Monday, March 12, 2007

Cherokee Chief Tahchee (Tatsi)

Throughout his life, Cherokee Chief Tahchee, also known as Captain William Dutch, was known as a fearless warrior. Tahchee was one of the original groups of Cherokees to move west of the Mississippi river. He became a major political force in the "old settler party". He fought many fights with the Osage Indians who leaved near the Cherokees. Eventually, he would become a scout for the U.S. Army, where he reached the rank of Captain. Tahchee died on March 12, 1848, in Indian Territory.

(image courtesy of


The life story of this Cherokee chief (Tatsi is probably the correct spelling) is typical of an Indian who was born shortly after the Revolution and lived in the first part of the nineteenth century. His days were occupied with war, raids, horse stealing, scouting and hunting.

Dutch, as he is known to frontier history, was a child when his family joined the first Cherokee removal from the big Indian village called Turkey Town on the Coosa River in what is now Alabama to the St.Francis River in Arkansas, west of the Mississippi. It was a wild country that had not known the white man's presence.

The casual life of the hunter appealed to him, and at about the age of twelve he joined one of those incredible Indian hunting parties that roamed the prairies for as long as three years.

It was a life of feast or famine. The hunter's constant enemy was the weather. Weary hours were spent on horseback, but the hardships were forgotten in the excitement of the hunt and the occasional clash with other tribes.

Dutch roamed beyond the Mississippi and explored the Red River country. Years later a white man asked him how many buffalo he had killed and Dutch answered, "So many I cannot number them."

He lived with other tribes to study the techniques of their hunters, even the Osage, the traditional foe of the Cherokee, and was among the few of his nation who knew the Osage dialect. He became a legend on the plains and the prairies, a lone hunter with three large dogs running on both sides of his horse's flanks. He explored the Arkansas River to the south of the Grand, or Neosho, River, then traveled on foot for hundreds of miles to the Missouri. When he returned downriver his canoe was almost swamped by beaver skins.

The treaty the Cherokee made with the United States in 1828 so infuriated Dutch that he led several families to the Red River country. They were constantly at war with those superbs horsemen of the Texas plains, the Comanche. To keep the frontier peaceful, the army ordered both nations to stop their raids, an order Dutch refused to recognize. He was finally declared an outlaw, and the army's wanted poster offered five hundred dollars for him dead or alive.

Dutch fought a one-man war with the army for years, even boldly scalping a Comanche [an Osage, according to other sources] in the shadow of Fort Gibson. Both sides finally grew weary of the hound and hare game. The commander, a shrewd man, hired Dutch to form a group of Indian scouts in the army's campaign against the Comanche. Before he retired to his ranch on the Canadian River, Dutch was known throughout the early Indian fighting army as a tireless tracker and "a man to be relied on".

Catlin who met Dutch in 1834 called him "a guide and hunter for the regiment of dragoons.... The history of this man's life has been very curious and surprising; and I sincerely hope that someone, with more leisure and more talent than myself, will take it up, and do it justice. I promise that the life of this man furnishes the best materials for a popular tale, that are now to be procured on the Western frontier."

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