Spotswood’s November 1713 Letter Regarding Tuscarora War Survivors

Many people think that most of the surviving southern band of the Tuscarora went to New York after the fall of Fort Neoheroka in March of 1713, a turning point in the Tuscarora War, or that they immediately settled with northern band Chief Tom Blount, living in present day Bertie County, who did not participate in the Tuscarora War.

We see from the letters of Alexander Spotswood that neither circumstance is true.  Many families were dispersed and in dire conditions.  Spotswood says that they were “found dispersed in small parties upon the head of the Roanoke and about the mountains in very miserable condition.”  There were over 1500 people.  It had been believed that the majority of the Tuscarora had been massacred at Tuscarora, and indeed, over 950 were killed or sold into slavery, but clearly there were nearly twice that number who survived, and probably more, assuming not all went to Williamsburg or made themselves evident.

What became of these 1500 Tuscarora?

The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1710-1722, Vol 2, pages 46-48

Spotwood p 46

spotswood p 47

spotswood p 47bspotswood p 48

Posted in Tuscarora | Leave a comment

Parsons and Abbott Roll – 1832 Creek Census

creek census image

By a treaty of March 24, 1832, the Creek Indians ceded to the United States all of their land east of the Mississippi River. Heads of families were entitled to tracts of land, which, if possible, were to include their improvements. In 1833 Benjamin S. Parsons and Thomas J. Abbott prepared a census of Creek Indian heads of families, which gave their names and the number of males, females, and slaves in each family. The entries were arranged by town and numbered; these numbers were used for identification in later records.

The census of 1832/1833 has come to be called the Parsons and Abbott Roll, and is the most comprehensive pre-removal document, as it was the result of a village-to-village trek on the part of the census-takers, and contains the names of all the heads of households arranged by Creek towns. The genealogical researcher who is able to locate an ancestor on this document is most fortunate, as it forms the basis for many other documents relating to Creek claims cases through the 1960’s.

While few and far between, there are some free blacks listed within this census – a total of 11 as heads of household one referred to by name as the husband of an Indian woman. Many slaves gained their freedom from their Creek Tribe; once their freedom was obtained, they often received citizenship within the tribe and several are listed by name.

You can see the rolls of the individual Creek towns at this link:

This roll is interesting for a variety of reasons.

First, it includes a total of 6279 households with 22,240 individuals, including 884 slaves, 10,265 males and 11,002 females.  Given the household breakdown, it appears to include children, but it doesn’t list anyone by name except the head of household.  Twenty seven households may have been duplicates, based on the same name, but I have included them in the totals because we don’t know if they are duplicates or not.

There are a total of 84 towns, as best I can tell, attempting to account for variant spellings. This equates on average to 264 people per town, although this is kind of deceptive because there were a few really large towns and then several smaller towns as well.  There were, on average, about 3.54 people per household, including slaves.  However, all of the slaves were held by only 160 households, so most of the families did not own slaves.  Only 31 families owned 10 slaves or more and 45 households owned only one slave.

Several slaveholding households owned quite a few slaves, the most being 35.  Of the top slaveholders, the third highest was a woman, Fanny Lovett who lived alone and had 30 slaves.  Twenty-one of the slaveholders were principal chiefs and at least 42 were women heads of households.  There may have been more women.  The only way I can discern a woman head of household is if she has an English name or there are no men in the household. If a Creek woman had a son and no English name, I would have no way of knowing if the household was a family headed by a woman or by the male in the household.   One woman is noted as a half negro and having a negro slave for a husband.

The most surprising aspect of this census, to me, is that by 1832 I expected that most or at least the majority of Native people had taken some sort of English name, even if just a one name nickname, but that is very clearly not the case.  The Creek were heavy traders, as were the Cherokee, and I would have expected more of the English language and culture would have crept in.  I did notice that an interpreter is also included, Benjamin Marshall, so many people obviously did not speak English.  Some of the chiefs have Native names, but not all.  In total, there are 82 principal chiefs listed of their various villages of which 17 have English or partially English names, or about 21%, twice that of the Creek population as a whole.

In addition to the Creeks, there is one Cherokee missionary, Robert Rogers, sixteen noted as “a Euchee” and eleven noted as a free negro heads of household.  One additional free negro is noted as a spouse.

In some cases, I was uncertain if a name was English or Native.  For example is An ne the same as Anne?  Same question for Fan ny, and what about if Fan ny is the wife of a white man?

Some names were found a lot in Creek names as part of a longer name string.  For example, the word Micco.  Did it become a Creek surname?  Are the words Tallissee Micco an English name or Creek words that have no English meaning – indicating that later, Tallissee Micco took an English name that did not include either name?  Is Tommy har jo and Tom my har jo the same?  And is Tom my the English name Tommy or a Creek word or words?  I don’t know.  The only example I have is one Micco Buiecar whose alias is given as Old King.

Other questions are equally as puzzling. Should Cooper Pack be shown under Cooper or Pack, or neither. Is Mike y the same as Mikey? Are Lotta and Low ey Native words or English names or nicknames? I don’t have the answers, but for the Native names project, I have included the questionable names. It’s easier to include too many and problematic to omit one that later turns out to be important. In the case of Cooper Pack and other similarly problematic names, I’ve indexed them under both words.

Out of the total 6279 households, about 580 have English or partly anglicized names, or about 9% of the total.

To understand more about the Creek villages, village names and history, click here to visit the University of Oklahoma Western History Collection and specifically, an interview by Thomas Meagher with the Creek Indians after their removal.

Posted in Cherokee, Creek, Uchee | 5 Comments

Jack Amos, Choctaw, Newton County, Mississippi

jack amosJack Amos was born about 1830, a Choctaw Indian, and applied for tribal membership with the Dawes Commission in 1901.  He filed a deposition which provides a great deal of information about his family.

He lists his parents at full-blood Choctaw, his father as Apa-tom-by and his mother as Nah-ha-tema.  Jack is the grandson of Nahotima, a sister of Chief Pushmataha.

Jack’s Indian name was E-aht-onte-ube meaning “Going Out There to Kill,” a name he may have earned during the Civil War.  Native names sometimes change during the lifetime of the person, depending on circumstances.

He fought with the 1st Choctaw Battalion under Major J.W. Pearce for the Confederacy.

After the Civil War, he lived on and worked the farm of Evan Shelby Gilbert on Tallahatta Creek.

The Dawes Commission awarded Jack land in Indian Territory, but Jack, by then quite elderly, refused to leave Mississippi.

Jack died in 1906 at about the age of 76.

You can read more about Jack and his Native American ancestors at this link.

Hat tip to Jennifer for info about Jack Amos.

Posted in Choctaw | 1 Comment

Big Y DNA Results Divide and Unite Haplogroup Q Native Americans

featherOne of my long standing goals has been to resurrect the lost heritage of the Native American people.  By this I mean, primarily, for genealogists who search for and can’t find  their Native ancestors.  This blog, as well as my work with genetics at and are ways that I contribute towards that end.  Many times, records are buried, don’t exist at all, or don’t reflect anything about Native heritage.  While documents can be somewhat evasive and frustratingly vague, the Y DNA of the male descendants is not.  It’s rock solid.

The Native communities became admixed beginning with the first visits of Europeans to what would become the Americas.  Native people accepted mixed race individuals as full tribal members, based on the ethnicity of the mother.  Adoption also played a key role.  If a female, the mother, was an adopted white child, the mother was considered to be fully Native, as was her child, regardless of the ethnicity of the father.

Therefore, some people who test their DNA expecting to find Native genetics do not – they instead find European or African – but that alone does not mean that their ancestors were not tribal members.  It means that these individuals have to rely on non-genetic records to prove their ancestors Native heritage – or they need to test a different line – like the descendants of the mother, through all females, for example, for mitochondrial DNA.

On the other hand, some people are quite surprised when their DNA results come back as Native.  Many have heard a vague story, but often, they don’t have a clue as to which genealogical line, if any, the Native ancestry originated.  Native ancestry was often hidden because the laws that prevailed at the time sanctioned discrimination of many kinds against people “of color,” and if you weren’t entirely of European origin, you were “of color.”  Many admixed people, as soon as they could, “became” white socially and never looked back. Not until recently, the late 20th century, when discrimination had for the most part become a thing of the past and one could embrace their Native or African heritage without fear of legal or social reprisal.

Back in December of 2010, we found the defining SNP that divided haplogroup Q between Europeans and Native Americans.  At the time, this was a huge step forward, a collaboration between testing participants, haplogroup administrators, citizen scientists and Family Tree DNA.

This allowed us to determine who was, and was not included in Native American haplogroups, but it was also the tip of the iceberg.  You can see below just how much the tree has expanded and its branches have been shuffled.  This is a big part of the reason for the change from haplogroup names like Q1a3 to Q-M346.  For example, at one time or another the SNP M3 was associated with haplogroup names Q1a3a, Q1a3a1 and Q1a3a1a.  On the ISOGG tree below, today M3 is associated with Q1a2a1a1.

isogg q tree

The new Family Tree DNA 2014 tree is shown below for one of the Big Y participants whose terminal SNP is L568, found beneath SNP CTS1780 which is found beneath L4, which is beneath L213 which is beneath L474 which is beneath MEH2 which is beneath L232 which is, finally, beneath M242.

ftdna 2014 q tree

The introduction of the Big Y product from Family Tree DNA, which sequences a large portion of the Y chromosome, provided us with the opportunity to make huge strides in unraveling and deciphering the haplogroup Q (and C, the other male Native haplogroup in the Americas) tree.  I am hopeful that in time, and with enough people taking the Big Y test, that we will one day be able to at least sort participants into language and perhaps migration groups.

In November, 2013, we asked for the public and testers to support our call for funds to be able to order several Big Y tests.  The project administrators intentionally did not order tests in family groups, but attempted to scatter the tests to the far corners, so to speak, and to include at least one person from each disparate group we have in the haplogroup Q project, based on STR matches, or lack thereof, and previous SNP testing.

Thanks to the generosity of contributors, we were able to order several tests.  In addition, some participants were able to order their own tests, and did.  Thank you one and all.

The tests are back now, and with the new Big Y SNP matching, recently introduced by Family Tree DNA, comparisons are a LOT easier.

So, of course, I had to see what I could find by comparing the SNP results of the several gentlemen who tested.

To protect the privacy of everyone involved, I have reduced their names to initials.  I have included their terminal SNP as identified at Family Tree DNA as well as any tribal, ethnic or location information we have available for their most distant paternal ancestor.

There are two individuals who believe their ancestors are from Europe, and there is a very large group of European haplogroup Q members, but I’m not convinced that the actual biological ancestors of these two gentlemen are from Europe.  I have included both of these individuals as well. Let’s just say the jury is still out. As a control, I have also included a gentleman who actually lives in Poland.

native match clusters

Of the individuals above, SD, CT and CM are SNP matches.

CD, WJS and WBS are SNP matches with each other.

BG and ETW are also SNP matches to each other.

None of the rest of these individuals have SNP matches.  (Note, you can click to enlarge the chart.)

native snp matches

In the table above, the Non-Matching Known SNPs are shown with the number of Shared Novel Variants.  For example, SD and CT have 4 non-matching SNPS and share 161 Novel Variants and are noted as 4/161.

We can easily tell which of the known SNPs are nonmatching, because they are shown on the participants match page.

snp matches page

What we don’t know, and can’t tell, is how many Novel Variants these people share with each other, and how many they might share with the individuals that aren’t shown as matches.

Keep in mind that there may be individuals here that are not shown as matches to due no-calls.  Only people with up to and including 4 non-matching Known SNPs are counted as matches.  If you have the wrong combination of no-calls, or, aren’t in the same terminal haplogroup, you may not be shown as a match when you otherwise would be.

The other reason for my intense interest in the Novel Variants is to see if they are actually Novel, as in found only in a few people, or if they are more widespread.

I downloaded each person’s Novel Variants through the Export Utility (blue button to the right at the top of your personal page,) and combined the Novel Variants into a single spreadsheet.  I colorized each person’s result rows so that they would be easy to track.  I have redacted their names. The white row, below, is the individual who lives in Poland.

novel variant 1

There are a total of 3506 Novel Variants between these men.  When sorting, many clustered as you would expect.  There is the Algonguian group and what I’ve taken to calling the Borderlands group.  This group has someone whose ancestor was born in VA and two in SC.  I have documentation for the Virginia family having descendants in SC, so that makes sense.  The third group is an unusual combination of the gentleman who believes his ancestors are from Germany and the gentleman whose ancestors are found in a New Mexico Pueblo tribe, but whose ancestor was, likely, based on church records, a detribalized Plains Indian who had been kidnapped and sold.

Clusters that I felt needed some scrutiny, for one reason or another, I highlighted in yellow in the Terminal SNP column.  Obviously the Polish/Pueblo matching needs some attention.

Another very interesting type of match are several where either all or nearly all of the individuals share a Novel Variant – 15 or 16 of 16 total participants.  I don’t think these will remain Novel Variants very long.  They clearly need to be classified as SNPs.  I’m not sure about the process that Family Tree DNA will use to do this, but I’ll be finding out shortly.

Here’s an example where everyone shares this Novel Variant at location 7688075,except the gentleman who lives in Poland, the man who believes his ancestor is from Germany, and the Creek descendant.

novel variant 2

I was very surprised at how many Novel Variants appear in all 16 results of the participants, including the gentleman who lives in Poland – represented by the white row below.

novel variant 3

So, how were the Novel Variants distributed?

Category # of Variants Comments
Algonquian Group 140 This is to be expected since it’s within a specific group.  Any matches that include people outside the 3 Algonquian individuals are counted in a separate category.  These matches give us the ability to classify anyone who tests with these marker results as provisionally Algonquian.
Borderlands 83 This confirms that these three individuals are indeed a “group” of some sort.  This also gives us the ability to classify future participants using these mutations.
All or Nearly All – 15 or 16 Participants 80 These are clearly candidates for SNPs, and, given that they are found in the Native and the European groups, they appear to predate the division of haplogroup Q.
Several Native and European, Combined 45 This may or may not include the person who lives in Poland.  This group needs additional scrutiny to determine if it actually does exist in Europe, but given that there are more than 3 individuals with each of these Novel Variants, they need to be considered for SNPhood.
Pueblo/NC 1
Poland/Borderlands 2
Mexico/Algonquian 2
German/Pueblo 9 I wonder if this person is actually German.
Poland/Mexico 20 I wonder if this person’s ancestors are actually from Poland.
Algonquian, NC, Creek 1
Borderland, Mexico, Creek 1
Algonquian/Cherokee 1
All Native, no Euro 2
Algonquian, Borderlands, Mexico, NC 1
Algonquian, Mexico, Borderlands 1
Borderlands, Pueblo 1
Borderlands, Creek, NC 1
Algonquian, Cherokee, Mexico 3
Algonquian, Pueblo, Creek, Borderlands 1
Cherokee, NC 2
Algonquian, Borderlands 2
Borderlands, NC 1
Algonquian, NC 1
Polish/NC 10

Some of this distribution makes me question if these SNP mutations truly are a “once in the history of mankind” kind of thing.  For example, how did the same SNP appear in the Polish person and the NC person, or the Pueblo person, and not in the rest of the Native people?

New SNPs?

So, are you sitting down?

Based on these numbers, it looks like we have at least 125 new SNP candidates for  haplogroup Q.  If we count the Algonquian and the Borderlands groups of matches, that number rises to about 250.  This is very exciting.  Far, far more than I ever expected.  of these SNPS, about half will identify Native people, even Native groupings of people.  This is a huge step forward, a red letter day for Native American ancestry!

SNPs and STRs

Lastly, I wanted to see how the SNP matching compared to STR matching, or if it did at all, for these men.

Only two men match each other on any STR markers.  CD and WJS matched on 12 markers, but not on higher panels.  The TIP calculator estimated their common ancestor at the 50th percentile to be 17 generations, or between 425 and 510 years ago.  We all know how unrealistic it is to depend on the TIP calculator is, but it’s the only tool we have in situations like this.

Given that these are the only two men who do match on STR markers, albeit distantly, in a genealogical timeframe, let’s see what the estimates using the 150 years per SNP mutation comes up with.  This estimate is just that, devised by the haplogroup R-U106 project administrators, and others, based on their project findings.  150 years is actually the high end of the estimate, 98 being the lower end.  Of course, different haplogroups may vary and these results are very early.  Just saying.

CD has 207 high quality Novel Variants.  He shares 188 of those with WJS, leaving 19 unshared Novel Variants.  Utilizing this number, and multiplying by 150, this suggests that, if the 150 years per SNP is anyplace close to accurate, their common ancestor lived about 2850 years ago.  If you presume that both men are incurring mutations at the same rate in their independent lines, then you would divide the number of years in half, so the common ancestor would be more likely 1425 years ago.  If you use 100 years instead of 150, the higher number of years is 1900 and the half number is about 950 years.

It’s fun to speculate a bit, but until a lot more study has occurred, we won’t be able to reasonably estimate SNP age or age to common ancestor from this information.   Having said all of that, it’s not a long stretch from 710 years to 950 years.

It looks like STR markers are still the way to go for genealogical matching and that SNPS may help to pull together the deeper ancestry, migration patterns and perhaps define family lines.  I hope the day comes soon that I can order the Big Y for lots more project members.  Most of these men do have STR marker matches, and to men with both the same and different surnames.  I’d love to see the Big Y results for those individuals who match more closely in time.

This is still the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot left to discover!  If you or a family member have haplogroup Q results, please consider ordering the Big Y.  It would make a wonderful gift and a great way to honor your ancestors!

You can also contribute to the haplogroup Q project at this link:

In order to donate to the haplogroup C-P39 project which also includes Native Americans, please click this link:

If you haven’t yet tested, and would like to, please order your DNA test through Family Tree DNA where they are projects for Native American descendants.

Posted in Algonquian, DNA, Mexico, Mohegan, Plains, Pueblo | 3 Comments

Canadian Metis Scrip Records

The Métis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Canadian Northwest.

Distinct Métis communities developed along the fur trade routes. This Métis Nation Homeland includes the three Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as, parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Northern United States.

The Métis Nation grew into a distinct culture and became a people in the Northwest prior to that territory becoming part of Canada.

The Métis are one of the “Aboriginal peoples of Canada.” To read more about the Metis, click here and note the family history and genealogy section.

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the settlements awarded by the federal government of Canada to the Métis inhabitants of Manitoba and the former North-West Territories. The records created by the scrip commissions, and the Department of the Interior in its administration of federal land policies, are now consulted by a wide range of users. The records have become particularly important, however, in two key areas: in the debate surrounding Métis allegations into the mishandling of their rights, as an Aboriginal people, by the federal government; and in family histories, especially with those seeking re-instatement under the Indian Act.

The good news is that more than 24,000 of these records have recently been brought online.

cancelled land scrip

What are scrip records and where did the people who received scrip live?  This article explains further about scrip records.

Posted in Cree, Metis, Ojibwa | Leave a comment

Stand Watie, Cherokee

stand watie

Stand Watie (December 12, 1806 – September 9, 1871; also known as Standhope Uwatie, Degataga (Cherokee: ᏕᎦᏔᎦ), meaning “stand firm”, and Isaac S. Watie) was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the Confederate Indian cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, made up mostly of Cherokee, Muskogee and Seminole, and was the final Confederate general in the field to surrender at war’s end.

Watie was born in Oothcaloga, Cherokee Nation (now Calhoun, Georgia) on December 12, 1806, the son of Uwatie (Cherokee for “the ancient one”), a full-blood Cherokee, and Susanna Reese, daughter of a white father and Cherokee mother. He was named Degataga. According to one biography, this name meant “standing firm” when translated to English.  He combined his Cherokee and English names into Stand Watie.  His brothers were Gallagina, nicknamed “Buck” (who later took the name Elias Boudinot); and Thomas Watie. They were close to their paternal uncle Major Ridge, and his son John Ridge, both later leaders in the tribe. By 1827, their father David Uwatie had become a wealthy planter, who held African-American slaves as laborers.

After Uwatie converted to Christianity with the Moravians, he took the name of David Uwatie; he and Susanna renamed Degataga as Isaac. In his life, Degataga preferred to use a form of the English translation of his Cherokee name, “Stand Firm.” Later, the family dropped the “U” from the spelling of their surname, using “Watie.” Along with his two brothers and sisters, Stand Watie learned to read and write English at the Moravian mission school in Spring Place, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia).

One source (Franks, Kenny A. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. “Stand Watie”) states that Stand Watie married four women: Eleanor Looney, Elizabeth Fields, Isabella Hicks, and Sarah Caroline Bell. His child with Elizabeth Fields was stillborn in 1836. He and Sarah Bell married in 1842. They had three sons and two daughters, but there were no grandchildren.

Watie became involved in the dispute over Georgia’s repressive anti-Indian laws. After gold was discovered on Cherokee lands in northern Georgia, thousands of white settlers encroached on Indian lands. There was continuing conflict, and Congress passed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, to relocate all Indians from the Southeast, to lands west of the Mississippi River. In 1832 Georgia confiscated most of the Cherokee land, despite federal laws to protect Native Americans from state actions. The state sent militia to destroy the offices and press of the Cherokee Phoenix, which had published articles against Indian Removal.

Believing that removal was inevitable, the Watie brothers favored securing Cherokee rights by treaty before relocating to Indian Territory.   Watie and his older brother Elias Boudinot were among the Treaty Party leaders who signed the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. The majority of the Cherokee opposed removal, and the Tribal Council and Chief John Ross, of the National Party, refused to ratify the treaty.

In 1835, Watie, his family, and many other Cherokee emigrated to Indian Territory (eastern present-day Oklahoma). They joined some Cherokee who had relocated as early as the 1820s and were known as the “Old Settlers”.

After removal, members of the Cherokee government carried out sentence against Treaty Party men for execution; their giving up tribal lands was a “blood” or capital offense under Cherokee law. Stand Watie, his brother Elias Boudinot, their uncle Major Ridge and cousin John Ridge, along with several other Treaty Party men, were all sentenced to death on 22 June 1839; only Stand Watie survived. He arranged for his brother Elias’ children to be sent for their safety and education to their mother’s family in Connecticut; their mother Harriet had died in 1836 before the migration.

In 1842 Watie encountered James Foreman, whom he recognized as one of his uncle’s executioners, and murdered him. This was part of the post-Removal violence within the tribe, which was close to civil war for years. Ross supporters executed Stand’s brother Thomas Watie in 1845. At least 34 politically related murders were committed among the Cherokee in 1845 and 1846.

In the 1850s Stand Watie was tried in Arkansas for the murder of Foreman; he was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. His nephew Elias Cornelius Boudinot, who had returned to the West and become a lawyer, defended him.

Watie, a slave holder, developed a successful plantation on Spavinaw Creek in the Indian Territory. He served on the Cherokee Council from 1845 to 1861, and part of the time served as Speaker.

After John Ross fled to Federal-controlled territory in 1862, Watie replaced Ross as principal chief.

Watie was one of only two Native Americans on either side of the Civil War to rise to a brigadier general’s rank. The other was Ely S. Parker, a Seneca who fought on the Union side.

Fearful of the Federal Government and the threat to create a State (Oklahoma) out of most of, what was then, the semi-sovereign “Indian Territory”, a majority of the Cherokee Nation initially voted to support the Confederacy in the American Civil War for pragmatic reasons, though less than a tenth of the Cherokee owned slaves. Watie organized a regiment of cavalry. In October 1861, he was commissioned as colonel in the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

Although he fought Federal troops, he also led his men in fighting between factions of the Cherokee and in attacks on Cherokee civilians and farms, as well as against the Creek, Seminole and others in Indian Territory who chose to support the Union. Watie is noted for his role in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 6–8, 1862. Under the overall command of General Benjamin McCulloch, Watie’s troops captured Union artillery positions and covered the retreat of Confederate forces from the battlefield after the Union took control. However, most of the Cherokees who had joined Colonel John Drew’s regiment defected to the Union Side. Drew, a nephew of Chief Ross, remained loyal to the Confederacy.

In August 1862, after John Ross and his followers announced their support for the Union, went to Fort Leavenworth, the remaining Southern Confederate minority faction elected Stand Watie as principal chief.

After Cherokee support for the Confederacy sharply declined, Watie continued to lead the remnant of his cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general by General Samuel Bell Maxey in 1864. He commanded the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, composed of two regiments of Mounted Rifles and three battalions of Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry.

They fought in a number of battles and skirmishes in the western Confederate states, including the Indian Territory, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. Watie’s force reportedly fought in more battles west of the Mississippi River than any other unit. Watie took part in what is considered to be the greatest (and most famous) Confederate victory in Indian Territory, the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, which took place in what is now Mayes County, Oklahoma on September 19, 1864. He and General Richard Montgomery Gano led a raid that captured a Federal wagon train and netted approximately $1 million worth of wagons, mules, commissary supplies, and other needed items.

Since most Cherokee were now Union supporters, during the war, General Watie’s family and other Confederate Cherokee took refuge in Rusk and Smith counties of east Texas. The Cherokee and allied warriors became a potent Confederate fighting force that kept Union troops out of southern Indian Territory and large parts of north Texas throughout the war, but spent most of their time attacking other Cherokee.

On June 23, 1865, at Doaksville in the Choctaw Nation, Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives for his command, the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. He was the last Confederate general in the field to surrender.

After the war, Watie was a member of the Cherokee Delegation to the Southern Treaty Commission which renegotiated treaties with the United States.

During the American Civil War and soon after, Watie served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation (1862–1866). By then, the majority of the tribe supported the Confederacy. A minority supported the Union and refused to ratify his election. The former chief John Ross, a Union supporter, was captured in 1862 by Union forces.

John Ross, Cherokee Chief, had signed an alliance with the Confederacy in 1861, but repudiated it two years later. He reflected the shifting support within the Cherokee Nation, although by then a majority favored the Confederacy. After he was captured by Union forces and ended up in Washington, D.C., Tom Pegg took over as principal chief of the pro-Union Cherokee. Following Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, Pegg called a special session of the Cherokee National Council. On February 18, 1863, it passed a resolution to emancipate all slaves within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. Most of the “freed” slaves were held by masters who were part of the pro-Confederate Cherokee, so they did not gain immediate freedom.

Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the pro-Confederate Cherokee, who increasingly outnumbered pro-Union elements. Ross’ supporters, by then in the minority, refused to recognize his election. Open warfare broke out between the “Union Cherokee” and the “Confederate Cherokee” within Indian Territory. After the Civil War ended, both factions sent delegations to Washington, DC. Watie pushed for recognition of a separate “Southern Cherokee Nation”, but never achieved that.

Watie led the Southern Cherokee delegation to Washington after the war to sue for peace, hoping to have tribal divisions recognized. The US government negotiated only with the leaders who had sided with the Union, and named John Ross as principal chief in 1866.

The US government refused to recognize the divisions among the Cherokee. As part of the new treaty, it required the Cherokee free their slaves. The Southern Cherokee wanted the government to pay to relocate the Cherokee Freedmen from their lands. The Northern Cherokee suggested adopting them into the tribe, but wanted the federal government to give the Freedman an exclusive piece of associated territory. The federal government required that the Cherokee Freedmen would receive full rights for citizenship, land, and annuities as the Cherokee. It assigned them land in the Canadian addition. In the treaty of 1866, the government declared John Ross as the rightful Principal Chief.

The tribe was strongly divided over the treaty issues and return of Ross. He died in 1867 and a new chief was elected, Lewis Downing, a full-blood and compromise candidate. He was a shrewd and politically savvy Principal Chief, bringing about reconciliation and reunification among the Cherokee. Tensions lingered into the 20th century, but the Cherokee did not have the extended insurrection among pro-Confederate forces that occurred in the South.

Shortly after Downing’s election, Watie returned to the nation. After the treaty signing, he had gone into exile in the Choctaw Nation. Under the new treaty, he tried to stay out of politics and rebuild his plantation. He returned to Honey Creek, where he died on September 9, 1871. He was buried in the old Ridge Cemetery, later called Polson’s Cemetery, in what is now Delaware County, Oklahoma, on September 9, 1871. He was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

stand watie grave

Watie’s grave stone on Find-A-Grave.


Posted in Cherokee, Choctaw, Military, Muscogee, Osage, Seminole | 1 Comment

Ely Samuel Parker, Seneca

Ely Parker

Ely Samuel Parker (1828 – August 31, 1895), (born Hasanoanda, later known as Donehogawa) was a Seneca attorney, engineer, and tribal diplomat. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel during the American Civil War, when he served as adjutant to General Ulysses S. Grant. He wrote the final draft of the Confederate surrender terms at Appomattox. Later in his career, Parker rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General, one of only two Native Americans to earn a general’s rank during the war.  President Grant appointed him as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Native American to hold that post.  He served as Chief of the six Iroquois Nations, consisting of the Tuscaroras, Cayugas, Senecas, Mohawks, Oneidas, and Onondagas.

Parker was born in 1828 as the sixth of seven children to William and Elizabeth Parker, of prominent Seneca families, at Indian Falls, New York (then part of the Tonawanda Reservation).  He was named Ha-sa-no-an-da and later baptized Ely Samuel Parker. His father was a miller and a Baptist minister.  Ely had a classical education at a missionary school, was fully bilingual, and went on to college.

The parents strongly supported education for all the children, who included Spencer Houghton Cone, Nicholson Henry, Levi, Caroline (Carrie), Newton, and Solomon.  Nicholson Parker also became a prominent Seneca leader as he was a powerful orator.

Parker married Minnie Orton Sackett (1849–1932) in 1867. They had one daughter, Maud Theresa (1878–1956).

Parker began his career in public service by working as an interpreter and diplomat to the Seneca chiefs in their negotiations about land and treaty rights, in 1852 Parker was made sachem of the Seneca, and given the name Donehogawa, “Keeper of the Western Door of the Long House of the Iroquois”.

Parker attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating as an engineer.  As an engineer, Parker contributed to upgrades and maintenance of the Erie Canal, among other projects. As a supervisor of government projects in Galena, Illinois, he befriended Ulysses S. Grant, forming a strong and collegial relationship.

Ely parker standing

Near the start of the Civil War, Parker tried to raise a regiment of Iroquois volunteers to fight for the Union, but was turned down by New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan. He then sought to join the Union Army as an engineer, but was told by Secretary of War Simon Cameron that as an Indian, he could not join.  Parker contacted his colleague and friend Ulysses S. Grant, whose forces suffered from a shortage of engineers. Parker was commissioned a captain in May 1863 and ordered to report to Brig. Gen. John Eugene Smith. Smith appointed Parker as the chief engineer of his 7th Division during the siege of Vicksburg, and later said Parker was a “good engineer”.

When Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, Parker became his adjutant during the Chattanooga Campaign. He was subsequently transferred with Grant as the adjutant of the U.S. Army headquarters and served Grant through the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. At Petersburg, Parker was appointed as the military secretary to Grant, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He wrote much of Grant’s correspondence.

Parker was present when Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. He helped draft the surrender documents, which are in his handwriting. At the time of surrender, General Lee “stared at me for a moment,” said Parker to more than one of his friends and relatives, “He extended his hand and said, ‘I am glad to see one real American here.’ I shook his hand and said, ‘We are all Americans.’ Parker was brevetted brigadier general of United States Volunteers on April 9, 1865, and of United States Army March 2, 1867.

surrender at appomattox

Parker is the third from right, back row, at the surrender of Appomattox.

Parker was one of only two Native Americans on either side of the Civil War to rise to a brigadier general’s rank. The other was Stand Watie, a Cherokee who fought on the Confederate side.

After the Civil War, Parker was commissioned as an officer in the 2nd United States Cavalry on July 1, 1866. He again became the military secretary to Grant as he finished out his time as general in chief. Parker was a member of the Southern Treaty Commission that renegotiated treaties with Indian Tribes that sided with the Confederacy. Parker resigned from the army with the brevet rank of brigadier general of Regulars on April 26, 1869.

In 1869 President Grant astounded the nation by appointing him commissioner of Indian affairs, a post never before deemed suitable for an Indian. He served in that post until 1871. Parker became the chief architect of President Grant’s Peace Policy in relation to the Native Americans in the West. Under his leadership, the number of military actions against Indians were reduced in the west.

ely parker with grant

Parker, seated at left, with Ulysses S. Grant, above.

Beset both by corrupt profiteers and overzealous churchmen, he was investigated by the House of Representatives. Exonerated, he resigned in sorrow and attempted a career in business, in which he was not successful.

Parker invested in the stock market.  At first he did well, but eventually lost the fortune he had accumulated, after the collapse of 1873. Through his social connections, Parker received an appointment to the Board of Commissioners of the New York Police Department’s Committee on Supplies and Repairs. Parker received many visits at Police Headquarters on Mulberry Street from Jacob Riis, the photographer famous for documenting the lives of slum dwellers, who enjoyed “smoking a pipe in his poky little office” and was “famous for his access to internal police reports.”

Parker lived his last years in poverty, dying in Fairfield, Connecticut on August 31, 1895, where he was buried. He left his widow with no income and few possessions; those included, however, one of the valuable manifold (carbon) copies of the surrender he had written at Appomattox.

The Seneca did not feel Algonquin territory was appropriate for a final resting place, and requested that his widow relocate the grave.  On January 20, 1897, Ely Parker’s body was exhumed and moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. He was reinterred next to his ancestor Red Jacket, a famous Seneca orator, and other Native people such as Little Billy, Young King, Tall Peter, Destroy Town, and Louis Bennett, also known as Deerfoot.

ely parker grave

 Above, Ely Parker’s stone at Find-A-Grave.


Posted in Cayuga, Military, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora | 2 Comments