A member of the John Ross faction of the Cherokee, he was dispatched by Ross in 1837 on a mission to the Seminole. Although Bushyhead opposed the federal policy forcing Indian Removal to west of the Mississippi River, he accepted the inevitable and led a party of about 1,000 people on the Trail of Tears. On his arrival in 1839 near present-day Westville, Oklahoma, he established the Baptist Mission. This marked the end of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. He became chief justice of the Cherokee nation in 1840 and remained in that office until his death. His eldest son, Dennis Bushyhead, held several offices in the Cherokee Nation, including as Principal Chief. He served from 1879 to 1887.