Cherokee Beliefs and Customs

 

Genocide of the Cherokee:

Lost Warrior Part 1 tells the story of the Cherokee in the pre-dawn of the American Revolution. During the French and Indian war, the English had already committed mass genocide upon Cherokee by infecting trade blankets with small pox. This action had killed off nearly half of the Cherokee Nation.

With the approach of the American Revolution the English Army  wiped out whole towns. This excerpt is based on a letter Lt. Marion wrote in the aftermath of Col. Grant’s Raid on Tomasse.  At the time of the raid all that remained were old men, women and Children. After which the Cherokee called Col. Grant “The Corn Puller”.

Excerpt: Lost Warrior Part 1

Lt. Marion – The aftermath Col. Grant’s Raid on Tomasee
Kneeling, he traces the small barefoot prints of a small child with his finger. His thoughts race, “ this could be my child’s print as easy as it could be the Indian woman’s child. The earth reveals no distinction in the foot prints as to creed or color?”
A sick feeling fills his soul as he walks on making his way through the burnt devastation of the once flourishing fields of corn. Entering the edge of town he looks around at the needless death of scalped old men, women and children. Their mutilated bodies relieved of genitalia and scalps sicken him. Their bodies covered in flies were left lying in pools of their dried blood to rot. Above him the vultures’ circle ever lower. They are impatiently waiting to pick the meat from these innocent victims of English greed. A vulture sweeps down on a corpse and immediately he begins to pick and pull ripping the meat from the bones. Even though Marion is a hardened militiaman he becomes physically sick at the sight and vomits.
As the town smolders and burns, Col. Grant’s Army makes camp. Marion can hear them laughing and bragging about their conquest. They count their bounty, bragging about the few coins they will receive for the scalps and genitalia. Deeply depressed and overcome with guilt Marion finds a secluded place away from everyone. He makes a secluded camp and builds a small fire. Sitting alone by the fire he turns his thoughts to the woman and child he smuggled to the river. However, his thoughts are on the women and children that were murdered. He rummages through his haversack hanging on his side. He takes out paper, a quill-pen and ink.
Filled with sorrow and shame he begins to write. “We proceeded, by Col. Grant’s orders under the leadership of Maj. Lewis, to burn the Indian cabins. Some of the men seemed to enjoy this cruel work but to me it appeared a shocking sight. Poor creatures, we surely need not grudge you such miserable habitations. But when we came to cut down the fields of corn, I could scarcely refrain from tears.
Filled with sorrow and shame he begins to write. “We proceeded, by Col. Grant’s orders under the leadership of Maj. Lewis, to burn the Indian cabins. Some of the men seemed to enjoy this cruel work but to me it appeared a shocking sight. Poor creatures, we surely need not grudge you such miserable habitations. But when we came to cut down the fields of corn, I could scarcely refrain from tears.
“Who, without grief, cut the staffs of life to whither and rot untasted in their mourning fields. I saw the footsteps of the little Indian children, where they had played under the shade of rustling corn. When we are gone, they will return with tearful eyes and mark the ghastly ruin where they had often played. ‘Who did this?’ they will ask. And the reply will be, the white people did it. The Christians did it!’ Thus for cursed mammon’s sake, the followers of Christ have sowed the selfish tares of hate in the bosoms of even pagan children.” As he signs his name, a tear drops to the paper, bleeding the ink.

Although weakened by reduced numbers the Clan System was still intact. Spiritual Belief systems were still intact. The power of their women were still intact. The bases for much of these atrocities were the Cherokee’s spiritual system and rejection of Christian beliefs and values. In particular the Cherokee’s empowerment of their women. The Cherokee referred to the white’s treatment of women, christianity and greed as the “ THE WHITE CURSE”.

The Clan System

The English failed to understand, The Clans, Spirituality and Women’s Rights were the strength of the Cherokee People. First of all their belief system. Human Worth. Demere said it best…
“One’s social standing or wealth does not deem one’s position or station in life. The people themselves, male and female alike each being their own master deem for themselves their station in life, with all stations excepted as having an equal worth.” Captain Raymond Demere the first commander of Fort Loudoun.
He also explained the Cherokee in this light, “The Savages are an odd kind of people; as there is no law nor subjection amongst them, they can’t be compelled to do anything nor oblige them to embrace any party except they please. The very lowest of them thinks himself as great and as high as any of the rest … but everyone is his own master.”
It is this reason, the Cherokee formed the first democratic form of government long before the white man stepped foot in America. The central government was a loose confederation of the towns, with no jurisdiction over the other towns. Each town had elected Headmen (not chiefs). The Peace Headman dealt with domestic issues and trade. The War Headman dealt with protection of of the Town, securing hunting grounds and retaliation against intruders white or other wise. Warriors (not braves) were both men and women and all of them were dressed as men when in battle. The Clan Heads were the representatives of their people. The strongest branch of their government was the Woman’s Council in all matters affecting the town. In addition, the Woman’s Council with the approval of the people appoints a Beloved Woman / War Woman. This position was granted to a woman that had proven herself in battle and the love for her people. She had the power to sit in council, act in treaty talks and had supreme pardon power for those condemned to death.
That leads me to the Cherokee Women – Women were the corner stone of the Cherokee. They owned the crops, the house and everything in it. The women picked their husbands. A man had no power over picking a wife. It was forbidden to marry within your clan. Children were under the umbrella of the Mother’s Clan. The husband had no say or input as a father figure in rearing children. That responsibility rested on the mother’s brothers or uncles. A woman signified she was married by braiding her hair and wrapping the braids tightly about her head. If a wife tired of her husband she would set his belongings outside the door and was free to pick another husband. If her husband died she remained in mourning for one year before picking another husband. Divorced or widowed the women let their hair hang loose or in a single pony tail. The abuse of a woman was punishment by fire. However, if a woman was shunned by the Woman’s Council for any reason, she was responsible for her own well being until she redeemed herself.

Spiritual Beliefs – “ The Good Peace” Peace with Mother Earth, Peace with your people and peace with Yo-He -Wa – The Creator. The Cherokee were deemed to be the caretakers of the earth by Yo-He-Wa. To maintain peace with Mother Earth, your people and Yo-He-wa required Going To Water. Regardless of weather conditions Going to Water was a ritual of bathing in the river every morning. Upon stripping naked the males, females and children all bathed together. They would submerge their heads and body four times to the four winds. The Cherokee believed in cleanliness, which by it’s self was a big contention with the Dirty Unaga as the Cherokee would say…

The American Revolution was a turning point for the colonist. It was also a turning point for the Cherokee. Lost Warrior Part 2 – Last Days of Greatness marks the beginning of what is to come for the Cherokee’s way of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Cherokee Beliefs and Customs

  1. I love the way you tell the stories all of them are true, but I havePTSD, love the book(red one) I’d love the other ones when can I get the 1st boot, I’m going to collect all of them & pass them to him when he’s older, he’s going to be 13yrs old in July, he’s a kind &caring old soul.take care my dear friend,Jo(JoAnne Fink)

    Liked by 1 person

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