Ugulayacabé emerges in the historical record as an important Chickasaw chief of the late eighteenth century. He was also known by at least two other names or titles: Wolf’s Friend and Mooleshawskeko. The name or title Ugulayacabé may be a variation of Okla ayaka abi, which has been translated “Slayer of Many Nations.” By the 1790s outsiders saw him and Piomingo as the two principal chiefs of the Chickasaw. He led a faction of Chickasaw friendly to Spanish interests, whereas Piomingo saw Chickasaw interests better served by close ties with Americans. Ugulayacabé did, however, keep his options open, and in late 1798 he traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with other Chickasaw to meet US president John Adams.
Ugulayacabé attended an August 1792 meeting in Nashville between Choctaw and Chickasaw representatives and William Blount, the US governor of the territory south of the Ohio River, but later assured the Spanish governor in Natchez, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, that the purpose had been simply to observe. The minutes of that meeting suggest that Ugulayacabé was an impressive figure—a “large man, of dignified appearance,” wearing a scarlet cloak with silver lace and carrying a large silk umbrella.
By the following year, Ugulayacabé had clearly defined himself as a principal advocate of Spanish interests among the Chickasaw. Gayoso regarded the chief as a person of importance whose “talents and influence” enabled him to counter “the machinations of Piomingo.” Gayoso left an account of a fall 1793 congress at the newly created Spanish post of Nogales at the mouth of the Yazoo River. Attended mainly by Choctaw and Chickasaw, the conference sought to create a confederation of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee under Spanish auspices, and Gayoso represented Ugulayacabé as the project’s strongest Chickasaw supporter. According to Gayoso, the chief described the proposed confederation as “a hand[,] with the four fingers” representing the four nations and the thumb representing the Spanish nation, which “unit[ed] the power of all.”
Ugulayacabé continued to support Spanish interests with regard to the next Spanish project, the creation of a post on the Chickasaw Bluffs where present-day Memphis, Tennessee, is located. By this time the Spanish provided him with an annual stipend and believed that they could do a better job of supplying the Chickasaw with gifts and trade goods than could the Americans. Spanish officials assigned Ugulayacabé responsibility for distributing their gifts, thereby enhancing his status among the Chickasaw.
Ugulayacabé had asked that the goods be delivered to Chickasaw Bluffs, a request the Spanish were happy to accept since it accorded with their desire to establish a post there. To accomplish that goal, other chiefs had to agree. That process required almost two years of diplomacy that culminated with Ugulayacabé persuading enough others to enable construction of a fort and the establishment of a trading post. The Spanish named the post San Fernando de las Barrancas.
In the fall of 1795, however, US and Spanish diplomats in Europe agreed to the Treaty of San Lorenzo, in which Spain accepted the American definition of the southern boundary of the United States. That treaty required the Spanish to give up San Fernando, Nogales, Natchez, and other posts. At a meeting with the Spanish commandant and others at San Fernando in late 1796, Ugulayacabé described himself as a chief of his nation and leader among the warriors from the time of the English and said that he had recognized “the delusory presents of the Americans” and put his trust and that of others in the Spanish. “We could perceive in [the Americans] the cunning of the rattlesnake who caresses the squirrel he intends to devour.” He characterized the treaty between Spain and the United States as an act in which “our father has not only abandoned us like the smaller animals to the jaws of tiger and bear” but has encouraged them “to devour us” by driving “us back to their dens and keeping us there.”
Ugulayacabé’s words reached both Francisco Luis Héctor, Baron de Carondelet, serving as the Spanish governor-general in New Orleans, as well as various American officials, including the secretary of war, who was responsible for Indian affairs. Carondelet tried to reassure Ugulayacabé and the other Chickasaw that they had not been abandoned and that their trade could continue by means of a post on the west bank of the Mississippi River. US general James Wilkinson and the US agent to the Chickasaw, James Robertson, tried to reassure Ugulayacabé and other Chickasaw of benign American intentions. They persuaded him and others to travel in the fall of 1798 to Philadelphia to meet the US president and other officials. In an 1841 interview Malcolm McGee, who had lived among the Chickasaw since the 1780s and served as an interpreter for them, said that Ugulayacabé, suffering from “the gravel” (kidney stones), shot himself shortly after his return.
- James R. Atkinson, Journal of Mississippi History (Spring 2004)
- James R. Atkinson, Splendid Land, Splendid People: The Chickasaw Indians to Removal (2004)
- Charles A. Weeks, Paths to a Middle Ground: The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouka, Nogales, and San Fernando de las Barrancas, 1791–1795 (2005)
- Charles A. Weeks, William and Mary Quarterly (July 2010)