Published on August 30, 2013 by Amy
Attakullakulla or Atagulkalu (Cherokee, Ata-gul’ kalu, meaning Little Carpenter)(c1708–c1777), was adopted as an infant into the Cherokee tribe, and became their First Beloved Man, serving from 1761 to around 1775. His son was Dragging Canoe, a leader of the Chickamauga Cherokee.
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According to the anthropologist James Mooney, Attakullakulla’s Cherokee name could be translated “leaning wood”, from ada meaning “wood”, and gulkalu, a verb that implies something long, leaning against some other object. His name “Little Carpenter” derived from the English meaning of his Cherokee name along with a reference to his physical stature.
Attakullakulla was born to a sub-tribe of the Algonquian-speaking Nipissing to the north. He was captured as an infant during a raid and adopted by a minor Cherokee leader, making him a member of the Cherokee. He married Nionne Ollie, a Natchez captive adopted as the daughter of his cousin, Oconostota. The marriage was permissible because they were of different clans; he was Wolf Clan and she was Paint Clan.
He was a member of the Cherokee delegation that traveled to England in 1730. In 1736, he rejected the advances of the French, who had sent emissaries to the Overhill Cherokee. Three or four years later, he was captured by the Ottawa, allies of the French, who held him captive in Quebec until 1748. Upon his return, he became one of the Cherokees’ leading diplomats and an adviser to the Beloved Man of Chota.
In May 1759, following a series of violent confrontations between colonists and Cherokee, Attakullakulla joined a delegation that went to Charleston to try to negotiate with South Carolina authorities for peace. The colonial governor, William Henry Lyttleton, seized the delegates as hostages until the Cherokee responsible for killing white settlers were surrendered. Having raised an expeditionary force of 1700 men, Lyttleton set out for Fort Prince George, with the hostages in tow, and arrived on December 9, 1759.
Freed soon after, Attakullakulla returned to Fort Prince George to negotiate for peace, but his efforts were thwarted by his hawkish father-in-law, Oconostota. Prior to his return to the fort, the Cherokee had given up two prisoners and had successfully negotiated the release of several of the hostages, including Oconostota. However, a vengeful Oconostota had subsequently lured a Lt. Richard Coytmore out of the fort; by waving a bridle over his head. He then incited Cherokee warriors hiding in the woods to shoot and kill Coytmore. The garrison in the fort retaliated with the execution of all the remaining Cherokee hostages, setting off a cycle of hostilities between the Cherokee and Anglo-Americans that continued for several more years.
Attakullakulla’s son was Dragging Canoe, the Chickamauga Cherokee leader during the Chickamauga wars.
Attakullakulla is believed to have died in 1775–1777. He was succeeded as First Beloved Man by Oconostota.