Duwali (1756–1839)

aka: Bowl
aka: Bowles

Duwali, also known as The Bowl or Bowles due to the Quapaw meaning of his name, was leader of a group of Cherokee who lived briefly in Arkansas early in the territorial period, from about 1812 to 1818. His life story illustrates the fate of thousands of Native Americans from tribes and nations east of the Mississippi River who moved west to get away from economic and political turmoil long before the official Indian Removal events of the 1830s. These early groups had a significant impact on early territorial residents and on the Caddo, the Osage, and the Quapaw who lived, hunted, and claimed territorial rights in Arkansas when Euro-American settlers first arrived.

Duwali was born about 1756 in the Hiwassee River Valley near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the son of a full-blood Cherokee mother and a Scottish immigrant father. As an adult, he was recognized as a local community leader. In 1810, along with leaders from two other villages, Duwali received permission from the Cherokee Indian agent to move at least seventy-five people from their home villages in Tennessee across the Mississippi River into what was then Missouri Territory. The exact reasons for this migration are unknown, but several possibilities have been put forward. In their application for a passport from the Indian agent in Tennessee, the emigrants cited a desire to find better hunting opportunities west of the Mississippi River. Factional disputes among the Cherokee about the acceptance of Euro-American cultural practices and the surrender of traditional lands may also have been a cause.

Duwali’s band and some other Cherokee settled first along the White River in northeast Arkansas. Additional Cherokee communities, along with settlements of several other Indian tribes, were scattered in the St. Francis River valley, in the Ozarks, and along the Arkansas River upstream from Point Remove Creek. Their arrival brought about conflict with the Osage, who had claimed most of this land as their own hunting territory and had been raiding Indian and Euro-American settlements and hunting parties throughout the region for decades. In addition to the troubles with the Osage, the Cherokee found that Euro-American settlers were also eager to move into the region and were competing for land and resources.

In 1817, the Western Cherokee agreed to give up their rights to lands back east, primarily in Tennessee, in exchange for a reserve incorporating a large tract lying north of the Arkansas River. Those Cherokee residing south of the Arkansas River were expected to move to the north side onto reserve lands. At about the same time, Western Cherokee leaders were advocating negotiations with the Osage to reduce or stop intertribal violence and bring more security to Cherokee settlements.

Duwali had gained a reputation for traditionalist views, and he was one of the Cherokee leaders who wished to continue the practice of retaliatory raids against the Osage instead of peace negotiations. At this time, his community was located south of the Arkansas River along Petit Jean Creek in central Arkansas. Faced with the prospect of agreeing to a dramatic change in tribal tradition and uprooting his community once again, Duwali chose to remove his band from the main group of Western Cherokee and move farther southwest to the area of Lost Prairie in the Great Bend of the Red River.

In 1818, the Great Bend area of Red River was contested territory. The boundary between American territories and Spanish Texas was uncertain, and the area was thinly populated, with few settlements and virtually no centers of governmental authority. Duwali’s band was one of many displaced Indian communities that moved in and out of this area. Duwali reported years later that they stayed in the Lost Prairie area only long enough to plant and harvest a corn crop before moving farther south and west into Texas sometime between 1820 and 1821.

Texas became a major resettlement area for several years for displaced Indian groups. For nearly twenty years, the Cherokee attempted to secure a permanent land base in the face of the political upheavals, competition with many other native Texas and immigrant Indian groups, and waves of American adventurers and settlers. Duwali remained an influential figure, serving as the principal civil authority for all the Cherokee during their residence in Texas through the Mexican regime and into the early years of the independent Texas Republic. Unfortunately, the American desire to move Indians out of the way of Euro-American settlement and development threatened Duwali’s people one last time. He was killed at the age of eighty-three by the Texas Republic militia in July 1839 during the “Cherokee War,” the Republic’s forced removal of the Cherokee from Texas lands.

For additional information:
Everett, Dianna. The Texas Cherokees: A People between Two Fires, 1819–1840. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

La Vere, David. Life among the Texas Indians: The WPA Narratives. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998.

Ann M. Early
Arkansas Archeological Survey


    John Watts (born 1756 died July 16, 1839, in Texas) was the
    son of John Forked Tongue Watts (1704–1779) and Ghigoneli Bowles (born 1723); paternal grandson of Thomas Watts (born 1682) 1/2 white, 1/2 Indian, and Sister of Oshasqua Moytoy (born 1684)—both killed by Catawba in 1708; and maternal
    grandson of John Knight Bowles (born 1688 in Scotland and murdered 1769) and Oolootah Sarah Hop (born 1692). John sought the rival Indian murderers of his grandfather John Bowles, killed them, and took the name John Bowles at age 13. When he moved up the White River after the 1811 earthquake, the Osage called him their word for bowl: Duwali. He had children with 1) Red Paint Woman 2) Ooloosta Tahchee 3) Jennie Due and 4) Ellen Otiyu Vann.

    Freda Cruse Phillips