|Legend of the Cherokee Rose
A Cherokee Legend
No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the Trail Where They Cried than the Cherokee Rose. The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so
much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother's spirits and give them strength to care for their children.
From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother's tear fell to the ground.
The rose is white for the mother's tears. It has a gold center for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that
represents the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey.
To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the "Trail of Tears".
The Cherokee Rose is now the official flower of the State of Georgia.
Music: Cherokee by Walela
All Rights Reserved
|A New Legend for the People
A Cherokee Legend
Many, many years ago, when animals could talk, they were divided into tribes, bands and clans, much like we are today. The Hawks were some of
the proudest of all animals. They were strong and great in number. Each year they would hold tribal councils and dances. The sound of their drum
and wings would fill the Earth.
As time went on a great enemy came. A large and powerful bird which they had never seen before. When this bird would fly overhead, the whole
sky would be as if it were night in the middle of the day. This bird passed and caused many of the Hawks to be driven away from the land
Grandfather had given them. He passed over again and caused many of the Hawks to die. Finally, he passed over and caused many of the Hawks
to be separated from others into many different places. Over time, these separated Hawks lost all contact with their brothers and sisters. They
began to live with the other birds; the red birds, the blue jays and others.
As time passed, the children of the separated Hawks grew up thinking they belonged with the other tribes. Sometimes their parents would even tell
them they belonged there. Many years passed and the great, great grandchildren of the Hawks began to feel different from the other birds they had
called family for so long. While the other birds wanted to search for worms, they wanted to soar in the air. When they saw game in the fields, they
would be overcome with the desire to capture and eat it.
Slowly the separated Hawks began to know they were not the Red Birds or Blue Jays or any other birds they had been living with. Slowly they
learned that they were Hawks and that there were other Hawks like them, living in other places. They learned of the Hawk Drums and Dances.
These things stirred up the spirit of the Hawk inside them and they knew that they had to return to their families. One day all the separated Hawks
got together and started out on the long journey home. After a long time, they reached the land of their Grandfathers. They found the other Hawks
who had been left behind. This was the place they belonged and they knew it. Something inside told them so.
The Hawks who had been left behind were not interested in the new arrivals. "Who are you?" they asked. "What makes you think you are like us?"
"We are Hawks," replied the new arrivals. "You may say you are Hawks but you are not part of us." Sadly, the separated Hawks left. They felt as if
they had no other place to go, so they returned to the lands and tribes they had lived with for so long. The separated Hawks remembered the song of
the Hawks they had learned and the dance they had seen. They began to sing the songs and dance the dances. Yet their hearts were heavy for their
brothers and sisters.
One day the separated Hawks learned the old enemy of the Hawks had returned. He was once again making war with their brothers and sisters.
Now however, the Hawks who had remained were smaller in number. The Hawks who had remained, it was learned, would most surely be
destroyed this time by this great bird. The war cry went out among the separated Hawks. They gathered together. They made arrows, they fasted,
they danced; they made ready for war.
When the time was right, the separated Hawks set ambushes for the enemy of their fellow Hawks. The war was on. Because of the help of the
separated Hawks, the enemy was defeated and all the Hawks once again lived together.
Hilahiyu jigesv --in ancient times -- in one of their battles with the Shawano (Shawnee), the Tsalagi captured a medicine man named Agan-uni'tsi,
"Ground-hog's Mother." Now, the People used to say that all the Shawano were magicians, and whether that was literally true or not, this
Agan-uni'tsi was a very powerful medicine man and a clever fellow. He spoke very good Tsalagi, a bit of Lenape, and knew a few bad words in
When the People dragged him to the center of the camp and tied him to a pole, meaning to give him the slow death of the captured warrior, he of
course began to recite his exploits and brag about his many great feats of sorcery, healing, and so on. He said that the Tsalagi would be fools to kill
him, that he would undertake a great work for them if spared, and agree to die if he failed. One of the Tsalagi warriors got right up in Agan-uni'tsi's
face and said, "What if I asked you to bring back the Ulun'suti, the jewel in the head of the Uktena?" This made some of the other warriors laugh
--they all knew well how impossible and dangerous this was, and that Agan-uni'tsi would not live a whole lot longer hunting the Uktena than
undergoing torture. But the Shawano wise man was confident, and had heard all the lore of the Uktena. So his face did not change as he said, "I will
bring you the Ulun'suti, or die trying, or meet you back here in three moons to sing my death song." The leader of the war party took a long look at
Agan-uni'tsi and then sliced his bonds. He gave instructions to supply the Shawano with corn for the journey and the best bow that could be spared.
Agan-uni'tsi lost no time sitting off.
He hunted his way up into the passes of the Smoky Mountains, along the North side of the Tsalagi country, where there were many dark and lonely
places in which an Uktena might lie in wait for four-footed or two-footed prey. He began to see many strange things. A black snake larger and
longer than any snake he had ever seen crossed his path, but he laughed at it, being in search of bigger things still. Near a Tsalagi village he passed
an enormous green snake, and called the people to see "the pretty salikwayi." A few people came up, saw the enormous snake coiled in the path, and
ran back down in fear. Laughing, Agan-uni'tsi continued on his way. He knew his guides were showing him the way, and he walked tall and sang
his magic songs.
He saw a great lizard on top of Bald Mountain, and a frog the size of a bear as he came down the South side of the mountain, and he kept seeing
more strange and monstrous reptiles, so he continued on South. He looked into a deep pool on Hiwassee, a place called Tlanusiyi, the Leech place,
because people said many strange things had been seen there, but although he saw big turtles, and two enormous sun perch swam up to him and
then dodged away, he came away from the Leech place with nothing but leeches.
Time was moving on swiftly, he had traveled almost a moon, and was due back within three. So he moved faster, checking all the likely places,
asking all the people he met for news of the Uktena, or leads to likely places, because he had never been so deep into Tsalagi lands before. Every
morning when he rose from his little bit of sleep, his nose would tingle when he looked South, so on he would go.
One fine hot morning he strode up the North side of Gahuti Mountain (this is in Murray County, Georgia, just so you know how far Agan-uni'tsi
walked) and all his senses were alert. His whole body was tingling and a crystal in his medicine pouch was hot against his chest. He stopped and
strung his bow, and walked on very quietly. He followed a bend in the trail and came right up near the Uktena, which was fast asleep. Without his
strong medicine, even this sight would have caused death in his family or to him. He ran swiftly but silently down the slope until he found a level
spot with plenty of soil. Here he dug a circular trench and piled pine cones and branches around it, enough to burn for a long time. He lit the fire.
Then running back up the trail, he circled around the monster until he had a good shot at the seventh spot back from its head, which is the only place
a shot will kill the beast. Agan-uni'tsi made his shot cleanly, the arrow going deep into the serpent's side. It raised its head, the diamond in front
flashing fire, and came straight at Agan-uni'tsi, who turned and ran full speed down the mountain with the mortally wounded Uktena after him.
Agan-uni'tsi did not look back to see the Uktena roll over and die, but raced down until he could leap over the fire and the trench and lie flat on the
ground in the center. The Uktena thrashed around, spitting poison all over the mountainside, but the drops did not pass the hot fire, burning up
harmlessly except for one drop that landed on the magician's forehead. He did not even feel it. The monster's heart pumped dark poisonous blood
down the slope, but it collected in the trench and did not touch Agan-uni'tsi. The monster finally stopped moving, caught on tree trunks not far from
the bottom of the hill.
Agan-uni'tsi called all the birds of the forest, and they feasted on the corpse for seven days until it was all gone.
A raven started to carry away the Ulunsuti, which was all that was left, but left it on a low branch when he saw the magician coming. Agan-uni'tsi
wrapped it carefully in a piece of deerskin and returned to the Tsalagi town in triumph. He stayed with the People and true to the prophecy became a
great wonder-worker and fortune-teller.
Everyone noticed the small snake that grew from his forehead where the Uktena's venom had hit, but for the rest of his life he never saw it or knew it
was there. He passed the Ulunsuti on to a Tsalagi medicine man when he died, and it was kept hidden for several generations, and then buried with
the last man who knew how to control it.
Where the blood of the Uktena filled the trench, a lake formed, which was always black, and women dyed cane splits for baskets in it.
|Agan-uni'tsi's Quest for the Ulunsuti
A Cherokee Legend
|A New Bow for Tani
A Cherokee Legend
In those far-off days, before Glooscap, the mighty Magician, set sail in his stone canoe for the Land of the Red Sunrise, there were Fairies and Elves
living in the green forests of the Wabanaki. Very wonderful was the music they made on magic flutes of reed, and with their melody they could
charm men and beasts.
]When these Fairies were pleased with an Indian brave they gave him a magic flute. And if they grew to love him, they made him a Fairy like
themselves, and called him a Mikumwess.
Now, in those far-off days there dwelt two youths in a village of the Wabanaki. One, whose name was Little Thunder, was full of laughter and song,
and wished greatly to meet the Fairies and be made a Mikumwess.
The other youth, who was called the Badger, loved Brown Fawn, the beautiful daughter of a great Chief. The Badger wished to have her for his wife,
but he heard that her father was a cruel man, and set such difficult tasks for his daughter's suitors, that they all perished in attempting them.
One day a Loon came to the village of the Wabanaki where dwelt these two young men. It was Glooscap's messenger, and it said that the mighty
Magician had promised to grant one wish to each Indian youth who would seek his magic lodge.
When Little Thunder and the Badger heard this, they decked themselves with their choicest feathers, and, armed with strong bows and arrows, they
set out along the trail that led to Glooscap's lodge. Dangerous was this trail, and filled with terrors, but the two hastened bravely on, overcoming all
in their way.
For seven years they traveled, until at last they reached the lodge. Glooscap, smiling, welcomed them, and Martin the Fairy set food and drink
before them. Then Glooscap asked what they most desired.
"Make me a Mikumwess," said Little Thunder, "then I may help my brother the Badger to win his bride."
"All I desire is to win Brown Fawn for my wife," replied the Badger, "for I am lonely in my lodge."
Then Glooscap smiled again, and he wove a magic hair-string in Little Thunder's locks, and the young man became a Mikumwess endowed with
Fairy power. After this Glooscap gave him a magic flute of reed so that he might charm all living things.
But to the Badger, Glooscap said: "The maiden is yours to win with the aid of this Mikumwess. Enter my stone canoe, and sail over the seas, to the
lodge of her father. Only return the canoe to me when your adventure is over, for never before did I lend it to any man."
Then Glooscap took the two youths to the seashore, and pointed to a small island of granite against which the foaming waves were beating. It was
covered with high Pines around whose tops flew many white Gulls. "There is my canoe," said he. "Swim thither and enter it."
So the two young men threw themselves into the water, and swam out to the island. As soon as they stepped on its rocks, the island turned into a
large stone canoe, and the Pine Trees became high masts.
Rejoicing, the Mikumwess and the Badger sailed away across the seas. They sailed for many days until at last they reached the land where was the
village of the cruel Chief.
They drew the stone canoe up on the beach, and hid it under some bushes. Then they entered the village and sought the lodge of the Chief. He
welcomed them gravely, and placed them in the seat of honor. After which he asked them what was their errand.
The Mikumwess answered: "This, my brother the Badger, is tired of living alone. Give him Brown Fawn to follow him to his lodge."
"Brown Fawn may go with him," answered the Chief courteously, "if tomorrow he brings me the head of the Yellow Horned serpent that dwells in
the great cave by the sea."
To this the young men agreed, and were given a lodge to sleep in.
When the night was very dark, the Mikumwess arose, and, leaving the Badger asleep, went alone to the great cave by the sea. Across its entrance he
laid a log, and then began to dance a magic dance before it, playing on his Fairy flute.
When the Yellow Horned Serpent heard the strange music, he was charmed, and came creeping out, weaving his head from side to side. Then he
rested his head on the log, and the Mikumwess quickly cut it off with his hatchet.
Taking the head by one of its shiny yellow horns, he carried it to the Badger. And when morning was come, the two bore the head and laid it before
And when the old man saw it, he was astonished and thought to himself, "I fear I shall lose my child!"
But he said to the Badger, "Young man, if you wish to win your wife, you must coast down yonder hill with two of my bravest warriors."
Now, the hill was really a very high mountain, its sides jagged with broken rocks and terrible with tree-roots and ice. Two sleds were brought and
taken to the top of the mountain; and the Mikumwess and the Badger were placed upon one,k and on the other were seated two powerful Magicians.
At a word from the Chief the two sleds were sent flying down the mountain-side. Faster and faster they flew as if to death.
Soon the Badger went whirling from his sled and fell on the ice, and the Magicians shouted with delight; but they did not know that the Mikumwess
had done this so that he might get the Magicians' sled in front of him.
The Mikumwess turned aside, and, putting out his hand, drew the Badger on the sled, and as he did so, the Magicians shot by, mocking loudly. Then
the Mikumwess's sled suddenly bounded into the air and flew over the heads of the Magicians, nor did it stop at the foot of the mountain, but sped up
the hill opposite and struck the side of the Chief's lodge, ripping it from end to end.
And when the old man saw this, he thought to himself, "This time I feel sure I shall lose my child!"
But he said to the Badger: "There is a man in this village who has never been beaten at running. You must overcome him, if you wish to win your
To this the young men agreed, and went to the place where the race was to start. And the Mikumwess lent his magic flute to the Badger to give him
And when the racer from the village came, the Badger asked him, "Who are you?"
And the racer answered, "I am the Northern Lights."
"And I," said the Badger, "am the Chain Lightning."
And they ran.
In an instant they were no longer to be seen, but were beyond the distant hills. And the Chief, with the Mikumwess and all the people, sat and waited
till noon, when Chain Lightning, who was the Badger, returned. He was not out of breath, nor weary, though he had run all around the world.
But Northern Lights came not. When evening drew near they saw him come quivering and panting with fatigue, yet for all that he had not been
around the world but had been forced to turn back.
And when the old man saw that Chain Lightning had won, he thought to himself, "Alas! This time I have surely lost my child!"
But he said to the Badger, "To win your wife, young man, you must overcome a great warrior who swims and dives so excellently that no one has
ever equaled him."
To this the young men agreed, and the next morning they went to the seashore, where the test was to be. The Mikumwess again lent the Badger his
And when the diver from the village came, the Badger asked him, "Who are you?"
And the diver replied, "I am the Sea Duck."
"And I," said the Badger, "am the Loon."
So they dived.
And after a short time the Sea Duck rose for breath; but the people who sat there, with the Chief and the Mikumwess, had long to wait for the Loon.
Hour after hour passed, but he came not. At last he rose to the surface, and was not out of breath.
And when the old man saw this he groaned and said, "Oh, Badger, I have lost my child!"
Then the wedding-feast was prepared, and the Chief brought Brown Fawn from the lodge and gave her to the Badger. And in the evening the feast
was held and a great dance; and the Mikumwess astonished all who saw him, for he danced a deep trench in the ground around the lodge.
And when the morning was come the Mikumwess, together with the Badger and Brown Fawn, entered the stone canoe, and set sail for the country
of the Wabanaki. And when they reached the shore they found Glooscap, the mighty Magician, waiting for them.
And, smiling, he said to the Mikumwess, "Go your way in the forest and join the band of Fairies, and always be happy with your magic flute."
Then to the Badger he said: "Welcome once more to the Land of the Children of Light. Take your wife, Brown Fawn, and return to your lodge.
Plenty of game shall always be yours, and peace and contentment."
The the Mikumwess disappeared in the forest; and the Badger, leading Brown Fawn, returned to his lodge in the village of the Wabanaki.
|Anisga ya Tsunsdi "Little Men"
A Cherokee Legend
Always represented as beneficent wonder-makers of great power. These two sons of Kanati (first man), who are sometimes called "Thunder Boys,"
live in Usunhi-yi, above the sky vault. They must not be confused with the Yunwi Tsunsdi' of Little People, who are also "thunderers," but who live on
the earth and cause the short, sharp claps of thunder. The "Little Men" have reproduced themselves by striking lightening very near a woman, giving
birth to a human with the same characteristics as the Little People.
There is also the "Great Thunderer," the thunder of the whirlwind, tornado and hurricane, who seems to be identical with Kanati, himself. The
favorite honey locust tree, and the tree with thorns of the same species, is the home of the "Thunder-man," indicating to the Cherokee a great hidden
connection between the pinnated leaves of the tree and the lightening.
|Ani'tsutsa - The Boys
A Cherokee Legend
The old people tell us that when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the
gatayu'sti game. This game is now called Chunkey, and is played by rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike
it. Their mothers scolded them, but it didn't do any good. One day the mothers collected some gatayu'sti stones and boiled them in the pot with the
corn for dinner.
When the boys came home their mothers dipped out the stones and said, "Since you like the gatayu'sti better than working, take the stones now for
The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, "Since our mothers treat us this way, let's go where we will never trouble them
any more." They began a dance - some say it was the Feather dance- and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them.
At last their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse, and
as they watched they noticed that their feet were off the ground, and that with every round they higher and higher in the air. They ran to get their
children; but it was too late, for then, they were already above the roof of the townhouse - all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with
the gatayu'sti pole, but he struck the ground with such force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.
The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee call Ani'tsutsa (The
The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot
until the earth was damp with her tears. At last a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we call now the
pine, and the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.
|Ataga'hi, The Enchanted Lake
A Cherokee Legend
Westward from the headwaters of Oconaluftee river, in the wildest depths of the Great Smoky mountains, which form the line between North
Carolina and Tennessee, is the enchanted lake of Ataga'hi. (Gall place)
Although all the Cherokee know that it is there, no one has ever seen it, for the way is so difficult that only the animals know how to reach it. Should a
stray hunter come near the place he would know of it by the whirring sound of the thousands of wild ducks flying about the lake.
On reaching the spot he would find only a dry flat, without bird or animal or blade of grass, unless he had first sharpened his spiritual vision by
prayer and fasting and an all-night vigil.
Because it is not seen, some people think the lake has dried up long ago, but this is not true. To one who had kept watch and fast through the night it
would appear at daybreak as a wide-extending but shallow sheet of purple water, fed by springs spouting from the high cliffs around.
In the water are all kinds of fish and reptiles, and swimming upon the surface of flying overhead are great flocks of ducks and pigeons, while all about
the shores are bear tracks crossing in every direction. It is the medicine lake of the birds and animals, and whenever a bear is wounded by the hunters
he makes his way through the woods to this lake and plunges into the water, and when he comes out upon the other side his wounds are healed.
For this reason the animals keep the lake invisible to the hunter.
|Battle Between Two Worlds
A Cherokee Legend
When the world of the Ani Yunwiya was new all living things were great in size and strength. Two of the many creatures that had been created and
placed upon Ani Daksi Amayeli by Unethlana the Apportioner were the Tlanuhwa and the Uktena.
The Tlanuhwa were very large birds with markings much like the red-tail hawk of today. The markings or symbols of the great Tlanuhwa could only
be worn by the ancient Ani Kituhwah warriors when they went into war. Some people say the Tlanuhwa were the original parents, Ani Tawodi, of
the great hawks that live today.
The Uktena are enormous creatures that live in the rivers and lakes of the great Ouascioto valleys and mountains (the Ohio Valley and Appalachians).
The Uktena come and go from this world to the underworld. They enter the underworld through caves that are found under the waters of rivers and
lakes and also through certain entrances into the earth where there are no springs.
The Uktena have the body of a snake with very pretty and colorful circles all around their torsos. They also have wings like the great buzzard and
horns upon their heads like the great deer. Upon their forehead there is a special crystal which people prize because it has very special power over light
and dark. This crystal is also a window into the future and the past.
The crystal is called an Ulunsuti stone; it is the most powerful thing a person can possess. The stone is carried in a circular buckskin pouch along with
a little red pigment and must never be kept in the house but in a safe dry place outside the house away from people.
When one gazes into an Ulunsuti stone, one will see either a white or a red blood-like streak appear. Only certain priests of the Ani Kuhtahni of the
Ani Yunwiya know how to use these Ulunsuti stones and can invoke certain formulas or prayers which are aides to humans when used properly. One
such protection prayer (Igowesdi) that calls upon a great Uktena is: "Now! Nearby here the Great Red Uktena now winds his way. Now! Now the
glare of the purple lightening will dazzle the red Uktena. Also, this ancient tobacco will be as much of a thorough-going wizard. Now! The Seven
Reversers (priests of the mounds) looking at me will be dazzled by the Great Red Uktena. Udohiyuh!"
At a certain place the Ani Yunwiya call Hogahega Uweyu i which lies alongside the Wanegas (now known as the Tennessee River), there remains one
of the ancient cave homes of the Tlanuhwa. Located high up in the cliffs by the river, it is at this place that an ancient fight took place between the
Tlanuhwa and the Uktena. Near the caves of the Tlanuhwa was one of the towns of the Ani Yunwiya.
The people living in the town never had any problems with the Tlanuhwa until one day, the Tlanuhwa began to swoop down out of the sky, grabbing
young children in their talons and taking them away to their caves by the Hogahega Uweyu i. The people of the town became very upset and all the
mothers started crying and shouting at the men to bring back the children stolen by the Tlanuhwa.
So the men made a plan; they went very near the Tlanuhwa caves and took vines growing there from some trees and made ropes to climb down over
the cliffs to the caves. The men waited until they were certain that the Tlanuhwa were out of the caves. Then down the ropes some of the men went,
into the caves of the Tlanuhwa.
Tlanuhwa were returning to their caves with more children in their talons. So very quickly the men began throwing the unhatched eggs of the
Tlanuhwa down into the Hogahega Uweyu i far below.
When the eggs splashed into the waters far below the Tlanuhwa caves, the great Uktena came up from below the waters and began eating the eggs as
fast as the men could throw them into the water. This made the Tlanuhwa very angry and they dropped the children and swooped down upon the
Uktena. The men waiting below the caves caught the children as they fell. Thus began a long fight between the Tlanuhwa and the Uktena.
The Tlanuhwa destroyed the Uktena and tore it into four pieces. Afterwards, the pieces of the Uktena were thrown all around the country along with
the great crystal, the Ulunsuti stone. Many people are still searching for that Ulunsuti stone in the mountains along the Hogahega Uweyu i.
After that terrible fight the Tlanuhwa were so angry at what the humans had done with their eggs that they flew far away, up above the sky vault and
have never been seen since. However, one can see the pictures that the ancient Ani Yunwiya made of the Tlanuhwa and Uktena, on the walls of the
many caves among the Ouascito (Central Fire) Mountains, the ancient home of the Ani Yunwiya.
It is said that today, far below the cave of the Tlanuhwa on the banks of the Hogahega Uweyu i, one can still see the rocks that were stained from the
blood of the Uktena and the Tlanuhwa from the fight they had that day.
A Cherokee Legend
In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan call the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi (Ahnee-Jah-goo-hee), and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to
leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while he went oftener and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, but
started off at daybreak and did not come back until night. His parents scolded, but that did no good, and the boy still went every day until they noticed
that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the
woods that he would not even eat at home. Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements,
and pretty soon I am going into the woods to stay all the time." His parents were worried and begged him not to leave them, but he said, "It is better
there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for
all of us and you will never have to work for it; but if you want to come, you must first fast seven days."
The father and mother talked it over and then told the headman of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said
they decided: "Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work. We will go with him." So they
fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning all the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.
When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home and not go
into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered
with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. The Ani Tsaguhi would not
come back, but said, "we are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called Yonv(a) (bears), and when you yourselves are
hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always." Then
they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani
Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears
going into the woods.
A Cherokee Legend
No'ghwisi, the bird called Meadowlark, lives in the lowlands, and he is about the same size as Quail. He walks the same way that Quail walks.
Once, long ago, one meadowlark had feet that did not stop growing when the rest of him did. His feet grew stronger and stronger, his toes longer and
longer, and his heart heavier and heavier.
"Poor feet, you are so ugly!" good meadowlark cried. "And so heavy! When I try to soar up to the sky you weigh me down. How can I sing my
beautiful song if I cannot soar? If I do sing, the animals and other birds will not hear, for they will be too busy laughing. Oh, feet! I wish I were a mole
and could hide under the earth!" Instead, Meadowlark hid in the grass and tried not to look at his feet. He hunted insects there and built his nest there.
Sometimes he sang his beautiful song softly to himself there.
One day, Grasshopper came looking for Meadowlark. As he hopped through the grass he heard the soft little song and followed it to the downhearted
bird. "Why are you hiding, friend Meadowlark?" he asked when he found him. "No one has seen you all summer."
Meadowlark hung his head. "I am ashamed to show my beak," he said. "But why?" Grasshopper cocked his own head in puzzlement. "Can't you see?"
the bird asked with a sigh. He held up one long foot. "Because my feet are so long."
Grasshopper shrugged. "So? Why worry? One of these days they'll turn out to be useful." Meadowlark blinked. "Useful? How?" "How should I
know? They will. You'll see," said Grasshopper. "You want to sing, don't you? Well, stop this hiding-in-the-grass nonsense and go out and do it."
Grasshopper's visit cheered Meadowlark so much that he went out then and there to take to the air. He flew low over the fields, and the trills and rills of
his silver song soared high. All of the animals stopped still to listen to it. All of the birds folded their wings and perched in the trees to listen to it. On the
following day Meadowlark went out again to sing, but as he flew, his toes now and then skimmed the feathery seed tops of the grass.
He could not help thinking. Oh, how long my poor feet are, and how ugly! With a sob, he dropped to the ground and hid again. Not far away was a
wheat field near a Cherokee town. A little female bird had made her nest in the middle of the wheat field. She had laid her eggs there, but now the wheat
was ripe, and she hears men saying that it was time to cut it. "Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?" she cried as she huddled over her eggs. She wept
and wailed loudly, for she had no way to save them. Grasshopper heard her cries, and followed them to her nest. "Why do you cry?" he asked. "Who
would not cry?" she wailed. "Men are going to cut the wheat. My eggs will be broken and crushed, for I have no way to carry them to safety."
"well, now," said Grasshopper, "I know a bird over in the meadow beyond your field who is always hiding because his feet are so big. He could help
you." The little bird hopped her nest. "I shall go see him at once. Perhaps he can pick up and carry my eggs in his claws." She flew off in a flutter to
find Meadowlark, who said, "Of course I will help, if I can."
Meadowlark followed her back to the wheat field, and found that with his long toes it was easy to pick up her eggs. Two at a time, he carried them off
to the meadow grass and set them down in a safe nesting place. "that Grasshopper is a wise little fellow," he said happily.
And he flew up to circle the meadow and sing his beautiful meadowlark song.
|Cherokee Creation Story
A Cherokee Legend
When the Earth begun there was just water. All the animals lived above it and the sky was beginning to become crowded. They were all curious about
what was beneath the water and one day Dayuni'si, the water beetle, volunteered to explore it.
He went everywhere across the surface but he couldn't find any solid ground. He then dived below the surface to the bottom and all he found was mud.
This began to enlarge in size and spread outwards until it became the Earth as we know it.
After all this had happened, one of the animals attached this new land to the sky with four strings.
Just after the Earth was formed, it was flat and soft so the animals decided to send a bird down to see if it had dried. They eventually returned to the
animals with a result.
The land was still to wet so they sent the great Buzzard from Galun'lati to prepare it for them.
The buzzard flew down and by the time that he reached the Cherokee land he was so tired that his wings began to hit the ground. Wherever they hit the
ground a mountain or valley formed. The Cherokee land still remains the same today with all the land forms that the Buzzard formed.
The animals then decided that it was too dark, so they made the sun and put it on the path in which it still runs today.
The animals could then admire the newly created Earth around them.
At first there was darkness and cold, vast and endless, stretching out in all directions. Beneath the great stone arch of the sky there was a dizzying drop.
One by one tiny creatures began to awake and one by one they realized that they were cold, thirsty and very crowded.
The first creature to awake said, "I smell water, I am a water beetle," and with that it jumped from the great stone arch of the sky. Much later there was
a splash. The next creature to awake, said, "I can spin silk, I am a spider." And so it went as each creature awoke and realized what he or she was.
Not long after, a voice was heard from far beneath the great stone arch of the sky. It was the water beetle, who said, "Underneath the water there is
something soft, yet strong enough to hold us, with room enough for everyone." "Throw down some rope, so that we might fetch it," another creature on
the great stone arch of the sky said, so the spider began to make some very strong ropes. The ropes were thrown down and the water beetle took them
and swam beneath the waters. She then fastened them to the four corners of the great slab of mud that rested beneath the waters. When she surfaced,
she told the other creatures who had remained on the great stone arch of the sky what she had done.
They began to pull and haul at the ropes until the great slab of mud rose from beneath the waters. When they had finished, all the creatures began to
scramble down the ropes to get to this new place which had room for everyone.
When they reached the bottom, they drank their fill. Some creatures, realizing that they were fish, swam away, others flew away, and still others,
realizing that they were frogs sank happily into the mud. There the land hung and there it hangs to this very day, until the day that will come when the
ropes will break and the land will sink once more beneath the waters.
|Cherokee Story of Creation
A Cherokee Legend
|Cherokee Medicine Man
A Cherokee Legend
In the old days the Cherokee Medicine Man would travel to the rock caves to meet with the Little People and share in their secrets. The medicine men
would stay in the mountains for seven days and nights telling stories around the campfire. On the first night they would tell the story of the bear and
sing the songs the bear had taught the Cherokee. The songs were for good hunting. One the second night, they would dance the Green Corn Dance for
good crops, singing and dancing all night long. On the third night a song was sung to invoke the deer spirit to be kind to the Cherokee hunters. The
fourth, fifth and sixth nights were spent on more storytelling, dancing and singing. Each medicine man told about the sacred formula that the Little
People had entrusted to him.
On the seventh night, at the darkest hour, as the drums beat louder and louder, the Little People or Yundi Tsundi danced into the circle. They danced and
chanted sacred songs. Then the Little People told the medicine men to return the secrets that had been shared with them that year. One by one the
medicine men placed the secret formulas in the hands of the Little People. The medicine men left the cave and returned to their people. They would return
again and again to receive and return the spirit gifts of the Little People.
A Cherokee Legend
by Lee Brown, Cherokee
There was the cycle of the mineral, the rock. There was the cycle of the plant. And now we are in the cycle of the animal coming to the end of that and
beginning the cycle of the human being. When we get into the cycle of the human being, the highest and greatest powers that we have will be released to
At the beginning of this cycle of time, long ago, the Great Spirit made an appearance and gathered the peoples of this earth together, and said to the
human beings, "I'm going to send you to four directions, and over time I'm going to change you to four colors, but I'm going to give you some teachings,
and you will call these the Original Teachings; when you come back together with each other, you will share these so that you can live and have peace on
earth, and a great civilization will come about. During the cycle of time, I'm going to give each of you two stone tablets. When I give you those stone
tablets, don't cast them upon the ground. If any of the sisters and brothers cast their tablets on the ground, not only will human beings have a hard time,
but almost the earth itself will die."
And so He gave each of us a responsibility, and we call that the Guardianship. To the Indian people, the red people, He gave the Guardianship of the
Earth. We were to learn during this cycle of time the teachings of the earth, the plants that grow from the earth, the foods that you can eat, and the herbs
that heal so that, when we came back together with the other sisters and brothers, we could share this knowledge with them. Something good was to
happen on the earth.
To the South He gave the yellow race of people the Guardianship of the Wind. They were to learn about the sky and breathing and how to take that within
ourselves for spiritual advancement. They were to share that with us at this time.
To the West He gave the black race of people the Guardianship of the Water. They were to learn the teachings of the water, which is the chief of the
elements, being the most humble and the most powerful. The elders have told me that the black people would bring the teachings of the water.
To the North He gave the white race of people the Guardianship of the Fire. If you look at the center of many of the things they do, you will find the fire.
They say a light bulb is the white man's fire. If you look at the center of a car you will find a spark. If you look at the center of the airplane and the train
you will find the fire. The fire consumes, and also moves. This is why it was the white sisters and brothers who began to move upon the face of the earth
and reunite us as a human family.
And so a long time passed, and the Great Spirit gave each of the four races two stone tablets. Ours are kept at the Hopi Reservation in Arizona at Four
Corners Area on Third Mesa. I talked to people from the black race, and their stone tablets are at the foot of Mount Kenya. They are kept by the Kukuyu
Tribe. I was at an Indian spiritual gathering about 25 years ago. A medicine man from South Dakota put a beaded medicine wheel in the middle of the
gathering. It had the four colors from the four directions; he asked the people, "Where is this from?" They said, "Probably Montana, or South Dakota,
maybe Saskatchewan." He said, "This is from Kenya." It was beaded just like ours, with the same colors.
The stone tablets of the yellow race of people are kept by the Tibetans. If you went straight through the Hopi Reservation to the other side of the world,
you would come out in Tibet. The Tibetan word for sun is the Hopi word for moon, and the Hopi word for sun is the Tibetan word for moon.
The guardians of the traditions of the people of Europe are the Swiss. In Switzerland, they still have a day when each family brings out its mask. They still
know the colors of the families, and they still know the symbols, some of them. Each of these four peoples happen to live in the mountains.
Each of the four races went to their directions and learned their teachings. It was in Newsweek not long ago that eight out of ten foods that people eat on
the earth are developed here in the western hemisphere because that was our Guardianship --to learn the teachings of the earth and the things that grow
from the earth. We were given a sacred handshake to show, when we came back together as sisters and brothers, that we still remembered the teachings.
It was indicated on the stone tablets that the Hopis had that the first sisters and brothers who would come back to them would come as turtles across the
land. They would be human beings, but they would come as turtles. So when the time came close, the Hopis were at a special village to welcome the
turtles that would come across the land. They got up in the morning and looked out at the sunrise. They looked out across the desert, and they saw the
Spanish conquistadors coming, covered in armor, like turtles across the land. So this was them. So they went out to the Spanish man, and they extended
their hand, hoping for the handshake. But into the hand the Spanish man dropped a trinket. And so word spread throughout North America that there
was going to be a hard time, that maybe some of the brothers and sisters had forgotten the sacredness of all things and all the human beings were going to
suffer for this on the earth.
So tribes began to send people to the mountains to have visions to try to figure out how they could survive. At that time there were 200,000 cities in the
Mississippi Valley alone, called the mound civilization: cities built on great mounds. Those mounds are still there. They began to try to learn to live off
the land because they knew a hard time was going to come. They began to send people to have visions to see how we could survive this time. They were
told in the prophecies that we should try to remind all the people that would come here of the sacredness of all things. If we could do that, then there
would be peace on earth. But if we did not do that, if we had not come together as a human family, the Great Spirit would grab the earth with His hand
and shake it.
The elders on the west coast prophesied that they would then begin to build a black ribbon. And on this black ribbon there would move a bug. And when
you begin to see this bug moving on the land, that was the sign for the First Shaking of the Earth. The First Shaking of the Earth would be so violent that
this bug would be shaken off the earth into the air and it would begin to move and fly in the air. And by the end of this shaking this bug will be in the air
around the world. Behind it would be a trial of dirt and eventually the whole sky of the entire earth would become dirty from these trails of dirt, and this
would cause many diseases that would get more and more complicated. So the bug moving on the land, of course it's easy to see now. In 1908 the
Model-T Ford was mass produced for the first time. So the elders knew the First Shaking of the Earth was about to come about --that was the First World
In the First World War the airplane came into wide usage for the first time. That was the bug moving into the sky. And so they knew something very
important would happen. There would be an attempt to make peace on earth on the west coast of this land, ans so the elders began to watch for this.
They began to hear that there was going to be a League of Nations in San Francisco, so the elders gathered in Arizona around 1920 or so, and they wrote a
letter to Woodrow Wilson. They asked if the Indian people could be included in the League of Nations.
The United States Supreme Court had held that a reservation is a separate and semi-sovereign nation, not a part of the United States but protected by it.
This became a concern because people didn't want the reservations to become more and more separate. They didn't want them to be considered nations.
So they did not write back, and the Native people were left out of the League of Nations so that circle was incomplete. In the League of Nations circle
there was a southern door, the yellow people; there was a western door, the black people; there was a northern door, the white people; but the eastern
door was not attended. The elders knew that peace would not come on the earth until the circle of humanity is complete, until all the four colors sat in the
circle and shared their teachings, then peace would come on earth.
So they knew things would happen. Things would speed up a little. There would be a cobweb built around the earth, and people would talk across this
cobweb. When this talking cobweb, the telephone, was built around the earth, a sign of life would appear in the east, but it would tilt and bring death (the
swastika of the Nazis). It would come with the sun. But the sun itself would rise one day, not in the east but in the west (the rising sun of the Japanese
Empire). So the elders said when you see the sun rising in the east, and you see the sign of life reversed and tilted in the east, you know that the Great
Death is to come upon the earth, and now the Great Spirit will grab the earth again in His hand and shake it, and this shaking will be worse than the first.
So the sign of life reversed and tilted, we call that the Swastika, and the rising sun in the east was the Rising Sun of Japan. These two symbols are carved
in stone in Arizona. When the elders saw these two flags, they knew that these were the signs that the earth was to be shaken again.
The worse misuse of the Guardianship of the fire is called the gourd of ashes. They said the gourd of ashes will fall from the air. It will make the people
like blades of grass in the prairie fire, and things will not grow for many seasons. The atomic bomb, the gourd of ashes, it was the best-kept secret in the
history of the U.S. The elders wanted to speak about it in 1920.
They would have spoken of it and foretold its coming if they could have entered into the League of Nations. The elders tried to contact President
Roosevelt to ask him not to use the gourd of ashes because it would have a great effect on the earth and eventually cause even greater destruction and a
Third Shaking of the Earth, the Third World War.
So they knew after the Second Shaking of the Earth when they saw the gourd of ashes fall from the sky, there would be an attempt to make peace on the
other side of this land. And because the peace attempt on the west coast had failed, they would build a special house on the east coast of this Turtle
Island, and all the nations and peoples of the earth would come to this house, and it would be called the House of Mica, and it would shine like the mica
on the desert shines. So the elders began to see they were building the United Nations made out of glass that reflects like the mica on the desert so they
knew this was the House of Mica, and all the peoples of the earth should go to it. So they met and talked about this. They said that in the 1920's they had
written and they had not been responded to, so they said this time we'd better go to the front door of the House of Mica because things might get a lot
So elders representing a number of tribes drove to New York City. When the United Nations opened, they went to the front door of the House of Mica
and they said these words, "we represent the indigenous people of North America, and we wish to address the nations of the Earth. We're going to give
you four days to consider whether or not we will be allowed to speak."
They retreated to one of the Six Nations Reserves in New York State. Four days later they came back, and I believe the nations of the earth heard that the
Indians had come to the door. And they voted to let the Indians in. They wanted to hear what they had to say. But the United States is one of five nations
of the United Nations with a veto power, and still they were concerned because this time the Native sovereignty was even stronger. And I believe they
vetoed the entrance of the Native people.
So then they knew other things would happen on the Earth. So they retreated to the Six Nations reserve, and they talked about this, and they said the
time is really getting close now --1949. They said, "We're going to divide the United States into four sections, and each year we're going to have a
gathering. We're going to call these the White Roots of Peace Gatherings." They began to have these around 1950. And they authorized certain people
top speak in English for the first time about these prophecies.
One that I used to listen to many times, over and over, was Thomas Banyaca. He was authorized to speak in English about what was on the stone tablets,
and he has dedicated his life to doing this. And they began to tell us at these gatherings, "You're going to see a time in your lifetime when the human
beings are going to find the blueprint that makes us." They call that now DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid. They said, "They're going to cut this blueprint."
They call that now genetic splicing. And they said, "They're going to make new animals upon the earth, and they're going to think these are going to help
us. And it's going to seem like they do help us. But maybe the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to suffer." The elders said long ago.,
"They will release these things, and they will use them." This is going to be released not too long from now. They are making new animals. The elders
talked about this. They said, "You will see new animals, and even the old animals will come back, animals that people thought had disappeared. They will
find them here and there. They'll begin to reappear."
They said, "You're going to see a time when the eagle will fly its highest in the night, and it will land upon the moon. And at that time, many of the Native
people will be sleeping." which symbolically means they have lost their teachings. We're at that time now. The Eagle has landed on the moon, 1969.
When that spaceship landed, they sent back the message, "The Eagle has landed." Traditionally, Native people from clear up in the Inuit region have
shared with us this prophecy, clear down to the Quechuas in South America.
At this time you're going to see that things will speed up, that people on earth will move faster and faster. Grandchildren will not have time for
grandparents. Parents will not have time for children. It will seem like time is going faster and faster. The elders advised us that, as things speed up, you
yourself should slow down. The faster things go, the slower you go. Because there's going to come a time when the earth is going to be shaken a third
time. The Great Spirit has shaken the earth two times: The First and Second World Wars to remind us that we are a human family, to remind us that we
should have greeted each other as brothers and sisters. We had a chance after each shaking to come together in a circle that would have brought peace on
earth, but we missed that.
Tonight they were talking on the news about the sign for the Third Shaking of the Earth. They said they're going to build what the elders called the house
in the sky. In the 1950's they talked about this: they will build a house and throw it in the sky. When you see people living in the sky on a permanent
basis, you will know the Great Spirit is about to grab the earth, this time not with one hand, but with both hands. When this house is in the sky, the Great
Spirit is going to shake the Earth a third time, and whoever dropped that gourd of ashes, upon them it is going to drop. They say at that time there will be
villages in this land so great that when you stand in the villages you will not be able to see out, and in the prophecies these are called villages of stone, or
prairies of stone. And they said the stone will grow up from the ground, and you will not be able to see beyond the village.
At the center of each and every one of these villages will be Native people, and they will walk as hollow shells upon a prairie of stone. They said hollow
shells, which means they will have lost any of their traditional understandings; they will be empty within. They said that, after the Eagle lands on the
moon, some of these people will begin to leave these prairies of stone and come home and take up some of the old ways and begin to make themselves
reborn, because it's a new day. But many will not. And they said there's going to come a time when in the morning sun is going to rise, and this village of
stone will be there, and in the evening there would just be steam coming from the ground. They will be as steam. And in the center of many of those
villages of stone, when they turn to steam, the Native people will turn to steam also because they never woke up and left the village.
They say there's going to be the Third Shaking of the Earth. It's not going to be a good thing to see, but we will survive it. We will survive it. And when we
survive it, there's going to be another attempt to make a circle of human beings on the earth. And this time the Native people will not have to petition to
join but will be invited to enter the circle because they say the attitude toward us will have changed by then, and people will let us into the circle, and all
the four colors of the four directions will share their wisdom, and there will be a peace on earth. This is coming close.
The prophecies are always either/or. We could have come together way back there in 1565, and we could have had a great civilization, but we didn't.
Always along the path of these prophecies, we could have come together. We still could.
If we could stop the racial and religious disharmony, we would not have to go through this third shaking. The elders say the chance of that is pretty slim.
It seems to me like it's pretty slim, too. But they say what we can do is we can cushion it so it won't be quite as bad. How do we do this? We do this by
sharing the teaching that will reunite us.
A Cherokee Legend
Women in the Cherokee society were equal to men. They could earn the title of War Women and sit in councils as equals. This privilege led an Irishman
named Adair who traded with the Cherokee from 1736-1743 to accuse the Cherokee of having a "petticoat government". Clan kinship followed the
mother's side of the family. The children grew up in the mother's house, and it was the duty of an uncle on the mother's side to teach the boys how to hunt,
fish, and perform certain tribal duties. The women owned the houses and their furnishings. Marriages were carefully negotiated, but if a women decided
to divorce her spouse, she simply placed his belongings outside the house. Cherokee women also worked hard. They cared for the children, cooked, tended
the house, tanned skins, wove baskets, and cultivated the fields. Men helped with some household chores like sewing, but they spent most of their time
Nancy Ward, or Nan'yehi (nan yay hee), is the most famous Cherokee Beloved Woman. The role of Beloved Woman, Ghigau (Ghee gah oo), was the
highest a Cherokee woman could aspire to. A Ghigau had a voice and vote in General Council, leadership of the Women's Council, the honor of preparing
and serving the ceremonial Black Drink, the duty of ambassador of peace-negotiator, and the right to save the life of a prisoner already condemned to
execution. One such prisoner was a settler named Mrs. Bean, who was captured in an attack on illegal white settlements on the Watauga (wah tah oo
gah) River. Mrs. Bean taught Nan'yehi such skills as spinning, weaving, and the raising of animals, which Nan'yehi in turn taught the rest of the
Cherokee. This provided the Cherokee with some food during the winter months, but gave them more work.
The title Ghigau also translates to "War Woman," and Nan'yehi earned the title by taking up her husband's gun when he was slain in a battle against the
Creeks and leading her people to victory. Another War Woman, Cuhtahlatah, won honor during the American Revolutionary period by leading Cherokee
warriors to victory after her husband fell. She later joined in a vigorous was dance carrying her tomahawk and gun.
It was important to the Cherokee that their losses be compensated with the same number of prisoners, or lives. Women led in the execution of prisoners.
It was their right and responsibility as mothers. They celebrated the capture of prisoners with song and dance and joined in torture at the stake. Women
had the right to claim prisoners as slaves, adopt them as kin, or condemn them to death "with the wave of a swan's wing."
In the Cherokee society your Clan was your family. Children belonged to the entire Clan, and when orphaned were simply taken into a different
household. Marriage within the clan was strictly forbidden, on pain of death. Marriages were often short term, and there was no punishment for divorce
or adultery. Cherokee women were free to marry traders, surveyors, and soldiers, as well as their own tribesmen.
Cherokee girls learned by example how to be warriors and healers. They learned to weave baskets, tell stories, trade, and dance. They became mothers
and wives, and learned their heritage. The Cherokee learned to adapt, and the women were the core of the Cherokee.
A Cherokee Legend
Earth is floating on the waters like a big island, hanging from four rawhide ropes fastened at the top of the sacred four directions. The ropes are tied to the
ceiling of the sky, which is made of hard rock crystal. When the ropes break, this world will come tumbling down, and all living things will with it and die.
Then everything will be as if the earth had never existed, for water will cover it. Maybe the white man will bring this about.
Well, in the beginning also, water covered everything. Though living creatures existed, their home was up there, above the rainbow, and it was crowded.
"We are all jammed together," the animals said. "We need more room." Wondering what was under the water, they sent Water Beetle to look around.
Water Beetle skimmed over the surface but couldn't find any solid footing, so he dived down to the bottom and brought up a little dab of soft mus.
Magically the mud spread out in the four directions and became this island we are living on -this earth. Someone Powerful then fastened it to the sky
ceiling with cords.
In the beginning the earth was flat, soft, and moist. All the animals were eager to live on it, and they kept sending down birds to see if the mud had dried
and hardened enough to take their weight. But the birds all flew back and said that there was still no spot they could perch on.
Then the animals sent Grandfather Buzzard down. He flew very close and saw that the earth was still soft, but when he glided low over what would
become Cherokee country, he found that the mud was getting harder. By that time Buzzard was tired and dragging. When he flapped his wings down,
they made a valley where they touched the earth; when he swept them up, they made a mountain.
The animals watching from above the rainbow said, "If he keeps on, there will be only mountains," and they made him come back. That's why we have so
many mountains in Cherokee land.
At last the earth was hard and dry enough, and the animals descended. They couldn't see very well because they had no sun or moon, and someone said,
"Let's grab Sun from up there behind the rainbow! Let's get him down too!"
Pulling Sun down, they told him, "Here's a road for you," and showed him the way to go -from east to west. Now they had light, but it was much too hot,
because Sun was too close to the earth.
The crawfish had his back sticking out of a stream, and Sun burned it red. His meat was spoiled forever, and the people still won't eat crawfish.
Everyone asked the sorcerers, the shamans, to put Sun higher. They pushed him up as high as a man, but it was still too hot. So they pushed him father,
but it wasn't far enough. They tried four times, and when they had Sun up to the height of four men, he was just hot enough. Everyone was satisfied, so
they left him there.
Before making humans, Someone Powerful had created plants and animals and had told them to stay awake and watch for seven days and seven nights.
(This is just what young men do today when they fast and prepare for a ceremony.) But most of the plants and animals couldn't manage it; some fell
asleep after one day, some after two days, some after three.
Among the animals, only the owl and the mountain lion were still awake after seven days and seven nights. That's why they were given the gift of seeing
in the dark so that they can hunt at night.
Among the trees and other plants, only the cedar, pine, holly, and laurel were still awake on the eight morning.
Someone Powerful said to them: "because you watched and kept awake as long as you had been told, you will not lose your hair in the winter." So these
plants stay green all the time.
After creating plants and animals, Someone Powerful made a man and his sister. The man poked her with a fish and told her to give birth.
After seven days she had a baby, and after seven more days she had another, and every seven days another came.
The humans increased so quickly that Someone Powerful, thinking there would soon be no more room on this earth, arranged things so that a woman
could have only one child every year. And that's how it was.
Now, there is still another world under the one we live on. You can reach it by going down a spring, or a water hole; but you need underworld people to be
your scouts and guide you.
The world under our earth is exactly like ours, except that it's winter down there when it's summer up here. We can see that easily, because spring water is
warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer.
The Cherokee are one of the very few Indian tribes who conceive of the sun as female. This version is unusual for the Cherokee because it refers to the sun
|Flint Visits the Rabbit
A Cherokee Legend
In the old days Tawi'skala (Flint) lived up in the mountains, and all the animals hated him because he had helped to kill so many of them. They used to get
together to talk over means to put him out of the way, but everybody was afraid to venture near his house until the Rabbit, who was the boldest leader
among them, offered to go after Flint and try to kill him. They told him where to find him, and the Rabbit set out and at last came to Flint's house.
Flint was standing at his door when the Rabbit came up and said sneeringly, "Siyu! Hello! Are you the fellow they call Flint?" "Yes; that's what they call
me," answered Flint. "Is this where you live?" "Yes; this is where I live." All this time the Rabbit was looking about the place trying to study out some plan
to take Flint off his guard.
He had expected Flint to invite him into the house, so he waited a little while, but when Flint made no move, he said, "Well, my name is Rabbit; I've heard a
good deal about you, so I came to invite you to come and see me."
Flint wanted to know where the Rabbit's house was, and he told him it was down in the broom-grass field near the river. So Flint promised to make him a
visit in a few days. "Why not come now and have supper with me?" said the Rabbit, and after a little coaxing Flint agreed and the two started down the
When they came near the Rabbit's hole the Rabbit said, "There is my house, but in summer I generally stay outside here where it is cooler." So he made a
fire, and they had their supper on the grass. When it was over, Flint stretched out to rest and the Rabbit got some heavy sticks and his knife and cut out a
mallet and wedge.
Flint looked up and asked what that was for. "Oh," said the Rabbit, "I like to be doing something, and they may come handy." So Flint lay down again, and
pretty soon he was sound asleep. The Rabbit spoke to him once or twice to make sure, but there was no answer. Then he came over to Flint and with one
good blow of the mallet he drove the sharp stake into his body and ran with all his might for his own hole; but before he reached it there was a loud
explosion, and pieces of flint flew all about.
That is why we find flint in so many places now. One piece struck the Rabbit from behind and cut him just as he dived into his hole. He sat listening until
everything seemed quiet again. Then he put his head out to look around, but just at that moment another piece fell and struck him on the lip and split it, as
we still see it.
|Grandmother Spider Steals the Sun
A Cherokee Legend
Now, when Earth was brand new, there was much confusion, for there was darkness everywhere. All of Earth's Peoples kept bumping into each other,
and were often hurt. They all cried out for light, that they might see.
Fox said that he knew of some people on the other side of the world who had plenty of light. He said that it was nice and warm, but those people were too
greedy to share it with anyone else. Possum said that he would steal Sun. "I have a beautiful, bushy tail," he said. "I can hide the Sun in all of that fur. Let
So Possum went to the other side of the world and found the Sun. It was hanging up in a Tree and lighting up everything. Possum took a piece of the Sun
and hid it in the fur of his tail. But Sun was so hot that it burned all of Possum's tail hairs off. To this day, Possum has a bare tail. The people discovered
Possum and took the piece of the Sun back.
Buzzard said, "I will take the Sun myself. I will put it on my head, so that I can see where I am going with it." So he tried to take the Sun too. He flew to the
other side of the world, and dived down to snare the Sun in his claws. But it was so hot that it burned all of Buzzard's feathers off of his head. To this day,
Buzzard's head is bald and ugly. The people discovered Buzzard, and took the Sun back.
Then Grandmother Spider said, "Let me try." First she made a very thick clay pot, big enough to put the Sun in. Then, she spun a web which reached all the
way to the other side of the world. She was so small and quiet that these people did not notice her at all. When she was ready, she quickly snatched up the
Sun in her big clay pot, and hurried back home along her web. Now her side of the world had light, and warmth. Everyone rejoiced at Grandmother
Spider Woman brought the Sun to the Principal People, the Cherokee, but also the gift of fire. She also taught them to make pottery.
|Hero With the Horned Snakes
A Cherokee Legend
In ancient times, there lived some very large snakes that glittered nearly as bright as the sun. They had two horns on their heads, and they possessed a
magic power of attraction. To see one of these snakes was always a bad omen.
Whoever tried to escape from one instead ran directly toward the snake and was devoured. Only a highly skilled medicine man or hunter could kill a
two-horned snake. It required a very special medicine or power. The hunter had to shoot his arrow into the seventh stripe of the snake's skin.
One day a Shawnee Indian youth was held captive by the Cherokees. He was promised his freedom if he could find and kill a horned snake. He hunted for
many, many days in caves, over wild mountains, and at last found one high in the Tennessee Mountains.
The Shawnee youth made a large circle of fire by burning pine cones.
Then he walked toward the two-horned snake. When it saw the hunter, the snake slowly raised its head. The Shawnee youth shouted, "Freedom or death?"
He then aimed carefully and shot his arrow through the seventh stripe of the horned snake's skin. Turning quickly, he jumped into the center of the ring of
fire, where he felt safe from the snake.
A stream of poison flowed from the snake, but was stopped by the fire. Because of the Shawnee youth's bravery, the grateful Cherokees granted him his
freedom as they had promised.
Four days later, some of the Cherokees went to the spot where the youth had killed the horned snake. They gathered fragments of snake bones and skin,
tying them into a sacred bundle These they kept carefully for their children and grandchildren, because they believed the sacred bundle would bring good
fortune to their tribe.
Also on the same spot, a small lake formed containing black water. Into this water the Cherokee women dipped their twigs used in their basket making.
This is how they learned to dye their baskets black, along with other colors.
|How the Deer Got His Horns
A Cherokee Legend
In the beginning the Deer had no horns, but his head was smooth just like a doe's. He was a great runner and the Rabbit was a great jumper, and the
animals were all curious to know which could go father in the same time.
They talked about it a good deal, and at last arranged a match between the two, and made a nice large pair of antlers for a prize to the winner.
They were to start together from one side of a thicket and go through it, then turn and come back, and the one who came out first was to get the horns.
On the day fixed all the animals were there, with the antlers put down on the ground at the edge of the thicket to mark the starting point. While everybody
was admiring the horns the Rabbit said: "I don;t know this part of the country; I want to take a look through the bushes where I am going to run."
They thought that all right, so the Rabbit went into the thicket, but he was gone so long that at last the animals suspected he must be up to one of his tricks.
They sent a messenger to look for him, and away in the middle of the thicket he found the Rabbit gnawing down the bushes and pulling them away until he
had a road cleared nearly to the other side.
The messenger turned around quietly and came back and told the other animals. When the Rabbit came out at last they accused him of cheating, but he
denied it until they went into the thicket and found the cleared road. They agreed that such a trickster had no right to enter the race at all, so they gave the
horns to the Deer, who was admitted to be the best runner, and he has worn them ever since.
They told the Rabbit that as he was so fond of cutting down bushes he might do that for a living hereafter, and so he does to this day.
|How the Honey Bee Got Their Stinger
A Cherokee Legend
Back in ancient times when the people were more pure and could converse with the animals and the Creator would visit them, the people asked the Creator
for something that was 'sweet' to the taste. So the Creator sent the Bee, but the Bee had no stinger. Down came the Bee and it found a suitable tree in which
they could build their hive, live in, produce honey, multiply and feed its young. Soon the people came to the Bee and asked for some of the sweet syrup and
the Bee gave each person a container full. The people loved the syrup and greedily ate it, then went back to the Bee for more.
But the Bee replied, "I have no more to give you for a while. You will have to wait." The people were not happy, as they craved the sweet syrup. So they
called upon the Creator, saying, "the Bee does not give us enough of the golden syrup. We want more!!!" The Creator listened and sent down the Flower
People. The Flower People began to spread all types of flowers across the land giving the Bees greater access and variety of flowers to pollinate and make
more honey. The Flower People spread all kinds of beautiful wild flowers around to attract the Bees; bright blue, red, orange, purple and yellow. More Bees
were created to help pollinate the flowers. The hive grew to be very large. The people seeing how big the hive was went to get more of the sweet syrup. So
the Bees gave all the syrup to the people but left enough to feed their young. The people devoured the syrup and wanted more. The Bees responded, "We don't
have anymore, you will have to wait."
The people were angry and asked the Flower People to make more flowers so they could have more of the golden syrup to eat. The Flower People responded,
"We made all the flowers we could and they are all pollinated. You will have to wait until Spring." "No," said the people, "We want more now!!" So they
went back to the Bee's hive and tore it apart killing almost all of the Bees and taking the syrup. The remaining Bees were angry. They asked the Creator
what to do. The Creator was also annoyed at the behavior of the people, so he told the Flower People to create some 'briar bushes' and for the Bees to eat the
The Bees did as the Creator said, they ate the briars and these were transformed into stingers. The Flower People created an entire briar patch around the
Bee's tree. The next day, the people came back and started toward the Bee's hive for more syrup; but the briars around the tree scratched and tore at their
bodies. Some of the people made it through the briars to the hive. Covered in welts, they yelled at the Bees, "Give us some more syrup now, or we will do the
same as we did yesterday, kill your young and destroy your home!" The Bees became angry and a loud hum came from the hive in the tree, and out they
swarmed. The Bees stung the people all over until they were covered in welts and sent them running.
After that day, the people treated the Bees, flowers, and plants with great respect and always promised to replace whatever they asked for and never be
greedy or take more than they needed.