15 /* My Cherokee Ancesteral History
‘Cherokee’ is Creek for
‘people with another language’
Our Original Name is
It’s amazing how white settlers always managed to learn another tribe’s name for any group of Indians
They learned the Creek word for the Cherokee tribe, but not the Creek word for the Creek
Cherokee is fine too though we say it
( Tsalagi )
If you look closely, we the Cherokee do not look much like other tribes of Indians, one of the myths of our name is that the word Cherokee means Those who came from far away, as the other Indians thought that we came from the sky.
Within each of us is a highly evolved Being that is awaiting the time when it can step out from the shadows of our Soul
and shine in all its glory and brilliance.
Within these pages are the written words of those voices
who answer that call rising up to the heavens from those who seek enlightenment.
For those who seek… may they find a voice here that resonates within their Soul … and unlocks the heart…
For those who have taken a few steps along the Path back to themselves… may they find the voice within themselves that echoes the messages contained in the words on these pages
For those who are well along the way
of their Path
may they find within these words
the way to help their own Light shine brighter
for themselves and for others
There are approximately 350,000
Cherokee people today mostly in
Oklahoma and North Carolina
The best-known episode in Cherokee history was also the worst
the Trail of Tears
the forced relocation of the Cherokee Indians from their ancestral home in the southeast to Oklahoma
The Cherokee people were an urban, Christian, agricultural, intermarried society who had supported the United States against other tribes In the end this was all for nothing
Though prominent Americans like
Davy Crockett and Daniel Webster
spoke against this Removal
even though the Supreme Court ruled it
President Andrew Jackson
sent in the army
Fifteen to twenty thousand Cherokee Indians
(along with Choctaw, Creek, and other tribes)
were rounded up and herded to Oklahoma
in the winter of 1838-1839
Driven from their homes without being allowed
to collect their possessions first not even their
the Cherokees were no better equipped for an
800-mile forced march
than people today would be
nearly eight thousand Cherokee people
Died of exposure, starvation, disease, and
the Trail of Tears
If you understand this
both the extent to which the Cherokees
had adopted American standards
of civilization before the Removal
and the ultimate futility of it
you will go a long way towards understanding
the Cherokee mentality
and also the attitudes
of other Indian peoples towards us
Cherokee more properly spelled Tsalagi
is an Iroquoian language with an innovative
invented by a Cherokee scholar
Only 22,000 people speak Tsalagi today
primarily in Oklahoma and North Carolina.
Though it is one of the healthier Indian languages
of North America and the one in which the most
literature being published
Tsalagi is still in imperiled condition
because of government policies as late as the
fifties which enforced the removal of Cherokee children from Tsalagi-speaking homes
reducing the number of young Cherokees being raised bilingually from 75% to less than 5% today
Some of our words and their meanings
Nvwadohiyadv = Peace
Important Cherokee Mythological Figures
(also spelled Unelanvhi, Unetlvnvhi, Unelanahi
This is the Cherokee word for God.
Sometimes Cherokee people today also refer to
the Creator as the “Great Spirit,”
a phrase which was borrowed from other tribes of Oklahoma
Unetlanvhi is considered to be a divine spirit with
no human form or attributes and is not normally
personified in Cherokee myths
The name is pronounced similar to
Sometimes another name such as
Galvladi’ehi (“Heavenly One“)
Ouga (“Ruler,” also spelled Ugv or Ugu) is used
Rabbit (Jisdu, Tsisdu, Chisdu, Jistu, Tsistu, etc.):
Rabbit is the trickster figure in the folklore of the
Cherokee and other Southeastern tribes
His Cherokee name is pronounced similar to
Uktena (also spelled Uk’tena, Unktena, Ukatena, Uktin, Uhktena, and other ways)
A dragon-like horned serpent of Cherokee legend
The first Uktena was said to be transformed from
a human man in a failed assassination attempt on
Most other Uktena tales have to do with
Cherokee heroes slaying one
They are malevolent and deadly monsters.
Their name is pronounced ook-tay-nah
Tlanuwa (also spelled Tlanuhwa, Tla’nuwa, Hlanuwa, Klanuwa, and other ways)
Giant mythological birds of prey with impenetrable metal feathers, common to the mythology of many Southeastern tribes
Their Cherokee name is pronounced
Yunwi Tsunsdi’ (Little People)
(also spelled Yvwi Tsusdi’, Yvwi Tsusdi’ga, Yuwi
Tsunsdi’ga, Yvwi Jusdi, Tsvdigewi, etc)
A race of small humanoid nature spirits,
sometimes referred to in English as
“dwarves” or “fairies.”
They are usually invisible but sometimes reveal themselves as miniature child-sized people
are benevolent creatures who frequently help
humans in Cherokee stories, but they have
magical powers and are said to harshly punish
people who are disrespectful or aggressive towards
Their name is pronounced similar to yun-wee joon-stee (or yun-wee joon-stee-gah,)
which literally means
The singular form is Yvwi Usdi
(pronounced yun-wee oon-stee.)
(also spelled Nunne’hi, Nvne’hi, Nvnehi, Nanehi, Nanye-hi or Nanyehi)
Another supernatural spirit race which is friendly
towards humans, particularly towards the
Nunnehi are very strong and sometimes intercede
in battle on the Cherokees’ behalf
Like Little People, Nunnehi are usually invisible
but sometimes show themselves to humans they
like (appearing as regal looking human warriors.)
Their name is pronounced similar to
to my Lodge come
come in and have a seat and we will pass the pipe
as friends and then I will tell you a story of our
Ancestors and thru this story you may learn of
our ways and our culture
These Legends are of our life
and tell us how to live with all life
in this our world and Id like to share these with
I will tell you of the Deluge from the Cherokee.
A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl.
At last the man was angry and scolded the dog, which then spoke to him and then said:
“Very soon there is going to be a great freshet and the water will come so high that everybody will be drowned
but if you will make a raft to get upon when the rain comes you can be saved
but you must first throw me into the water.
“The man did not believe it, and the dog said,
” If you want a sign that I speak the truth, look at the back of my neck.”
He looked and saw that the dog’s neck had the skin worn off so that the bones stuck out.
Then he believed the dog, and began to build a raft. Soon the rain came and he took his family, with plenty of provisions, and they all got upon it. It rained for a long time, and the water rose until the mountain were covered and all the people in the world were drowned. Then the rain stopped and the waters with down again, until at last it was safe to come off the raft. Now there was no one alive but the man and his family, but one day they heard a sound of dancing and shouting on the other side of the ridge. The man climbed to the top and looked over; everything was still, but all along the valley he saw great piles of bones of the people who had been drowned, and then he knew that the ghosts had been dancing.
Origin of Disease and Medicine
Source: Myths of the Cherokee
by James Mooney
In the old days the beasts, birds, fishes, insects and plants could all talk and they and the people lived together in peace and friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that their settlement spread over the whole earth, and the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. This was bad enough, but to make it worse, Man invented bows, knives, blowguns, spears, and hooks, and began to slaughter the larger animals, birds, and fishes for their flesh or their skins, while the smaller creatures, such as the frogs and worms, were crushed and trodden upon without thought, out of pure carelessness or contempt. So the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their common safety.
The Bears were the first to meet in council in their townhouse under Kuwa-hi mountain, the “Mulberry Place,” and the old White Bear chief presided. After each in turn had complained of the way in which Man killed their friends, ate their flesh, and used their skins for his own purposes, it was decided to begin war at once against him. Some one asked what weapons Man used to destroy them. “Bows and arrows, of course,” cried all the Bears in chorus. “And what are they made of?” was the next question. “The bow of wood, and the string of our entrails,” replied one of the Bears. It was then proposed they make a bow and some arrows and see if they could not use the same weapons against Man himself. So one Bear got a piece of locust wood and another sacrificed himself for the good of the rest in order to furnish his entrails for the string. But when everything was ready and the first Bear stepped up to make the trial, it was found that in letting the arrow fly after drawing back the bow, his long claws caught in the string and spoiled the shot. This was annoying, but someone suggested that they might trim his claws, which was accordingly done, and on a second trial it was found that the arrow went straight to the mark. But here the chief, the old White Bear, objected, saying it was necessary that they should have long claws in order to be able to climb trees. “One of us has already died to furnish the bow string and if we now cut off our claws we must all starve together. It is better to trust to the teeth and claws that nature gave us, for it is plain that man’s weapons were not intended for us.”
No one could think of any better plan, so the old chief dismissed the council and the Bears dispersed to the woods and thickets without having concerted any way to prevent the increase of the human race. Had the result of the council been otherwise, we should now be at war with the Bears, but as it is, the hunter does not even ask the Bear’s permission when he kills one.
The Deer next held a council under their chief, the Little Deer, and after some talk, devised to send rheumatism to every hunter who should kill one of them unless he took care to ask their pardon for the offense. They sent notice of their decision to the nearest settlement of Indians and told them at the same time what to do when necessity forced them to kill one of the Deer tribe. Now, whenever the hunter shoots a Deer, the Little Deer, who is swift as the wind and ca not be wounded, runs quickly up to the spot and, bending over the bloodstains, asks the spirit of the Deer if it has heard the prayer of the hunter for pardon. if the reply be “Yes,” all is well, and the Little Deer goes on his way; but if the reply be “No,” he follows on the trail of the hunter, guided by the drops of blood on the ground, until he arrives at his cabin in the settlement, when the Little Deer enters invisibly and strikes the hunter with rheumatism, so that he becomes at once a helpless cripple. no hunter who has regard for his health ever fails to ask pardon of the Deer for killing it, although some hunters who have not learned the prayer may try to turn aside the Little Deer from his pursuit by building a fire behind them in the trail.
Next came the Fishes and Reptile, who had their own complaints against Man. They held council together and determined to make their victims dream of snakes twining about them in slimy folds and blowing foul breath in their faces, or to make them dream of eating raw or decaying fish, so that they would lose appetite, sicken and die. This is why people dream about snakes and fish.
Finally the Birds, Insects, and smaller animals came together for the same purpose, and the Grubworm was chief of the council. It was decided that each in turn should give an opinion, and then they would vote on the question as to whether or not Man was guilty. Seven votes should be enough to condemn him. Once after another denounce Man’s cruelty and injustice toward the other animals and voted in favor of death. The Frog spoke first, saying: “We must do something to check the increase of the race, or people will become so numerous that we will be crowded from off the earth. See how they have kicked me about because I’m ugly, as they say, until my back is covered with sores;” and here he showed the spots on his skin. Next came the Bird–no one remembers now which one it was – who condemned Man “Because he burns my feet off,” meaning the way in which hunters barbecue birds by impaling them on a stick set over the fire, so that their feathers and tender feet are singed off. Others followed in the same strain. The Ground-squirrel alone ventured to say a good word for Man, who seldom hurt him because he was so small, but this made the others so angry that they fell upon the Ground-squirrel and tore him with their claws, and the stripes are on this back to this day.
They began then to devise and name so many new diseases, one after another, that had not their invention at last failed them, no one of the human race would have been able to survive. The Grubworm grew constantly more pleased as the name of each disease was called off, until at last they reached the end of the list, when some one proposed to make menstruation sometimes fatal to women. On this he rose up in his place and cried “Wadan! (Thanks!) I’m glad some more of them will die, for they are getting so think that the tread on me.” The thought fairly made him shake with joy, so that he fell over backward and could not get on his feet again, but had to wriggle off on his back, as the Grubworm has done ever since.
When the Plants, who were friendly to Man, heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to defeat the latters’ evil designs. Each Tree, Shrub, and Herb, down even to the Grasses, and Mosses, said: “I shall appear to help Man when he calls upon me in his need.” Thus came medicine; and the plants, every one of which has its use if we only knew it, furnish the remedy to counteract the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. Even weeds were made for some good purpose, which we must find out for ourselves. When the doctor does not know what medicine to use for a sick man, the spirit of the plant tells him.
the sacred pipe.
<span>Most all Nations have stories about the ‘Sacred Pipe’. What many people refer to it as The Peace Pipe. Which is an incorrect Hollywood thought shown in the old west movies and cartoons. The Sacred pipe is to the Native Americans as the cross is to christian cultures.
The pipe, in one form or another, has come to most cultures around the world. Every group has used the pipe in one way or another and has stories of how they came to have it. The Lakota tell the story of the White Buffalo woman and how she first brought the pipe to them.
Just as the Tsalagi have this story.
It is not important how the pipe first arrived. Or who it came to first as all nations see themselves as the first to have this gift from creator. What is important is that the pipe is revered as a sacred item and also important is that it did come from The Creator. What is most important is that pipe was brought to all men of this world, for we all must share this world.
Long ago, but not long after the world was new, a tribe of red skinned people came to live on the lands which are around The Blue Smoke Mountains.
At this time, the animals of the world still talked to men and taught them how to live on and care for the land. These people were called ” Ani Yun Wiya ” or the One True People. In this tribe lived a brave warrior woman.
She was called ‘Arrow Woman’. Arrow Woman was taught to use the bow, the spear and the knife. Even though it was a man’s job to hunt and fight, Arrow Woman could shoot straighter with the bow than any man, she could throw the knife so as split a branch no bigger than your thumb and she could throw the spear into eye of a hawk in flight.
Because of all this, no man would tell her to be like a woman.
One day while on a hunt, Arrow Woman came upon the tracks of Yona the bear. She saw blood on the ground and knew him to be wounded so she followed his tracks. High into the mountains she followed. Soon she came to a place that she did not know. It was in this place, a place known only to the animals that she finally saw Yona the bear. He had a deep cut in his side and she saw him bowing down in prayer. She saw him bowing toward a large field of tall grass and speaking words that she had not heard before. Suddenly, the grass shimmered and became a lake. Arrow Woman saw Yona dive into the water. After a time he emerged from the water, his side was completely healed. Yona then saw Arrow Woman and walked to her. Yona told her, “this is the sacred lake of the animals. It is called, ‘Atagahi’ and it’s location is known only to the animals. It is where we come for healing and strength. You are the first man creature to see the sacred lake.
You must never tell your kind of it’s location for it is the home of ‘The Great Uktena’. With these words Yona the Bear turned and walked into the woods and disappeared.
Arrow Woman was tired after following Yona all day so she decided to rest a while by this lake. She built a small fire and sat down to eat a meal that she had brought with her. She took a drink of the water from the lake and felt instantly refreshed. She was amazed, she felt strong as Yan’si the Buffalo. She felt as if she run faster than Coga the Raven could fly.
The woods were quiet, Unole the wind was sleeping, Nvda the sun was shinning bright but was not hot, the surface of the lake was completely calm, Arrow Woman began to get sleepy.
It was at this time that she saw ‘Uktena’, she had been told of him when she was a child but no one in her tribe ever claimed to have seen him. High above the water he raised his great serpent’s head, the jewel in his forehead glistening.
He began to move toward her. Arrow Woman grabbed up her spear and stood up to face the great creature coming to her, standing proud, showing no fear, the way any warrior should. She raised her spear and prepared to strike the huge beast.
Uktena stopped a short distance from her. He smiled, his mouth was larger than a man was tall and full of teeth longer than man’s forearm. He spoke to the brave woman on the bank of his lake. To her he said, “Put down your weapons for I mean you no harm. I come only to teach.” Arrow Woman laid down her spear and began to relax, somehow knowing Uktena spoke truly.
Uktena told her to sit and to listen. Uktena dipped his head below the surface and came back up a moment later. In his mouth he had a strangely crooked stick and a leather pouch. These things he laid on the ground in front of Arrow Woman. Then the Great Uktena began to teach. He said,”This that I have laid before you is the Sacred Pipe of The Creator.” He then told her to pick up the pipe. “The bowl is of the same red clay The Creator used to make your kind. The red clay is Woman kind and is from the Earth. Just as a woman bears the children and brings forth life, the bowl bears the sacred tobacco (tsula) and brings forth smoke. The stem is Man. Rigid and strong the stem is from the plant kingdom and like a man it supports the bowl just as man supports his family.”
Uktena then showed Arrow Woman how to join the bowl to the stem saying, ” Just as a man and a woman remain separate until joined in marriage so too are the bowl and stem separate. Never to be joined unless the pipe is used.” Uktena then showed her how place the sacred tsula into the pipe and with an ember from the fire lit the tsula so it burned slightly. He told her this, “The smoke is the breath of The Creator, When you draw the smoke into your body, you will be cleansed and made whole. When the smoke leaves your mouth, it will rise to The Creator. Your prayers, your dreams, your hopes and desires will be taken to Him in the smoke. Also the truth in your soul will be shown to Him when you smoke the pipe. If you are not true, do not smoke the pipe. If your spirit is bad and you seek to deceive, do not smoke the pipe.”
Uktena continued his lesson well into the night teaching Arrow Woman all of the prayers used with the pipe and all of the reasons for using the pipe. He finished just as the moon was beginning her nightly journey across the sky in search of her true love. He told Arrow Woman to wrap the pipe in cloth, keeping the parts separate. With this done He told her that she would never again be able to find this place but to remember all that she had learned. Uktena then returned to depths of the lake. Arrow Woman saw the water shimmer and become again the field of grass.
She left, taking with her the pipe and her lessons and a wondrous tale.
Ever since that time, The Ani Yun Wiya have used the sacred pipe and never again has any man seen the sacred lake of Uktena.
The pipe is not a symbol of things that are sacred. The pipe itself is sacred. Not everyone is called upon to be a pipe bearer. The person who carries the pipe and practices the pipe ceremonies and traditions has a great responsibility to his brothers and sisters, his land and country and even to the Earth Mother.
The pipe bearer does not ‘own’ the pipe he carries. He simply carries the pipe until the time comes for him to pass it to the next bearer. The pipe bearer is given certain powers of sight from the pipe as well as an ability to heal and purify. Should the bearer fall from grace and become a liar, thief, neglect his duties when asked, or become deceitful, the pipe would repossess these gifts and then the possibility of misfortune for the former bearer may exist.
One should be ready to accept the responsibility of the pipe for it may make demands upon you. It will become your teacher and guide. It can also be your worst enemy if used wrongly.
I leave it to you to decide if these words are truly said.
This is the way that I have learned.
<span><span>as told by a Cherokee Elder</span></span>