Native History - Dragging Canoe (Tsi'yu-gunsini)

“Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will hold our land.”
— Chief Dragging Canoe, Chickamauga Tsalagi (Cherokee) 1775

Dragging Canoe (ᏥᏳ ᎦᏅᏏᏂ, pronounced Tsiyu Gansini, "he is dragging his canoe") (c.1738–February 29, 1792) was a Cherokee war chief who led a band of disaffected Cherokee against colonists and United States settlers in the Upper South.

During the American Revolution and afterward, Dragging Canoe's forces were sometimes joined by Upper Muskogee, Chickasaw, Shawnee, and Indians from other tribes/nations, along with British Loyalists, and agents of France and Spain. The series of conflicts lasted a decade after the American Revolutionary War. Dragging Canoe became the preeminent war leader among the Indians of the southeast of his time. He served as war chief of the Chickamauga Cherokee (or "Lower Cherokee") from 1777 until his death in 1792, when he was succeeded by John Watts.

Legacy

Dragging Canoe is considered by many to be the most significant Native American leader of the Southeast. Historians such as John P. Brown in Old Frontiers, and James Mooney in his early ethnographic book, Myths of the Cherokee, consider him a role model for the younger Tecumseh, who was a member of a band of Shawnee living with the Chickamauga and taking part in their wars. In Tell Them They Lie, a book written by a direct descendant of Sequoyah named Traveller [sic] Bird, both Tecumseh and Sequoyah are stated to have been among his young warriors.

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NATIVE NAME: Tsi'yu-gunsini

ENGLISH NAME: Dragging Canoe; Andrew Brown

ALTERNATE NAMES:Cui Canacina, Savage Napoleon, Dragon (so called by his enemies).

ALTERNATE SPELLINGS: Cheucunsene, Kunnese

MEANING OF NAMES:

  • Tsi'yu-gunsini - Canoe (tsi'yu), He is Dragging It (gunsini).
  • Dragging Canoe - According to Cherokee legend, his name is derived from an incident in his early childhood in which he attempted to prove his readiness to go on the warpath by hauling a canoe, but he was only able to drag it.

BIRTHPLACE / DATE: Attakullakulla resided in the village of Tenase through 1755 so this is likely the place of Dragging Canoe's birth. Dragging Canoe was said to be a few years older than his cousin Nancy Ward (born 1738), daughter of Tame Doe who was the sister of Attakullakulla, Dragging Canoe's father. Estimated date of birth: 1740.

RESIDENCE: Tellico, and Chota, E. Indian Nation, Tennessee. Later, at the outbreak of the American Revolution, Dragging Canoe moves families downriver to Chickamauga and Chattanooga and Running Water Creek (now Whiteside), and Upper and Lower Towns

DEATH DATE / LOCATION: He died March 1, 1792, in Running Waters, Tennessee from exhaustion or an apparent heart attack after dancing all night celebrating the recent conclusion of an alliance with the Muskogee and the Choctaw. He also had a very small cut from a rifle ball on his side that went unattended and became infected. It was normal after each battle that the Chief and his warriors dance and gave thanks to Yowa (God, Creator) for a great victory. This would go on for several days and nights.

BURIAL PLACE: In traditional Cherokee style he was buried in a sitting position, his possessions heaped around him.

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