Bombshell! Cherokee hero, Tsali, was actually executed by a Qualla Cherokee firing squad
Glenn Drummond, a People of One Fire member in Alabama, has made an astonishing discovery. It is a thoroughly researched article by Dr. John Finger, a University of Tennessee history professor, which completely debunks the myth of Tsali that is dramatically portrayed in the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the outdoor play, “Unto These Hills.” Tsali was one of 12 men captured by Qualla Cherokee scouts, working for the US Army, and executed by a Cherokee firing squad. These men were legally citizens of the states of Georgia or North Carolina and therefore shouldn’t have been rounded up by federal troops anyway. The article has one mistake in it. The US Army soldiers described in the incident were based at Fort Butler near Murphy, NC . . . not Fort Cass in Tennessee. To read the article, go to: http://wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/cherokee_Tsali.pdf It is ironic that the research article comes from the Western Carolina University Library, yet all other Google searches with the key words Tsali and WCU come up with stories, based on the mythological Tsali.
While the People of One Fire was studying the Little Tennessee River Headwaters in Georgia during 2017, we came upon some surprising information that clearly put the official Tsali story in extreme doubt. Tsali was a typical Creek and Uchee first name during the early 1800s, not Cherokee. This particular Tsali lived in a Uchee Village in Rabun County, GA near the present day Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. This band of Uchee had taken state citizenship in 1818 and been given allotments. Most of their neighbors were whites and they got along well with them. Junaluska, the conjurer who we as of today know, supervised the hunt for and execution of Tsali was also born in Rabun County, but had refused the allotments and moved west to join with the ethnic Cherokees.
Popular accounts of Tsali, now published in North Carolina, list streams and mountains along the route of Tsali’s initial escape from federal soldiers that are actually in Rabun and Towns Counties, Georgia . . . not North Carolina. Apparently, no one writing these stories were particularly familiar with the geography of the Southern Appalachians. Also, these quasi-historians did not bother to fact-check the version of Tsali’s life in a myth with actual U.S. Army records as this professor did.
Another Cherokee myth exploded earlier
In 2008, a team of history, anthropology and law professors from the University of Oklahoma discovered that the Battle of Taliwa never occurred and therefore Cherokee heroine, Nancy Ward, couldn’t have possibly been the heroine of this battle. In fact, most of the description of her life now being portrayed in a musical play touring the United States is complete fiction. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the outdoor drama, “Unto These Hills” and the current play about Nancy Ward state that the Cherokees won the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War. These professors were shocked to discover that in fact, a single Creek town, Koweta, catastrophically defeated the entire Cherokee Nation in the autumn of 1754. In 1754, 32 Cherokee village chiefs were executed by Koweta’s soldiers and a third of the Cherokee’s villages were burned. The Cherokee signed a surrender treat in mid-December 1754. Part of the terms of the treaty was that the Cherokees cede back to the Creek Confederacy all lands seized from the Creeks during the earliest stages of this bloody war.
The People of One Fire further researched Nancy Ward’s life in 2016. Nancy was somewhere between 1/4th and 1/32nd Cherokee. There are several different versions of when she was born and when she died. The Cherokee man, whom she was supposedly first married to, died in the Battle of Etowah Cliffs in 1793 – not in the Battle of Taliwa in 1754. She lived among and was married to whites for most of her life. The story that she saved the life of a white woman, who was about to be tortured by Chickamauga Cherokees, IS absolutely true. She was very popular among white settlers in Tennessee because she tipped them off when Cherokee raids were pending and also was one of first Cherokees to own African slaves. She promoted the use of African slaves to the Cherokees. The fictional version of her life was dreamed up by a white cousin of hers . . . four years after her death . . . and published as a dime novel.
In the long run, making up tall tales about Native American history will backfire on the tribes continuing to do so. Sooner or later the fiction will be found out. It discredits all those Native American scholars, who are dedicated to creating a comprehensive and accurate account of North America’s heritage.
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