CHEROKEE CHIEFS EARLY 1700S TO PRESENT
KNOWN CHIEFS OF THE CHEROKEES
1 - Amatoya Moytoy of Chota (pronounced mah-tie) was a Cherokee town chief of the early eighteenth century in the area of present-day Tennessee. He held a prominent position among the Cherokee, and held the hereditary title Ama Matai (From the French matai and Cherokee amaŚwater). Which meant "Water Conjurer"? He ruled the town of Chota sometime between the beginning of the eighteenth century and 1730. He was born around 1640 and probably died in 1730. His mother was Quatsie of Tellico, Tennessee and his father was a European, Thomas Pasmere Carpenter, who was descended from a prominent Anglo-Norman family. This lineage makes the Cherokee Moytoys cousins of the Carpenter Earl of Tyconnell,, and thus related to the current British royal family.
2 - Moytoy Pigeon of Tellico, Principal Chief and Emperor of the Cherokee ("Trader Tom" Carpenter) was the leading chief of the Cherokee from April 3.1730 to 1760. He was also created "Emperor of the Cherokees" by the British envoy Sir Alexander Cumin in 1730, and had previously been Chief of Great Tellico. He is known as Moytoy II, or Moytoy the Younger. He was born around 1687 hi Tellico. Moytoy was crowned with the "Crown of Tannassy," This crown was a traditional Cherokee hide cap covered with feathers and several hanging animal tails. It was later taken to England. He married Go-sa-du-isga and had several children. Waw-Li, married a Scottish immigrant John Joseph Vann, making the Cherokee town chief, James Vann, Moytoy's grandson.
3 - Kanagatucko, known in English as Standing Turkey or Old Hop, was a Cherokee elder, serving briefly as the principle chief of the Cherokee from 1758 to 1761. The Europeans knew him as Old Hop because he was lame.
4 - Attacullaculla of Chota-Tenase, Principal Chief of the Cherokee, from 1761 to 1775. Family tradition maintains that he was born on Seivers Island (near Chota) around 1708 and that Nancy Moytoy (eldest daughter of Moytoy I (born 1683) and her husband Moytoy IV who was an Algonquin named White Owl Raven Carpenter, who had been adopted by Moytoy II (Trader Tom Carpenter). He married Nionne Ollie, who was the daughter of his cousin, Oconostota (The marriage was permissible because they were from different clans; he was from Wolf Clan and she was from Paint Clan. Among their children were Dragging Canoe and Dutsi, through which Major Ridge and David Watie were grandchildren of Attacullaculla).
5 - Oconostota was the Warrior of Chota and the war chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1775 to 1780. On the flag of Nashville, Tennessee, he is believed to be the Native American on the central emblem. Oconostota was the son of Moytoy II and was born around 1704. His daughter Nionne Ollie was the wife of his predecessor, Attacullaculla. His time as chief was wrought with warfare and struggle, which ended with the destruction of Chota-Tanasi by the American Revolutionary forces in 1780. He died in 1782 or 1783. Following the destruction of Chota, the chiefs who descended from Moytoy I effectively lost most of their powerbase. His successor, Hanging Maw, however, married a granddaughter of Moytoy I.
6 - Hanging Maw, was the leading chief of the Cherokees from 1780-1792. He became chief following the death of Oconostota, during the troubled period following the destruction of the traditional capital at Chota (Also known as Echota) His wife was Betsy, the sister of Attacullaculla and she was the granddaughter of Moytoy I. She was killed in a raid by whites.
7 - Little Turkey, Leading chief of the Cherokees from 1792-1801. Not much is known about Little Turkey. It is believed he was born in 1758 and died in 1801.
8 - Black Fox, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, 1801 until his death in 1811.
9 - Pathkiller, fought in the Revolutionary War for Britain and in the wars against American frontiersmen from 1783 to 1794. Pathkiller, a "full blood," unacculturated Cherokee, became principal chief in 1811 (served until 1827) and was the last individual from a conservative background to hold that office. He was a mentor to John Ross, recognizing him as a future leader of the Cherokees. Pathkiller is buried in the New Echota Cemetery, in New Echota, Georgia.
10 - Charles Renatus Hicks, longtime Second Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and briefly Principal Chief himself in 1827. following the death of Pathkiller. He died soon after becoming chief. A protege' of the former warrior and Upper Towns Chief James Vann, Hicks was one of the most influential leaders in the Nation during the period after the Chickamauga Wars to just past the first quarter of the 19th century. Extremely well-read and acculturated, his personal library was one of the biggest on the continent, public or private. A member of the Cherokee Triumvirate at the beginning of the 19th century, along with James Vann and Major Ridge. Elected second Principal of the Cherokee under Pathkiller in 1811, a political dispute two years later left Hicks as de facto top chief with Pathkiller serving as a mere figurehead. Chief Hicks is buried in the Moravian Cemetery (near the Vann House) in Murray County, GA.
11 - William Hicks. (Chief briefly 1827-28. Not recognized on many published lists as Chief of the Cherokees, but history has recorded him as interim chief between the death of Charles R. Hicks and the election of John Ross. Source: Marvin Sowder-Trail of Tears Association member.
12 - John Ross. Chief from 1828 through 1866). He was born 3 October 1790, Turkeytown, Alabama, died 1 August 1866, Washington, DC. John Ross, also known as Kooweskoowe is referred to as "the great" Principal Chief of the Cherokee Native American Nation. However, despite a vocal minority of Cherokees and a generation of political leaders in Washington who considered Ross to be dictatorial, greedy, and an "aristocratic leader who sought to defraud." the Cherokee Nation, the majority of Cherokees ardently supported him and elected him as their principal chief in every election from 1828 through 1860. Thomas L. McKenney, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, called him a Moses who "led...his people in their exodus from the land of their nativity to a new country, and from the savage state to that of cultivation. His wife was Quatie. In 1816 he founded Ross's Landing (which was renamed Chattanooga after his departure for Oklahoma.)
13 - WiIliam Potter Ross, born 28 August 1820, died 20 July 1891. He was Principal Chief twice. He was chosen by the National Council on October 19. 1866 (and served until 1867) after the death of John Ross. He was elected again and served from 1872 until 1875.
14 - Lewis Downing. He served as Principal Chief from 1867 until 1872. Lewis Downing was a very interesting man. He was born in East Tennessee in 1823. He went west with his family with the party led by Jesse Bushyhead and the Reverends John B. & Evan Jones in 1839. He later settled near the old Baptist Mission in what is today, Adair County, Oklahoma. He attended school at the Valley Town Mission and at the Baptist Mission. He later became a Baptist minister and was chosen pastor of the Flint Baptist Church. During the Civil War he was chaplain of Companies F and S of the Regiment of the Cherokee Mounted Rifles for the Confederacy. The members of this regiment were mostly full bloods, were not slave owners and, at heart, were abolitionists. Most of the men abandoned the Confederate service and joined the Third Indian Home Guards for service in the Union Army. Lewis Dowling was named Lieut. Colonel of this Union Regiment.
15 - William Potter Ross. (1872-1875) See #13.
16 - Charles Thompson, Principal Chief from 1875 to 1879. He was the only full blood Cherokee to have held that office since the Trail of Tears. He was a Baptist minister, and preached each Sunday in the Cherokee language.
17 - Dennis Bushy head. He served as Principal Chief from 1879 until 1887. He was then reelected in 1883 and served for 4 more years. He was born 18 March 1826, in the state of Tennessee, the oldest son of Rev. Jesse Bushyhead. In 1839, he attended mission school under the charge of Rev. Samuel A. Worcester, In 1841 he was sent to college in New Jersey, hi March of that year he attended the inaguration of General Harrison as President of the United States. Dennis remained in New Jersey for the next three years, completing his education in August 1844.
18 - Joel B. Mayes, (died 1891) was Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1887 until 1891. It was during his administration that the Cherokee Outlet sale was negotiated. He was re-elected to a second term, but died shortly after.
19 - Samuel Houston Mayes was Principal Chief for the Nation from 1895 until 1899. He was named for Samuel Houston, a former resident of the Cherokee Nation and a statesman.
20 - Thomas Mitchell Buffington (1899-1903) was born in 1855, in Indian Territory. He served as Principal Chief of the Nation, from the 14th to the 23rd of December 1891, upon the deaths of Principal Chief Joel B. Mayes and the Second Chief Henry Chambers, as he had right to succession, as president of the Senate. In 1899, after being Mayor of Vinita, OK., he ran again for Chief and won, serving until 1903.
21 - William Charles Rogers. (1903-1907-Extended to his death in 1917) was bora 13th December 1847, near Claremore, OK. He was elected Chief in 1903, defeating E. L. Cookson of the National Party. He served during the final days of the takeover of the Cherokee government by the United States of America and the establishment of the state of Oklahoma. After his four year term of office was complete, he retained the status of chief, for purposes of dealing with matters of the handover of power to the United States. He died in 1917. Chief Rogers was a Freemason. He died in 1917 and is buried in Skiatook, OK, a town which he had established.
22 - J. B. Milan. He was appointed Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1941 to 1949. by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. According to the records he was the next Chief after William Charles Rogers even though several years have passed since 1917 when Rogers died.
23 - W. W. Keeler (1949-1975) was appointed chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1949 by President Truman and served as appointed chief until 1971, when the Cherokees regained the right to elect their own leaders in a congressional act passed by President Nixon.
24 - Ross O. Swimmer was a graduate of Oklahoma University, where he received both his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees. While there he was a member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and served as Principal Chief from 1975-1985.
25 - Wilma Mankiller (1985-1995) born 8 November 1945 in Tahlequah, OK was the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She faced many challenges while in office. At the time she became head of the Nation, it was male dominated. This structure contrasted greatly with the traditional Cherokee culture and value-system, which emphasized a balance between the two genders. There are many examples of progress as a result of her tenure and the population increased from 55,000 to 156,000 during her ten years as chief. She was also very instrumental in providing financial and technical assistance to members of the tribe so that they might get off welfare and open small business, generating Cherokee Nation economic self-sufficiency.
26 - Joe Byrd. (1995-1999) Byrd spoke in both English and Cherokee. He was defeated by Chief Chad Smith is his attempts to make a comeback. Byrd attended Northeastern State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree hi education in 1978 and worked in the field of Indian education prior to becoming Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
27 - Chad "Corntassel" Smith. He became Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1999 and is presently serving his third term in that office. Smith holds a Bachelor's degree in education from the University of Georgia, a master's degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa. Prior to being elected Principal Chief, he was a lawyer for the tribe. His grandmother gave him the name Corntassel, but he is not related to the Corntassel family.
Note: This article, by Marcelle White, originally appeared in the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2008. It is being used here by permission.
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