A Conversation about the Chickamauga Cherokee People

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Recently six students from William Jewell College were given the opportunity to attend the Mid-American Indian Fellowships annual gathering, a three day event. This rich cultural experience allowed these students to witness and participate in American Indian traditions and activities. During this time, I was fortunate enough to speak with Robert Francis, a consultant and helper for Mid-American Indian Fellowships as well as a fire keeper for the doxy grounds, and hear from him about the origins and lives of American Indian individuals.

“Chickamauga Cherokees, we go back to a split in the Cherokee nation, in the Cherokee tribe, that happened in 1775. What happened was that there was a split between the ‘Accommodationist’ faction of Cherokees, those who thought that the best way to relate to white expansionism, American expansionism, was to accommodate as best they could – for them to be accepted. They thought that the colonists, who later became the ‘Americans,’ would then basically see them as equals and give them, or allow them, to stay on their land or at least a smaller piece of land. Then there was the other faction: the Chickamaugas, who decided that the best approach was a resistance to the expansionism” said Francis when asked about the origins of the Chickamauga people.

“So the Chickamaugas basically formed the nucleus of what became probably the largest intertribal and ‘interracial’ confederacy, or coalition, for the purpose of drawing a line against American expansionism. Because it really began right at the time when the revolution was beginning. Right at the time of the rebellion of the colonies. That rebellion was mostly about stealing Indian land, about retaining the right to steal Indian land and about maintaining the right to keep slaves. That’s what the rebellion was about. So the Chickamaugas, from that point the ‘Chickamauga Confederacy,’ which was people from many tribes: refugees from other tribes, people who just wanted to be a part of that, English Tories, Scots-Irish people and black people who ran away from slavery. So all kinds of people were involved in that. It lasted through the Revolutionary War and about 20 years on from that. Dragging Canoe [the leader] died, he had a heart attack or something, and the leadership of the resistance was passed on to a tribe further North.”

“That’s kind of the roots of the Chickamauga people, but by keeping our ceremonies we are able to keep ourselves, the resistance, alive.”

Throughout the weekend, Robert Francis educates William Jewell students on what it’s like to live as an indigenous person. Photos by Cassidy Winsor

“The end goal is continuing being who we are until Western civilization evolves past the point of empire building, past the point of the nation-state structure, so that everybody can be human beings again. If we can survive as communities until then, then we’ve won. We see the imperialistic structure falling apart, and, well, our people have always known that that was going to happen sooner or later. No empire, no matter how big or how small, has ever lasted, they all self-destruct. It’s not that that’s [the end of nationhood] my goal, it’s just surviving until that happens. Because it will happen, I think that’s just the direction that human evolution goes in,” Francis said.

Francis concluded by discussing the difficulties American Indians face living in a modern Western society.

“Our values are not the same as those that surround us, but, everything in this society is designed to make people’s ideas line up. I mean: education systems, the media, everything, it’s all designed to make people think in the same way. We don’t belong in that system and that’s where the struggle is. We don’t fit into the system we’re living in,” said Francis

For more photos from the Mid American Indian Fellowships gathering, visit Cassidy Winsor’s photo feature.

Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe

Sofia is a senior chemistry and communication major at William Jewell College. Currently she serves as the Editor in Chief of the Hilltop Monitor.

10 thoughts on “A Conversation about the Chickamauga Cherokee People

  1. Sandy Martinez

    I descend through Hawk Toh Hek Lucas and Sithia Tanoocudlebhee Arminta of the Chicamauga Indian Tribe. I enjoy your site.

  2. Rachel Bowler

    I am also a descendent of Hawk Toh Hek Lucas and Sithia Tanoocudlebhee Arminta. I would love to know more, if anyone reads this comment…

    1. SL Jenkins

      I too am a descendant of Sithia Arminta and Hawk Toh Hek Lucas, her father and Sythia, her mother. Sythia Lucas married Thomas Lester, and remarried After his death. I am a descendant of both Sythia Lucas and Thomas Lester. I would like to know more about them.

  3. Jimmie W Kersh

    I am the descendant of survivors of genocide, I am a survivor of continued ethnic cleansing, I am Tiscamogee, I descend from Amayoya Moytoy, Powhattan, and King Haglar, Catawba. I am Jimmie W. Kersh, Chief of the West Region of The Chickamauga Nation. Our culture, history and religion on this continent has been academically verified by over 450,000 pages of research and dates to 600 – 800 A.D.
    The Chickamauga culture, history, and religion existed prior to Attakullakulla (Dragging Canoe’s) father by about 1,000 years. Dragging Canoe was not born Cherokee or Chickamauga. His father is Nipissing, and his mother is French/Natchez. He was raised in the traditional Mound Culture (Southeast Ceremonial Mound Complex) religion is why he was so defiant in giving away land, it was a violation of the traditional laws and religion. We are posting the Academically verified history of The Chickamauga Nation on our website chickamauganation.com if you want to read our research

    1. Nathan

      I am just now finding out I belong to this great tribe. I come from Chief Joseph Raincrow. I would love to know more about this family. It appears they arrived in Arkansas in the 1830’s. I am also trying to learn about 3 other possible lines of Cherokee (possibly not the same tribe) that I am descended from. One of whom was Dr. Silas (Scruggs) Stacey. He was known as the Cherokee Doctor and was a famous eye surgeon and ran an apothecary on the land that is now known as Dogpatch, Ar. It was known as Marble Falls before that, and Wilcockson before that. My family owned that land until the late1890’s or early 1900’s. He was half Cherokee and his wife was Cherokee.

      1. Robert Francis

        Your ancestor, Dr. Silas Scruggs Stacy was a primary culture bearer for Chickamauga people in Arkansas and Missouri. At a time when the major ceremonies could no longer be kept and the Sacred Fire of our people was put to sleep, Dr. Stacy preserved the information needed to one day bring these back to life. Elmer Casteel learned much of what he knew about traditional ways from Dr. Stacy. In turn, Elmer Casteel and others taught or mentored Uncle Richard Craker. Although there were other culture bearers, without Dr. Stacy, Elmer Casteel and Uncle Richard Craker, it’s doubtful we’d be keeping the Sacred Fire and attendant ceremonies today.

  4. Helen Breedlove

    Are there any links to the Breedlove name and the Cherokee nation? Can anyone provide me with any details? I have been searching for a long time and all I can find out is that there is a connection. But no solid answers. Thanks to anyone who can help.

  5. BeckyHill

    Hi my name is Becky Hill my father is LewisHill of the chickamaugwa cheerikee Osage nation I believe close to red and white rivers I was told by my father that the government stole our oil from our land is that true

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