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WARD, Nancy, Indian prophetess, born about 1740; the time of her death is unknown. Her father was a British officer named Ward, her mother a sister of the reigning vice-king, Atta-culla-culla. She was the sibyl of the Cherokees. The power of Oconostota over the nation was absolute in time of war, but in war or peace it had generally to give way to the will of Nancy Ward, who was supposed to be the inspired mouth-piece of the Great Spirit. James Robertson, who visited her at the Cherokee capital, Echota, in 1772, describes her as a woman "queenly and commanding," and her lodge as furnished in a style of barbaric splendor. Other traditional accounts speak of her as strikingly beautiful, with a tall, erect form, a prominent nose, regular and flexible features, a clear, though tawny, complexion, long, silken black hair, large, piercing black eyes, and an air that was imperious and yet kindly. She must have possessed remarkable traits of character to have retained almost autocratic control over the fierce and untamable Cherokees when she was known to sympathize with their enemies, the white settlers. The first event recorded of her is the saving the lives of two pioneers--Jeremiah Jack and William Ran-kin--who had ventured down to buy corn of the Indians. They had come into collision with a disorderly party of Cherokees, and their lives were about to be sacrificed, when Nancy Ward appeared among the Indians and commanded them to desist. She was instantly obeyed, and the settlers went home with their canoe loaded with corn. Another instance of her kindly spirit was her saving the life of the wife of William Bean, the first white settler beyond the Alleghanies. Mrs. Bean had been captured on the eve of the attack on the fort at Watauga, and, being taken to the Indian towns, was condemned to be burned at the stake. The fagots were already heaped about her, and Dragging Canoe, the chief of the Chickamaugas, who had ordered the execution, was standing by, when Nancy Ward came upon the ground and commanded her to be liberated. This was done, and Mrs. Bean was sent back with a strong escort to her husband. Numerous other instances are related of her releasing captives that were taken by her nation in their many wars with the whites. Among others was that of a young woman who became the ancestress of John M. Lea, of Nashville. She is reported to have said: "The white men are our brothers; the same house holds us, the same sky covers us all"; and she always acted in accordance with this sentiment. But her greatest service to the white settlers was in giving them constant warnings, through a course of years, of every intended raid of the Cherokees. The lightest hostile whisper spoken in the Cherokee councils was repeated by her to Isaac Thomas, an Indian trader, to be by him conveyed to John Sevier and James Robertson at Watauga. Thus were the whites always prepared for the attacks of the Indians, and, with the overpowering numbers against them, it is hard to conceive how in any other way they could have been saved from extermination. In doing this Nancy Ward betrayed her own people, but she did so from noble motives and in the interest of humanity, and for this service she is to this day held in grateful remembrance by the descendants of the early settlers.
Karen Rider Means writes:
Her mother was Tame Doe, her father was Fivekiller (a Cherokee/Delaware/Lenni
Lenap). She first married another Cherokee named Kingfisher. When he died in
battle she was named Beloved Woman, or Ghigau. She later married a Bryan Ward
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