The Bowl (Cherokee chief)
The Bowl (also Chief Bowles); (Cherokee: Di'wali) (~1765 – July 16, 1839) was one of the leaders of the Chickamauga Cherokee during the Cherokee–American wars, served as a Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation–West, and was a leader of the Texas Cherokees (Tsalagiyi nvdagi).
Di'wali was born around 1765 in Little Hiwassee, a Cherokee town in current-day North Carolina. His mother was Cherokee, and his father was a Scottish trader. Emmet Starr, an early historian of the Cherokee, describes Bowles as "being decidedly Gaelic in appearance, having light eyes, red hair, and somewhat freckled."
Diwali was a follower of Dragging Canoe, one of the founders of the Chickamauga Cherokee who supported the British during the American Revolutionary War, and Di'wali fought under Dragging Canoe and John Watts during the Cherokee-American Wars. During this time, Di'wali had attained the chief of the Running Water Town (present-day Muscle Shoals, Alabama). After the destruction of the Chickamauga settlements by the Americans in 1794, Di'wali returned to Little Hiwassee.
In order to enjoy better hunting grounds and escape the pressures of growing white settlements in the southern states, Di'wali led the first large Cherokee emigration west across the Mississippi River in 1809, where he and his followers settled in the St. Francis River valley, near present-day New Madrid, Missouri. When the government was organized the next year, he was elected the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation–West. In 1812-13, Di'wali moved his people south into the Arkansaw Territory near present-day Conway, Arkansas. Di'wali was succeeded as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation–West in 1813 by Degadoga.
Responding to the increased white settlers in the Arkansas Territory, Di'wali led 60 Cherokee families into Spanish Texas in the winter of 1819-1820, settling for two years in northeast Texas along the Red River. The community elected Di'wali as Head Chief (ugu). Fleeing the influx of white settlers into the Red River area, Di'wali moved his community into the forks of the Trinity River (near present-day Dallas) and, the following year, into a region fifty miles north of Nacogdoches. At this time, Richard Fields succeeded D'wali as the leader of the "Cherokee and their associated bands." After entering into an agreement with José Felix Trespalacios, the governor of the province of Texas, for "peaceful possession" of lands in east Texas on November 8, 1822. Fields and Di'wali then traveled to Mexico City in early 1823, petitioning and winning the consent of the First Mexican Empire to settle there. In his 1898 essay, "the Cherokee Nation of Indians," V. O. King reports:
In 1822, a convention was made between the Cherokees and the Empire of Mexico, by which the Indians were permitted to occupy and cultivate certain lands in eastern Texas, in consideration of fealty and service in case of war. Neither the empire, however, nor its successor, the Republic of Mexico, would consent to part with their sovereignty in the soil, and persistently refused any other rights than those of domicile and tillage...
Enforcement of the agreement with Mexico was difficult, and on April 15, 1825, a white immigrant, Benjamin Edwards, was given a grant by the Mexican government to settle in Cherokee lands in east Texas. The dissatisfaction with the Mexican authorities found an outlet when a number of aggrieved white settlers in nearby Nacogdoches revolted against the Mexican government in what became known as the Fredonian Rebellion. While Fields, as war chief, and John Dunn Hunter, the civil chief, opened negotiations with the Fredonian leaders, Di'wali urged the Cherokee not to cooperate in the rebellion. He believed that loyalty to Mexico would lead to enforcement of the 1822 treaty and recognition of Cherokee lands. Di'wali was convincing, and the Cherokee remained loyal to Mexico during the rebellion. Fields and Hunter were executed by the Mexican government for their support of the Fredonian Rebellion on May 8, 1827, and Di'wali succeeded Fields as war chief.
In remaining loyal to Mexico, Stephen F. Austin and other Mexican officials praised Di'wali and the Cherokee in the wake of the Fredonian Rebellion. Di'wali was summoned to Nacogdoches and given a commission of lieutenant-colonel in the Mexican army on July 19, 1827.
By 1830, an estimated 800 Cherokee lived in three to seven settlements in Texas. They became known as the Texas Cherokee, or Tsalagiyi nvdagi. During this time, Di'wali continued his work in securing a written guarantee to rights over the Cherokee lands from the Mexican government, but the Mexican government repeatedly withheld written agreement.
When the Texas Revolution came, the Texas Cherokee decided to remain neutral, but Sam Houston (who had married into the Cherokee tribe and had a long-standing relationship with Chief Di'wali) sought an alliance with the Cherokee. Seeking to give them what the Mexican government had refused and empowered under authority of the new government, General Houston negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee and other associated groups, granting over 2.5 million acres of land in east Texas:
Be It Solemnly Decreed, That we, the chosen delegates of the consultation of all Texas, in general convention assembled, solemnly declare, That the Cherokee Indians, and their associated bands, twelve tribes in number, agreeably to their late general council in Texas, have derived their just claims to lands included within the bounds hereinafter mentioned, from the government of Mexico, from whom we have also derived our rights to the soil by grant and occupancy. We solemnly declare, that the boundaries of the claims of said Indians to lands is as follows, to wit: lying north of the San Antonio road and the Neches, ask west of the Angeline and Sabine rivers. We solemnly declare, that the governor and general council, immediately on its organization, shall appoint commissioners to treat with said Indian, to establish the definite boundary of their territory, and secure their confidence and friendship. We solemnly declare, that we will guarantee to them peaceable enjoyment of their rights to their lands, as we do our own.
Given the prospect of finally having a secure homeland, they agreed, and Di'wali signed the treaty on behalf of the Texas Cherokees near present-day Alto, Texas on February 23, 1835. Consequently, the Texas Cherokee remained supportive of the Texans against Santa Anna. On December 20, 1836, within the first two months as President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston told the Texas Senate, I "most earnestly recommend [the treaty with the Cherokee]'s ratification. You will find upon examining this treaty, that it is just and equitable, and perhaps the best which could be made at present time." The Senate of the Republic of Texas, however, refused to ratify the treaty, citing that the Cherokee had not actively fought with Texans in the revolution and that the treaty conflicted with a grant given to David G. Burnet. Over Houston's objections, the Senate formally nullified the treaty on December 16, 1837. Almost immediately, the Land Office began issuing patents to lands within the Cherokee Nation.
Though the relations between the Texas Cherokee and the Republic of Texas was strained, Houston and Di'wali remained close friends, and Di'wali served – at Houston's request – as a representative of the Texas government in negotiations with the Comanche in the western plains.
In a further attempt to secure permanent recognition of Indian lands in east Texas, Di'wali again looked to Mexico when Vicente Córdova attempted an insurgency against the Republic of Texas. The government of Mexico sought an arrangement with the Cherokee for their support in an insurgency in exchange for title to their land. Di'wali permitted Córdova's militia to operate within Cherokee lands in 1838. When a member of the Córdova militia had been killed in May 1839, documents were uncovered by Texas officials that suggested a conspiracy between the pro-Mexican forces and the Texas Cherokee. Though the Córdova Rebellion had been suppressed quickly, coming to a head in August 1838, the newly discovered documents led the new President of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, to charge in December 1838 that Di'wali had surreptitiously collaborated with Córdova.
In 1839, in his first formal address as president, Lamar urged that the Cherokee and Comanche tribes be driven from their lands in Texas, believing that the “total extinction" of the Indian tribes was necessary to make the lands available to whites. Lamar instructed the Texas military to construct a military post on the Great Saline (in the southwest corner of present-day Smith County), with Di'wali warning that such a move would provoke a violent response. Lamar sent word that the Cherokee were to depart or suffer removal by force, but Di'wali was resolute that Texas should honor its 1836 treaty. John H. Reagan, an emissary of Lamar's administration, met with Di'wali in early July, delivering Lamar's charges and providing a few days for Di'wali to consult with his Council. Of the second meeting with Di'wali, Reagan writes:
The grave deportment of Chief Bowles indicated that he felt the seriousness of his situation. He [said] that there had been a meeting of the chiefs and head men in the council; that his young men were for war; that all who were in the council were for war, except himself and [Civil Chief] Big Mush; that his young men believed that they could whip the whites; that he knew the whites could ultimately whip them, but it would cost them ten years of bloody frontier war. He inquired of Mr. Lacy [the Indian agent] if action on the President's demand could not be postponed until his people could make and gather their crops. Mr. Lacy informed him that he had no authority or discretion beyond what was said in the communication from the President. The language of Chief Bowles indicated that he regarded this as settling the question, and that war must ensue ... He said that he had led his people a long time, and that he felt it to be his duty to stand by them, whatever fate might befall him.
On July 14, Lamar sent troops, under the command of Gen. Thomas Rusk, to occupy the Indian territory. Fleeing their town and forced northward into present-day Van Zandt County, the Cherokee halted on July 15 and prepared defenses at the confluence of Warrior Creek and Kickapoo Creek on the Neches River. The ensuing battle proved indecisive.
On the morning of July 16, though severely outnumbered, Di'wali made every effort to win. Di'wali "exhorted the Indians to fight bravely. During the last battle he could be heard repeatedly encouraging them, and more than once urging them to charge." But eventually, with his troops depleted of ammunition, Di'wali ordered retreat, though he remained. Sitting on his horse, wearing a military hat and sword given to him by Sam Houston, Di'wali faced the advancing Texans. The Texan forces shot his horse and then injured the chief, shooting him in the thigh and the back. Unable to walk but raising himself to a sitting position on the ground, Di'wali was singing a war song when Capt. Robert W. Smith approached Di'wali and shot him in the head. Smith then took the sword from D'wali's body and swaths of skin from his arm as souvenir.
Of Di'wali, John H. Reagan recalls, "I had witnessed his dignity and manliness in council, his devotion to his tribe in sustaining their decision for war against his judgement, and his courage in battle." As he had requested, Di'wali was left on the battlefield according to tradition. A historical marker now stands at the site of Chief Di'wali 's death. A funeral for Di'wali was held by the descendants of the tribe in 1995, on the 156 anniversary of his death.
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