to war. The British didn't want indians involved. Letter were copied, faked, and derisive comments about Indians were added, and copies were circulated to stir up anti-British hate among Indians.]

Dragging Canoe was very militant. Led an attack against whites, but didn't have much of a following. Rather than capitulate with the older men, he and other disillusioned warriors moved south to Chattanooga and Chickamauge Creeks and became the warsome Chickamauga wage war against the settlers for the next twenty years.

1776 September

Americans destroyed more than 36 Cherokee towns killing every man, woman and child they could find. [Rather than killing all the indians, impropmptu slave auctions on site were held to raise money for the White militia by selling Native women & children. ] 1777 Unable to continue resistance, the Cherokee in the area asked for peace. The Treaties of DeWitt's Corner (May) and Long Island (or Holston) (July) were signed at gunpoint and forced the Cherokee to cede almost all of their remaining land in the Carolinas.

1777 Summer

Dragging Canoe led raids against American settlers as far up as southern Virginia - killing whites whenever they could find them & burning houses. 1778-79 Most Cherokee fighters (made up of many half-bloods & mixed-bloods, predominatly white mix - French, English, Irish, Spanish & American-born whites, Cherokee, Shawnee, Creek, and free Blacks) went to Georgia to join the British forces in the Georgia campaign.


Cherokee under Dragging Canoe joined the side of Great Britain in the American Revolution against encroaching white settlement. Tsi'yu-gunsini (Dragging Canoe) and the Chickamauga refused the Overhill Cherokee Treaty, and kept raiding the new settlements.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, the Cherokee received requests from the Mohawk, Shawnee, and Ottawa to join them against the Americans, but the majority of the Cherokee decided to remain neutral in the white man's war. The Chickamauga, however, remained at war with the Americans and formed an alliance with the Shawnee.



Evan Shelby attacks & burns 11 Chickamauga towns in the Chattanooga area while Dragging Canoe was in Georgia. Upon learning of this, Dragging Canoe & men come back, and Cameron with British arms comes also. At this time a Shawnee delegation came down to see if the burning of the towns had broken the Cherokee resistance. Dragging Canoe assured them that he would keep fighting.

Alexander Cameron recorded Dragging Canoe's speech, "We are not yet conquered." A group of Cherokee went to the Shawnee to fight with them and to assure consolidation of will. Likewise, a group of Shawnee, including Tecumseh's widowed mother, her son, Tecumseh, a boy, and his triplet brothers, including the later White Prophet, came down.

Their older brother fought with distinction, but was killed a few years later in the raid on Nashville. Dragging Canoe then moves Chickamaugans in Lower Town of Running Water; Breath established Nickajack by Nickajack Cave - across the river from Little Cedar Mountain.


Dragging Canoe rescued the British Col. Brown in the American Siege of Augusta. Returned home. The Chickamauga remained hostile and renewed their attacks against western settlements in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. Continued his resistance, attacks Nashville against Cumberland settlements.

1781 July

After more fighting, the forced second Treaty of Long Island of Holston confirmed the 1777 forced cessions and then took more Cherokee land. 1782 The English give up the war effort and sued for peace. Dragging Canoe established contact with the Spanish in Florida and British in Canada and Detroit. 1790 Chickamaugans continued action with the Shawnee in the Ohio Valley: the Ohio Chickamaugans. 1790-94 "Little Turtle's War" of the Miami in the Ohio Valley with the Wyandots, Delaware, Hurons, Mohawks and Dakota.

After their initial victories. From here, they had the unofficial encouragement of the Spanish governments of Florida and Louisiana and continued attacking American settlements. One of these incidents almost killed a young Nashville attorney/land speculator named Andrew Jackson, which may explain his later attitude regarding the Cherokee.

1791 January

Chickamauga Chief Glass/"Catawba Killer" captured James Hubbard and 16 men building a blockhouse at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and released them with a warning not to return.

1791 November 4

Combined force of Chickamaugans, Creek, Anishnabe (Chippewa), Shawnee, Deleware, Iroquois, Miami, Wynadot and Dakota totally annhilated the forces of American Gen. Arthur St. Clair at the Wabash River in Indiana. "St. Clair's Defeat" - the biggest (number of whtie's killed) united Native triumph in history.

1792 March 17

Chickamauga Chief Glass and Dragging Canoe's brother, Turtle At Home, way-laid the John Collingsworth family near Nashville, killing the father, mother, and a daughter, and capturing an eight-year-old girl. Returning to Lookout Town (near Trenton, Georgia), they held a scalp dance, grinding one of the scalps in his teeth as he performed. Dragging Canoe, recently returned from Mississippi after meeting with Choctaws, celebrated the occasion so strenuously that he died the following morning, age ±54 having devoted his life to saving the Cherokee culture and the beliefs that "We are not yet conquered."

The reason for his death was a very small cut from a rifle ball on his side that went unattended and became infected. It was normal after each battle that the Chief and his warriors dance and gave thanks to Yowa (God, Creator) for a great victory. This would go on for several days and nights. Over many years he Made Many Wounds, but this little cut would finnish him off.

John Watts became War Chief of the Chickamaugan Cherokee Warriors at Dragging Canoe's death and continued to lead the fight against the White Eyes until 1794, at which time he decided to try diplomatic efforts.

Today the Indian Creek Band Chickamauga Creek Inc. is a Teaching Council,  and we go to Schools, Colleges, clubs, Churches, or to anyone that asks us to come and give a program. We are a non-profit organization, the ONLY time we ask for money is when we are asked to go a long way to put on a program -- then we need money to cover the cost of getting their and having a place for our people to stay.

We pray to Yowa that he will watch over you, and not place to many sharp stones in your path.

Wado, Chief Little Red Wolf

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