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Junaluska, (Cherokee: Tsunu’lahun’ski) (c.1775 – October 20, 1868), was a leader of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who reside in and around western North Carolina. He fought alongside Andrew Jackson, and saved his life, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, though later in life he regretted having done so.
Junaluska was born around 1775, approximately 15 miles (24 km) south of Franklin, North Carolina near present day Dillard, Georgia. A few days after his birth, he was given his original name when the cradle-board holding him fell over. He was called Gu-Ka-Las-Ki or Gulkalaski in the Cherokee language, ("one who falls from a leaning position"). Later, after an unsuccessful military venture, he was named Tsu-Na-La-Hun-Ski or Tsunulahunski ("one who tries but fails"). Junaluska's own description of the event that gave him the name was "Detsinulahungu" (meaning "I tried, but could not").
Oral tradition has it that Junaluska met with Tecumseh in Soco Gap in 1811 although this is not verified. Junaluska however sent word at least to Tecumseh that the Cherokee would not join an Indian confederacy against the whites.
In 1813 when the Cherokee raised up 636 men against the Red Stick faction of the Creek Indians in Alabama, Junaluska personally recruited over a hundred men to fight at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The Cherokee unit was incorporated into the combined Creek-Cherokee-Yuchi-Choctaw army under the command of Brig. General William McIntosh, a "friendly" Creek from Georgia. Junaluska's actions turned the tide when he swam the Tallapoosa River retrieving Redstick canoes and ferrying the Cherokee to the rear of the Creeks. He is also credited with saving Andrew Jackson's life during this battle.
According to the provisions of an 1819 treaty with the United States, Junaluska applied for 640 acres (2.6 km2) of land at Sugar Creek near Franklin, North Carolina. When his land was usurped by white settlers, he moved to the remaining portion of the Cherokee Nation.
It was reported that Jackson met with Junaluska regarding the Indian Removal Act, but the president said, "Sir, your audience is ended. There is nothing I can do for you," and when Junaluska saw his people being removed, he cried and looked toward the sky saying, "Oh my God, if I had known at the battle of the Horse Shoe [sic] what I know now, American history would have been differently written".
During the infamous Trail of Tears in 1838, Junaluska and many other Cherokee people were incarcerated and held in nearby stockades. One, known as Fort Montgomery, was located near present day Robbinsville, North Carolina. From this stockade, Junaluska was forced to march to Indian Territory in present day Eastern Oklahoma Junaluska was assigned to Jesse Bushyhead's detachment.
About seven weeks into the journey, Junaluska deserted and led approximately 50 other Cherokee. He was soon captured and returned to Oklahoma but after several years Junaluska made the trip back to North Carolina on foot. In 1847, after a plea by Col. William Holland Thomas, the state legislature rewarded him for his service by making him a citizen and giving him land near present-day Robbinsville.
Junaluska married Ni-suh and had three children, boys Jim-my and Sic-que-yuh, and dauhter Na-lih.
Junaluska died October 20, 1868 and was buried in Robbinsville. His grave was originally marked, in traditional Cherokee style, with a pile of stones, but in 1910 the General Joseph Winston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Winston-Salem) erected a monument at his gravesite. A museum and memorial stands in his honor at this location.