Who was John Ross?
John Ross (Cherokee name: Guwisguwi, meaning “Mysterious Little White Bird”) was born on October 3, 1790, to a Cherokee mother and a Scottish father. His mother and maternal grandmother were both of mixed Scottish-Cherokee ancestry, and his maternal grandfather was a Scottish immigrant.
At the time, Cherokee culture was matrilineal, so children born to a Cherokee mother were considered part of her family and clan. They gained their social status from their mother, and the Cherokee absorbed mixed-race descendants born to its women. As a result, young John was raised to identify as Cherokee, while also learning about colonial British society. He was bilingual and bicultural, and his parents sent him for formal schooling to institutions that served other mixed-race Cherokee.
Ross served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to 1866, longer than any other person. He was a strong advocate for Cherokee rights and sovereignty, and he led the Cherokee Nation through the tumultuous events of the Trail of Tears and the American Civil War. He was a complex and influential figure, and his legacy continues to be debated today.
John Ross was born in Turkeytown (in modern-day Alabama) on the Coosa River to Mollie (née McDonald) and her husband Daniel Ross, an immigrant Scottish trader. He was given the Cherokee name Guwisguwi, which means “Mysterious Little White Bird.” Ross had six siblings who survived to adulthood: Jane Ross Coodey (1787-1844), Elizabeth Grace Ross Ross (1789-1876), Lewis Ross (1796-1870), Andrew “Tlo-s-ta-ma” Ross (1798-1840), Margaret Ross Hicks (1803-1862), and Maria Ross Mulkey (1806-1838).
John Ross was born on October 3, 1790, and he died on August 1, 1866. He was 75 years old when he died.
Ross was married twice. His first wife was Quatie McGhee, and they had 12 children together. His second wife was Mary Bryan, and they had 2 children together.
The net worth of John Ross is unknown. However, he was a wealthy man by the standards of his time. He owned a large plantation in Indian Territory, and he was involved in a number of business ventures.
Death and Burial
John Ross was initially buried beside his second wife Mary in Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware. However, a few months later, his remains were returned to the Ross Cemetery at Park Hill, Indian Territory (now Cherokee County, Oklahoma) for interment.
The Cherokee Nation wanted to bring Ross’s remains back to Indian Territory so that he could be buried with his ancestors. They also wanted to make a statement about their sovereignty and their right to control the burial of their own leaders.
The return of Ross’s remains was a significant event in Cherokee history. It showed that the Cherokee Nation was determined to preserve its culture and its identity, even in the face of great adversity.
Ross became involved in Cherokee politics in the early 1820s. He was a strong opponent of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands. Ross led the Cherokee Nation in its resistance to removal, and he was instrumental in the passage of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. The treaty, which was signed by a minority of Cherokee leaders, authorized the removal of the Cherokee Nation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
Ross refused to sign the Treaty of New Echota, and he led the majority of the Cherokee Nation on the Trail of Tears, the forced march to Indian Territory. The Trail of Tears was a horrific event that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Cherokee people.
After the Trail of Tears, Ross continued to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. He worked to rebuild the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory and to secure its rights and sovereignty. He also played a role in the American Civil War, leading the Cherokee Nation in its alliance with the Union.
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