Friday, July 1, 2011

1722-23, Squirrel King a renowned warrior known by both the French and the English

Savannah River Chickasaws split to move east

At roughly the same time, 1722-23, two important and possibly inter-related events in Chickasaw history were recorded-- one by the French and one by the English.

First, a letter by Louisiana Governor Bienville noted that Choctaws had destroyed three Chickasaw villages and in the process “brought in about four hundred scalps and taken one hundred prisoners.” Second, the English colony of Carolina in 1722 invited the entire Chickasaw Nation to relocate to an area that is today in the state of Georgia, midway between Augusta and Atlanta.

While the Nation as a whole declined the invitation, some 80 to 100 Chickasaws under the leadership of a chief called Squirrel King apparently did relocate. Although colonial documents don’t reveal exactly when this came to pass, English botanist Mark Catesby in 1723 arrived at Fort Moore (across the Savannah River from what would become Augusta, GA.) and mentioned he had contact with the Chickasaws.

Furthermore, a group of Chickasaws in September 1723 met with Carolina Governor Francis Nicholson and exchanged presents. It is also likely that Squirrel King gave Nicholson a deerskin map, perhaps painted by himself, to show the homeland tribe’s precarious position almost encircled by the enemy French allied tribes, including the Choctaw, Illinois, Miamis, Quapaws and Kickapoos.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Squirrel King-led group may have been from one of those villages noted by Bienville. Furthermore, artifact evidence from much of the two settlement areas closest to the Choctaws also suggests that some villages were abandoned in the early 1720s.

Period maps indicate that many of the villages, using the same names, relocated to other Chickasaw homeland settlement areas. For example, Hykehah and Phalacheho, which were located in1720 on a 10-milelong ridge, according to English trader James Adair, were shown on a 1737 French map to be part of a consolidation of several villages in another location that we know today is a few miles to the northeast.

On the other hand, another of Adair’s 1720 villages, Yaneka, located along a six-mile-long ridge, is absent from post-1720 maps and documents. There is no colonial document saying or even hinting that Squirrel King led his people from Yaneka 600 miles to the Savannah River area near Carolina’s Fort Moore. Yet it seems unlikely that these two events happened coincidentally.

Moreover, Squirrel King was said by Nicholson to be a renowned warrior with reputedly many kills to his credit. This could help explain two things. First, since factions of the Chickasaws and Choctaws had been raiding one another for years, it would behoove both tribes to place their best warriors in their barrier villages, and Yaneka was the closest to the Choctaw villages. Second, the followers of such an aggressive warrior could be expected to continue fighting for or along the tribe’s long-time ally, Carolina. And by moving 600 miles closer to Charles Town, the tribe would have much better access to arms, food (if need be) and clothing.

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