King of The Melungeons or a Myth
BOY'S DEATH MARKS END OF TRIBAL BLOODLINE
By Mark Hicks of the Journal Staff
August 17, 1991
An eagle feather lay across
the chest of Michael Joseph Bullard, a medicine bag was next to his
right shoulder and a dance stick was propped against the lid of his
The 15-year-old, who attended
Rule High School last year, died Tuesday as the result of an accident
at a swimming pool in Smyrna where he was visiting his sister. His
death essentially marks the end of the bloodline of Cherokees who did
not walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.
"It's the last of a
bloodline", said Richard Dykes, head of the American Intertribal
Association. "That's why he was so important to the other Indian
tribes", added Jerry Wetzel, a Comanche Indian who will participate in
Bullard's traditional ceremonial burial today at New Gray Cemetery.
Bullard was the
great-great-grandson of Micajah Bunch, who was the last known King of
the Melungeon people. Bullard's mother, Sandra, was the granddaughter
of Guy Bunch, who lived in Hancock County and was the grandson of
Micajah Bunch. The Melungeons were a people of mysterious origins
who had swarthy complexions, straight black hair, black or gray eyes
and were found by the first pioneers.
The Melungeon, who called
their leaders "king" instead of "chief," intermarried with
the Cherokee Indians and were considered a branch of the tribe. Micajah
Bunch was part Melungeon and part Cherokee. Bullard was the (current)
king, he just hadn't evolved to claim that right," Dykes said.
David Bullard, Michael's
father, said his son had traced his Indian heritage and was becoming
more involved in it. The tribal council had recently voted Michael
Bullard a warrior, signified by the eagle feather on his chest. The
father and son had spent the summer working and learning at Indian Cave
Park in Blaine, an Indian village which dates back 3,000 years. "We
dropped all the modern conveniences and chose to live that way,"
David Bullard said.
At the park, Michael Bullard
was being groomed to become the chief tour guide, a title now held by
Wetzel. He was also learning traditional Indian dance. Michael
Bullard's dancing stick had been handed down from Dykes, who used to be
a dancer. A choker around his neck was made and handed down by Dykes'
son, Richard, who is a Western Indian dancer and Michael Bullard's
close friend. The medicine bag which is precious to Native
Americans and contains rare items was placed in the casket by Billy
White Wolf, who also will participate in the burial ceremony.
A white buffalo bag was sent
to Michael Bullard from Nancy Fox, a tribal elder in Ohio. Such bags
are only sent to chiefs, Dykes said. Fox also sent a message. "She said
it was written in the stars that a great chief would die this
week," David Bullard said. "They thought it might be an old
chief out West, but he didn't die. So, it must have been Michael."
I was proud of my son and his
Indian heritage. I decided to let (the Indians) do his burial and I
appreciate the interest the Indians have shown. At least this will be
something they can remember. My family wanted to bury him today
(Friday) but that wouldn't give my son the honor he deserves.
Wetzel's Indian name is
Heyoka or "Thunder Dreamer” said Michael Bullard's death leaves a void
in the succession of replacing." "He fulfilled his destiny on
earth," Dykes said.
DISPLAY TO MARK MEMORY OF CHIEF
Young Indian killed in accident
By Mark Hicks of the Journal Staff
September 2, 1991
Blaine--The memory of a young
Indian Chief will be preserved at a Grainger County ancient Indian
A dedication will be held at
2 p.m. today at Indian Cave in Blaine for 15-year old Michael Joseph
Bullard, who lived in Knoxville and attended Rule High School.
Bullard, the last in the
bloodline of Cherokee chiefs who did not walk the Trail of Tears to
Oklahoma, died in an accident August 13 in Smyrna.
A 4-foot by 8-foot display
case at Indian Cave has been filled with items from the young chief's
life and will be dedicated during a ceremony. Bullard's father, David,
said he discovered more about his family's history since his son
died. He said his great-great-grandfather was Capt. Joseph Bullard, who
served under John Sevier and is said to have looked very much like one
of Koxville's founding fathers. Stories within his family say Joseph
Bullard and Sevier were twin brothers raised by different families and
the two looked so similar that they traded indentities at times.
David Bullard said that when
Joseph Bullard was killed by Creek and Chicamauga Indians in Kentucky,
the Indians thought they ahd killed John Sevier and 'danced
around his body for three days in celebration."
If Joseph Bullard was killed
up there, then how did I get here? -- he asked.
Since Michael Bullard's
death, his father said he has gotten calls and letters from across the
country. Two days after his son was buried in New Gray Cemetery, he
said about 40 people who were unable to attend the funeral gathered at
his son's grave.
Among them was a 97-year old
Sioux Chief from Montana who traced his bloodline to his son, he said.
"He flew into McGhee Tyson (Airport) and an ambulance met him there. He
was on oxygen and everything." David Bullard said. "He went to the
cemetery and got down and kissed my son's grave. He got up and said he
was ready to go home and die in peace because I have kissed the grave
of my chief."
David Bullard is selling his
house in Knoxville and has moved to Indian Cave to live and work. "I
feel closer to my son here than I did down there (in Knoxville)."
August 13, 1991
Michael Joseph Bullard, 15, Knoxville, died Tuesday. He was a student
at Rule High School. Survivors; father, David Joe Bullard Jr.; mother
Sandra Faye Hilley, Murfreesboro; grandparents, Bessie Allmon,
Madisonville, Rev. and Mrs. Jose Bullard, Knoxville; great grandmother,
Lula McNish, Knoxville; brother, Benjamin Bullard, Ohio; sister, Pam
Little, Missy Lafentress, both of Murfreesboro, Gena Bullard and April
Weaver, both of Knoxville, Tabitha Bullard of Ohio, several aunts and
Funeral service was 2 p.m. Saturday, August 17, Mynatt's Chaper, Rev
Lee Cate, officiating. Interment New Gray Cemetery.
Mynatt's Chapel. Knoxville in charge.