Hanging Maw

Hanging Maw, or Uskwa'li-gu'ta in Cherokee, was the leading chief of the Overhill Cherokee from 1788 to 1794. They were located in present-day southeastern Tennessee. He became chief following the death of Old Tassel, and the abandonment of the traditional capital at Chota after raids by European Americans.

Hanging Maw
Diedc. 1794[1]
TitleFirst Beloved Man
PredecessorOld Tassel
SuccessorLittle Turkey

Early life and educationEdit

Uskwa'li-gu'ta was born into his mother's family and clan, as the Cherokee had a matrilineal system. Accordingly, his maternal uncle would have taught him men's ways and guided him into the men's societies. He was a descendant of Moytoy III.

Marriage and familyEdit

His wife Betsy was the sister of the chief Attakullakulla.

Adult yearsEdit

Representing his mother's clan, Hanging Maw was on the tribal council for some time. Although Hanging Maw claimed the title of First Beloved Man by right as the chief headman of the Overhill Towns, the rest of the nation had chosen Little Turkey when they moved the seat of the council south to Ustanali on the Conasauga River following the murder of Old Tassel. Uskwa'li-gu'ta was a descendant of Moytoy of Citico. They both exerted power for some time.

Hanging Maw took part in the Cherokee–American wars (1776–1794). In February 1786 in Middle Tennessee, approximately 20 miles southeast of Lafayette, he led a party of 60 men in a skirmish with a surveying party, made up of John and Ephraim Peyton, Squire Grant, and two other white men. Outnumbered, the white men escaped the area, but lost their horses, game, and surveying instruments to the band of Cherokee. The stream at the site of the skirmish became known as "Defeated Creek."

In 1793, a diplomatic party from the Lower Cherokee (as the Cherokee still at war with the United States were by then called) was attacked by colonial militia while traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee, then capital of the Southwest Territory. The militia pursued the Cherokee to Chota on the Little Tennessee River. The town was much reduced since the capital had been moved to Unstanali, near present-day Calhoun, Georgia. When the militia could not capture the diplomatic party, they attacked the people of the town, wounding Hanging Maw and killing his wife Betsy.

The Cherokee retaliated with an invasion of the Holston River settlements. They gathered the largest force of Indians to that point, more than 1,000 warriors from both the Cherokee and the Upper Muskogee, led by John Watts, the chief of the Lower Cherokee. Some warriors killed a European-American family at a small fortified settlement known as Cavett's Station, although Watts had promised them safe passage. The Cherokee became divided over this incident.


  1. ^ Reynolds, William R. Jr. (2015). The Cherokee Struggle to Maintain Identity in the 17th and 18th Centuries. McFarland. p. 338. ISBN 978-1-4766-1578-3.
Preceded by
Old Tassel
First Beloved Man
Succeeded by
Little Turkey