Monday, September 19, 2011

Cherokee People

Cherokee People
I have completed the first novel of a trilogy, Mysteries of the Cherokee Hideaway; The Garden of Eve. The book is about our local Indian people who hid in the Warrior Mountains in order to avoid the harsh consequences of the forced Indian removal era in our American history. My book is now with the publisher and should be in print shortly. Below you can find a very brief synopsis of the struggles Cherokee people faced after the arrival of white settlers into their ancestral lands. These difficulties faced by our native people will be included within the mysteries found in my soon to be published book. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.

An accurate history of the Cherokee people has been difficult to document. Much of this record was lost before historians could record it. Many who attempted to preserve it often lamented that much of that history before 1700 was buried with those who created it. With the arrival of Europeans to their territory, the Cherokee made an amazingly rapid transformation in their ancient culture and rituals. With this change, some of the traditions, rituals, and customs vanished as the tribe sought to blend into the strange world of the newcomers.

There were a number of sympathizers who attempted to recreate and preserve this history by living with and associating with the members of the Cherokee Nation. There were several notable individuals who interviewed many of the elderly tribal members. They recorded their findings and left us with what little we know about the ancient tribe.

John Howard Payne probably spent more time intermingling with the tribe and recording his findings. He left extensive, handwritten manuscripts of his efforts to preserve as much of their history as possible. Unfortunately, according to some who reviewed his work, he had very poor handwriting and it is difficult to read his script. There are fourteen volumes of these manuscripts.

James Mooney was another person who made an important contribution to this effort. He made friends of an old Cherokee man who had the name of Swimmer. Even though Swimmer did not know English, he was knowledgeable in the Cherokee alphabet and could write the language. He not only recited oral traditions but also provided a notebook in which he had written, in the Cherokee language, many of the sacred formulas of the tribe. As a result of Mooney’s relationship with the Cherokee, he was able to ascertain that they held constant, long standing systems of beliefs which they held sacred.

William Harlen Gilbert, Jr., James Adair, Charles Hudson, Thomas E Mayes, and others also made valuable contributions by make diligent studies of Native Americans and authoring books that contain valuable accounts of their findings. A constant theme of their writings was their failure to learn more about the subject of which they wrote.

The exact time of the arrival of the Cherokee into what is now the Southeastern United States is unknown. Sometime between 1000 and 1500, probably around 1300 AD, a group of people who would be know as Cherokee made the southern move. They laid claim to land and settled in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. They built their homes and villages along waterways and near springs where they carried on their ancient way of life. There was an abundant food supply and favorable environment where they lived, raised their families and buried their dead without foreign interference. There were occasional conflicts between tribes but they lived in relative peace until the arrival of the white man.

Likewise, the exact number of Cherokees cannot be determined, but there were a substantial number of Cherokees here when the Europeans arrived. As with other Native Americans that were here, their numbers were greatly reduced due to diseases that were introduced by the Europeans of which they had no resistance.  Around 1800 the struggles of the Southeastern Indian tribes grew steadily more difficult. The Cherokee, in a peaceful manner, unlike some other tribes, attempted to develop a stable government in their traditional territorial boundaries which would be acceptable to the expanding state of the union. They were soon to realize, however, that all of their efforts to maintain control of their homeland would be in vain.

In 1819 the Cherokee Indians had twelve million acres of land. Fast forward twenty years and there would be only a small area in Western North Carolina on which they could lay claim. The bulk of Cherokee land would be taken from them by the government of the United States and the States in which they lived. They were forced to move to newly established Indian Territory in Oklahoma and their land was divided into parcels and sold to white settlers; no Cherokee need to apply-they had already been tossed out and not welcomed in those parts. The majority of the full blood Cherokee opposed the removal but was forced to make the long journey to the west of the Mississippi River. Many died on the march which is now know as “The Trail of Tears.”

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