Nanye'hi (Cherokee: ᎾᏅᏰᎯ: "One who goes about")
|Beloved Woman of the Cherokee leader|
Chota, Monroe County, Tennessee
|Died||1822 or 1824|
Near Benton, Tennessee
|Resting place||Nancy Ward Tomb|
|Spouse(s)||"Tsu-la" or Kingfisher; Bryant Ward|
|Children||Catherine Ka-Ti Walker, Littlefellow Histykeetee Fivekiller, and Betsy Ward|
|Parents||Mother, the sister of Attakullakulla|
Nanyehi (Cherokee: ᎾᏅᏰᎯ: "One who goes about"), known in English as Nancy Ward (c. 1738 – 1822 or 1824), was a Beloved Woman and political leader of the Cherokee. She advocated for peaceful coexistence with European Americans and, late in life, spoke out for Cherokee retention of tribal lands. She is credited with the introduction of dairy products to the Cherokee economy.
Nanyehi was born c. 1738 in the Cherokee capital, Chota (Cherokee: "City of Refuge"). Today it is within Monroe County, on the southeastern border of Tennessee. Her mother, the sister of Attakullakulla, was a member of the Wolf Clan. (Note: Though her mother is often referred to as "Tame Doe", the name has no historical sources. It is associated with an 1895 novel about Ward by E. Sterling King.) According to Nanyehi's descendant John Walker "Jack" Hildebrand, her father was "Fivekiller", a member of the Lenape (Delaware) tribe. Some Lenape had migrated west across the Appalachian Mountains, far from their traditional mid-Atlantic coastal territories.
In her teens, Nanyehi married Tsu-la (Cherokee: Kingfisher). According to historian Emmet Starr, he was a member of the Deer Clan. By the time she was 17, Nanyehi and Kingfisher had two children, Catherine Ka-Ti Walker and Littlefellow Hiskyteehee Fivekiller.
In the 1755 Battle of Taliwa, when the Cherokee fought their traditional enemy, the Muscogee people (Creek), Nanyehi accompanied her husband to the field, located in what is now northern Georgia. She chewed his bullets before he loaded his gun, so that the jagged edges would inflict more damage. After Kingfisher was killed in this battle, Nanyehi picked up her husband's rifle and led the Cherokee to victory.
For her actions, the Cherokee awarded her the title of Ghigau (Cherokee: Beloved Woman), and made her the only female voting member of the Cherokee General Council. She was also named the leader of the Women's Council of Clan Representatives, which authorized her to become an ambassador and negotiator for her people.
In the late 1750s, Nanyehi married again, to Irish trader Bryant Ward. She became known as Nancy, an anglicized version of her name. The couple had a daughter together, Elizabeth "Betsy" Ward. (She later married General Joseph Martin). Bryant Ward eventually returned to his base in South Carolina and his first wife, a woman of European descent. He had already been married to her when he married Nanyehi.
In the early 1760s, the Cherokee entered an alliance with the British colonists who were fighting the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War in Europe between Britain and France. Each side had Native American allies in North America. In exchange for their assistance, the British Americans promised to protect the Cherokee from the enemy Creek and Choctaw people.
The British built military stations and frontier posts in Cherokee land. These posts gradually attracted more European-American settlers. Frontiersmen killed a group of Cherokee in present-day West Virginia, who were returning from having helped the British take over Fort Duquesne (at present-day Pittsburgh). Outraged, the Cherokee killed more than 20 settlers in retaliation. Conflict broke out that lasted two years, during which the Cherokee captured Fort Loudon on the Tellico River in August 1760.
In her role as a Ghigau, Nancy Ward (as she became known to English speakers) had the authority to spare captives. In 1776, following a Cherokee attack on the Fort Watauga settlement on the Watauga River (at present day Elizabethton, Tennessee), she saved settler Lydia (Russell) Bean, the wife of a man named William. She took Bean into her house and nursed her back to health from her wounds. Bean taught Nanyehi a new loom-weaving technique, which she taught others. The women had typically made garments by sewing a combination of processed hides, handwoven vegetal fiber cloth, and cotton or wool cloth bought from traders. Women wove all the cloth in the village for their garments.
Lydia Bean had brought two of her dairy cows from the settlement. While she was living with Nanyehi, she taught the Cherokee woman how to care for the cows, milk them, and process the milk into dairy products. Both the animals and their products would sustain the Cherokee when hunting was bad.
Starr wrote that Nancy Ward successfully raised cows and was said to have been the first to introduce that industry among the Cherokees. Those Cherokee who adopted loom weaving and dairy farming began to resemble European-American subsistence farmers. Some Cherokee adopted the practice of chattel slavery, but these tended to be Cherokee in the Deep South, where they were developing cotton plantations. According to a 1933 account, Nanyehi was among the first Cherokee to own African-American slaves.
After a truce, Carolina Rangers and Royal Scots joined the British light infantry invading Cherokee territory, burning crops and towns. The Cherokee surrendered, giving up a large portion of their lands.
The Cherokee had to face multiple issues during the Revolutionary War. Most were allied with the British against the rebel colonists. They wanted to expel the settlers from their lands. Ward's cousin, Dragging Canoe, wanted to ally with the British against the settlers, but Nanyehi was trying to support the rebels.
In May 1775, a group of Delaware, Mohawk and Shawnee emissaries formed a delegation that headed south to support the British who were trying to gain the help of the Cherokee and other tribes. In July of the same year, Dragging Canoe led the Chickamauga Cherokee band in attacks against the European-American settlements and forts located in the Appalachians and other isolated areas of the region. State militias retaliated, destroying Native villages and crops, and forcing Cherokee bands to give up more of their land by 1777.
In July 1776, Ward, who was aiming for a peaceful resolution, warned a group of white settlers living near the Holston River and on the Virginia border about an imminent attack by her people. The British supported Dragging Canoe's war against the settlers and supplied him with weapons. But, in 1778, 700 soldiers under Colonel Evan Shelby attacked his territory. They reduced remaining Cherokee resistance to a minor conflict.
In 1780, Ward continued warning Patriot soldiers of attacks, trying to prevent retaliatory raids against her people. According to Harold Felton, she sent cattle to the starving militia. Her efforts did not prevent another invasion of the Cherokee territory by the North Carolina militia. They destroyed more villages and demanded further land cessions. Ward and her family were captured in the battle, but they were eventually released and returned to Chota.
In July 1781, the Beloved Woman Nanyehi negotiated a peace treaty between her people and the Americans. No longer facing a Cherokee threat, Americans sent troops from the western frontier to support George Washington's Continental army against the British General Cornwallis in the American Revolution.
Ward continued promoting alliance and mutual friendship between the Cherokee and the rebel colonists, helping negotiate the Treaty of Hopewell (1785). Nanyehi objected to the sale of Cherokee lands to whites, but her objections were largely ignored. The Cherokee were under pressure in Georgia and Alabama from European-American encroachment. Some leaders believed that ceding lands bought them some time and helped preserve the Cherokee people. In 1808 and again in 1817, the Women's Council reportedly spoke out against the cession or sale to the United States of more lands.
In 1817 Nanyehi was too sick to attend the Cherokee council at which leaders discussed whether or not to move west of the Mississippi River, as was proposed by Georgia and the US government. She sent a letter to the council, writing:
"…don't part with any more of our lands but continue on it and enlarge your farms and cultivate and raise corn and cotton and we, your mothers and sisters, will make clothing for you… It was our desire to forewarn you all not to part with our lands."
Despite her efforts, in 1819 the Cherokee ceded their lands north of the Hiwassee River and she was forced to join other Cherokee in moving south. 
Nanye'hi became a de facto ambassador between the Cherokee and the British and European Americans. She learned the art of diplomacy from her maternal uncle, the influential chief Attakullakulla ("Little Carpenter"). In 1781, she was among the Cherokee leaders who met with an American delegation led by John Sevier, to discuss American settlements along the Little Pigeon River in Tennessee. Nanyehi expressed surprise that there were no women negotiators among the Americans. Sevier was equally astonished that the Cherokee had entrusted such important work to a woman.
Nanyehi reportedly told him,
"You know that women are always looked upon as nothing; but we are your mothers; you are our sons. Our cry is all for peace; let it continue. This peace must last forever. Let your women's sons be ours; our sons be yours. Let your women hear our words." An American observer said that her speech was very moving.
On July 5, 1807, the Moravian mission school at Spring Place in the Cherokee Nation (now part of Georgia), was visited by three elderly Cherokee women. One had been widowed for 50 years and was said to be nearly 100 years old. She was described by the Moravians as "an unusually sensible person, honored and loved by both brown and white people."
Said to be named Chiconehla, the woman purportedly fought against an enemy nation and was wounded numerous times. The missionaries wrote, "Her left arm is decorated with some designs, which she said were fashionable during her youth...." Chiconehla stayed for two days, entertained by the students, and discussing theology with the missionaries. A relative, Margaret Scott, wife of James Vann (both Cherokee), translated for her. Historian Rowena McClinton believes Chiconehla was the woman also known as Nanye'hi, or Nancy Ward.
Ward has been mistakenly described as the last woman to receive the title of Beloved Woman. The "Cherokee Beloved Woman of Sugartown" was recognized in 1774 for seeking to prevent war with the Muscogee Creek.
In the 1980s, the Eastern Band of Cherokee revived the use of the title, awarding Maggie Wachacha the title of Beloved Woman. They also honored several other women wit this title in subsequent years.
Nancy Ward opened an inn in southeastern Tennessee at Womankiller Ford, on the Ocowee River (present-day Ocoee River). Her son cared for her during her last years. She died in 1822, or possibly 1824, before the Cherokee were removed from their remaining lands in the late 1830s. She and her son Fivekiller are buried at the top of a hill not far from the site of the inn, south of present-day Benton, Tennessee.
Nanyehi has been documented in historical papers and accounts. She is noted in the Calendar of Virginia State Papers, the South Carolina State Papers, James Mooney's History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, and the Draper Collection. Theodore Roosevelt mentions her in his book, The Winning of the West (1905).
Nancy Ward is remembered not only as an important figure of the Cherokee people but is also considered an early pioneer for women in American politics. She advocated for a woman's voice during a turbulent period in her tribe's history.
In her last years Nanyehi repeatedly had a vision showing a "great line of our people marching on foot. Mothers with babies in their arms. Fathers with small children on their back. Grandmothers and Grandfathers with large bundles on their backs. They were marching West and the 'Unaka' (White Soldiers) were behind them. They left a trail of corpses the weak, the sick who could not survive the journey."
President Andrew Jackson had long supported Indian Removal, and gained Congressional authorization by a law in 1830. The militia invaded Chota and destroyed the printing press used by the tribe to print their newspaper.
Some Cherokee in North Carolina evaded or otherwise arranged to stay in the state, becoming state and US citizens when they gave up tribal membership. Most remaining Cherokee were forced to relocate to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. In what they called the Nunna-da-ult-sun-yi, or Trail of Tears, they traveled in several large groups, primarily on foot, without proper clothing and provisions, approximately 800 miles. More than 4,000 Cherokees died along the way.