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Tracing Native American Steps

Native Americans who once roamed Northeast Tennessee, including Rich Mountain pictured above, and the Nolichucky River trails are memorialized through the various street names, lakes, and other recreation areas. Familiar terms that we use daily, like Watauga, Unaka, Osceola, Nolichucky, and Cherokee, trace back to Native American language. It’s interesting to research the history behind the names and learn about those who walked the lands before us.

Long Island of the Holston


A monument to honor area Native American tribes now stands on Long Island (pictured above), located in Kingsport on the South Fork of the Holston River. Clans memorialized in the stone
marker include the Bear, Deer, Paint, Wild Potato, Blue, Bird, and the Long Hair. The Cherokee fought hard to retain the island they had first claimed, but eventually signed a treaty in 1806
giving up their land to the early settlers. In July 1976, the City of Kingsport deeded 3 miles of island back to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
Visitors to the Boatyard Park along the Holston River, located in Kingsport on Netherland Inn Road, can reach the monument by crossing the swinging bridge that spans the Holston River
over to Long Island, pictured above. If you visit the site, you’ll see Holston Mountain standing high above Kingsport overlooking the Holston River and the Long Island as if it’s watching over
the grounds long held sacred by the Cherokee. Another bit of interesting information surrounding the Long Island happened during the Cherokee War that took place throughout the southern countryside in 1776. After battling the Overmountain Men in the Watauga area, Chief Dragging Canoe led 200 warriors up the Holston River and across the Long Island to attack the fort at Eaton’s Station.

Warriors’ Path


Warriors’ Path State Park, located along another section of the Holston River in Kingsport, stands as a reminder of the great Cherokee War and Trading Path that stretched through the
Northeast Tennessee section of the Appalachian Mountains. The path, also known as the Great Indian Warpath, stretched as far north as New York, and reached southward into Alabama. The
Native Americans who would have used the trails where the park now stands include the Catawba, Algonquian, Cherokee and Iroquois. Today those old war trails provide a fun place
for a picnic, to play in the water, feed the ducks, and walk the exercise trails with their dogs. Who knows what long ago events may have happened on those same grounds.

Mysterious Yuchi Indians

Little seems to be known about the Yuchi Indian Tribes who once inhabited Northeast Tennessee. Though they ended up out west, historical reports place the Yuchis in this area before the Cherokees arrived. It is said that the Cherokees forcefully drove out the smaller number of Yuchis and took the land. In fact, the name Tennessee came from the Yuchi language, according to historians.

While this includes just a few Native American noted stories and sites, there are many more to explore. We would love to hear your story!

Written by Connie Clyburn for Northeast Tennessee Tourism.