domingo, 29 de maio de 2011

Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Pride!!

Everytime I decide to write up something for this blog I do it carefully with deep respect and admiration .That´s why I try hard to get the most accurate information possible. Here is a place to share information so, please If you have something to contribute, feel free to do it !!

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I want to start this article telling you that I learned to respect and admire Cherokee Nation thru my Cherokee friends who have been always kindly and paciently  teaching me and answering my infinite questions and doubts about Cherokee history and tradition. This article is dedicated to all Cherokee people especially to my dear friends who are very special people. I really hope you enjoy it !!

For more information, visit Avalon´s Blog.

The Cherokees called themselves the Ani-Yun' wiya meaning leading or principal people. The original Cherokees lived early times in Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

There are some caracteristics of Cherokee Nation which make them a little bit different from the other Native Nations. They have been mixing with white society since 1400’ and it made them to assimilate other ways of life, about eating, housing, dressing and also it made them agricultors what was different among Native Nations ways of life. In the ancient past, Cherokee had a matriarchal system, meaning clanships come from the mother. Most of the Eastern tribes were ruled by women and the men ruled the warfare .The marriages were based on monogamy but eventually could be possible for a men to have more than one wife if the first one accepted it but only in ancient times.


Nowadays there are either Eastern or Western Cherokees and three official bands or tribes. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, United Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma and Easter Band of Cherokee Nation Indian in North Carolina and also there are many Cherokee communities in the South but each one belong to one of the three bands. The Eastern tribe kept the old ways and can speak Kituhwa or Giduwa ( ancient cherokee language ) and this band was built by the ones who could get hidden in the mountains during the removal. Overhill is spoken by the Western bands by influence of neighborhood tribes but speak the ancient language during medicine, holy cerimonies and all sacred things.Cherokee people call themselves Tsalagi.

Sequoyah and The Cherokee Alphabet System

Most historians credit Sequoyah, the most famous Cherokee, with the invention of the syllabary. However, some oral historians contend that the written Cherokee language is much, much older. But even if there was an ancient written Cherokee language, it was lost to the Cherokees until Sequoyah developed the syllabary. The development of the syllabary was one of the events which was destined to have a profound influence on our tribe’s history. This extraordinary achievement marks the only known instance of an individual creating a totally new system of writing.

Born in the 1770s in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee on the Tennessee River, Sequoyah was a mixed blood whose mother, Wureth, belonged to the Paint Clan. Sometimes the young man was known by his English name, George Gist or Guess, a legacy from his white father. Sequoyah, reared in the old tribal ways and customs, became a hunter and fur trader. He was also a skilled silver craftsman who never learned to speak, write or read English. However, he was always fascinated with the white people’s ability to communicate with one another by making distinctive marks on paper - what some native people referred to as "talking leaves".

The Stomp Dance
It´s an ancient dance and  very tradicional for Cherokee people eventhough not just cherokees dance it but other Southern Nations also do it .There are public Stomp Dances for celebration and there are  religious ones which are made in private, not to be showed but not so secretive once a non native can take part of it by being invited for a healing. The public stomp dances are not the ones made in private, they are different ones.

There are seven clans in Cherokee Society
 a ni gi lo hi (Long Hair), a ni sa ho ni (Blue),  a ni wa ya (Wolf), a ni go te ge wi 
(Wild Potato), a ni a wi (Deer), a ni tsi s qua (Bird), and a ni wo di (Paint).  
The knowledge of a person's clan is important for many reasons; historically, and still today 
among Cherokee traditionalists, it is forbidden to marry within your clan. Clan members are considered brother and sisters. In addition, when seeking spiritual guidance and Indian doctoring, it is necessary to name your clan. Seating at ceremonial stomp dances is by clan, as well.

Trail of Tears

All Native Nations faced the horror, were forced to leave their lands, were removed to reservations, were made slaves, fought for resistance and struggled for survival. It was not different for Cherokee people.

By the early 1800’s the original Cherokee Nation began the forced migration to the west. Even a group known as Old settlers previously had voluntarily moved to land´s given them in Arkansas where they estabilished a government and a peaceful way of life but later however they were also forced to migrate to Indian Territory. The removal happened because of the gold found out in northen Georgia, the “gold fever” made the U.S goverment ( President Andrew Jackson ) decided it was time for the cherokees to be removed  leaving behind their farms, lands and homes. Simply like that!!!

The Cherokee were rounded up in the summer of 1838 and loaded onto boats that 
traveled the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers into Indian Territory. Many were held in prison camps awaiting their fate.

An estimated 4,000 died from hunger ( but true numbers by Cherokee Historians is 6.000 to 8.000 ), exposure and disease once they faced all sort of weather, rain, snow, cold and they were not given time even to bury their beloved ones, they were forced to keep on the march not matter what could happen to them. The journey became a cultural memory as the "trail where they cried" for the Cherokees and other removed tribes. Today it is widely remembered by the general public as the "Trail of Tears".

                                    ( Watch here this stunning video made by Avalon )

Tales and Stories
Under old traditional law, the tales or stories were only told to fellow Cherokee or other Indian People. Even if an individual was a Cherokee or other type of Indian, they would have to be invited by the myth keeper or tale teller to hear the stories. They would first have to go the medicine man for preparation. The Medicine man would then perform a scratching ceremony on them. He would scratch their arms from shoulder to elbow and elbow to wrist from a comb, usually made from the teeth of a rattle snake. A healing red powder was blown over the red marks that the comb made on their arms. Finally, they were able to hear the stories of the myth keeper, in a small dome shaped earthen covered hut. The stories would last all night and into the morning, until Grandmother Sun appeared in the East. Then they would go to the water. Each person would dip themselves seven times under the water while a priest would recite prayers from the bank of the water.
The stories were passed down from generation to generation. It is said that the true myth keeper can become the animal about whom they speak. It is also said that myth keepers have to be actors, mimes, singers, dancers.There are are many, many parts to being a myth keeper.

There are two groups of stories told by the Cherokee. First, there are the sacred stories. These stories are the serious type of stories which tell about why the Cherokee came to have certain healings, songs and that sort of thing. The second type of stories are the small animal stories. These stories tell why a certain animal looks the way they do, or act they way they do. In the stories, the animals are much larger than they are now and they could speak. It is taught to the Cherokee that in the beginning, man had the ability to speak with the animals. We spoke the same language. But, man abused their privilege by taking too much and becoming greedy. Therefore, man lost their ability to speak with the animals. Cherokee people have a large bunch of Tales and Stories, maybe the most famous is The Legend of the Cherokee Rose and there are many different versions of it and the fact is that there was never a such plant until the Trail of Tears making this a true story and not a myth.

Legend of the Cherokee Rose
More than 100 years ago, the Cherokee people were driven from their home mountains when the white men discovered gold in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia. Their journey is remembered as the Trail of Tears. Some of the people came across Marengo County in West Alabama. It seems that after they had left the mountains, they came this far south so not have to climb more mountains.

It was early summer and very hot, and most of the time the people had to walk. Tempers were short and many times the soldiers were more like animal drivers than guides for the people. The men were so frustrated with the treatment of their women and children, and the soldiers were so harsh and frustrated that bad things often happened. When two men get angry they fight and once in a while men were killed on the trip. Many people died of much hardship. Much of the time the trip was hard and sad and the women wept for losing their homes and their dignity.

The old men knew that they must do something to help the women not to lose their strength in weeping. They knew the women would have to be very strong if they were to help the children survive. So one night after they had made camp along the Trail of Tears, the old men sitting around the dying campfire called up to the Great One in Galunati (heaven) to help the people in their trouble. They told Him that the people were suffering and feared that the little ones would not survive to rebuild the Cherokee Nation. The Great One said, "Yes, I have seen the sorrows of the women and I can help them to keep their strength to help the children. Tell the women in the morning to look back where their tears have fallen to the ground. I will cause to grow quickly a plant. They will see a little green plant at first with a stem growing up. It will grow up and up and fall back down to touch the ground where another stem will begin to grow. I'll make the plant grow so fast at first that by afternoon they'll see a white rose, a beautiful blossom with five petals. In the center of the rose, I will put a pile of gold to remind them of the gold which the white man wanted when his greed drove the Cherokee from their ancestral home."

The Great One said that the green leaves will have seven leaflets, one for each of the seven clans of the Cherokee. The plant will begin to spread out all over, a very strong plant, a plant which will grow in large, strong clumps and it will take back some of the land they had lost. It will have stickers on every stem to protect it from anything that tries to move it away.

The next morning the old men told the women to look back for the sign from the Great One. The women saw the plant beginning as a tiny shoot and growing up and up until it spread out over the land. They watched as a blossom formed, so beautiful they forgot to weep and they felt beautiful and strong. By the afternoon they saw many white blossoms as far as they could see. The women began to think about their strength given them to bring up their children as the new Cherokee Nation. They knew the plant marked the path of the brutal Trail of Tears. The Cherokee women saw that the Cherokee Rose was strong enough to take back much of the land of their people.

Cherokee Music: check the website of one good Cherokee musician

Watch The trail of tears episode at Official We shall remain website
we shall remain - Trail of Tears

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