Nenyehi, also known as Nancy Ward, was an advocate for a peaceful coexistence between the Cherokee and European Americans. Recognized as a Ghigau, or Beloved Woman, Ward was a widely respected woman and mother, representing her people in political negotiations between the Nations and colonists throughout her life. Ward was a contemporary of John Singleton Copley, both born in 1738.
In a 1817 meeting of the Cherokee Council, Nancy Ward, who could not attend, sent her vote and a powerful letter urging members to discontinue sales of their homelands to recent settlers. Ward’s deep desire to forewarn the Cherokee portends the tragic “Trail of Tears” that, beginning in the 1830s, forcibly removed Native People from southeastern states to lands west of the Mississippi River.
Excerpts from Ward’s letter are read by performance artist, activist, and Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry, DeLanna Studi (Cherokee).
Transcript – English
Our beloved children and headmen of the Cherokee Nation. We address you, warriors and counsel. We have raised all of you on the land, which we now have, which God gave us to inhabit and raise provisions. We know that our country has once been extensive, but by repeated sales has become circumscribed to a small tract and never have thought it our duty to interfere in the disposition of it. Till now.
If a father, a mother, was to sell all their lands which they had to depend on, which their children had to raise their living on, which would be indeed bad, and to be removed to another country, we do not wish to go to an unknown country, but this act of our children would be like destroying your mothers. Your mothers, your sisters ask and beg of you not to part with any more of our lands.
We say ours. You are descendants and take pity on our request to keep it for our growing children for was the goodwill of our Creator to place here. Only keep your hands off of paper talks, for it is our own country. For if it was not, they would not ask you to put your hands to paper, for it would be impossible to remove us all for as soon as one child is raised we have others in our arms.
Therefore, children, don't part with any more of our lands, but continue on it and in larger farms and cultivate and raise corn and cotton. And we, your mothers and sisters, will make clothing for you. We don't charge anybody for selling our lands, but we have heard such intentions of our children that your talks become true at last. And it was our desire to forewarn you all not to part with our lands.