Published on March 9, 2011 by Alice
John Jolly, Cherokee name Ahuludegi, also known as Oolooteka, was elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West upon the death of his brother Tahlonteeskee in 1819. He had served as headman of Cayuga town on Hiwassee Island in present-day Hamilton County, Tennessee, after his brother’s departure for the west in 1809.
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When the young Sam Houston came to live with the Cherokee on Hiwassee Island in 1809, Ahuludegi adopted him and acted as his father in the Cherokee nation. He gave him the Cherokee name of Ka’lanu, meaning the Raven. A few years later, Houston returned to his family in Maryville, but he lived with the Cherokee again in the late 1820s and early 1830s after their move to present-day Oklahoma. Then he moved to Texas, where he elected the President of the Republic of Texas, and US Senator for and governor of Texas.
During Ahuludegi’s term of office, the Cherokee Nation West adopted a constitution in 1828 establishing a tripartite government, like that previously adopted by the Cherokee Nation East in 1827. That year most of the western Cherokee moved from Arkansas Territory to the newly established Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Ahuludegi served as Principal Chief until his own death in December 1838. He was succeeded by John Looney, his assistant principal chief.
Hiwassee Island, at the mouth of the Hiwassee River where it meets the Tennessee, used to be commonly known as “Jolly’s Island” after the Cherokee leader. Residents in the area sometimes still call it that.