(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons - public domain photo)
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts offering brief information on every constitutionally-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 1828.
Dennis Wolf Bushyhead, or Unadena (Cherokee for “woolly head”), was born 18 March 1826 near today’s Cleveland, Tennessee. He was the son of Eliza Wilkinson of the Wolf Clan and The Rev. Jesse Bushyhead, a Cherokee Baptist minister. For his early education, he was sent to Candy Creek Mission in Tennessee. Later, he attended the Mission School in North Carolina under the tutelage of The Rev. Evan Jones. In 1838, his father conducted one of the detachments on the Trail of Tears, and the family settled in the Delaware District in Indian Territory.
He served as a clerk for Lewis Ross, brother of Chief John Ross, from 1844-1847. He then served an additional year as clerk for the Cherokee Senate. A year after the Californian Gold Rush began, Bushyhead left home for the gold fields that attracted so many. Later, Bushyhead returned to the Indian Territory (I.T.). He was elected treasurer of the Cherokee Nation for four years. In 1879, he was elected Principal Chief. He served until 1887. During his term he vetoed a bill that would have prevented Cherokee Freedmen from sharing in tribal proceeds, pointing to the treaty of 1866 that stipulated the Freedmen would have permanent citizenship rights.
He married Elizabeth Adair (nee Schrimsher) in 1869, and, in 1883, a year after her death, he married Eloise Butler. Bushyhead had six children from the two marriages.
Chief Bushyhead died on 4 February 1898, in Tahlequah, I.T. (later Oklahoma). He is buried in the Tahlequah City Cemetery.
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