The word Cherokee according to a Cherokee descendant means aniyun-wiga, when translated the name means real people or people of the mountains. However, the Europeans referred to them as the Tsalangi or the Jalagi meaning the people of the caves. The Cherokee later learnt to adapt to the new name given to them by the Europeans. The descendants of the Cherokee people claim that they settled in the South eastern parts of the United States of America in ancient times before the onset of the ice age. They do this by recalling the oral, traditional narratives passed down from their ancestors. Historians and traditionalists do not agree with them, and demand that they have been living in the area for a shorter period perhaps after the 13th century or the ice ageperiod.
According to aninsiderthe Cherokee peoplewere organizedinto groups of seven clans. Eachclanwas representedby an elder. The seven members formed thewhiteorganization in the society. This mostseniorpeoplewere the elders whowere calledthe ani-Kutani.They had a lot of powers in the community, and they had the power of cleansing the young warriors before they left for any kind of war.The priesthood was hereditary, and they had many duties apart from the one of cleansing the young warriors before they left for war. The other duties included; praying on behalf of the community members, healing the sick, and conducting religious activities in the community.
The younger group of men in the society was those who engaged in fighting.Theywere sometimes forcedto go intowartoprotectthem, even though thecommunitynever liked wars and termed it aspollutionof their purity.This second groupwas knownas the red organization. Their duty was to protect thecommunityagainst enemies andconquernew lands. The priests always purified them before they left for any war. Theywere also purifiedafter they came back fromwarin order to ensure that the spirits of those they killed in the war did notcontaminatethe village.
According to the Cherokee descendants they argue that thismethodwas ruinedwhen the priests started abusing the young warriors by taking their young wives as their own.This enraged the younger men, and they went into battle with the priests. This led to the death of many priests ruining thehierarchythat had been holding thegrouptogether for centuries. According to the outsiders they have the same view about the decline of the priests in the community. They say that the decline was as a result of the revolts by the young men against the priests who had developed the habit of abusing them and taking their wives. This was the beginning of democracy in the Cherokee community. When Ethnographers like James Mooney went to the area in the 1800s, a lot of things had changed, and there was notraceof the original organization of the community where the people depended on the priests for guidance. People were now basing their decisions on their ownindividualbelieves, and knowledge to make decisions. They were living their lives in an informal manner with noauthorityto respond to, and no priests topurifythem orgivethem advice.
The Cherokees spoke in Iroquoian language. This backs up their oral myths that they originated from the south because thegreatlakearea was the most commonsettingororiginfor the Iroquoian language.According to outsiders they say that the Cherokees might have broken off from a larger community as they were migrating from the northern region to the southern parts of the United States of America. They believe that this is the reason why they have some common words. This is because the Tuscarora inhabited the southern parts of the region in the historic times.Thiscommunicationis believedby the outsiders to be related to other languages like the Seneca, Mohawk and the Cayuga.Sequoyah developed a syllabify to be used in writing the Cherokee language in the years of 1770 to 1843. He used symbols to represent a syllable in a word. However, not all of the Cherokeepeopleaccept the fact that Sequoyah was the first person to devise a way of writing the Iroquoian language.They claim that this had been thegroup’s’ style of writing though thisstylehad been closely guidedwithin the community and the childrenwere swornto uphold it to themselves.
The outsiders, on the hand, think and believe that Sequoyah was the founder of this writingskilland give him credit for his discovery.This marked a new beginning for the Cherokees. They were now able to read and write and even started writing their own newspaper called the Cherokee Phoenix.It made it possible, for Durbin Feeling to write a dictionary in the Cherokeenativelanguage andtranslateit into English.This proved to be a difficult task because the verbs in the Cherokee language mayhaveup to 126 different forms when translated to the English language. The Language has not become extinct like most of the other indigenous languages.This has been due to itsconstantuse by the Cherokees and use in churches, also there are bilingual lessons taught in schools to ensure its continuity.Sources from medicine men, after themythof how to write the Cherokee language, showed that the writing stylewas usedinhighlyspiritual matters only.
The Cherokee people claim that there was noabnormalityin their community. They have amythto explain how the diseases that they started contacting began. Theyclaimthat it was due to an agreement by the wild animals they used tohuntdown for food. Thishad been madeeasier by theinventionof weapons that assisted them in hunting them down. The animals agreed that the hunter had to appease the spirit of theanimalhe slain.If he failed to do so themthe other animals wouldstrikehim down with a serious disease.The plants overheard the plans of the animals and came up with ways tosurethem. The Cherokee healers used the plants as herbs to cure the diseases caused by animals and performedpeculiarrituals.The outsiders do not have amythto explain neither how upset originated nor itscause.They, however,recognizethe fact that the people of the Cherokeecommunityused herbs from plants to cure diseases.
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The citizens of Cherokee according to insiders claim that their main food was meat from wild animals. This wasprimarilythe work of men. The outsiders claim that the main food of this population was crops grown in gardens owned by women.Women also went out to look for wild fruits and roots to use in the preparation of food.
The Cherokees were different outfits according to the seasons, gender or position held in the society. Priestsare believedto have been wearing long cloaks decorated with feathers and hats made of feathers. Chiefs wore the same attire. Ordinary men wore breechcloth, leggings and hunting jackets while women wore short skirts only. A noticeable thing about the men‘s appearance was the topknot left at after shaving their heads and tattoos on their faces.
The outsiders and insiders may differ in some aspects of the Cherokee’s history, but they tend to agree on most things. The outsiders seem toputbelieves of the insiders in a weighing scale.This is because an insider is a member of thecommunityand can be biased at times when stating specific facts about his or hercommunity.The insider explain the history of the Cherokees from a first hand experience and can even back up his points using standard oral narratives or songs that hehas been taughtever since he, or she was young andvalueto be true. The outsider, on the hand, relies on second hand information from the insiders or any other source of information to make his or herinterpretation. The outsiders seem to prove or disapprove of the findings of a member and vice versa.
However, most of the historical aspect of the Cherokees does not conflict despite the people who have written them. The difference is inadequate and is there because of the methods used tomakeconclusions. The outsiders rely on the anthropological findings, and other analytical methods to write about this history while the insider consult the other members of hiscommunityto find out things that he is not so sure of before he puts it down on paper. Therefore, it iscrucialfor the reader tocomparethe output of an insider and a stranger when doing a research on the history of agroupof people orthing. This will help him or her to determine where the truth lies anddomore research on the information that seems todiffer.
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