Smoky Mountains, 1838: Tsali’s Sacrifice

old tsali sign

Hundreds of Cherokee, under the leadership of Chief Utsala, refuse to be removed and flee to the mountains.  An aging Cherokee, named Tsali, and his family are one of the groups of resistance.

General Scott sends mounted troops to round up the fugitives. They surround Tsali and his family, who surrender. As they are being led to the stockade, one of the soldiers pushes Tsali’s wife sharply with his bayonet. Already embittered by the forced removal, Tsali can’t bear this last bit of injustice. He tears the weapon away from the soldier and kills him. The rest of the family helps subdue the others, killing a second soldier and wounding a third. Tsali and his family flee to the mountains.

General Scott feels that the “National Honor” is at stake and that the “murderers” have to be punished. Given the rugged terrain, the troops cannot find Tsali or the other hundreds of resisters. So Scott sends word that if Tsali and his sons surrender, thousands of other Cherokee can remain on their land. Knowing the consequences, Tsali and his family surrender.

After a speedy trial, Tsali and his sons are sentenced to death. Facing the firing squad, Tsali’s youngest son, Wasidani, is spared at the last minute because of his youth. Before being killed, Tsali tells his son to love the land never leave it. Because of Tsali’s sacrifice, a Cherokee Reservation still exists in the Smoky Mountains.


-Cherokee Heritage, 115-116


See additional sources at:

The Cherokee Legend Of "Tsali"

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