William Holland Thomas (February 5, 1805 – May 10, 1893) was Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (the only white man ever to be a chief of the Cherokee) and was elected as North Carolina state senator, serving from 1848-1860. As a youth, he worked at the trading post at Qualla Town, where he learned the Cherokee language and befriended some of the people. He was adopted into the tribe by the chief Yonaguska and learned much of the Cherokee ways.
After becoming an attorney, Thomas represented the tribe in negotiations with the federal government related to Indian Removal, preserving the right for some Cherokee to stay in North Carolina after the 1830s. With his own and Cherokee funds, he bought land to be used by the Cherokee, much of which is now Qualla Boundary, the territory of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee. Thomas served as a colonel in the Confederate States Army, leading Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders during the American Civil War.
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