Tag Archive | Native Americans

Execution by the Tuscarora: John Lawson

A drawing of DeGraffenreid and John Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to Graffenreid.

A drawing of von Graffenreid and Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

On September 20, 1711, explorer and surveyor John Lawson was killed by the Tuscarora.

Lawson and Baron Christoph von Graffenried planned to travel up the Neuse River from New Bern in an attempt to explore the area and discover the river’s source. The Tuscarora, angry about incursions into their lands, the kidnapping of their women and children, and disrespectful treatment by traders, stopped the expedition and imprisoned the leaders.

Graffenried’s account of the incident stated that Lawson got into an angry exchange with a leader which resulted in the seizure and burning of their hats and wigs, and a sentence of death being pronounced over them.

The next morning, Graffenried reportedly chastised Lawson for antagonizing their captors and spoke with an Indian interpreter.

After several days, one of the Indians made a plea on Graffenried’s behalf. He was released but kept in a hut, during which time Lawson was executed. It is believed that the Tuscarora thought Graffenried was the governor and that they would incur the wrath of the English if they killed him.

Graffenried later heard of several ways in which Lawson was supposedly executed but the actual method of death was uncertain.

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Cherokee Code Talkers and Allied Success in WWI

Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers from World War I at Fort Benning, Ga. Image from the U.S. Army.

Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers from World War I at Fort Benning, Ga. Image from the U.S. Army.

On August 21, 1918, British forces began attacking German positions along a 10-mile stretch of the Western Front in northwest France. The assault was part of the World War I action now known as the Somme Offensive.

Attached to the British troops fighting in the region were the 119th and 120th U.S. Infantry Regiments, which both contained a number of Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina.

In last September and early October as the offensive continued and preparations were underway to break through the German defensive positions known as the Hindenburg Line, the commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications. The Germans then used those messages to discover the position of Allied forces and attack them.

That’s where the Cherokee came in. The signal officers at the time guessed that the Germans wouldn’t be able to understand the Cherokee language, and instructed Cherokee troops to deliver messages by telephone in their native tongue. The tactic proved to be a success.

The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire, and they continued to serve in this unique capacity for rest of World War I. Their success was part of the inspiration for the better-known use of Navajo code talkers during World War II.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tryon Mountain Along the Indian Boundary, 1767

On July 13, 1767, a public proclamation made official a new boundary line delineating the western frontiers of the province of North Carolina from the Cherokee hunting grounds. The boundary mandated that white settlers west of the line should remove themselves by January 1768, and anyone wishing to trade with the Cherokees was required to obtain a license from the governor.

In 1766, John Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern colonies, pressed Governor William Tryon to enter into negotiations with the Cherokees regarding extension of the boundary line. Tryon appointed commissioners to conduct the survey and mounted a personal military expedition to take part in the negotiations.

The Cherokees were flattered to receive the governor’s visit and gave him the title “Great Wolf of North Carolina.”

The commissioners began their work in June 1767 at the Reedy River in South Carolina. From there, with the assistance of the several Cherokees, they surveyed a line 53 miles north to a tree atop the peak that the Indians called the “great Mountain” and that the commissioners renamed Tryon Mountain.

It was agreed that the boundary would extend in a straight line into Virginia, but that that portion would by necessity remain unsurveyed.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Outdoor Drama at Cherokee Revived

An audience watches 1952 performance of "Unto These Hills." Image from the State Archives.

An audience watches 1952 performance of “Unto These Hills.” Image from the State Archives.

On July 1, 1950, the outdoor drama Unto These Hills premiered to a capacity crowd at the Mountainside Theater in Cherokee.

The pageant told the story of the Cherokee people from their first encounter with European explorers in the 1540s through the period of forced removal from their homeland and subsequent journey to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. The trip became known as the Trail of Tears because of the high number of people who suffered and died along the way.

Unto These Hills was written by Kermit Hunter and directed by Harry Davis. For many years it was enormously popular, but when later compared with true Cherokee history, Unto These Hills came up lacking. Locals lost a connection to the play and stopped identifying with it. Attendance dwindled.

The eagle dance during a 1952 performance of "Unto These Hills." Image from the State Archives.

The eagle dance during a 1952 performance of “Unto These Hills.” Image from the State Archives.

In 2006, the play underwent a major overhaul under the direction of American Indian playwright Hanay Geiogamah. Additional revisions followed, and now, although many reminisce about the original version, Unto These Hills better reflects the history, culture and traditions of the Cherokee people.

Unto These Hills is still performed each summer in Cherokee and draws upwards of 30,000 people a year. The 2016 season runs through August 13.

Visit: Unto These Hills is just one of the great summer arts experiences you’ll find across North Carolina. Check out a complete list of outdoor dramas from Visit North Carolina and a guide to summer arts experiences from the N.C. Arts Council.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Marion’s Daniel Kanipe, Survivor of Custer’s Last Stand

A 1929 painting of Custer's Last Stand. Image from Dayton History.

A 1929 painting of Custer’s Last Stand. Image from Dayton History.

On June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry under his command on an attack against an Indian encampment at Little Big Horn. The incident is now commonly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

Custer’s troopers were quickly encircled by the Native Americans under Chief Sitting Bull, who were expecting them, and Custer and 265 of his men were killed in under an hour.

An image of Kanipe from the N.C. Highway Historical Markers Program

An image of Kanipe from the N.C. Highway Historical Markers Program.

Marion native Daniel Kanipe and one other soldier were the only two from Custer’s battalion to survive Little Bighorn. The two were sent to relay messages to Captain Frederick Benteen and others in the train of pack mules supplying the unit. Seeing Custer’s mistake, Benteen held his battalion back and refused to allow the couriers to return to battle.

Kanipe remained in the reconstituted 7th Cavalry until receiving his discharge in 1877. He returned to North Carolina where he operated a farm in McDowell County. He went back to the Little Bighorn battlefield in 1908 on a publicity tour to raise money to preserve graves there.

Often called upon to relate his experience at Little Bighorn, Kanipe became a celebrity among admirers of the “Old West” and researchers of “Custer’s Last Stand.” His recollections became the basis for many of the 20th century accounts of the battle.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

U.S. Army Rounds Up Cherokees, 1838

Fort Butler Marker

On June 12, 1838, Gen. Winfield Scott ordered troops to begin rounding up Cherokee Indians for internment at Fort Butler near what is now Murphy, leading to their eventual forced relocation to Oklahoma.

The order was part of a larger effort led by Scott at the behest of President Martin Van Buren to remove the Cherokee from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina as authorized under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Scott was personally involved in the action in southwestern North Carolina because the Army believed the area was the most likely to be a center of conflict.

After a week, the troops had arrested more than two-thirds of the local Cherokee population and, by early July, nearly 2,500 Cherokee were in custody. Those and approximately 12,500 others would ultimately make the journey westward on the Trail of Tears between October 1838 and March 1839.

About 300 or 400 Cherokees hid out in North Carolina, laying the foundation for the purchase of the Qualla Boundary property and the establishment of North Carolina’s Cherokee Reservation.

Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee were not formally granted freedom to live in North Carolina until 1866, and the Band was not recognized as a separate entity from the Cherokee living in Oklahoma until 1868.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Judaculla Rock, Cherokee Petroglyph of Prominence

Milas Parker sits behind Judaculla Rock. Parker once owned the property on which the rock sits. Image from the State Archives.

Milas Parker sits behind Judaculla Rock. Parker once owned the property on which the rock sits. Image from the State Archives.

On March 27, 2013, Judaculla Rock, a soapstone boulder in Jackson County, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Though commonly identified simply as a boulder covered with ancient and mysterious engravings, Judaculla Rock is the best-known and largest example of an American Indian petroglyph that can be found in North Carolina.

The petroglyphs, or rock art, at Judaculla were carved intermittently within the Late Woodland to Late Mississippian periods from about 500 A.D. to 1700. The rock itself is actually one of several petroglyph boulders within a 15-acre area that is an archaeological site of great significance.

A wider view of Judaculla Rock, circa 1935-40. Image from the State Archives.

A wider view of Judaculla Rock, circa 1935-40. Image from the State Archives.

The site is also a landscape component of a prominent Cherokee legend that chronicles the vast supernatural and physical realm of a creature known as Judaculla. Cullohwee, six miles from the rock, is believed to be a shortened and anglicized form of Judaculla-whee, meaning Judaculla’s Place.

Today, the Judaculla Rock is managed by Jackson County, which received the property in 1959 as a donation from the Parker family, very conscientious caretakers who still own the surrounding lands. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee is a principal partner in efforts to protect, enhance, and celebrate the site.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.