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Tomochichi (to-mo-chi-chi') (c. 1644 – October 5, 1739) was a seventeenth-century Creek leader and the head chief of a Yamacraw town on the site of present day Savannah, Georgia. He gave his land to James Oglethorpe to build the city of Savannah. He remains a prominent character of early Georgia history. As the principal mediator between the native population and the new English settlers during the first years of settlement, he contributed much to the establishment of peaceful relations between the two groups and to the ultimate success of Georgia.
Although much of his early life is unknown, Tomochichi was exiled from the Creek nation for unclear reasons and, along with several followers, first settled what is now Savannah, Georgia. Presumably, he was Creek and participated in their early activities with Englishmen in [South Carolina], both peaceful and hostile. In about 1728 Tomochichi created his own tribe of Yamacraw from an assortment of Creek and Yamasee Indians after the two nations disagreed over future relations with the English and 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 and had close proximity to English traders. When General James Oglethorpe and 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 and an English father, who served as interpreter between the general and 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 and to give them permission to establish Savannah in order to take advantage of trading and diplomatic connections.
By the time of the establishment of the colonial charter of Georgia in 1732 (the colonial charter was contributed in the same year), Tomochichi remaining a lifelong friend of the early English colonists, helping the settlers in Georgia negotiate a treaty with the Lower Creeks (as well as settling previous disagreements with the Creek).
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 and 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 and realization of the demands of his people for education and 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 and convinced them to ally with the English despite previous deceitful encounters with their northern neighbors in South Carolina.
He was taken to England by colonial governor James Oglethorpe in 1734. He met King George II of Great Britain at Kensington Palace on August 1, 1734, and gave the King eagle feathers as a token of peace.
After Oglethorpe returned to Georgia in February 1736, the chief received John Wesley, minister of Savannah, his brother Charles, and 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 and Oglethorpe participated in an expedition to determine the southern boundaries of Georgia and helped mediate interactions with the Spanish. Tomochichi exerted his best efforts to maintain peace, and Oglethorpe regularly asked his friend for advice and 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, and while sources differ over his exact age, historians and contemporary observers generally agree that he was in his late nineties. Before he died in 1739, he told the Creek Indians to remember how well the King treated them and he hoped that they would remain friends forever. He was given a public funeral by the colony. His contributions to the colony of Georgia were celebrated with an English military funeral, and the grave site was commemorated with a marker of "a Pyramid of Stone" collected from the vicinity. Senauki, his wife, and his nephew, Toonahowi, were left in charge of the tribe, but he appointed no one to take his place as the impartial mediator between the Indians and the English.
His gravesite was desecrated and destroyed in 1883 by the Central of Georgia Railroad when they constructed a monument to their founder, William Gordon, directly on top of Tomochichi's grave. Outraged by this insult to Tomochichi, Gordon's own daughter-in-law, Nellie Gordon, had a new monument to his memory, a large granite boulder with a decorative copper plate, installed southeast of the original structure on April 21, 1899, by the Colonial Dames of America. The Georgia Historical Commission later placed a large marker in Savannah's Wright Square, which details the achievements of the Yamacraw chieftain.
The Tomochichi Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Savannah, Georgia is named for him.
- Lafarge, Oliver. A Pictorial History of the American Indian. New York: Crown Publishers, 1957.
- Grant, Bruce. The Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian. New York: Wings Books, 2000. ISBN 0-517-69310-0
- Sweet, Julie Anne. "Tomochichi (ca. 1644–1739)". Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press, 2008. New Georgia Encyclopedia. [www.georgiaencyclopedia.org].