How Nancy Ward and Nancy Broom Hicks got their bonified Cherokee names!

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!


  1. Richard, I Don’t know when people will connect the dots on History: Egypt (starts kingdom in 3100 B.C)…Olmecs/ Sokee start calendar 3114 B.C. Point poverty begins 2400 B.C (major copper mining starts in Great lakes)..England taken by Bell beaker 24-2500 B.C. 1500 B.C. some people leave out of Egypt and start Mi-Tanni kingdom…”Eagle mount Earthwork” built at Point poverty same time. Somebody? that arrived spoke an ancient Indo-European language. The Olmecs/Sokee seem to be a likely people called “Danites” from Egypt by the Greeks. The Roman masons marks? from England seem to have some connection to this Maya brick town: Comalcalco.

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    1. By the way, Nancy Ward’s maiden name was probably Spanish or Sephardic Jewish. Her descendants have been DNA tested. She was more Jewish and Southern Mesoamerican (Mexican) than anything else.


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