Warrior Women: Nancy Ward (Nanyehi)

Nancy Ward (c. 1738 – 1822)

  • Nancy Ward was a Cherokee War Woman from Tennessee.
  • She was also called Nanyehi.
  • Some claim her father was a British officer named Ward, but others argue that he was a member of the Delaware Tribe.
  • In 1755, her husband – Kingfisher – was killed in action against the Muscogee Creeks.  She was with him on the battlefield, helping to load his musket.
  • Although only 18 years old, Nancy Ward picked up her fallen husband’s weapon, rallied the surrounding warriors, and led them to victory.
  • She was given the title Ghigau (War Woman / Beloved Woman) for her bravery.
  • This warrior woman believed in a peaceful co-existence with the colonists.
  • Through her interactions with the early Europeans, she brought farming and dairy production to Cherokee society.  A prisoner whose life was spared by Ward – Mrs. Lydia Russell Bean – taught the women how to weave cloth.
  • Nancy Ward also owned African American slaves who worked in her fields.
  • Legend claims that she had a recurring vision forewarning the Trail of Tears that would leave behind “a trail of corpses – the weak, the sick who could not survive the journey.”

Sources:

Carney, Virginia Moore.  Eastern Band Cherokee Women.  Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 2005.

Finger, John R. Eastern Band of Cherokees: 1819-1900. Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Wikipedia, “Nancy Ward,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Ward