On this day in WNC history: Though they hailed from what is today western North Carolina (and several other states), on Sept 9, 1730, seven Cherokee chiefs, including Attakullakulla, signed a treaty with the British in London, England. This treaty marked the first large-scale agreement by various Cherokee delegations with the British and their colonists.
Earlier that year at Nikwasi (in modern Franklin, North Carolina) Sir Alexander Cumming convinced some Cherokees to designate Moytoy of Tellico (in modern Tennessee) as their emperor in exchange for Moytoy recognizing King George II as the chief protector of the Cherokee. The Cherokee found themselves in a colonization battle for land and allegiance between the British and French and had organized into a distinctive tribal group controlling the southern Appalachians by this time. Colonial agents from Virginia and South Carolina began embarking on trading expeditions into Cherokee territory by the late 1600s, and in 1721, the Cherokee signed their first land cession granting a large chunk of modern SC to that province. During this time, South Carolina also began enslaving large numbers of Natives to be shipped abroad or to other colonies, all while disease continued to ravage already decimated native populations. While the Cherokee may have numbered over 22,000 in 1650, they were reduced to an estimated 8,500 by the time of the American Revolution.
The seven Cherokees, with Attakullakulla in Moytoy’s stead, travelled to England and stayed from June-October. The met the king in native attire, including loincloths, with one holding a bow and one a musket, and were accompanied by a translator. After months of interaction they signed a treaty in which the King expressed love for his Cherokee “children” as their father and proclaimed a chain of friendship between the two nations. He overtly expressed his intent that the Cherokee should live where they please and that South Carolinians should trade with them. This agreement also bound the Cherokee to return captured enslaved people, in exchange for guns. Critically, it bound the Cherokee to fight against any group, native or white, which threatened the British settlements, and to prevent any other group or nation from living among them. The group departed for home on October 8, but arrived to find many of their towns angry with the agreement.
Isaac Basire, engraver, “The Seven Cherokee,” 1730, public domain image
Reprint of treaty, London Public Advertiser, Mar 15, 1760