By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. – Famed Cherokee warrior and leader Junaluska (1775-1868) is known for his heroics on the battlefield during the War of 1812 and for walking back to his beloved mountains in western North Carolina after being removed on the Trail of Tears. A military headstone now marks his gravesite adjacent to a monument that was erected in 1910 by the General Joseph Winston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
During the 113th Annual Junaluska Wreath-Laying Ceremony on the misty morning of Friday, Nov. 10 at the site in Robbinsville, N.C., the new headstone was unveiled to the public by three original members of the Friends of Junaluska including Roberta Gloyne, Loretta Sequoyah, and Paulette Cox. The bottom of the headstone reads, “He was very brave. He was not afraid.”
“Junaluska was not the first, but one of the first U.S. Cherokee veterans,” said Angelina Jumper, Junaluska Museum cultural resources supervisor. “It’s really an honor to be able to open up this ceremony for you guys today. I’m so excited for this beautiful program for you all to hear some of the testimonies around the life of Junaluska and some of the amazing songs and our awesome new headstone to honor Junaluska in a way that’s been long overdue.”
Warren Dupree, with the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, spoke about Junaluska and his service to the country and his Cherokee people. “Junaluska, your people are here today to honor you.”
“Junaluska is important and he deserves national recognition. He protected the Cherokees and he always tried to preserve the peace with the United States. And, when Tecumseh was attempting to establish an Indian movement against the Americans, he resisted that. And, had Tecumseh succeeded, it would be a totally different time period today.”
“Junaluska fought heroically at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend which saved the day for the Americans and he saved the life of a future United States president. At Horseshoe Bend, he played a strategic part in a battle which is considered one of the major Indian battles in American history and which led directly to the formation of the states of Alabama and Mississippi.”
Dupree added, “He later walked 800 miles back to North Carolina, which is a symbol of his desire to remain here in his homeland.”
He told the crowd that a military marker has been sought for Junaluska for some time and noted that the Veterans Administration “identified and recognized Junaluska as a United States Armed Forces veteran” but would not put a marker at his gravesite due to the fact that a monument already existed.
Dupree said, “And, at that time, we were disheartened. And, I was asked, ‘does this mean that we, his people, cannot mark his grave?’. Negative. We still recognize him as a veteran. So, the Friends of Junaluska got together, came together and approached the Steve Youngdeer Post 143 to assist in making a military memorial for Junaluska. Today, that will be unveiled.”
“You will note at the bottom of the memorial that he was very brave. That he was never afraid. You, the Cherokee people, and our guests, never, never be afraid. Junaluska led by example. He is a true warrior and a true leader of the Cherokee people.”
During the ceremony, Jenni Junaluska and Cecilia Arrowood placed a wreath at the monument marking Junaluska’s grave.
Karl. E. Gillespie, N.C. General Assembly Representative for Cherokee, Clay, Graham, and Macon counties, said, “It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here today as we gather for this ceremony and unveiling of a long-awaited headstone for Junaluska. As you heard in previous comments, the impact that Junaluska had, locally, statewide, and across this nation, was substantial. On behalf of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and the North Carolina Senate, and all of the citizens of North Carolina, we salute Junaluska. We salute the family of Junaluska. And we’re so proud to be here to do that.”
The Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 Color Guard posted the colors to open Friday’s ceremony which was followed by the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance led by students in the Shirley Oswalt Snowbird Cherokee Language Program. Roger Smoker, a first language Cherokee speaker, offered the opening and closing prayers, and Becca Snow Phillips sang “Amazing Grace” in the Cherokee language. Following the playing of “Taps”, Jarrett Wildcatt closed the ceremony with a flute song.