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Deconstructing the Cherokee Nation

Town, Region, and Nation among Eighteenth-Century Cherokees

Tyler Boulware

Publication Year: 2011

This significant contribution to Cherokee studies examines the tribe’s life during the eighteenth century, up to the Removal. By revealing town loyalties and regional alliances, Tyler Boulware uncovers a persistent identification hierarchy among the colonial Cherokee.

Boulware aims to fill the gap in Cherokee historical studies by addressing two significant aspects of Cherokee identity: town and region. Though other factors mattered, these were arguably the most recognizable markers by which Cherokee peoples structured group identity and influenced their interactions with outside groups during the colonial era.

This volume focuses on the understudied importance of social and political ties that gradually connected villages and regions and slowly weakened the localism that dominated in earlier decades. It highlights the importance of borderland interactions to Cherokee political behavior and provides a nuanced investigation of the issue of Native American identity, bringing geographic relevance and distinctions to the topic.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

My appreciation runs deep for the many forms of assistance I have received over the years. Jessica Kross first sparked my interest in early American history and changed the direction of my future research. I am fortunate to have been under her tutelage. ...

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pp. 1-9

The story must have shocked its Cherokee listeners. Apparently a Cherokee war party from the Overhill town of Chilhowee killed and scalped four villagers from Cowee. Sent initially to attack their Shawnee enemies, the Chilhowee warriors started north toward the Ohio country but quickly ...

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1 Town, Region, and Nation

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pp. 10-31

For many native peoples throughout North America, the town was the central feature of social and political life, perhaps even more so for the Cherokees and other southeastern Indians. Cherokee village life, as Tom Hatley reminds us, was “intensely local,” which made town identities especially entrenched. When a Virginia officer neared Cherokee country in 1761, for instance, a party of Overhill hunters approached the peace envoy ...

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2 “the antient Friendship and Union”: The Anglo-Cherokee Alliance

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pp. 32-56

The year 1670 marked a seminal moment in Cherokee history. Far from the Cherokees’ mountain homeland, British colonists planted the seeds of a new epicenter of regional power near the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Charlestown would eventually become the fourth largest city in British North America and the hub of a vast trading network that connected the Atlantic world to the southern hinterlands. The Cherokees at first found little reason ...

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3 “in constant hostility with the Muskohge”: The Cherokee-Creek War

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pp. 57-74

The Cherokee-Creek War, which lasted roughly from 1715 to 1755, was the longest and most destructive conflict between Cherokees and other indigenous peoples during the eighteenth century. The war’s early phases revealed customary disunity among Cherokees from different towns and regions, since villagers rarely had a common enemy when it came to intertribal warfare. ...

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4 “the disaffected people of Great Tellico”: The Struggle for Empire in a Cherokee Town

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pp. 75-93

In the fall of 1756, twenty-five Cherokees undertook a furtive diplomatic mission that would ultimately thrust Cherokee country into the heart of the Seven Years’ War. Conducted by a French agent and three Shawnee guides, the envoy consisted of men and women primarily from the Overhill town of Great Tellico. Their journey took them through the Upper ...

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5 “in a discontented mood”: The Crisis in Virginia

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pp. 94-109

Endeavoring to reinvigorate the alliance following the Tellico affair, many Cherokees demonstrated their political and economic attachment to Britain by warring against the French and their Indian allies. Overhill and Valley peoples, situated on the western fringes of Cherokee country, frequently targeted those enemies beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Warriors from these settlements also joined Cherokees from other regions ...

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6 “every Town wept for some”: The Anglo-Cherokee War

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pp. 110-129

On August 26, 1756, Captain Raymond Demere and the Independent Company of South Carolina prepared to march from Fort Prince George to the Overhill Towns. Their mission was to construct and garrison Fort Loudoun near the town of Toskegee, thereby protecting the Overhill people from French and Indian incursions and consequently strengthening the Anglo-Cherokee alliance. ...

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7 “now all our Talks are about Lands”: Unstable Borderlands

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pp. 130-151

Although no European or colonial war touched Cherokee towns from 1763 to 1775, the interwar years were nevertheless trying times for the beleaguered Cherokees. A declining deerskin trade, hostile northern and western Indians, and unremitting land encroachments pressed the mountain villagers on all sides. The bitter legacy of the Anglo-Cherokee War continued to haunt the substantially ...

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8 “half war half peace”: The American Revolution in Cherokee Country [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 152-176

The onset of the American Revolution forced Cherokees to engage in the conflict, and the result was far from unanimous. Although nearly all Cherokees were embittered by continual land encroachments from American settlers, not every mountain villager agreed upon the best means of safeguarding their homes and lands. Some favored neutrality ...

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Epilogue: Toward the Cherokee Nation

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pp. 178-182

The military phase of the American Revolution ended, and many villagers looked to bridge the political divide between the Upper and Lower Cherokees. One visitor to Cherokee country in 1799 found that old wounds appeared to have been healed. Brother Abraham Steiner observed that “the Upper and Lower Cherokees were entirely at peace and in unity, and one nation.” ...


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pp. 183-215


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pp. 217-225


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pp. 227-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045436
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813035802
Print-ISBN-10: 0813035805

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 6 maps
Publication Year: 2011