Dragging Canoe

August 21, 2016

Hopefully Dragging Canoe’s life story and his final dance will motivate everyone to dig a little deeper when the going gets tough Oct 22. It also puts into further perspective how awesome it is that the Tennessee River Gorge Trust works to protect over 17,000 acres contained in this refuge.

 

278 years ago a young boy grew up on the Little Tennessee River a member of the Cherokee Nation. He gained his name at an early age. While a war party was forming against the neighboring Shawnee tribe, the young boy begged his father’s permission to help. The road to the battleground was via the river system, and to travel them a canoe was needed. The boy’s father, “Little Carpenter”, decided permission would be determined by his son’s ability to carry his own canoe. They headed for battle and the canoe became too heavy for the child so instead he drug it. Upon returning home after the fight the boy was given the name, Tsi’yu-gunsini, translated, “Dragging Canoe”.

 

He grew up rich with culture and tradition loving his land and people and as “white man’s” encroachment continued Dragging Canoe was eager to fight. At the age of 19 or 20 he was recognized for his skills while battling the British during the Anglo Cherokee War. He had grown to be approx 6’ tall, broad and muscular.

 

Eventually the problem shifted for the Native American Indian tribes from the “red coats” to the settlers as their greed had exceeded that of the British. Dragging Canoe had risen to prominence amongst his Cherokee brethren and when the time arrived to resist the colonists, he was the point man. He fought with great ferocity, settlers knew his name and feared him shortening his name from “Dragging Canoe” to “Dragon”. To this day he’s considered a military genius amongst researchers who dig deep into his strategies and journey. But the numbers and resources of the settlers were too great.


Counterattacks from the settlers eventually destroyed many of the local Cherokee settlements. The result led Dragging Canoe’s father “Little Carpenter”, amongst other Cherokee leaders, to sell their rights of 20 million acres to the “white man” through the Henderson Purchase in 1775. Dragging Canoe was strongly opposed to the purchase/treaty. Dragging Canoe declared, “You have bought a fair land, but you will find its settlement dark and bloody”.

 

1 month later, settlers began battling the British seeking independence (Revolutionary War). While most Cherokee towns avoided taking sides Dragging Canoe saw the Red Coats as an opportunity to make good on his dark and bloody promise to colonists. He left his original settlements heading downstream and established residency 7 miles up South Chickamauga Creek. (10 water miles upstream from the Chattajack start line). British supplies, guns, and ammo filtered to Dragging Canoe’s warriors here. Dragging Canoe was in his early 40’s at this time. A strong attack came from the colonists forcing another move. Dragging Canoe and his men traveled downstream through the Tennessee River Gorge where they re-established themselves below the gorge (basically Chattajack’s finish line). They established five towns collectively known as the Lower Cherokee (below the Tennessee River Gorge).

For the next 10 years, during Dragging Canoe’s mid 40’s – mid 50’s, he led attacks against settlers all over the Southeast. He fought alongside his 3 brothers, Little Owl, the Badger, and Turtle-At-Home and other fearless warriors who followed his lead. In 1789, Tecomsah’s, a.k.a. “Panther In The Sky”, journey led him to the Dragging Canoe’s settlement below the gorge. Tecomsah met his new role model!

 

During the winter of 1792 life was good for a moment. The Chickamauga tribe was celebrating a recent victory against a Cumberland settlement and Dragging Canoe had also just formed alliances with Muskogee and Choctaw tribes whom would assist settlement resistances. It was time to celebrate! Dragging Canoe danced through the entire night celebrating the alliances with a grateful heart. He died of exhaustion that night (Feb 29/March 1st, 1792) and was buried a couple miles from Hales Bar Dam up Running Water Creek.

 

Hopefully Dragging Canoe’s life story and his final dance will motivate everyone to dig a little deeper when the going gets tough Oct 22. It also puts into further perspective how awesome it is that the Tennessee River Gorge Trust works to protect over 17,000 acres contained in this refuge.

 

 

 

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