Tahlonteeskee of Cayuga, Principal Chief

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Tahlonteeskee of Cayuga, Principal Chief

Also Known As: "Tahnonteeskee", "Tahlonteskee", "Tahlontuskee"
Birthplace: Cayuga town on Hiwassee Island in present-day Hamilton County, Tennessee
Death: (Date and location unknown)
Immediate Family:

Husband of Jennie Lowery
Brother of John (Ahuludegi) Oolooteka Jolly, Principal Chief

Managed by: Marvin Caulk, (C)
Last Updated:

About Tahlonteeskee of Cayuga, Principal Chief

Chief Tahlonteeskee, who presided over the Cherokee Nation from 1809 to 1818. He was part of the Old Settler band of Cherokees who moved from the ancestral lands in the Southeast United States. They settled in Arkansas and Tahlonteeskee permitted missionaries to establish Dwight Mission. He was the first western Chief to allow Christianity to come to the Cherokees. Tahlonteeskee became the Old Settler capital of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory from 1828-1839 and is considered the oldest governmental capital in Oklahoma.

Talotisky / Tahlonteeskee was a former headman of Cayoka town on Hiwassee Island in the later Hamilton County, Tennessee, and was the older brother (or half-brother of John Jolly. He was the Tahlonteeskee that emigrated to the west in 1809. He became one of the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West in 1817, and served until his death in 1819, after which he was succeeded by his brother, John Jolly. According to the Cherokee genealogist Dr. Emmet Starr, he married Jennie Lowrey, sister of Assistant Principal Chief George Lowrey. The latter was supposed to have been a cousin of Sequoyah, but his wife was Lucy Benge, half-sister of Sequoyah. Lucy was the sister of Chickamauga warrior Captain Bench or Bob Benge, whose uncle was John Watts. Among Cherokees, most politics was related to the matrilineal clan system, in which uncle-nephew connections were more important than father-son relationships.



Tahlonteskee (?–1819)

aka: Tolluntuskee

Tahlonteskee, whose name is roughly translated as “Common Disturber” or “Upsetter,” was the principal civil chief of the Arkansas Cherokee when they coalesced in the Arkansas River Valley about 1812. As the Arkansas Cherokee’s most respected member until his death in 1819, he represented them in their struggle to acquire legal control over lands in Arkansas and to secure relief from threats from both Osage and American settler incursions.

Son of a mixed-race couple, Tahlonteskee was Lower Town Cherokee (a group located primarily in what is now western South Carolina) and a supporter of efforts to stop American advances into Cherokee country after the Revolutionary War. In Cherokee opinion, Americans failed to keep previous agreements and treaty provisions and relentlessly encroached on Cherokee territory. Reciprocal raids created widespread tensions that were exacerbated by other factors, including social and political differences among Cherokee communities, and continuous American efforts to gain access to Cherokee lands. By the 1790s, some Cherokee were intermarried with white people and were deeply involved in mercantile and agricultural enterprises, while others struggled to maintain traditional Indian lifestyles.

Although he was involved in plans to confront the Americans militarily and was courted by Spanish Florida authorities in 1792–93 to embark on a war strategy, Tahlonteskee became involved in treaty-making after 1793, especially after he became a proponent of removal as a means of putting distance between the Cherokee and American settlers. He was one of several chiefs signing a 1798 treaty relinquishing some lands, and in the winter of 1805–06, he was member of a delegation to Washington that was pressured to grant more concessions for roads and settlements on Cherokee lands.

By 1806, the issues of land concessions and removal were so contentious that pro-removal leaders, including Tahlonteskee, were declared deposed from the governing council at a general Cherokee Council held at Hiwassee, near the modern border between Tennessee and North Carolina, that year.

By 1809, Tahlonteskee was ready to leave, declaring that over 1000 of his people would join him. The departure took place early in 1810 and included several hundred head of livestock, slaves, household items that included spinning wheels and looms used by women, and plows for reestablishing farming enterprises.

By June of 1810, Tahlonteskee’s group was living with other Cherokee in the St. Francis River valley, where they resided at several places in Arkansas and Missouri until early 1812, when they moved to the Arkansas River Valley. Within a short period of time, most Arkansas Cherokee were establishing farms and settlements along the Arkansas River between Point Remove Creek and the mouth of the Poteau River, near present day Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Tahlonteskee invited missionaries to establish a school to serve the Cherokee there, and he lobbied Washington and territorial authorities for a trading post and a military garrison. A government trade factory was relocated from the Memphis area to Spadra Bluffs, near modern day Russellville (Pope County), in 1818, and a garrison that became the site of Ft. Smith was established a year earlier.

The Arkansas Cherokee had three concerns that Tahlonteskee and his successor John Jolly, who was also his brother, were never able to resolve fully. The Osage, who had claimed north Arkansas as hunting territory, became a constant threat that led to years of reciprocal raids and murders. They also blocked Cherokee access to hunting grounds and salt sources on the southern plains. The Americans, meanwhile, never clearly established Cherokee land rights in Arkansas. Settlers and land speculators continually encroached on Cherokee improvements. An 1817 treaty meant to secure Cherokee boundaries in Arkansas carried additional provisions that were not acceptable to eastern Cherokee, renewing animosities between the two groups.

Tahlonteskee died in Arkansas in the spring of 1819. His brother continued working for Cherokee interests, but in 1828, the Cherokee agreed to give up their Arkansas settlements and move to Indian Territory, west of Arkansas and Missouri. As a measure of respect and remembrance, the newly-erected council house and community center at the mouth of the Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma was named Tahlonteskee. This became the central governing location for the former Arkansas Cherokee, who came to be known as the Old Settlers. The original council house still stands near Gore, Oklahoma, at the modern site of Tahlonteeskee, the first Cherokee Capitol in Indian Territory.

For additional information: Bolton, S. Charles. Arkansas 1800–1860 : Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.

Everett, Dianna. The Texas Cherokees: A People between Two Fires, 1819–1840. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

Hoig, Stanley W. The Cherokees and Their Chiefs. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.

Washburn, Cephas. Reminiscences of the Indians. Edited by Hugh Park. Van Buren, AR: Press-Argus, 1955.

Ann M. Early Arkansas Archeological Survey Last Updated 11/16/2006


It seems that these diverse persons with the same name from Wikipedia may all be related to the identity of this Tahlonteeskee, though he did not die in 1792--that source may need to be re-examined and re-interpreted:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahlonteeskee (accessed 22 May 2013):

Tahlonteeskee, is the name of several Cherokee, and one Creek Indian, during the period of the Chickamauga Wars. The name, (rendered into Cherokee as Ata'lunti'ski), has been translated as "The Disturber" or "The Upsetter".

1. Tahlonteeskee of the Broken Arrow was the possible Cherokee-given name of a Creek chieftain killed in a failed attack against Buchannan's Station, a frontier fort near Nashville, TN, on September 30, 1792. Also killed in this attack was Pumpkin Boy, brother of Doublehead, and the Shawnee warrior called 'Siksika', an older brother of Tecumseh. Wounded in the skirmish was John Watts (also known as 'Young Tassel').

2. Tahlonteeskee was the name of a brother or brother-in-law of Doublehead, a well known Chickamauga Indian warrior. Governor William Blount was told by John Watts that Tahlonteeskee was his uncle "of a kind," perhaps denoting a relationship by marriage. This older man named Tahlonteeskee was a member of the Cherokee delegation to Philadelphia in 1791, accompanying Doublehead and Bloody Fellow. These diplomats met with President George Washington. Later, Tahlonteeskee joined his nephew, John Watts, and the young Dragging Canoe, in a secret trip to Pensacola, FL, whose purpose was to buy arms and supplies from a British merchant. Governor Blount was informed of this trip by spy reports printed in the "American State Papers".

3. Tahlonteeskee (or 'Talotisky' ) was yet another man mentioned by the same source, which noted that John Watts was visited at his residence in the Chickmauga town of Willstown by his nephews: 'Captain' Bench (a.k.a. Bob Benge), The Tail, and Talotisky. The latter name is possibly an alternate spelling of Tahlonteeskee, since at that time there was not a uniform system of writing Cherokee sounds into English.


  • American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol.1, 1789-1813 Congress of the United States, Washington, DC, 1831-1861.
  • McLoughlin, William G. Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
  • Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee. (Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers, 1982).
  • Wilkins, Thurman. Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People. (New York: Macmillan Company, 1970).
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Tahlonteeskee of Cayuga, Principal Chief's Timeline

Cayuga town on Hiwassee Island in present-day Hamilton County, Tennessee