It was inhabited by Indian tribes, specifically the Cherokees, until the late 19th Century.
People Born on Hiwassee Island
Hiwassee Island in People's Lives
Sam Houston: After running away from a life of boredom in nearby Maryville, Tennessee, I ended up here in 1809, at the age of sixteen, and lived here with a tribe of Cherokee Indians, whom I was fascinated by. The chief of the tribe became one of my closest friends, and a major father figure in my life. He bestowed upon me the Cherokee name "Colonneh," meaning "the Raven." I learned the tribe's customs and became fluent in their language. Despite having run away to live in the wilderness as part of an Indian tribe, I still visited my family in Maryville frequently - every three months, on average. They most likely thought I was crazy. After spending three years integrated in Cherokee culture, I left this island, and my Native American life, in 1812, to return to my family.