King of The Melungeons or a Myth


By Mark Hicks of the Journal Staff
Knoxville Journal
  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 casket.

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.


Young Indian killed in accident

By Mark Hicks of the Journal Staff
Knoxville Journal
September 2, 1991
Blaine--The memory of a young Indian Chief will be preserved at a Grainger County ancient Indian village.

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)."


Michael Bullard
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 uncles.

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.