Cherokee Chief White Path . . . sloppy research that ended up in lala land
This is as bad a case of sloppy historical research, followed by the most delusional history that one could possibly imagine. Government agencies, publicly owned museums and cultural resource consulting firms all “dropped the ball.” Before the internet, a quick trip to a university or big city library to look at census records on microfiche would have revealed the true biography of White Path. Upon arrival of the internet, it would have required a few seconds to get the truth. That didn’t happen.
On July 27, 1827 the Cherokee Nation adopted a Constitution, which replaced the traditional tribal government, based on clan and villages with one directly modeled after that of the United States. Whereas Cherokee women previously had considerable influence on tribal decisions, the new constitution disfranchised all females. The constitution was bitterly opposed by many traditionalists. Mixed bloods, who formerly were Chickamauga Cherokee hostiles, but now were running plantations with slave, were at the forefront of the push for the constitution.
One of the men elected to the new council, known in references today solely as “Chief” White Path, lived in Turnip Town near present day Ellijay, GA. He would have been completely forgotten like 99% of his contemporary Cherokees, had he not attempted vehemently to persuade the council to abandon the new constitution. It is also said in references that he tried to get rid of the Christian missionaries and return the Cherokees to their traditional religion.
In the 1980s, when transportation planners were studying the proposed four lane route of an extension of Interstate 575, called Hwy. 515, through Gilmer County, GA, they identified a very old log cabin near the banks of White Path Creek. Local historians told them that it was former the home of Gilmer County’s first judge, Aaron Pinson, and before that the home of Chief White Path. An archaeological consulting firm was brought in to study the site. Its archaeologists and historians confirmed the historical value of the old building.
It is the standard policy of the Georgia Department of Transportation to bulldoze Creek heritage sites and mounds after they are secretly studied by archaeological consulting firms. The public and Georgia’s Creek descendants almost never know that a town or mound site has been destroyed. This was the policy for all Creek sites on 525, but an exception was made for this log cabin. Civil engineers designed the expressway lanes to go around the cabin . . . leaving a park-like green space in the widened median.
In 1995, funds were obtained, including casino money from the Eastern Band of Cherokees, to dismantle the White Path cabin and reconstruct it next to the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville, GA. Like so many other museums in North Georgia, North Alabama and most of Tennessee, casino money turned museum staffs into thralls, who present the North Carolinians phony version of the Southeast’s history as factual and leave unsaid the rich multi-cultural indigenous heritage of their own state. The Gainesville Area was on the extreme edge of the Cherokee Nation for about a generation. Very few, if any, ethnic Cherokees ever lived there.
For at least three thousand years, the Gainesville Area was occupied by the Uchee Rabbit Clan. The Chestatee River’s name is derived from Choestua-te (Rabbit People.) Immediately to the south were the Apalache and Katapa Creeks until 1786.
I first became suspicious because of discrepancies in the age of the cabin and the fact that the Northeast Georgia History Center tells you that he grew up in a cabin that was built either 20 or 40 year after he was born. Before telling the reader what the National Park Service and the United States Census tells us about “Chief” White Path, we will let you peruse what is said on historical markers, web sites and museum brochures. Afterward, POOF will fact check those statements.
Official Oklahoma Cherokee website
(1) Chief Whitepath or Nunna-tsune-ga was a son of Chief Red Horse and was born 1763 in Sogwiligigageiyi, Cherokee Nation, NC, and died 1838 on the Trail of Tears. The Sogwiligigageiyi or Scribe Clan has for four centuries maintained the secret Cherokee writing system. White Path’s father was one of those scribes and passed this sacred information down to him.
Source: Famous Cherokee Leaders Website – Keetoowah Band of Cherokees
*Fact-Check – This Oklahoma Cherokee website states that White Path was born in North Carolina, not Georgia. Sogwiligigageiyi means “Horse Red People – Place of.” There is a “Red Horse” family name in Oklahoma, but there is no mention of a Cherokee chief named Red Horse or a village by that name in the Southeast during the mid-1700s in the records of the Old Cherokee Nation, maintained at New Echota State Historic Site. This website places his birth in 1763, two years later than many other references state, but the same as White Path’s obituary, published in Kentucky newspapers. (See below.)
Privately maintained Cherokee history websites
(2) Chief White Path was born in 1761. He and his brother, Sogwilli (Sequoyah) were the sons of Red Horse. They were born in Sogwiligigagayee on the White Fires River, which was located in Rutherford County, NC. Red Horse, was the chief of the Scribe Clan that were caretakers of the secret alphabet for four centuries. White Path and his brother Sogwali brought the secret alphabet out of obscurity after the fall of the Cherokee Nation in 1795.
Source: Descendants of George Guess (Sequoyah) Website
*Fact Check – So White Path and Sequoyah were brothers? The Red Horse Thing began with an alternative history book about Sequoyah by Traveller Bird ( pseudonym). Absolutely no document published by the Old Cherokee Nation states that White Path and Sequoyah were brothers. White Path’s name only appears in 1828 and then in again in 1838, when he was helping John Ross organized the move to Indian Territory. In several sections of his book, Bird describes major tribal towns of the Creek Confederacy as “ancient Cherokee clans,” not knowing that they were Creek words. Later Cherokee and wannabe-Cherokee writers have taken Bird’s book as total fact then spiraled farther and farther away from reality.
(3) White Path was a full blood Cherokee and great war chief of the Cherokee Nation. He was born in 1761 near Ellijay, GA, where his parents had always lived. He led the charge at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Shawnee Creeks, which helped General Andrew Jackson win the battle. Afterward he became a man of peace and buried the hatchet. He then fought to return the Cherokee Nation to its traditional ways. He died on the Trail of Tears, while leading his family and neighbors to Oklahoma.
Source: Gilmer County Cherokee History Website
* Fact Check – Research by the National Park Service and the archives will refute most of the statements made on this web site. They are presented below.
Stone monument near site of White Path cabin
(4) Home of the Cherokee Indian Chief Whitepath stood from 1800 to 1982, 338 yards S.W. of this marker. Aaron Pinson born Feb. 5, 1784 lived here from 1838 until his death Dec. 7, 1843.
Source: State DOT stone monument on Hwy. 515
Fact Check – The Historic Preservation consultants for the Georgia DOT determined that the cabin was built 20 years later than stated by the Gilmer Historical Society and Northeast Georgia History Center.
Georgia-based institutional websites and tourist brochures
(5) Chief White Path of the Cherokee Nation – The cabin was built c. 1780 near the site of present day Ellijay, Georgia by White Path’s parents. During White Path’s time the cabin consisted of a single room downstairs with a loft above. In the land lottery of 1832 the cabin and the land it was on was awarded to the Pinson family who were white settlers. The Pinsons later added a dogtrot central hallway and another room downstairs. They also extended the loft into a full story under the eaves to bring it to the full size that it remains today. The cabin was relocated onto its current site in Cherokee County in 1995 under the direction of Counte Cooley, a descendent of White Path, and of James Mathis.
A full-blood Cherokee, Chief White Path was born in 1761 near Ellijay and grew up in the cabin.* His Cherokee name, Nunna-tsune-ga, translates literally as “I dwell on the peaceful (or white) path”. A skillful orator he frequently spoke out at the Cherokee national capitol at New Echota against ceding land to the white settlers.
In 1814 he joined General Andrew Jackson to fight the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama War (of 1812). He along with a small band of Cherokees was instrumental in securing victory for Jackson when they stole the Creeks’ canoes, cutting off their escape by water.
White Path strongly protested the influence of white settlers in fiery oratory at the Cherokee capitol of New Echota. A strict follower of the traditional ways he spoke against the new Cherokee constitution and the introduction of Christianity by the missionaries. He eventually yielded to the new ways and focused his efforts on fighting the removal policies of his old comrade and now president, Andrew Jackson. He and Chief John Ross traveled to Washington to denounce the removal treaty signed as void. They were unsuccessful and returned to Georgia.
In the fall of 1838 at the age of 77 White Path helped to organize the removal, later known as the “Trail of Tears.” He and other Cherokee leaders realized that the best chance for survival lay in an orderly march to Oklahoma. On a stop near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Chief White Path died and was buried beside Chief Fly Smith who also died during the night. Today his former home is interpreted as a Cherokee farmstead c. 1835, with authentic furnishings, vegetable gardens and herb gardens typical of a Cherokee home just prior to the removal.
Source: Gilmer County Historical Society and Northeast Georgia History Center websites
* Fact Check – How could White Path have grown up in the cabin, when it was built 20 or 40 years after he was born? Nowhere in the archives of the Old Cherokee Nation was White Path listed as a chief of the Cherokee Nation. He was a member of the National Council for one term. There are many more surprises below.
Account of White Path’s death
(6) “WHITE PATH, a Cherokee Indian chief, died near Hopkinsville, Ky., a few days ago, aged 75 years; he was part of the company of Indians migrating west; “was near the Nashville road and monument of wood, painted to resemble marble [was] erected to his memory on which is inscribed his name.”
Source: Obituary in Kentucky newspapers
Fact Check – The Kentucky newspapers stated that White Path was two years younger than stated in biographies published by the Gilmer County Historical Society and the Northeast Georgia History Center.
National Park Service
The National Park Service and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma hired historians to prepare a complete list of Cherokees, who fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, regardless if they were not listed on US Army rosters. The purpose was to erect a monument to the Cherokee veterans at Horseshoe Bend National Battlefield Park. The list does not contain a name similar to White, White Path or Nunna-tsune-ga.
Fact Check – White Path did not fight at Horseshoe Bend as almost all references state. It would seem odd that a 50 year old man would volunteer to fight other Native Americans for the US Army, if he was an avowed pacifist and angry at the United States government for its treatment of Native Americans. In that era, an age of 50 years would be considered quite old . . . certainly too old to fight in a vicious guerilla war.
United States Census Bureau
Armajor White (Chief White Path)
- b. August 23, 1762 in Nash Co. (Rocky Mount) N.C. ~ d. 1838 near Hopkinsville, KY.
* Rocky Mount, NC is in Northeastern North Carolina near Raleigh.
His father was Joseph White Sr. His mother was Gulyema Newby. They were Quakers and lived their entire lives in Nash County, NC.*
*Detailed information on Joseph and Gulyema White can be found in Hindshaw’s American Quaker Encyclopedia. Armajor White may have originally moved to Northwest Georgia with the intent of being a Quaker missionary like his parents.
**Gulyema was probably a Native American name, but she was not Cherokee and not full blood NA.
Armajor White was married to Absilla Knight. They had five children: Archibald/William/Joseph/Thomas/Mary. None lived in the Cherokee Nation and their descendants always listed their race as white. There is no information on the whereabouts of the children other than Archibald in the US Census.
Archibald White (son of Whitepath) was born c. 1810, and died date unknown. He is listed on the 1840 census as living in Township: Division 3 – Fleming County, Kentucky (1 male over 20 under 30 and 1 female over 20 under 30 in his household) All that were listed in 1840 were him and his wife.
Source: United States Census Bureau ~ Year:1840 ~ Roll:M704_110 ~ Page:238 ~ Image:122
Mind-Blowing Fact Check
- Amajor White (White Path) had no Cherokee heritage and probably was no more than 1/4th Native American. His wife, Absilla, may or may not have been part Cherokee. She had an English name.
- Amajor White was a pacifist because he was a Quaker. It could well be that Turnip Town was a Quaker community.
- Amajor White probably arrived in Turnip Town after the Chickamauga War ended or between 1795 and 1800, since his house was built around 1800.
- White Path’s parents never lived in the Cherokee Nation. Amajor’s son left the Cherokee Nation before the Trail of Tears and lived as a white man in Fleming County, KY.
- White Path’s other children also left the Cherokee Nation before 1836 and also presented themselves as whites.
Bet you will never trust another museum exhibit or historical marker.
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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