by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Just discovered something so funny that I couldn’t wait another day to tell our readers. I thought it was odd that both Nancy Ward the Cherokee Heroine and Nancy Elizabeth Broom, the principal wife of Principal Chief Charles Hicks, had the same Cherokee name, Nanyehi. Wikipedia tells you that Nanyehi was the original name of both ladies and that they got their English names later. However, nowhere in contemporary printed descriptions of these ladies, do you see their Cherokee names mentioned. Actually, there is virtually nothing said in print about Nancy Ward during her life. Being the wife of a principal chief and well-liked at the local Moravian mission, Nancy Hicks was mentioned on several occasions in books or annual reports of the United Brethren Church (Moravians).
Turns out that both ladies were given their “real” Cherokee names in 1921 by Oklahoma Cherokee historian, Emmet Starr. He discovered that both ladies had the nickname among their grandchildren of Nanny . . . pronounced like Nah-nee. He reasoned that the grand-kids were trying to say a Cherokee word, which would be written in phonetic English as Nanyehi.
Nope, as all you Southerners would know, Nahnee, in the old days was what white children and some black children in the South called their grandmothers. Turns out that Nahnee is an ancient Indo-European word for grandmother, used by several languages today . . . particularly in India. Georgians seem to have inherited the word from their Irish and Scottish immigrant ancestors, who called their grandmother nanna or nannee.
Life is stranger than fiction!