the vague feeling we happened by the Junaluska Memorial before May 25,
2009 when all of the pictures on this page were taken. My sense
is that it was drizzling that day, so I did not take any photos of it
then. But, I cannot recollect when, beyond this visit, we would
have been in the area. This time we came to Robbinsville in a
roundabout way when I suggested we intentionally visit the Fontana Dam
area where the movie Nell was filmed. It is one of our
favorite movies and the scenery is exceptional, which is why I wanted
to see it firsthand. In fact, some of the "in town" shots in the
film were done in Robbinsville. However, that is neither here
nor there since this page is about Junaluska, his memorial and the museum
(memorial area actually, because the museum was closed that day).
the things I found interesting about the signage here was that they
did not seem to agree about how long a life Junaluska lived, or when
he died. The one by the grave said he died in 1868 at over one
hundred years old. It was erected in 1910 (according to the Internet).
The lower walkway entrance appears to show his death in 1858, and his
birth in 1776 (with a question mark) which would have made him somewhere
in the vicinity of 82. One of the arrowhead markers around the
grave with information about him (which also show the names of the Cherokee
clans) indicates his life was circa 1779 to 1855. That would have
put him at approximately 76 years old when he died.
the remaining six (there are seven Cherokee clans) arrowhead stones
surrounding the grave.
The clan name is shown in the Cherokee Syllabary on each stone along
with the English translation of the name.
of the website www.cherokeeheritagetrails.org, I found the following
"In Robbinsville, the Junaluska Museum and Gravesite
serve as the center for Cherokee Heritage Trails. At this small,
remarkable museum created by members of the Snowbird community of Cherokees
from the Eastern Band, you will find information on sites and events
in this area. The Junaluska Memorial and Museum also present information
on the Cherokee leader Junaluska, a walking trail with medicine plants,
exhibits of artifacts from this area more than 6,000 years old, and
the story of the Trail of Tears in this area.
The Junaluska Memorial and Museum honor this Cherokee
leader who was held in high esteem by both Cherokees and whites.
Seven large granite markers erected around his grave tell the story
of his life, 1776-1858, which was shaped by the events of the turbulent
period leading up to and following Removal. The Junaluska Museum,
located just downhill, provides further information about his life.
There, exhibits of artifacts from the Cheoah Valley date back more than
6,000 years, and information on the Trail of Tears is presented.
Community members like Iva Rattler and Jim Bowman who helped to create
the museum and who often volunteer here provide additional information
on Junaluska and the Snowbird Cherokees. Baskets, beadwork, silversmithing,
and other crafts made by Cherokee people are sold here. Recently,
the museum created a 'Medicine Plants' walking trail that loops around
the hill below the grave site, and the Friends of Junaluska are planning
to expand their programming.
Born in 1776 in the village of Echoe, near present-day
Dillard, Georgia, Junaluska and his family kept moving as the borders
of the Cherokee territory kept shrinking - first to land on the Cullasaja
River and then near the Valley Towns. In 1811, Cherokee oral tradition
records that he met with Tecumseh at Soco Gap and declined, for the
Cherokees, Tecumseh's offer to join him and all other tribes in uniting
to defeat the whites."
As I mentioned, we did not get to see the museum
since it was closed the day we were there. We did however spend
a fair amount of time on both the upper and lower loops of the Medicine
Trail. Many plants and trees were identified along with information
about uses. I took pictures of the signs, information sheets,
and the plants for those growing in season. I am not going to
combine them here. There is plenty of plant information available
on the Internet. I will show cropped images of the signs just
to give you an idea of the many plants identified, and I will display
a couple of photos of the information sheets to show you what I am talking
about. The remaining photos will simply be ones I liked from our
walk on the trails and around the grounds, with some Internet text interspersed
between them. Then I will wrap things up with several information
signs, including a self-portrait reflection. It is a pleasant
place to visit.
courtesy of the website www.cherokeeheritagetrails.org:
"Junaluska's contemporaries described him as tall
and dignified, and say that he was a good speaker. His name comes
from the Cherokee language tsunalahvski - 'He tried and failed,' because
he boasted that he would go and kill all the Creeks, and when he returned,
having obviously failed, this was the name he took. A courageous
warrior and natural leader, Junaluska had three wives, having been widowed
twice, and his descendants still live among the Eastern Band today.
The remarks of Reverend Armstrong Cornsilk were delivered
in Cherokee language and translated into English by Lewis Smith.
They were taken down by one of those present: 'Ladies and gentlemen,
friends: We have met here at Junaluska's grave. We have met as friends
and brothers and sisters. We are refreshing our memories over Juno's
burial. We appreciate his going to war, and gaining the big victory
for Jackson. The Cherokees and whites were fighting the Creeks at that
time. And we Cherokees feel that it was through him we have the
privilege of being here today. I knew Juno at that time. I knew
him well. I recollect how he looked. He wore the hair cut off the back
of his head, and he would plait the hair on top of his head so as to
make it stick up like horns. He was a good man. He was a
good friend. He was a good friend in his home and everywhere.
He would ask the hungry man to eat. He would ask the cold one
to warm by his fire. He would ask the tired one to rest, and he would
give a good place to sleep. Juno's home was a good home for others.
He was a smart man. He made his mind think good. He was
very brave. He was not afraid. Juno at this time has been
dead about fifty years. I am glad he is up above [pointing upward].
I am glad we have this beautiful monument. It shows Junaluska
did good, and it shows we all appreciate him together - having a pleasant
time together. I hope we shall all meet Junaluska in heaven [pointing
upward] and all be happy there together.'"
"The Indian warrior who saved Andrew Jackson's life
and made him a national hero lived to regret it. His name was
Junaluska, a Cherokee chief born near what is now Dillard, Georgia around
1776. He is the unsung hero of the greatest Indian battle in history.
He made his name and his fame among his own people in the War of 1812
when the mighty tribe of Creek Indians allied themselves with the British
against the United States. With the opening of the Creek War,
following the massacre at Fort Mims in Alabama, Junaluska recruited
some 800 Cherokee warriors to go to the aid of Andrew Jackson and his
Tennessee militia in an advance down the Coosa River against the Creek
Red Sticks. During the waning months of 1813 Jackson's force in
northern Alabama had been so reduced by mutinies and expiration of service
terms that Jackson was forced to rely more and more upon the Cherokees.
Jackson even employed them to garrison Fort Armstrong, on the upper
Coosa, and protect his provision depot. But with the coming of
the new year, he received reinforcements from Tennessee, including more
Cherokee, and was able to leave his camp on the Coosa and advance on
the Creek towns on the Tallapoosa. Relegating the Cherokee to
duties in the rear, Jackson and his Tennessee militia moved like a scythe
through the Creek towns. Finally, they halted for a reconnaissance
and camped on Emukfaw Creek, on the northern bank of the Tallapoosa,
only a short distance from Horseshoe Bend. There, on the morning
of January 24, 1814, they were suddenly attacked by the Creeks.
The attack came with such fury that Jackson, his army badly crippled,
was forced to retreat to Fort Strother. But by March, Jackson was in
the saddle again. This time he was determined to exterminate the
Word had been fetched by a scout that the Red Sticks
were massed behind fortifications at Horseshoe Bend. Jackson, with an
army of 2,000 men, including 500 Cherokee led by Junaluska, set out
for the Bend, 70 miles away. The site of the imminent battle, which
would make red heroes as well as white and would go down as the greatest
Indian battle in history, was a place the Creeks called Tohopki.
There the Tallapoosa made a bend that enclosed a hundred acres in a
narrow peninsula opening to the north. On the lower side was an
island in the river. Across the neck of the peninsula the Red Sticks
had built a strong breastwork of logs. Behind this breastwork
were houses and behind these were dozens of canoes for use if retreat
became necessary. The fort was defended by thousands of warriors.
There also were 300 women and children.
The battle, which became a massacre, opened at midmorning
on March 27, 1814. Two cannons opened fire, the balls swooshing
through the air to sink into the soft logs of the barricades.
Two hours of heavy cannonading were to no avail. The Cherokee
had been detailed to cross the river at a ford three miles below the
fort and surround the bend so that the Creeks could not escape in that
direction. They took position where the Creek fort was separated
from them by water. The battle raged throughout the morning.
There were dead and wounded on both sides. Among the frontiersmen
fighting for Jackson were Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, who would go
on to write their names in the history books. A few prisoners
were brought in and, while officers were attempting to question them
in the presence of Jackson, one broke loose, snatched up a knife and
lunged for the general. Junaluska, who had seen the move, stuck
out a foot and tripped the Creek warrior, saving Jackson's life.
As the battle wore on it became more and more apparent that it was going
to be a difficult job to dislodge the Red Sticks, firmly entrenched
behind their breastwork of logs. It was then that Junaluska conceived
his brilliant plan. Without notifying Jackson, he gathered a dozen
Cherokee, sneaked to the river's edge behind the fort, plunged into
the water and swam over to where the Creek canoes were moored.
Junaluska and his braves freed the canoes and maneuvered them to the
opposite bank where other Cherokee warriors piled into them and, under
cover of a steady fire from their own companions, returned to the opposite
bank, thus breaching the Red Sticks defenses. This diversion from
the rear gave the Tennesseans opportunity to swarm over the breastworks.
Now it was hand to hand fighting. Amid the smoke from their blazing
homes the Red Sticks fell. When more than half the Creeks lay
dead, the rest turned and plunged into the river, only to find the banks
on the opposite side lined with blazing guns and escape cut off in every
Of the 1,300 Creeks inside the stockade, including
women and children, not more than 20 escaped. Of 300 prisoners only
3 were men. The Red Stick defenders of Horseshoe Bend had been
exterminated. The result was decisive. Two weeks later Billy
Weatherford, the greatest of the Creek chiefs, surrendered to Jackson.
Thus an end came to the Creek War and freed Jackson to move on to New
Orleans against the British. For the first time in a century of
war, the Cherokee were allied with the winner. And they saved the day
for Andrew Jackson.
When the battle of Horseshoe Bend was over, Jackson
was reported to have told Junaluska:
'As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there
shall be friendship between us,
and the feet of the Cherokee shall be toward the east.'
In a few short years Junaluska would have occasion
to recall those words. He would recall them with bitterness.
For it was not long until Jackson was in the White House and had set
about to remove all the Cherokee to new homes in the West. When
the great removal of the Cherokee began, Junaluska said: 'If I had known
Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that
day at the Horseshoe.' Junaluska was among the Cherokee removed
to the West. But he returned to the mountains of his birth in 1842,
walking all the way from what is now Oklahoma. And when he returned,
the state of North Carolina stepped in and recognized the debt that
America owed him. By a special act of the state legislature in
1847, North Carolina conferred upon him the right of citizenship and
granted him a tract of land at what is now Robbinsville in Graham County.
Junaluska died there in 1858 and was buried on a hill above the town
where, in 1910, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument
to his memory. The script on the bronze plaque, bolted to a great
hunk of native stone, says in part: 'Here lies the bodies of the
Cherokee Chief, Junaluska, and Nicie, his wife. Together with
his warriors he saved the life of General Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe
Bend, and for his bravery and faithfulness North Carolina made him a
citizen and gave him land in Graham County.'"
signage from the site tells of the removal of the Cherokee people from
this area, and below is an interesting story about the Junaluska apple.
Not being a big apple person, I did not know there even was such an
I have not included tells us "along the Medicine Trail you will find
the resting benches that have been named in honor of deceased members
of Snowbird Community." There are also other memorials and tributes
to members of the Qualla Boundary and Snowbird Community who played
a significant role historically or were instrumental in the creation
of some aspect of the Junaluska Memorial and gardens. During the
time I was working on this page, I happened to be simultaneously reading
"Snowbird Cherokees: People of Persistence" by Sharlotte Neely.
The book clearly emphasizes the strong traditional Cherokee values (Harmony
Ethic) and sense of community here.