Join the Spartanburg, SC Regional History Museum tomorrow at 12:30 as researcher, journalist and author Nadia Dean shares the story of the Cherokee effort for independence. Dean’s first book, A Demand of Blood, chronicles the Cherokee War of 1776. Dean was born in Columbia, SC.
At the University of South Carolina, she studied photography and film. In Jerusalem, Dean was the still photographer for the PBS documentary Days of Rage. Her photographs of the Palestinian uprising were published in Time magazine, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She is currently at work on two screenplays. We’re pleased to present the following excerpt from the opening of A Demand of Blood:
His trek through the Smoky Mountains was dangerous—not from its steep and treacherous heights, but from one of an ancient people who lived in these mountains. Being hunted and tracked did not deter him, though other colonials had been slain in these hostile, wooded hills. The messenger pressed on, carrying letters from the Virginia Colonel to Cherokee headmen in Chota.
He delivered the dispatches safely, though death was still at his shoulder. After leaving the council house, he was caught in a moment unguarded. The warrior Dragging Canoe overpowered the rebels’ envoy, killing and scalping him without mercy.
Dragging Canoe was then chief of Mialoquo in the Overhills. Born about 1731, he lived through the 1738 smallpox epidemic, which killed half his people. That he survived gives testament to a strong physical and spiritual constitution. Described as “six feet tall, broad and muscular,” Dragging Canoe made an impressive appearance. His face, “pitted with the scars of smallpox,” made him look ferocious. One 18th century observer described him as a “very large and coarse featured Indian fine with interlect [intellect] and vary strong prejudices.”
Legend suggests the origins of his name. When he was a boy, his father, Attakullakulla, was setting off with a war party. He begged his father to take him along. He was too young, his father told him, but he persisted. His father challenged hi: if he moved the canoe, he could go. As he pulled the heavy canoe across a stretch of shoreline, the warriors began yelling, “Look, he’s dragging the canoe!” From then on, his people called him Tsiyugunsini, meaning, Dragging Canoe.
The Great Warrior of Chota, Oconostota, had a profound impact on Dragging Canoe. Born in 1711, Oconostota became the nation’s leading headman and was called the Beloved Man of Chota. In 1760, as a principal warrior, he led the legendary ambush against Fort Prince George and on August 7, 1760 laid siege to Fort Loudoun. Dragging Canoe’s extraordinary charisma and war exploits made him heir to Oconostota’s mantle of authority.
Attakullakulla led an extraordinary life and had an influential voice in Cherokee councils for nearly half a century. Born around 1710, Attakullakulla was first named Ookoonaka, the White Owl, but the English called him Little Carpenter. Around 1740, he was taken captive by French-allied Ottawa Indians and lived among them until 1748. When he returned to the Overhills, he was elevated to principal deputy to Oconostota. Little Carpenter’s gift for diplomacy earned him the respect of Virginia and South Carolina governors to whom he presented the grievances of his people.
The English described Little Carpenter as a slender man who always had “a smile in his Countenance.” He had two scars on both cheeks, and his earlobes, from which trade silver hung down to his shoulders, were cut and stretched. These physical peculiarities and adornments were marks of distinction, as the Carpenter was considered the most celebrated Cherokee diplomat of his day. Europeans lauded him as having “The Character of being a Man of great Sense.”
In 1730 a delegation of seven Cherokees, including Little Carpenter, made diplomatic history as they ventured across the Atlantic. King George II received them with favor and hospitality. The Cherokees visited St. James Park “habited in rich Garments laced with Gold, presented to them by his Majesty; they were accompanied by several Persons of Quality and Distinction, and a numerous Crowd of Spectators.”
Londoners were fascinated with the spectacle of the Cherokees, who were escorted to Canterbury Cathedral, the Tower, and Tottenham Court Fair. A servant waiting on Little Carpenter noted that the diplomat “was particularly fond of tea, which he always had for his breakfast,” and that “no man was more temperate.”
While in London, the Cherokees met with the Board of Trade to explore a possible alliance. The Crown wanted control of the highly lucrative deerskin trade, of which the Cherokees were a critical component. Furthermore, board members knew the Cherokee were “a Warlike People” who, if needed, could bring three thousand warriors to the field. Cherokee economic dependence on the Crown, they argued, would “greatly Strengthen” Britain’s claim to Cherokee land. The Board pursued a treaty of trade and military partnership outlining future economic and military objectives.
The Cherokee diplomats signed the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce, agreeing to “fight against any nation” that threatened to harm the English. After four months in London, the Cherokees sailed home.