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Four War Leaders Of The Cherokee Nation by Native American Artist, Talmadge

Four War Leaders Of
 The Cherokee Nation

The Four Principal Headmen
of the Cherokee Nation were
chosen for their outstanding
leadership abilities in strategy
and warfare.   Their titles within
the tribe were the Wolf, the
Raven (the wartime Chief), the Fox,
and the Owl.   The interesting thing
about this is that even though they
are the tribe's leaders, each
ndividual clan also has their leaders.
These were the Four Paramount Leaders.

see Black Chickamaugan Indians

see more Traditional Chickamaugan Story Fires
see Nativistic Movements Among the Cherokees
see Green Family traditional Cherokee Story Fires passed down from as far back as 1550





These are the story fires of the Indian Creek Band of the Southern Wolf Clans that made up the Creek Indians of the Chickamauga Creek and Cherokee Indians in Alabama from late 1794 to the fall of the Red Stick Warriors at Horse Shoe Bend, in Southern Alabama.

But the story really did not end there - it went on in Florida until around 1858.

A Creek Warrior

The Creek Indian well deserves his title of Warrior. Generally he prizes and value his honor, and the historical records show that most of the Indian Chiefs have been honorable and full of valor.

From the infancy, however, he has been taught that war was a business, and that he was born to be a victorious fighter. He glorified in his forest and growing fields, was brave, but full of craftiness and strategy, but really never a thief, or dishonest, in a legitimate deal.

To him, war was serious and he prepared for it everyday and hour of his life by dancing, drinking, what the Indians called black drink, and by a religious belief known by the over all name of Totemism, consulting the Great Spirit.

So you will understand were this story is taken place it is from the Chattahoochee river in the Eastern part of Alabama to the Black Warriors river, to the West in Alabama.

Even today, near what is known as Clayton, Barbour County, Alabama, Indian Creek may be found on maps. Barbour County Alabama was well known for it's Indain raids. See the Alabama State Archive for more background information.

This is where Osceola, Chief Billy Bowlegs, and many others of our relatives passed through, and where much of this story takes place.

Chief Bill BowLegs

Chief Billy Bowlegs, 1827 founder of the Indian Creek Band

The Chickamawgee Warrior painted himself and bedecked his body with feathers and bright emblems, to make himself look like the devils they were supposed to imitate, when fighting. These warriors thought more of fighting than working, and for a livelihood chose to hunt and fish, while the women stayed at home, tilled the soil and the work of making the laws in the long houses, and each doing their bit, not measured, but whatever they chose to do to support the tribe and clans and family. Generally, as husbands and wives, they were true to their mates, and it was seldom that domestic trouble ever arose over unfaithfulness.

The Creek Indians were vengeful, and never forgot an injury. They were fast on foot, sneaking, but not liars. They knew nothing of whiskey until the white eyes came among us, and, unfortunately, in some settlement there were a few of the low class whites. These whites bartered with the Indians, giving them poor whiskey and, imitating the white man, the fire water, as they called it, wrought havoc among them for both Indians and white.

Another unfortunate fact was that lower class whites began intimate associations with the Indians.

Andrew Jackson

When Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States, about one fourth of the territory of Alabama was normally controlled by and belonged to Indians: Creeks, Cherokee, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Uchees. The Settlers had long wearied of living among them and their domination. After there had been an inflow of over an hundred thousand people by 1830, the lands these Indians held had become necessary to the whites and a demand was made, that the Indians be removed. Tree treaties, Treaty with the Choctaw (Dancing Rabbit Creek) 1830, Treaty with the Creeks (Cusseta) 1832, and Treaty with the Cherokee (Echota) 1835, were the legal vehicles by which these Indians ceded their lands to the whites.

There is no word known to Indians at that time for "sale," and we never could understand how you could sell the Mother Earth, as we did not own her -- so how could we sell her?

At this time you must understand that the war had been going against the United States with the Creek, Cherokee since around 1754, when Dragging Canoe began the fight over land belonging to the Cherokee Nation (which his own father later admitted that he had been the main land broker) and the White people were taking more and more of the Indians homelands.

The question of the State vs. the Federal Government was the outcome of the Creek Cusseta Treaty, and there was grave controversy. The Settlers on Creek lands disregarded articles of the treaty and many thousands of settlers from other parts of Alabama flocked in. In Washington, Andrew Jackson knowing of the problem with the Choctaw, the Creek, and the Chickasaws in Alabama, had signed treaties giving to the United States Government all of their lands east of the Mississippi River. White settlers began pouring into the territory.

The government had promised the Indians homes in the West. It also promised that they would not be disturbed in their Alabama homes until the date set for their removal. But some of the white settlers were impatient and seemed anxious to take charge of their lands just whenever it suited them. Much trouble was begun in this way.

Some of the settlers were so lawless and so notorious that they had to be ejected. Hardeman Owens, one of the people living in Russell county (one of the counties in the Creek Indian Territory, then Barbour county) who was an outlaw and desperado among the people living on Indian lands (so said the Charleston Courier) and he refused to leave. He was killed by troops sent to guard him. This was one of the most severe acts of these troops stationed at Fort Mitchell, and created great excitement all over the state.

In August 1833, soldiers from Fort Mitchell, Alabama killed this white man, Owen Hardeman, because he had disobeyed a United States officer and had moved into the Indian lands too soon -- but this man was an habitual outlaw. The soldiers at Fort Mitchell had been told to help in removing any persons who refused to obey the officer’s orders.

Gov John Gayle
Gov John Gayle

Other settlers were very indignant over the death of Hardeman Owen. The grand jury of Russell county wanted to punish the soldiers who took part in the killing of Hardeman Owen. Governor John Gayle wrote a letter to President Andrew Jackson, telling him that the people of Alabama felt that they were being mistrusted.

President Jackson then sent Francis Scott Key from Washington to Alabama to straighten out the trouble. Mr. Key went first to Fort Mitchell where the soldiers were stationed. He found out what he could there, and then went to Tuscaloosa, which was the capital of the state at that time.

Francis Scott Key

Key and Governor Gayle talked the matter over and came to an agreement. Mr. Key told the Governor that the lands set aside for the Indians in the west would soon be ready for them, and that if the settlers in Alabama would leave the Red Men alone for a short while, everything could be reasonably arranged. For a short time thing became quiet, then the settler’s one agent move on to the Indians lands, but Mr. Key had gone back to Washington.

Francis Scott Key thought he had managed this trouble well, but he did not. But that is not the reason why every one in America honors him. He wrote our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, long years before he came on his peace mission to Alabama.

So tense was the situation, in 1832 the United State Marshall, with troops from Fort Mitchell, Alabama (my father R D. Chance is laid to rest there) in Barbour County (now Russell County) attempted to drive the settlers out and thereby created a very serious crisis.

Congress was appealed to and protests made to the War department. The question was whether or not these lands had been purposely selected for the Indians, and white settlers where about to be moved off in a given time. (Chief Little Red Wolf was born at Indian Creek in Barbour County Alabama.) The county adjoining Barbour County (then not yet created) had white settlers living on lands claimed by Indians, and this emboldened others to land-squat also. It was in December 1832, with these conditions existing, that the state exerted its right over this territory (despite the federal government claim) by creating nine new counties of which Barbour county was one. This supposedly gave them the legal right to negotiate treaty with the Indians, and this was done.

Gov. Gayle was criticized for the state of things in Russell County, (then Barbour County) but he took a bold stand for state rights (how about Indians rights?) When the State and Military Government leaders clashed, and the Federal Commandant at Fort Mitchell refused to turn over to the sheriff of Russell County the Soldiers and Officers indicted for the murder of Owens, Gayle was forced to send the details of the case to the War Department in Washington, and finally for consideration to President Jackson.

When he was a young boy, Jackson had been a captive of the Chickamauga Cherokee -- and came close to being killed -- so he had a real hate for all Indians.

Gov. Gayle, anxious to maintain peace, had early left orders that local Militia be organized in the new counties and begged the people to keep calm, urging the settlers to look to the law for protection, and refrain from violence against the Indians. But they would not be calm. Mass meeting were held and men volunteered to go to arms if needed. By December, excitement was rife both in Alabama and at Washington and the Nation, believed Alabama to be on the verge of an Indian War, which had actually been going on since 1757.

It was rumored that troops at Fort Mitchell, Alabama, were being reinforced to uphold the treaty. Legislators were preparing resolutions endangering the good principles of the Governor, and authorizing him to see that the laws justification of the State, be maintained in full force, and force and effect in the said counties. The political result of this Chickamauga Creek and Cherokee Indian controversy was to produce friction among the leaders of the Democratic party, and to weaken Jackson's influence in the State. These facts are obtained from some old records at Clayton, Alabama, Courthouse, and are verified by facts related in Moore History of Alabama. But the breech was closed, Gov. Gayle turned to the Whig Party, becoming a Whig elector in the Log Cabin and Hard Cider campaign of the early 1800s.

It was clearly shown that Jackson's loss of prestige in the State, and the progress of State rights sentiment resulted from the growth of the State and from the Creek and Cherokee Indian controversy. This gave Democrats not a little trouble in middle thirties. (see more history of Alabama. )

Photo by: Bard Wrisley © 1990

At first the Chickamauga Creek were friendly in their association with the white settlers in the villages along the Chattahoochee river, but gradually they to resent the intrusion of the white on to the Indians lands. After some Missionaries and land agents arrived from the New England States -- who were in sympathy with the Chickamauga Indians -- an appeal was made to the Government at Washington, seeking some redress for what they claimed was persecution.

United States troops were sent in and the section was put under military control. In many cases, whites were ordered out of the community, but these homesteaders only scattered about in different sections of what is now Barbour County. After a period of terror and conflict in 1827 known as the Chickamauga Creek Indian Wars, a treaty was arranged with the Government, (who always ends up finding ways to break the treaty that they wish to made) permitting the whites to buy the Indians lands. Indians never understood the buying and the selling of Mother Earth. So, the four tribes -- led by Osceola, Red Eagle, Red Wolf, and Tustunneegee, known as Chief Bill Bowlegs -- were the Uchee, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee.

The Chiefs went on the war path from 1827 to 1835, and the settlements went through struggles from those early days, on through the years until 1846... and finally developed a real settlement of Barbour County at the cost to the Indians, and a hardship was put on them. Chief Tustunneegee was a friend of the whites -- until the Chickamauga Creek Indian War broke out in the early 1800s. Then there were days and months when the women and Children had to be placed in stockades which had been hastily and crudely built, and this reign of terror was not over for them until a second military detachment was sent for their protection. This was a fight that the Indians was force into by the white.

Finally, the four chiefs, Osceola, Red Eagle, Red Wolf, and Tustunneegee, known as Chief Billy Bowlegs, in a council of war against the whites, made Tustunneegee, the Creek Chief known as Billy Bowlegs, leader of the Southern Wolf Clans and the Indian Creek Band.

At Weschler's March 8th, 1997 auction of American and European paintings in Washington, D.C., a portrait of the Seminole Indian leader Osceola brought $86,250 from a private bidder on the phone.

Osceola was born in Macon County, Alabama. His mothers people, the Red Sticks, lived on the Chattahoochee, the water of which were very dark, because of the roots of plants that grew along the banks of the river.

Polly Copinger named her little son Osceola (Asi Yahola=Black Drink Singer). Osceola was only fourteen years old when he led a fierce attack upon the white people in Alabama whom he hated. No big Indian Chief ever hated white men more than this young warrior did. Perhaps his father was responsible for the way Osceola felt toward all white people, for his father was a white man by the name of Powell who was none too kind to Osceola’s little brown mother.

It is said of Polly Copinger that she was a high-tempered Indian Chief's child, who was so indignant because of Powell's treatment of her being beating, that she took her young son and went back to her own people. She hated white people ever afterwards, and taught Osceola to hate them, too. But, though Osceola was fierce and cruel, he always told his warriors to treat women and children kindly.

When the Indians were forced to flee before the white army, which the government sent to try to conquer the Creek and Cherokee, Osceola led over 200 of his warriors, women and children into the Everglades of Florida, where they joined the Seminoles. Osceola was not very tall and not very straight, but his bravery, his undying hatred of the whites, and his purpose to fight them made him a strong man.

Imagine a medium-sized Indian man, dressed in a buckskin shirt that reached to his knees, a turban of gray, silver coin earrings, leggings and moccasins that were fringed and beaded, and you will have a mind picture of the young chieftain. Osceola was very skillful with the bow and arrow, although he liked the white man's gun better, and he handled a gun perfectly.

In one battle Osceola killed forty white men by himself. He became the leader of the Seminoles with two chiefs -- Jumper and Alligator -- under him, and they were as brave as Osceola himself. For fifteen years this leader of the Seminole went from one chief to another, preaching death to the white and begging the chiefs to hold the lands which their forefathers owned. It was due to Osceola’s activities that the United State Government spent ten million dollars, and lost two thousand men, in an war to conquer the Creek, Seminole, Chickamauga creek and Cherokee --  a war that the United State could not win. Only part of the Seminoles were eventually sent west.

"I will not sign the treaty to give away Indian lands, and I will kill any chief who does sign it," cried Osceola, when the government agent was trying to get the Indians to leave Florida. But in the end (The Treaty of Payne’s Landing) was signed by some Indian chief and the Indians said goodbye to their old hunting grounds. It was impossible for the white soldiers to capture the cunning chief, for he knew the Everglades, and they did not. At last he was persuaded to go to St. Augustine to talk the matter over, and while there he was put in prison. HE DIED IN CHAINS AT fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina.


All good Indians -- and some bad ones too -- believed that when Osceola’s spirit passed away, it joined those of other brave Indians who had gone before to the happy hunting ground. Chief Billy Bowlegs tryed to keep the peace in Florida and he became the head Chief of the Seminoles and was forced to lead the third Seminole War of 1855-1858. Chief Billy Bowlegs, and his war-weary band, had carryed on a good fight from early 1827, but had to surrendered on May 7, 1858. Thirty-eight warriors and eight-five women and children, including Billy’s wife boarded the steamer, Grey Cloud, at Egmont Key to begin their journey to Indian territory.

Chief Billy Bowlegs died soon after his arrival in Indian Territory. For well over thirty years Chief Billy Bowlegs carry on the fight to keep the lands of our forefathers. He formed the Indian Creek Band in Alabama to try to keep the history of our people from dieing out. He carried on the fight of Dragging Canoe from Alabama alone... with Chief Osceola, Chief Red Eagle, and Chief Red Wolf.

After the fall of the Red Stick Warriors of the Creek Nation at Horseshoe Bend, and the fall and removal of the Chickamauga Creek from Barbour County, Alabama the United States Army moved against the Cherokee home lands in North Carolina and Georgia -- taking women, children, old ones and the sick. Families were broken up to never to be together again, being pulled together like animals to be kill. Many hundreds died on the trail of tears.

But what it really did was to take the Cherokee Nation apart, so it could never be put together as a nation of one people again. But a prophecy has persisted all these years, that when a fourth Cherokee was recognized by a government, healing unity would follow. Now that the Cherokee Nation of Mexico has been recognized, time will tell.

Today the Cherokee people are all over the country and the planet, and are told they can not be who they once were. From the first time in the middle 1750s, Dragging Canoe told of the coming days when the white man would not stop, and they would push the Native Peoples from the face of Mother Earth. But it did not take the white man to do it, we did it to ourselves.  

In the year 2000, the Native People are the fewest in number of all the races of people in the United States, but we keep speaking out, trying to make our words heard. The prophetic words of Dragging Canoe will never die.

Today, the Chickamauga Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Shawnee, and others carry on Dragging Canoe's fight by utilising Billy BowLeg's vision: to disseminating information in schools, churches, hospitals, clubs, etc. ... in order to save our culture... by educating the young descendants of our old enemies.


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