- Education and Science
Cherokee Stories and Legends
Cherokee Stories and Legends The Spirit Of The Cherokee People
Ani-Yun-Wiya "the People", others called us by many names, Charake, Tsalagi, Tchereke, Cheerake, Tsaragi, most people today call us Cherokee.
Cherokee Stories and Legends are the window of the Cherokee (Ani-Yun-Wiya) beliefs and through that window that are the stories, you will learn how the Cherokee people see the world.
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced... Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
"Not As Long"
ORIGIN OF THE PLEIADES
Long ago, when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatayÃ»Â´sti game, rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it.
Their mothers scolded, but it did no good, so one day their mothers collected some gatayÃ»Â´stÃ¯ stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner.
When the boys came home hungry their mothers dipped out the stones and said, "Since you like the gatayÃ»Â´sti better than the cornfield, take the stones now for your dinner."
The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, "As our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we shall 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 earth, and that with every round they rose higher and higher in the air.
The mothers ran to get their children, but it was too late, for they were already above the roof of the townhouse--all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayÃ»Â´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 still call AniÂ´tsutsa (The Boys). 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 hold in itself the same bright light.
THE SEVEN DANCERS - THE PLEIADES
ORIGIN OF STRAWBERRIES
When the first man was created and a mate was given to him, they lived together very happily for a time, but then began to quarrel, until at last the woman left her husband and started off toward NÃ»Ã±dÃ¢gÃ»Ã±Â´yi, the Sun land, in the east.
The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until UneÂ´'lanÃ»Ã±Â´hi, the great Apportioner (the Sun), took pity on him and asked him if he was still angry with his wife. He said he was not, and UneÂ´'lanÃ»Ã±Â´hi then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.
So UneÂ´'lanÃ»Ã±Â´hi caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paying any attention to them.
Farther on he put a clump of blackberries, but these also she refused to notice. Other fruits, one, two, and three, and then some trees covered with beautiful red service berries, were placed beside the path to tempt her, but she still went on until suddenly she saw in front a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known.
She stooped to gather a few to eat, and as she picked them she chanced to turn her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to go on.
She sat down, but the longer she waited the stronger became her desire for her husband, and at last she gathered a bunch of the finest berries and started back along the path to give them to him.
He met her kindly and they went home together.
THE STRAWBERRYS ORIGIN
WHY THE MOLE LIVES UNDERGROUND
A man was in love with a woman who disliked him and would have nothing to do with him. He tried every way to win her favor, but to no purpose, until at last he grew discouraged and made himself sick thinking over it.
The Mole came along, and finding him in such low condition asked what was the trouble. The man told him the whole story, and when he had finished the Mole said: "I can help you, so that she will not only like you, but will come to you of her own will."
So that night the Mole burrowed his way underground to where the girl was in bed asleep and took out her heart. He came back by the same way and gave the heart to the man, who could not see it even when it was put into his hand.
"There," said the Mole, "swallow it, and she will be drawn to come to you and can not keep away." The man swallowed the heart, and when the girl woke up she somehow thought at once of him, and felt a strange desire to be with him, as though she must go to him at once.
She wondered and could not understand it, because she had always disliked him before, but at last the feeling grew so strong that she was compelled to go herself to the man and tell him she loved him and wanted to be his wife.
So they were married, but all the magicians who had known them both were surprised and wondered how it had come about. When they found that it was the work of the Mole, whom they had always before thought too insignificant for their notice, they were very jealous and threatened to kill him so that he hid himself under the ground and has never since dared to come up to the surface.
Some Things Never Change
THE ORIGIN OF CORN AND GAME
A man and a woman reared a large family of children in comfort and plenty, with very little trouble about providing food for them.
Every morning the father went forth and very soon returned bringing with him a deer, a turkey, or some other animal or fowl.
At the same time the mother went out and soon returned with a large basket filled with ears of corn which she shelled and pounded in a mortar, thus making meal for bread.
When the children grew up, seeing with what apparent food was provided for them, they talked to each other about it, wondering that they never saw such things as their parents brought in.
At last one proposed to watch when their parents went out and to follow them.
Accordingly next morning the plan was carried out. Those who followed the father saw him stop a short distance from the cabin and turn over a large stone that appeared to be carelessly leaned against another.
On looking closely they saw an entrance to a large cave, and in it were many different kinds of animals and birds, such as their father had sometimes brought in for food.
The man standing at the entrance called a deer, which was lying at some distance back of some other animals. It rose immediately as it heard the call and came close to him. He picked it up, closed the mouth of the cave, and returned, not once seeming to suspect what his sons had done.
When the old man was fairly out of sight , his sons, rejoicing how they had outwitted him, left their hiding place and went to the cave, saying they would show the old folks that they, too, could bring in something.
They moved the stone away, though it was very heavy and they were obliged to use all their united strength. When the cave was opened, the animals, instead of waiting to be picked up, all made a rush for the entrance, and leaping past the the frightened and bewildered boys, scattered in all directions and disappeared in the wilderness, while the guilty offenders could do nothing but gaze in stupified amazement as they saw them escape.
There were animals of all kinds, large and small - buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, raccoons, and squirrels; even catamounts and panthers, wolves and foxes, and many others, all fleeing together.
At the same time birds of every kind were seen emerging from the opening, all in the same wild confusion as the quadrupeds - turkeys, geese, swans, ducks, quails, eagles, hawks, and owls.
Those who followed the mother saw her enter a small cabin, which they had never seen before, and close the door.
The culprits found a small crack through which they could peer. They saw the woman place a basket on the ground and standing over it shake herself vigorously, jumping up and down, when lo and behold! large ears of corn began to fall in the basket. When it was well filled she took it up and, placing it on her head, came out, fastened the door, and prepared their breakfast as usual.
When the meal had been finished in silence the man spoke to his children, telling them that he was aware of what they had done; that now he must die and they would be obliged to provide for themselves.
He made bows and arrows for them, then sent them to hunt for the animals which they had turned loose.
Then the mother told them that as they had found out her secret she could do nothing more for them; that she would die, and they must drag her body around over the ground; that wherever her body was dragged corn would come up.
Of this they were to make their bread. She told them that they must always save some for seed and plant every year.
CORN AND GAME
Trail of Tears: - Cherokee Legacy Native American Indian
LEGEND OF THE CHEROKEE ROSE
In the latter half of 1838, Cherokee People who had not voluntarily moved west earlier were forced to leave their homes in the East.
The trail to the West was long and treacherous and many were dying along the way. The People's hearts were heavy with sadness and their tears mingled with the dust of the trail.
The Elders knew that the survival of the children depended upon the strength of the women. One evening around the campfire, the Elders called upon Heaven Dweller, ga lv la di e hi. They told Him of the People's suffering and tears. They were afraid the children would not survive to rebuild the Cherokee Nation.
Gal v la di e hi spoke to them, "To let you know how much I care, I will give you a sign. In the morning, tell the women to look back along the trail. Where their tears have fallen, I will cause to grow a plant that will have seven leaves for the seven clans of the Cherokee. Amidst the plant will be a delicate white rose with five petals. In the center of the blossom will be a pile of gold to remind the Cherokee of the white man's greed for the gold found on the Cherokee homeland. This plant will be sturdy and strong with stickers on all the stems. It will defy anything which tries to destroy it."
The next morning the Elders told the women to look back down the trail. A plant was growing fast and covering the trail where they had walked. As the women watched, blossoms formed and slowly opened. They forgot their sadness. Like the plant the women began to feel strong and beautiful. As the plant protected its blossoms, they knew they would have the courage and determination to protect their children who would begin a new Nation in the West.
THE CHEROKEE ROSE
Little People of the Cherokee
The Little People of the Cherokee are a race of Spirits who live in rock caves on the mountain side. They are little fellows and ladies reaching almost to your knees. They are well shaped and handsome, and their hair so long it almost touches the ground. They are very helpful, kind-hearted, and great wonder workers. They love music and spend most of their time drumming, singing, and dancing. They have a very gentle nature, but do not like to be disturbed.
Sometimes their drums are heard in lonely places in the mountains, but it is not safe to follow it, for they do not like to be disturbed at home, and they will throw a spell over the stranger so that he is bewildered and loses his way, and even if he does at last get back to the settlement he is like one dazed ever after. Sometimes, also, they come near a house at night and the people inside hear them talking, but they must not go out, and in the morning they find the corn gathered or the field cleared as if a whole force of men had been at work. If anyone should go out to watch, he would die.
When a hunter finds anything in the woods, such as a knife or a trinket, he must say, 'Little People, I would like to take this' because it may belong to them, and if he does not ask their permission they will throw stones at him as he goes home.
Some Little People are black, some are white and some are golden like the Cherokee. Sometimes they speak in Cherokee, but at other times they speak their own 'Indian' language. Some call them "Brownies".
Little people are here to teach lessons about living in harmony with nature and with others. There are three kinds of Little People. The Laurel People, the Rock People, and the Dogwood People.
The Rock People are the mean ones who practice "getting even" who steal children and the like. But they are like this because their space has been invaded.
The Laurel People play tricks and are generally mischievous. When you find children laughing in their sleep - the Laurel People are humorous and enjoy sharing joy with others.
Then there are the Dogwood People who are good and take care of people.
The lessons taught by the Little People are clear. The Rock People teach us that if you do things to other people out of meanness or intentionally, it will come back on you. We must always respect other people's limits and boundaries. The Laurel People teach us that we shouldn't take the world too seriously, and we must always have joy and share that joy with others. The lessons of the Dogwood People are simple - if you do something for someone, do it out of goodness of your heart. Don't do it to have people obligated to you or for personal gain.
In Cherokee beliefs, many stories contain references to beings called the Little People. These people are supposed to be small mythical characters, and in different beliefs they serve different purposes.
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