History of Cherokee Leader Going Snake
Going Snake District was named in honor of the revered Cherokee leader Going Snake “I-na-du-na-i,” also known as Crawling Snake. He was born approximately 1758 near the present Tennessee-North Carolina boundary that meets Notteley Reservoir in Georgia. He became known to the Cherokees as an orator and political leader. He served as chief of a tribal town.
In 1814, he was among the seven hundred Cherokees who fought against the Creeks with Major General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, along with John Ross, Sequoyah, White Path and others. Going Snake served in the company of Captain John Brown. On March 27, 1814, he received a wound in his arm at Horseshoe Bend. Due to his injury, Going Snake qualified for a pension, which he received later in life.
In late 1817, Going Snake led a delegation of six Cherokees to Washington, DC to meet with President James Monroe. The delegation consisted of Going Snake, speaker to deputation; George Harlin; Roman Nose; James Brown; Richard Taylor; and Richard Riley, clerk to deputation. The meeting, which took place November 22, concerned the treaty between the United States and the Cherokees confirmed October 4, 1816. The delegation stated that the treaty was not what the Cherokees had been promised in previous discussions about the treaty.
In 1820, the eastern Cherokee Nation was divided into eight districts. Going Snake was a representative from Amohee District and received one dollar per day while serving on the National Council. At the time, Pathkiller was chief, and a young man named John Ross served as president of the National Committee. In 1827, Ross was elected chief and Going Snake was elected speaker of the council.
When the Cherokees began forced removal, known today as the Trail of Tears, Going Snake traveled with the group headed at first by Hair Conrad, and later by Daniel Colston, which left the Cherokee Nation East on August 31, 1838. An observer, William Shorey Coodey, stated, “At length the word was given to move on. I glanced along the line and the form of Going Snake, an aged and respected chief who’s head eighty winters had whitened, mounted on his favorite pony passed before me and led the way in advance, followed by a number of young men on horseback. At this very moment a low sound of distant thunder fell on my ear. In almost an exact western direction a dark spiral cloud was rising above the horizon and sent forth a murmur. I almost fancied a voice of divine indignation for the wrongs of my poor and unhappy countrymen, driven by brutal power from all they loved and cherished in the land of their fathers, to gratify the cravings of avarice.”
In January 1839, Going Snake arrived in the Cherokee Nation West and settled near Ward Branch, about two miles south of present Ballard in Adair County, Oklahoma, and about five miles north of present Westville. At that location he built his home.
One of his last duties was to meet at the general convention between the eastern and western Cherokees near the Illinois River near present Tahlequah on July 12, 1839, where he signed the “Act of Union Between the Eastern and Western Cherokees.” By November, a new speaker had been elected. The following year, the districts in the new Cherokee Nation were divided and given names, and one was named for Going Snake. He died February 21, 1841. He was buried near his cabin.
Several organizations have honored the final resting place of Going Snake throughout the years. In 1980, the Goingsnake District Heritage Association erected a gravestone at the burial site. The association also paid for the construction of a fence surrounding Going Snake’s grave. On October 16, 2004, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association marked the gravestone with a small metal plaque indentifying Going Snake as a survivor of the Cherokee Forced Removal. Cherokee Deputy Chief Joe Grayson read a biography of Going Snake at the gravesite. On November 16, 2013, the Private Jacob Holley Chapter 322 of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 held a marker dedication at the gravesite. The dedication also included the recitation of Going Snake’s biography, poems, and the singing of Amazing Grace in Cherokee.
History of Goingsnake District Heritage Association
On June 24, 1979, seventeen history enthusiasts met at 2 o’clock p.m. in the Clyde Bost Room of the John F. Henderson Public Library in Westville. They formed the Goingsnake District Heritage Association and established the group’s primary objective as researching and preserving the history and heritage of the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation. Several goals included placing monuments at historic sites, preserving historic cemeteries, and archiving old photographs and manuscripts. The founders stipulated that the association should always remain a non-profit organization governed by a board of directors. The first board consisted of the following individuals: Larry Crittenden, president; Ruth Self, vice-president; Frank Wright, secretary and treasurer; and additional board members John Crittenden, Helen Bynum, and Bertha Morris.
Throughout its forty-year history, the association completed a number of projects. The first project included the fencing of the burial location of Going Snake and the installation of a gravestone at the site. Other projects included the publication of a newsletter, naming city streets in honor of Going Snake, fencing the burial location of Cherokee missionary Duncan O’Bryant, publication of the book History of Adair County Including Flint and Goingsnake Districts, and providing matching grants for the purchase of gravestones for unmarked graves. In 1984, G.D.H.A. published its first issue of The Goingsnake Messenger, a history journal highlighting the history of the Cherokee Nation and early-day Oklahoma. Through the years the association also published many other history books.