ROGERSVILLE — The closer full-blooded Chickamauga Cherokee Stonewolf gets to the Amis Mill Historic Site near Rogersville, the more he senses the presence of his ancestors.
Stonewolf's fifth great-grandfather Chief Dragging Canoe once ruled the region and was responsible for the massacre of Rogersville's first white settlers, Davy Crockett's grandparents John David and Elizabeth Crockett in 1777.
But Dragging Canoe co-existed peacefully and traded with Rogersville's next white settler, Capt. Thomas Amis, who in 1780 built a farm, mill and store about two miles south of present day Rogersville on the banks of Big Creek.
That family friendship was rekindled in 2016 when Stonewolf, a resident of Morristown, met current Amis Mill Historic Site owners Jake and Wendy Jacobs.
“It's sacred land”
Wendy is Thomas Amis' eighth great-granddaughter, but she knows who owned the land originally.
“That's the reason Jake and Wendy let us use the land for the gathering,” Stonewolf told the Times News on Tuesday. “She said, ‘I know it belonged to y'all to start with.’ She said, ‘I want y'all to use this land,’ and they let us hold this gathering at no charge.”
Stonewolf added, “You can feel the Indian spirits when you're there. I've felt it, and it's like no place that I've ever been. When I pass the (Hawkins County Farmer's) Co-Op headed that way, I start feeling it. The closer I get, the more it gets me. All the other Indians who come participate (in the Gathering) say as soon as they get on that land they feel it, too. It's sacred land. There's no doubt about it.”
“The Chickamauga Cherokee stood on that land years ago”
The Gathering came about thanks to a chance meeting between Jake Jacobs and Stonewolf in 2016.
“I met Jake at the Davy Crockett Tavern in Morristown, and he asked me to come look at the (Amis) land, Stonewolf said. “He talked to me about starting an Indian Gathering, and that's why we called it the Amis Mill American Indian Gathering.”
Stonewolf added, “The Chickamauga Cherokee stood on that land years ago, and Jake knew that Thomas Amis traded with Dragging Canoe and the Chickamauga Indians, and they helped build that stone dam 235 years ago. They were friends. Now all these years later our families are friends again. It was meant to be.”
Dancing, drums and other activities
Among the activities at Amis Mill on Saturday are drumming, dancing and a wide variety of Native American vendors selling handmade arts and crafts.
There will be a full-size teepee on display for children to leave handprints on, and they'll have blowguns, corn hole games and face painting for the kids.
Dancing Eagle, who has provided Native American folklore and historic storytelling at previous Gatherings, will be back again Saturday.
This year there will be a second drum for children to play, and there will be a candy dance for children, who will dart for candy on the ground every time the drumming starts.
Welcoming the American Eagle Foundation
Also new this year is a display presented by the nonprofit American Eagle Foundation, based in Pigeon Forge. AEF cares for and protects bald eagles and other birds of prey through Education, Re-population, Conservation and Rehabilitation.
AEF also provides eagles to Dollywood for its shows, and in turn Dollywood is AEF's biggest corporate sponsor.
Originally, the AEF was planning to bring a 2-year-old eagle named Saphira to Saturday's Gathering. But AEF education coordinator Karen Wilbur told the Times News on Tuesday that there's been some noisy construction in the area of AEF's reserve that has made Saphira a bit nervous, so now is not the best time for her to travel.
Instead, the AEF will bring an adult Harris’ hawk named Jagger, who was hatched in captivity for educational purposes and donated to the AEF.
“Harris’ hawks are also called bay winged hawks or wolves of the sky because they hunt in packs like wolves,” Wilbur said. “They're from the Southeastern U.S. deserts like Texas and Arizona. You can see them out there hunting. Male Harris’ hawks can capture a jackrabbit three times its size because of that cooperation. They're excellent hunters. The younger ones go under the brush and flush out all the game, and the older ones come in for the kill.”
How to find Amis Mill
The Gathering runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and admission is free, although there is a $5 parking fee per vehicle.
Amis Mill is located at 127 W. Bear Hollow Road in Rogersville. The easiest way to get to Amis Mill from Rogersville is to turn south from East Main Street to Burem Road, and then turn left at the West Bear Hollow Road intersection.
For more information, visit www.amismill.com