Yonaguska (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Under Yonaguska's leadership, a small band of Cherokees successfully resisted removal to Indian Territory and eventually became known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
At approximately sixty years of age, Yonaguska fell ill and was mourned as dead. After regaining consciousness a few days later, he claimed to have visited the spirit world and was thereafter regarded by his people as a prophet. As spiritual leader and chief, Yonaguska denounced tribal use of alcohol. He also counseled his people to resist removal to Indian Territory, claiming that if they moved the government would soon desire their new lands.
In 1829, Yonaguska led fifty-one men and their families to a new home at the juncture of the Soco Creek and the Oconaluftee River in western North Carolina. They had separated from the Cherokee Nation through a provision in a treaty that allowed them to settle on an independent reservation. There they made a claim for U.S. citizenship.
Through the aid of William Holland Thomas, a white lawyer and adopted son of Yonaguska, their small tribe successfully fought removal. Thomas represented his adopted tribe in Washington, using settlements won from treaty violations to purchase land for them. With Yonaguska's death in 1839, Thomas remained the principal advocate for Yonaguska's tribe, acting as its de facto chief. The tribe later became known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
(The entire section is 246 words.)
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