Published on January 11, 2011 by John
Attakullakulla (ca. 1708–ca. 1777) or Atagulkalu (Cherokee, Ata-gul’ kalu) — known to whites as Little Carpenter — was First Beloved Man of the Cherokee Indians from 1761 to around 1775. Dragging Canoe, war leader of the Cherokee during the Chickamauga wars, was his son.
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According to James Mooney, Attakullakulla’s Cherokee name could be translated “leaning wood”, from “ada” meaning “wood”, and “gulkalu”, a verb that implies something long and unsupported, 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.
According to one of his sons, Turtle-at-Home, Attakullakulla was originally a member of a subtribe of the Algonquin Nipissing in the north captured as an infant during a raid and adopted by a minor chief. He married Nionne Ollie, who was 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 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 Canada 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 attacks by settlers and Cherokees against each other, Attakullakulla joined a delegation that went to Charleston to try to negotiate with South Carolina authorities. Governor William Henry Lyttleton seized the delegates as hostages until the Cherokees responsible for killing white settlers were surrendered. Having raised an expeditionary force, Lyttleton set out for Fort Prince George with the hostages in tow and arrived with 1700 men on December 9, 1759. Though freed soon after, Attakullakulla returned to Fort Prince George to negotiate for peace, but his efforts were thwarted by the more hawkish Oconostota. The Cherokees gave up two individuals and negotiated the release of a few hostages including Oconostota, who soon after lured Lt. Richard Coytmore out of the fort, waving a bridle over his head, and incited Cherokee warriors hiding in the woods to fire upon and kill Coytmore; white soldiers inside the fort then proceeded to murder all the Cherokees inside, and hostilities continued between the Cherokees and Anglo-Americans.
His death is believed to have occurred in 1775, after which he was succeeded by his cousin, Oconostota (who was also his father-in-law).