Visitors to CoMMA will get an in-depth look at Cherokee culture when historic interpreter Capt. Robert K. Rambo (U.S. Army, Ret.) brings the spirit of Chief Attakullakulla to life.
Rambo will portray the first peace chief and “Beloved Man” of the Cherokee Indians during a performance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at CoMMA, presented by the Historic Burke Foundation.
Before, during, and after the American Revolution, residents of Burke County were involved in a long series of conflicts with the Cherokee and assigned militia to keep them at bay, even though this land had been Cherokee land for thousands of years.
Attakullakulla served as peace chief of the Cherokee Nation from about 1754 until his death some 25 years later , according to information provided by HBF. He was the leader of the largest North American Native American tribe as its members struggled to survive in a rapidly changing world.
Attakullakulla, captured as a baby from the Misquakie Nippissings in Canada, was adopted and raised Cherokee with the name “White Owl," a title reserved for peace chiefs. Raised to become a leader among the people, he volunteered at 15 to serve as an emissary of the Cherokee to England to negotiate with the British.
In England, he met with King George II, visited fashionable spas, saw Shakespearean dramas, viewed the crown jewels, and was introduced to the British military. When he returned home, he told his people the British were too powerful to ignore and worked to unify the Cherokee Nation in an effort to ensure its survival.
Attakullakulla persuaded the British to build Fort Loudon (in present-day Tennessee) to protect the Cherokee from the French and bolster England’s control of the area. He saved the life of Captain John “Bushyhead” Stuart when war broke out and the fort fell. He worked to restore peace without giving up any Cherokee territory.
Attakullakulla fought numerous wars alongside the English against French troops. He commanded hundreds of Cherokee warriors in the Cherduring the Forbes campaign of 1758 during the French and Indian War. During this campaign, the British captured the French outpost at Fort Duquesne (in present day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Attakullakulla’s skills as a diplomat building alliances earned him the British nickname, “Little Carpenter.”
Attakullakulla tried unsuccessfully to bring permanent Christian missionaries and literacy to his people. In 1775, he and 1,200 Cherokees met with Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina and signed the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in exchange for guns and ammunition. Henderson later claimed the signed agreement included selling him what is now Kentucky and middle Tennessee north of the Tennessee River. Attakullakulla and the Cherokee Nation said Henderson had misled them and that the claims of purchase were false. England, North Carolina, Virginia and the Continental Congress agreed with Attakullakulla, declared the agreement illegal, and revoked Henderson’s judicial credentials. Despite this, settlers ignored the ruling and bought land from Henderson and moved into what is now Kentucky. Attakullakulla supported diplomacy over violent resistance but his son, Dragging Canoe, rebelled against his father, the tribal elders, and the women’s council and led what became known as the “Chickamauga Cherokees” in fighting the settlers until 1794.
By the time Attakullakulla became Peace Chief, smallpox and other European diseases brought by settlers had reduced the population of the Cherokee Nation from approximately 250,000 to 25,000. Attakullakulla died sometime around the end of the Revolutionary War. By the time the Chickamauga War ended soon after his death, most Cherokee had been pushed by settlers into western North Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia. Despite the turmoil and staggering losses sustained in the 18th century, the Cherokee began the 19th century as an independent, united Cherokee Nation. In 1827 , the Cherokee nation adopted their own constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court recognized their right to nationhood. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson forcibly removed the Cherokee to the west.
Rambo will address questions such as:
» Who was the most important American Indian of the 18th century?
» How did the American Revolution impact the Cherokee Nation that stretched across much of the southern United States, including Burke County?
» What did the Cherokee think of the conflicts between and among the British, the French, and the Patriots and how did their actions help shape their own future?
Tickets for the performance are $15 each and can be purchased through the CoMMA box office. Seating for the performance is limited . Members of the audience will be seated close to Rambo in order to have an up-close look at his Cherokee lead warrior attire and to experience the personal presence of this powerful performer.
A local resident who saw Rambo’s presentation in Elkin several years ago recalls the performance as “riveting, eye-opening, really unforgettable.”
Rambo earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the Virginia Military Institute and his teaching certification in History from the University of Virginia – Wise and a Master of Arts in U.S. History, Cherokee Studies Program, at Western Carolina University. His research centered on Chief Attakullakulla. He is a decorated combat veteran of the war in Iraq (2004 - 05) and retired after 26 years of service in the U.S. Army (Active Duty, Reserves and National Guard). Along with Dr. William Anderson, editor of The Journal of Cherokee Studies, he co-authored “Attakullakulla” in the “Encyclopedia of United States Indian Policy and Law.”