It’s the summer of 1776. Tensions between the Cherokee Natives and the British settlers are as heated as the Appalachian sun. Cries of war are drowning out talks of peace, and someone needs to step up—and the right man for the job turns out to be a woman.

In a culture where women were seen as givers of life, it was unheard of for one to pick up a weapon and join the frontlines of Cherokee men in barbaric battle. But when her Native husband, Kingfisher was killed in one such battle, that’s exactly what Nancy Ward did.

Nancy was born “Nanyehi” around 1738 (she took her English name after later marrying Bryan Ward) and grew up to be very involved with her tribe’s politics. Despite her bravery in the forefront of battle, above all else, she wanted to keep the peace between the Natives and the settlers. Exhausted from repeated talks and failed negotiations, Nancy knew that an attack was coming. She felt in her heart that she had to try and save as many lives as she could…so in an effort to spare captives, she warned her enemies, the settlers, of her tribe’s planned siege of Fort Watauga.

It’s legendary history that has been passed down for generations and every May, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area hosts over 100 living history re-enactors for the retelling of the Siege of Fort Watauga. And this year, at least one participant has a very personal tie with the leading lady in this story.

Linda Ricker, who has been participating in re-enactments for 4 years, recently discovered that she is a descendant of the infamous Nancy Ward. For Linda, it’s a full-fledged family affair—her three sons have also been active in the reenactments. “It’s a way to honor all of my ancestry,” she says. In fact, Linda was able to pay tribute to her heritage by portraying the character of her ancestor in the recent documentary, “Forsaken by God and Man.”

The free, 2-day event takes place at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area on Saturday, May 17 and Sunday May 18 and offers visitors a chance to experience first-hand the way of life of Nancy Ward, the Cherokee natives and the settlers.

Learn more about Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site

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