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Chief “Di’wali” Bowles: Relocation to Arkansas

Spanish Possession

“In the mid-1700s, the Spanish invited the Ani-Tsalagi, known as Cherokees, to move into their frontier area. The Spaniards offered the red men land for their families. The Spanish wanted them located on the eastern frontier to be a buffer between them and the English Colonies to the east.

“Many Cherokee leaders were concerned about the continued encroachment of English colonists into their area and were trying to outrun the disease of the whites and their great hunger for land. They were also looking for land they could hold without the English moving in and taking it away from them. Tribal leaders sent delegations to search out areas for possible settlement. Over the next fifty years, a few families and complete towns migrated west and entered Spanish Territory. They settled in what is now Arkansas and Missouri, which was under the control of the Spanish at the time.” [D. L. Utsidihi Hicks, History of the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi]

In 1794, after the Massacre at Muscle Shoals [see “Chief “Di’Wali” Bowles: The Muscle Shoals Massacre”], Di’Wali, “The Bowl”, led his followers out of Cherokee territory fearing retaliation for the massacre. James Moody wrote, “The Bowl emigration may not have been the first, or even the most important removal to the western country, as the period was one of Indian unrest. Small bands were constantly crossing the Mississippi into Spanish territory to avoid the advancing Americans, only to find themselves again under American jurisdiction when the whole western country was ceded to the United States in 1803. The persistent land-hunger of the settler could not be restrained or satisfied, and early in the same year President Jefferson suggested to Congress the desirability of removing all the tribes to the west of the Mississippi.”

US in 1800

“[… A relocation] plan was approved by President Jefferson, and a sum was appropriated to pay the expenses of a delegation to visit and inspect the lands on Arkansas and White rivers, with a view to removal. The visit was made in the summer of 1809, and the delegates brought back such favorable report that a large number of Cherokee signified their intention to remove at once.”

From 1795 to 1813 Di’Wali, also known as “Chief Bowles”, the Principal Chief of the Western Cherokee, lived in the valley along the St. Francis River in southeastern Missouri. According to Dorman H. Winfrey [in “Chief Bowles of the Texas Cherokee”], “In December, 1811, a seismatic disturbance occurred in the vicinity in which the Cherokee were established. Fearing that the area was under the ban of the Great Spirit, Bowles and the Cherokee moved to the present day county of Conway, Arkansas. The new Cherokee home was outside of the stipulated Cherokee Territory.”

From Ustidihi Hicks, “Around 1809, Chief Diwali and Chief Tsulawi, “Fox”, with about seventy-five people migrated west. They crossed the Mississippi River and located near the old Spanish trading center of New Madred. The people were given land and they proceeded to plant their crops and build homes. Other Cherokees joined them and the band grew in population. They were at peace with the Spanish.

“In 1811, the largest earthquake in modern times hit near New Madrid. The disaster devastated Diwali and his people. They had arrived in a peaceful land and an act of Nature shook them. Their anidawehi, “religious leaders” told them Unequa, “Great Being or Spirit” wanted them to leave that place. They left left their homes and fields behind and moved further west to join other Cherokees along the Saint Francis and White Rivers in the Arkansas Territory.”

Again from Moody, “… Early in 1818 a delegation of emigrant Cherokee visited Washington for the purpose of securing a more satisfactory determination of the boundaries of their new lands on the Arkansas. Measures were soon afterward taken for that purpose. they also asked recognition in the future as a separate and distinct tribe, but nothing was done in the matter. In order to remove, if possible, the hostile feeling between the emigrants and the native Osage, who regarded the former as intruders, Governor William Clark, superintendent of Indian affairs for Missouri, arranged a conference of the chiefs of the two tribes at St. Louis in October of that year, at which, after protracted effort, he succeeded in establishing friendly relations between them. Efforts were made about the same time , both by the emigrant Cherokee and by the government, to persuade the Shawano and Delawares then residing in Missouri, and the Oneida in New York, to join the western Cherokee, but nothing came of the negotiations. In 1825 a delegation of western Cherokee visited the Shawano in Ohio for the same purpose but without success. Their object in thus inviting friendly Indians to join them was to strengthen themselves against the Osage and other native tribes.

Republic of Texas History Map

“As the American frontier moved westward, pressure on the Cherokee was increased by white settlers in the Arkansas Territory. There appears to have been a general desire on the part of the Cherokee people and leaders to locate once again within Spanish territory. This desire to live under Spanish rule, along with the pressure being placed on the Cherokee Territory, caused Chief Bowles with sixty of his men and their families to emigrate in the winter of 1819-1820 to territory along the Angelina, Neches, and Trinity rivers [near current location of Dallas] in the Mexican province of Texas.”

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