Which Indian tribes resided in Etowah County?

By Danny CrownoverBy Danny Crownover

 For several years, the Vagabond has been asked where was the Cherokee tribe and the Creek tribe in Etowah County.
    On top of that, it is heard all the times that the Creek tribe held the area south of Wills and Line Creeks. This area would include the area south of Gadsden and Attalla.
    It is amazing that there has been so much confusion about the issue, even among top historians. It is time to put this question to rest once and for all.
    This week the Vagabond is having a little education lesson on this topic!
    The Vagabond recently was questioned as to which Indian tribe had control of the land around Altoona, which is located in the southwestern area of Etowah County. The Vagabond will try to explain:
    Prior to his death, historian Jerry Jones had many hours of conversations with the Vagabond on this very subject.
    A tremendous amount of time and studies were made. It is an area that historians are so confused, that nearly all come to the wrong conclusion.
    It’s simply because they have not looked at the overall historical picture. However, the Vagabond is 100 percent positive on his conclusion, and begs one to investigate and find different.
    OK, let’s start by looking at the map which is also located at http://www.tngenweb.org/cessions/ilcmap1.jpg.
    This map – and several other land session maps – came from the famous ethnologist Charles C. Royce. Royce, James Moody, Starr and others were famous for studies of the Cherokees and other tribes in the late 1800’s)
    Looking at this map, we find many tribes and the numbers related to one another when they gave up the land.
    The Choctaws dominated the west side of Alabama – treaties numbers 156, 82, 61, and 46.
    The Cherokees ceded treaties numbers 64, 101, 203, 85.
    The Creeks had [PLEASE NOTE] treaty No. 75, which Andrew Jackson took away after the battle of Horseshoe Bend during the Creek War, and No. 172, which the Creeks ceded in 1832 and moved out west.
    The Chickasaws seceded numbers 80, 178 and No. 79, which is the area in question.
    For those that want to know, here are the wordings of the treaty itself: http://www.tngenweb.org/cessions/18160920.html.
    Note that Chief Chinnabee (Chinnubby), the Chickasaw King, signed the treaty. Originally a Natchez Indian from western Mississippi, Chief Chinnabee and his people were nearly decimated by the French.
    They came to what is now Gadsden in 1763 and associated with the Chickasaws. Partly because of Chief Chinnabee, the Chickasaws have claimed No. 79 all the way to the Coosa River.
    We know in 1816 it was not Creek land. Andrew Jackson knew as much after winning the Creek War, and there are documentations in which he commented on this issue. However, Jackson wanted No. 79 for United States territory. The Chickasaws had very good claims to this land. However, the Cherokees also had a claim (albeit weak) to the land. Why?
    Around the1760’s, the Cherokees were pushed south into Chickasaw land by the Shawnees. In 1769, the Chickasaws and Cherokees fought a major battle over the land at Chickasaw Old Field near the Tennessee River.
    The Chickasaws won. Up to 1816, the Cherokees claimed it was their land as well. Their claim started as far south as the Ten Islands and west of the Coosa River.
    Because there were some doubts to the claim to the land, General Jackson also had a treaty with the Cherokees to fully get the land (See: http://www.tngenweb.org/cessions/18160322a.html.
    Before the Cherokee removal, General Coffee interviewed residents of the areas and obtained legal signed affidavits from them.
    His findings were that the Cherokees boundary was accepted as being along Wills and Line Creek and northwestward. With few exceptions, there were never Cherokees ever south of that line, at any point of time.
    There were some Creek settlements (Little Futchie for example) in No. 79 Chickasaw land, but none ever known in recorded history that the Cherokees had a settlement.
    Chickasaws (half-breeds and breed camps) did have settlements on the Creeks side, and there were Creeks who settled in Cherokee land right before their removal in 1836.
    The No. 79 area was such a mixed-up area that it would drive one crazy.
    The Cherokees officially entered Alabama in 1789 and that was when Chief Old Tassell was murdered under truce.
    The incident was much like our U.S. surprise at Pearl Harbor.
    Chief Old Tassell’s murder was such a tragedy that the Cherokees abandoned their “capital city” of Chota (Tenn.) and fled southward into Georgia and Alabama in Creek’s land, with Creek permission.
    The new chief, Little Turkey, fled as far south (Turkey’s Town) as the Creeks would permit. Information about getting the Creek’s permission is recorded in the Cherokees affidavits to General Coffee before the removal.
    Going back prior before the 1760’s, perhaps the 1700’s, we could probably reasonably say that the Creeks dominated the land, but there’s no hardcore evident for that belief. However, it was definitely Chickasaw land after the 1760’s.
    Because of the mountains and hills in the area, the Indian population was generally few. In fact, in a way it was like a no-man-land.
    Upon Chickasaw Chief Chinnabee’s arrival in what is now the Gadsden area, No. 79 was always associated with the Chickasaws.
    Most importantly, Chief Chinnabee was officially titled king of the Chickasaws and presided over the entire nation, which included the northern Mississippi area. We know this for a fact.
    Even today, the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma recognizes No. 79 as part of its former land (see: http://www.chickasaw.net/images/map_SE_Cessions.jpg.  
    Chief Chinnabee died three years after the treaty (1819) and is buried on a hill west of where Whorton’s Bend Road begins at Rainbow Drive (behind the Kangaroo gas station).
    Because of the No. 79 treaty, there were almost no Indians in the area after 1816, except for those that intermarried and chose to stay as U.S. citizens.
    So to answer the question – in historic times, the Chickasaw tribe dominated the southeastern area of Etowah County, the Cherokees the northern half, and the Creeks the southeast area.

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