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William Holland Thomas
WilliamHollandThomas.jpg
Native name
Wil-Usdi
Birth name William Holland Thomas
Born (1805-02-05)February 5, 1805
Near Mount Prospect, North Carolina
Died May 10, 1893(1893-05-10) (aged 88)
Morganton, North Carolina
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States of America Army
Years of service 1861–1865 (CSA)
Rank Colonel (CSA)
Commands held Thomas' Legion
Battles/wars American Civil War
Relations Christianity
Other work Chief of the North Carolina Cherokee

William Holland Thomas (February 5, 1805 – May 10, 1893) was the son of Temperance Colvard (Thomas) and Richard Thomas, who died before he was born. He was raised by his mother on Raccoon Creek outside present-day Waynseville, North Carolina. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to Felix Walker's store and trading post. There he learned to speak Cherokee and was befriended and later adopted by the chief/headman of the local Cherokees, Yonaguska. He was later adopted into the tribe as a whole. Although it was later claimed by his daughter, Sarah Thomas Avery, that he was principal Chief after Yonaguska's death (in Sara Thomas Avery, "William Holland Thomas," North Carolina University Magazine May 1899), it has since been shown that he was not the Chief. Flying Squirrel aka Saunooke was, in fact, the head Chief of the Qualla Cherokee (later known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

Thomas became a successful merchant and was a lifelong ally of the Eastern Cherokee. In 1819, Yonaguska had made the prescient decision to separate his group from the authority of the Cherokee Nation. The Qualla Cherokee became "citizenized" (they were under the authority of the state of North Carolina, but without the full rights of white citizens). In 1830, Will Thomas became the agent/attorney for the Qualla Cherokee. As the U.S., under President Andrew Jackson, pushed for full removal of the Native peoples of the Southeast, Will Thomas helped the North Carolina Cherokees resist removal by buying land for them. After a Cherokee man named Tsali (aka Charley) and his sons killed soldiers who had rounded them up for removal, Will Thomas was an intermediary between the Qualla Cherokees the U.S. Army and helped find Tsali's hiding place. After the Cherokees executed Tsali, the Qualla Cherokee were granted the right to remain on their ancestral lands. The state of North Carolina, however, would continue to try and remove them, and Thomas represented the tribe in resisting those efforts. While it was his adopted father, Yonaguska, who planned and prepared the way for the Qualla Cherokees to remain east, Will Thomas worked in support of his adopted father's plan for decades after Yonaguska's death. With his own funds and those provided by the Cherokee, he bought land in North Carolina to be used by the Cherokee. Much of this property is now included in Qualla Boundary, the territory of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee.

During the Civil War, Thomas served as a colonel in the Confederate States Army. He led Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders

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