Saturday, June 17, 2017

Georgia's Native American hero Tomochichi (c 1644-1739)

William Verelst (British artist, 1704–1752) Trustees of Georgia and Chief Tomochichi
Tomochichi (ca. 1644-1739) from New Georgia Encyclopedia
Julie Anne Sweet, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 09/20/2002 Edited by NGE Staff on 08/16/2016

"Tomochichi, chief of the Yamacraw Indians, remains a prominent character of early Georgia. As the principal mediator between the native population & the new English settlers during the first years of Georgia's settlement, Tomochichi contributed much to the establishment of peaceful relations between the two groups & to the ultimate success of Georgia. His nephew, Toonahowi, is seated on the right.

"As the principal mediator between the native population & the new English settlers during the first years of settlement, Tomochichi contributed much to the establishment of peaceful relations between the two groups & to the ultimate success of Georgia.
William Verelst (British artist, 1704–1752) Tomochachi and his nephew Tooanahowi
"Little is known about the youth of this warrior & chieftain because of the absence of accurate documentation. Presumably, he was Creek & participated in their early activities with Englishmen in South Carolina, both peaceful & hostile. About 1728 Tomochichi created his own tribe of the Yamacraws from an assortment of Creek & Yamasee Indians after the two nations disagreed over future relations with the English & the Spanish. His group, approximately two hundred people, settled on the bluffs of the Savannah River because the location was the resting place of his ancestors & had close proximity to English traders. When General James Oglethorpe (1696-1785) & his fellow settlers reached the region in February 1733, they realized the need to negotiate fairly with the neighboring Indian tribes or risk the success of their enterprise. Among Oglethorpe's entourage was Mary Musgrove, daughter of a Creek mother & an English father, who served as interpreter between the general & the chief. Tomochichi had had previous contact with English colonists, making him unafraid yet cautious. The aging warrior had several different options available, but he decided to receive the new arrivals & to give them permission to establish Savannah in order to take advantage of trading & diplomatic connections.

"During the first five years of English settlement, Tomochichi provided invaluable assistance to the new colony. One year after Oglethorpe's arrival, the Indian chief accompanied him back to England along with a small delegation of family & Lower Creek tribesmen. There, Tomochichi expertly fulfilled the position as mediator for his people during numerous meetings with important English dignitaries. He politely followed English mannerisms in his public appearances while pushing for recognition & realization of the demands of his people for education & fair trade. Upon his return to Georgia, Tomochichi met with other Lower Creek chieftains to reassure them of the honest intentions of these new Englishmen & convinced them to ally with the English despite previous deceitful encounters with their northern neighbors in South Carolina.

"After Oglethorpe returned to Georgia in February 1736, the chief received John Wesley, minister of Savannah, his brother Charles, & their friend Benjamin Ingham. Tomochichi reiterated his requests for Christian education for his tribe, but John Wesley rebuffed him with complex replies. Ingham, on the other hand, assisted in creating an Indian school at Irene, which opened in September 1736 much to the delight of the elderly chieftain. The same year, Tomochichi & Oglethorpe participated in an expedition to determine the southern boundaries of Georgia & helped mediate interactions with the Spanish. Tomochichi exerted his best efforts to maintain peace, & Oglethorpe regularly asked his friend for advice & assistance in achieving this goal. 

"During the summer of 1739 Oglethorpe made an unprecedented journey to Coweta, deep in Indian Territory, to bolster his connections to the Lower Creeks, which resulted in a mutually favorable treaty. Tomochichi was unable to partake directly in Oglethorpe's negotiations; instead, he lay at home in his village fighting a serious illness. Tomochichi died on October 5, 1739, & while sources differ over his exact age, historians & contemporary observers generally agree that he was in his late nineties. His contributions to the colony of Georgia were celebrated with an English military funeral, & the grave site was commemorated with a marker of "a Pyramid of Stone" 

See:
Helen Todd, Tomochichi: Indian Friend of the Georgia Colony (Atlanta: Cherokee, 1977).