WE COULD rightfully use
the name of Stuart in recognition of our proud Scot ancestor, but we
choose to be known by the name given our family by the Cherokee
Indians," James Butler Bushyhead said. He and his brother are
members of a family whose name is associated with adventure, romance,
achievement and suffering throughout more than 200 years of American
Indian history. The St. Louisans are grandsons of a famous Cherokee
Chief. The other grandson is Jack S. Bushyhead, of 12 Conway Springs
Drive in Chesterfield, MO. He is an athletic director in the Parkway
School District. James Butler Bushyhead and his family live at 31
Portland Drive in Frontenac, and he is executive vice president of Moog
Industries, in St. Louis. James Butler served as a special agent with
the FBI in World War II. Jack served in the Southwest Pacific theater.
Before the years of the American Revolution. Capt. John Stuart, a
young Scots nobleman with the British army, came to the Colonies as an
Indian agent. He married a Cherokee maiden and lived the rest of his
life among her people.
[ACCORDING TO Indian custom of giving names based on
physical characteristics, the young officer was called "Bushyhead"
in recognition of his very large crop of curly red hair.]
A series of "broken peace pipes" brought the Bushyhead name
into prominence during following generations - a period of unhonored
treaties, exploitation, land grabbing, and finally the forced exile of
an entire people. The Removal Act of 1830, signed by President Andrew
Jackson argued that "no state could achieve proper culture,
civilization, and progress, as long as Indians remained within its
boundaries". Jackson ordered that the Five Civilized Tribes, the
Cherokees, Creek, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles, must move from the
southern states to the Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma - a word
that means "red people". It was solemnly sworn in a
"permanent treaty" to be the Indian's Promised Land "for
as long as grass grows and water flows" - which turned out to mean
until the white man wanted more land.
Jackson's attitude toward the Indians could be summed up in his
words: "Humanity weeps over the fate of the Indians, but true
philanthropy reconciles the mind to the extinction of one generation for
another" .... so why not the extinction of Indian tribes to make
room for other people?
THE CHEROKEES, about 16,000 in number, put up the
greatest resistance and were the last to be evicted. They were not
nomads, as were many other tribes. They loved their native hills and
valleys, streams and forests, fields and herds. They enjoyed established
houses and communities, and had learned to "talk on paper"
like the white man. Many had accepted the white man's God, and they had
translated the Bible into Cherokee language. The Cherokees had adopted a
constitution asserting that they were a sovereign and free nation, and
consequently were recognized by world powers.
A treaty with the United States preserved rights to their homeland in
parts of Tennessee and Georgia, but when gold was discovered in Georgia,
the state's proclamation that "all laws, orders, and regulations of
any kind made with the Cherokee Indians are declared null and void"
resulted in a horrendous land-grab and then in a death march which is
one of the saddest and most disturbing events in America's so called
manifest destiny. "One fourth of the Cherokees perished as they
were first herded into stockades and then "set toward the setting
sun" in cold, hunger, illness, and in complete desolation.
The Army commanded some of 13 separate groups, while others were
hired out to contractors who were paid $65 by the Government for food
and medicines for each person in their care - money that was often not
used for its intended purpose. Two of the detachments traveled by river
while the others made their miserable way by land across Tennessee,
Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. One detachment was led by the Rev.
Jesse Bushyhead, a grandson of the Scot captain and his Cherokee wife.
Young Jesse had been brought up within the culture of the Indians but at
the same time subjected to the white man's civilization. He attended
mission schools and then a theological seminary, where he was ordained a
Baptist minister and served his own people as a missionary. He was also
a gifted interpreter and became a leader among the Cherokees in their
struggle against the white man's intrusion.
In late 1838, the Rev. Bushyhead gathered his family and followers
together and started out "on the trail where they cried".
Those who think Indians don't cry are not familiar with official reports
of the "Great Removal". Although the six-month ordeal was
extremely difficult, this group fared better than many others. The
minister's party of about 1000 was strongly religious and maintained
regular services throughout the long march. Arriving in the Oklahoma
Indian Territory, the leader reported that "82 of our people were
left by the side of the road - the others sustained by the white man's
REPORTS FROM earlier groups making the 1000 mile
march contained such starkly revealing messages as: "Cholera broke
out and death was among us hourly" and: "489 persons from 800
arrived". The log of a detachment which traveled by water reported:
"Three hundred and eleven persons drowned when an over loaded
flatboat capsized". One of the 82 deaths reported by the Rev.
Bushyhead was that of his 17-year old daughter which occurred shortly
after the party had crossed the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau,
Mo. Because of the ice-choked waters, the crossing it self took nearly a
In the Trail of Tears State Park, in Cape Girardeau County, a
memorial monument was dedicated in 1961 to: "Princess Qtahki,
daughter of Chief Jesse Bushyhead -- one of several hundred Cherokee
Indians who died here -- in the severe winter of 1838-39".
Actually, according to documented evidence, the inscription is
misleading. The girl could not have been a princess since her father was
not a chief but a minister. The Bushyhead who did become a Cherokee
chief was only a lad of 12 when he accompanied his parents on the long
journey that was the Trail of Tears.
The St. Louis Bushyhead descendants were aware of the inaccuracy when
they attended the dedication, but according to one, "We had not
been consulted, only invited to the ceremony, and we had a hard time
keeping our father quiet about the facts". These were nice people
who were doing such a nice thing in memory of our family, and we are
grateful. We accepted the tribute on behalf of all the Cherokees who
suffered and died during their sad journey. And if there are those who
want to think in terms of a mythical princess, well - it's often
difficult to separate legend from fact and sometimes legend becomes more
IN THEIR new home, the displaced tribe set to work
to attack the raw frontier by building homes, schools and churches. They
set up a government and named their capital Tahlequah still the cultural
center of the Cherokees and the source of documented evidence of their
history. The Indians were well on their way in the formation of a new
nation when the agony of the Civil War descended upon them. Although the
Cherokees fought with both the North and the South, they were officially
aligned with the Confederacy, which all but surrounded them. Then, too,
the South had promised that when the war was over they would be
permitted to form an all-Indian state. But when the North emerged as
victors, the Indians, like the South, were soundly penalized. More than
half their lands guaranteed by the "perpetual treaty" was
taken from them and what was left was war-scorched earth.
The leader most responsible for rebuilding the post war Cherokee
nation was the minister's son, Chief Dennis Bushyhead, who guided his
people between the years 1879 and 1887. He had attended Princeton
University for two years and then joined the '49ers in the gold rush to
California, after which he returned to enter Cherokee politics. His
first wife was a sister of the mother of Will Rogers, and his second was
a grandniece of the famed Commodore Oliver Perry, both part Cherokee.
"The Chief was almost 60 years old when my Father was born",
the present James Butler Bushyhead said. "Historians often speak
of him as a wealthy man but I don't know where his riches were, or
are. When I married I had $1000 and my wife was in debt $500. What we
have we made on our own, but the Bushyhead's were all provided with a
The son of Chief Dennis, James Butler Bushyhead, left Indian
Territory to attend the University of Missouri, He married a girl from
Stephens College and remained in Missouri, and that is how two grandsons
of a Cherokee Chief came to make their home in the St. Louis area.
"Our father enjoyed a bonanza just before he died," son, James
Butler said. "For 20 years the Cherokees had pushed litigation
against the U.S. for what they considered just payment of part of their
land known as the Cherokee Strip, which the government had forcibly
`bought' for $1.27 an acre. In 1963 the Government agreed to pay an
additional $12,000,000 to the Cherokees and their descendants who had
occupied the controversial territory. My father's share was only about
$300, but for him it was a great moral victory."
THE INDIAN TERRITORY and the Cherokee Nation became
only something that once existed when Oklahoma became a state in 1907,
and the Indian people found themselves forced to abandon their age-old
practice of common ownership and to begin to live according to the white
man's rules of private enterprise. For some it worked and for some it
didn't. Today, as is the case with other nationals, there are both rich
Following the year of the sale of the Cherokee Strip, a New York
newspaper reported: "Five Cherokees have come east to attend a
class reunion at Princeton University, bringing with them $7,000,000 to
invest on Wall Street". And the 'honorary chief of the Cherokee
people today is W. W. Keeler, president of the Phillips Petroleum
"Although countless Indians have been assimilated by other races,
there are still those of pure blood in Oklahoma, and many of them are
poor", James Butler Bushyhead said. "The term 'part
Cherokee' is a common one today and actually dates back to the coming
of the white man. For example, our family has the name and the
heritage of prominent Cherokee leaders, but we can't actually claim
much Indian blood since from the very beginning our ancestry was mixed
with the white race. British subjects who came to the New World and
married Cherokee women usually chose to cast their lot with the
natives, and the Cherokees were one of the few tribes that encouraged
marriage with non-Indians."
Robert Bushyhead, the son of James Butler, and presently a student at
Southern Methodist University, said, "I seldom mention the fact
that my great-grandfather was a Cherokee Chief. Nobody would believe it,
and besides, what difference does it make?" THE OLDER
descendants say they had much the same attitude when they were younger.
Jack Bushyhead said, "My grandmother the Chief's wife, used to
want me to sit at her knees for hours while she tried to tell me
stories about our people. I wish that I had listened, but at that time
it didn't seem important. But as I grow older I am more interested in
preserving our heritage, not particularly for myself, but out of
respect for those who were my people. I don't think of myself in terms
of being an Indian", he intoned, "but I'm conscious of
things that pertain to them. For example, I've noticed in movies and
on TV that when white men win a battle it's called a great victory;
when Indians win one it's called a massacre. I think of myself as
being strictly American, which I am, literally,"
James Butler Bushyhead said, "Of course I'm aware - and proud
- of our Cherokee heritage. When some of our friends let go with
pointed Indian 'arrows' the best thing I can think of to say is that
in those earlier days the Indians should have had stricter immigration
laws. That would have taken care of the whole problem". On a more
serious note, he asked, "Do you think the current land and oil
boom in Alaska, as it involves the Indians and Eskimos, might turn out
to be a parallel to what happened to the Cherokees - another forced
Trail of Tears"?