Tsiyu Gansini, which translates to Dragging Canoe is a Native American who was alive during the time of the American Revolution. He lived with his family, Attakullakulla, Nanyehi, and Little Owl. Nanyehi, or Nancy Ward, was his younger cousin who sided with the colonists. When he wanted to attack some of the colonists from Kentucky, she warned them. When Dragging Canoe tried to attack the settlements, they were ready. They killed 13 of his 200 brave warriors that day. Then his group took revenge by burning some outlying cabins and taking 18 scalps. His brother, Little Owl was another Cherokee leader and the only one of Dragging Canoe’s housemates that agreed with his views. Attakullakulla was the chief of 1 of the 50 Cherokee villages. He captured and adopted Dragging Canoe as an infant, which was a common practice among their people. Dragging Canoe and Attakullakulla mainly disagreed about the colonists. Attakullakulla wanted peace, but Dragging Canoe believed that there could never be peace with the threat of the colonists against them.
Dragging Canoe was the head warrior of the town of Malaquo and the proud leader of the Chickamaugas. He came from the Overhill town, Tenase, on the Tennessee River. His name was gained at a young age. He wanted to fight against the Shawnee when he was a child, but his father refused. Because Dragging Canoe wanted to go to war, he hid in a canoe. The warriors found Dragging Canoe, and his father gave him permission to go if he could carry the canoe. He couldn’t pick up the canoe, so he drug it all the way there. That spirit of determination was what earned him the name Dragging Canoe. He protected his people and refused to honor the dishonest treaty that gave up his people’s land to the wretched State of Virginia. He was six feet tall with a broad, muscular build. Due to the colonists bringing sicknesses over with them, he contracted smallpox as a child. It permanently left his face pocked with holes.
Dragging Canoe’s goal was to drive the white men out of the Cherokee land. The Revolutionary War provided the perfect opportunity for him to strike at the isolated white settlements. He attacked at the battle of Island Flats and was wounded. Initially his warriors beat the colonists there, but then the colonists got reinforcements. His Chickamaugas were defeated. Dragging Canoe formed an alliance with the British to get rid of colonists during the war. He became known as The Dragon among the white men because of the terror he inspired in them. Many people considered him a military genius.
His community was made up of some Cherokee and other allied tribes who believed that the Native Americans should fight for their lands rather than wait for the white men to slaughter them all. Dragging Canoe put the community together, and they formed new towns on the Chickamauga creek in winter of 1776 and 1777. Because of their location, the white men called them the Chickamaugas. In 1782, the US and Britain formed a peace treaty, but Dragging Canoe’s forces continued to fight. He met with Choctaw, Shawnee, Creek, Chickasaw, and many other tribes to build a confederation of tribes against the encroaching threat. This group defeated the American army troops when they invaded the Chickamauga towns in ‘88.
His father was part of the council that admitted defeat and gave up their lands and prisoners. Dragging Canoe believed that this was a coward’s choice. Shouldn’t they risk everything and incur the consequences instead of lose their nation? He thought treaties were good for men too old to hunt or fight, but he had young warriors. His group wanted to hold their land. His slogan was “Retreat and fight on!”
I believe if he was asked this question, he would refuse to answer how long he had been in the colonies. Dragging Canoe would ask how long have the colonies tried to take the land away from his people. So many Native American villages had succumbed to the colonists and their vicious attempts to kill and drive the native peoples away to beyond the Mississippi. Thirty six Cherokee towns had been destroyed in North Carolina and Virginia. South Carolina put bounties on Native Americans whether they were alive or dead. Georgia burned their villages and killed their families. Dragging Canoe wanted his people to rise up and take back what is theirs. The Chickamauga tribe wanted to fight like warriors rather than die like cowards.
By Skyla Heise