Treaty of Sycamore Shoals Response

Creator: Dragging Canoe

Context: This speech was made in 1775 by Dragging Canoe, a young Cherokee chief who opposed the decision of tribal elders (including his father) to sell land in what is now East Tennessee to British settlers.

Audience: Other leaders of Dragging Canoe's tribe, and possibly white settlers in the area.

Purpose: To announce Dragging Canoe's intention to resist the "white man's advance" with physical force rather than through the negotiations favored by his tribe's elders.

Historical Significance: This speech reveals the type of conflict that occurred within many Native American communities as they decided how to respond to aggressive attempts by white settlers to seize native lands throughout the 1700s and 1800s.

"Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man's advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delawares? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi (Cherokee) land. They wish to have that usurpation sanctioned by treaty. When that is gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the Tsalagi (Cherokees). New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country, which the Tsalagi (Cherokees) and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of the Ani Yvwiya, The Real People, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Tsalagi (Cherokees), the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than to submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will hold our land."

Dragging Canoe, RESPONSE TO TREATY OF SYCAMORE SHOALS (1775). Text courtesy of