THE CHEROKEE & THEIR LAND
MOYTOY, "EMPEROR" OF THE CHEROKEE
By Lowell Kirk
In 1730 an unofficial envoy of King George 11 "appointed" Moytoy, the chief of Great Tellico, "emperor" of the Cherokees. Moytoy, in return, recognized the English king's sovereignty over the Cherokees. The Cherokee had developed significant trade arrangements with no other European settlements except South Carolina.
But the British had already fought two colonial wars with the French and were on the verge of another. The French were beginning to open, trade with the Cherokee from their recently constructed Fort Tolouse on the Alabama River. Since the 1689-97 King William's War, the French and English had been involved in warfare and international rivalry. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-13)
France had yielded Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay region to Great Britain. The Spanish had been forced to yield their missions to the British in Georgia and North Florida. English forces with Indian allies destroyed the bulk of the Spanish missions there. The French made peace with the Iroquois in the north, and encouraged them to make raids on the Cherokee to the south who were allies with the British. The French hoped to recoup their losses to the British in the north by making alliances with the Cherokee in the south. So the British and the French both began to woo the Cherokee.
Both English and French were edging their colonial claims closer and closer toward each other's claims in America, and the Cherokee were caught up in the middle of the conflict. As the French claimed the land drained by rivers flowing into the Mississippi River, the British wanted to cement as many alliances with the Indians who inhabited the upper Tennessee River as quickly as possible. Economic rivalry for the American Indian fur trade was becoming fierce. Added to that was the fact that the French generally had a much better relationship with Indian tribes than did the British. Control of the Indian trade on the head waters of the Tennessee River was very important to the British economy, especially to its' colony of South Carolina.
William Steele's book, The Cherokee Crown of Tannassy is an excellent description of how Moytoy of Great Tellico was appointed Emperor of the Cherokee in 1730. Sir Alexander Cuming successfully persuaded Moytoy to recognize and give his allegiance to the British king. Steele's work is based on Cuming's own journal. Cuming arrived in Tellico, guided by the Scottish trader, Ludovick Grant, by following the trail over Ooneekawy Mountain. Moytoy, headman of Great Tellico, gave Cuming a tour of the palisaded town. Moytoy pointed out scalps of enemy French Indians which hung on poles in front of the houses of warriors. Cuming was introduced to the powerful Tellico priest, Jacob the Conjurer. While at Great Tellico, Jacob took Cuming to petrifying cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. In the cave was Jacob's Uktena crystal, which was kept in the cave and fed the blood of small animals twice a week and the blood of a deer twice a year. The Cherokee town of Chatuga was also enclosed in the palisades.
From Great Tellico, Ludovick Grant led Cuming along a 16-mile trail to Tannassy, in order to convince the Warrior of Tannassy to accept Moytoy as Emperor of the Cherokee. At Tannassy, Grant introduced Cuming to Eleazer Wiggan, another Carolina trader who lived in Tannassy. The Warrior of Tannassy submitted his homage to King George 11 and gave Cuming his crown of dyed opossum hair. Cuming returned to Great Tellico and on the last day of March, 1730, departed Great Tellico with Moytoy, Jacob the Conjurer and a great many other attendants back up the Ooneekawy Mountain to the Valley towns. It was in the Cherokee town of Nequassee that the Cherokee national council formally agreed to accept Moytoy as their "emperor" and to give their allegiance to King George II. This was accomplished with a great deal of ceremony and dancing.
Under the agreement made with Moytoy, the Cherokee would trade with no other European nation, the Cherokee would be rewarded for the return of fugitive slaves to English masters, and the Cherokee were promised military assistance if England went to war with any foreign powers. Specifically, this meant the French. Seven Cherokee were taken to London by Cuming and wined and dined. For twenty years after their return these seven Cherokee told stories of British power and majesty which helped to maintain cordial relationships between the Cherokee and the British.
One of the Cherokees taken to England was Attakullakulla, known to the British as "the Little Carpenter", For the next three decades Attakullakulla, who became a "white" or "peace" chief, used his exceptional speaking skill to discourage Cherokee alignment with the French. Attakullakulia's son, Dragging Canoe, would play an important role in the conflicts that occurred in East Tennessee during and after the American Revolution.
When Moytoy of Great Tellico died, his son inherited the title of "Emperor". But Cherokee central authority soon moved toward Old Hop, another "white" or "peace" chief who presided over the Cherokee "empire" from his town of Chota. Chota was located about five miles upriver on the Little Tennessee from the mouth of the Tellico River. By 1750 a "red" or "wae' chief, Oconostota, became influential within the Cherokee "empire". It was during this time that another smallpox epidemic spread devastation in the Cherokee country and Oconostota charged that the disease had been brought by the English with their trade goods, When his own face remained pock-marked by the disease, he became increasingly hostile to the English and sought to align the tribe with the French, who were seriously interested in wooing the Cherokee away from the British.
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