The ancient Cherokee believed there are seven levels of spiritual attainment or achievement and each clan represented one of those levels. Ah-ni-ga-to-ge-wi (ah knee gah too gee wee), or Wild Potato Clan, represented the material plane of earth or physical matter (earth). Membership in a particular clan did not mean that the members of the clan were in some way blocked or held at a particular level of spiritual development or attainment. The clans and their members were simply meant to represent a balance of the spiritual forces that made up the world of the Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya, “the Real People”, the Cherokee. All members of the society could participate in the ceremonies and were all viewed as equals.
As stated in Part I, the Cherokee society is historically a matrilineal society; meaning you are born into the clan of your mother. Traditionally, the women were the head of the household and the home and children belonged to her and stayed with her should she separate from her husband. It was forbidden to marry within your clan since clan members were considered brothers and sisters.
Traditionally, members of this clan were known to be 'keepers of the land,' and gatherers – the farmers. The wild potato was a main staple of the ancient Cherokee and this clan harvested the wild potato plants in swamps and along streams. This explains the “gatogewi” name which means “swamp”. They were also sometimes called Bear Clan (Since they reputedly provided food and shelter for the Bear), Raccoon Clan and Blind Savannah or Blind Swamp People depending upon the region.
They made flour or bread and were responsible for gathering, caring for, and preserving food in the village. Their flag is yellow with green stars today and their color is green and wood is birch.
Famous Cherokee members of the Wild Potato Clan include: Bad Water, Clogoittah, Eagle, Golanv, Great Eagle, Grey Eagle, Kitegista, Kituah, Mankiller, Oconostota, Oukah, Ounaconoa, Raven of Hiawassee, Ridge, Skalilosgenv, Susie, Tuckahoe, Wickett, Wilenawa.
The following is quoted from Papa JimBear, a designated representative to The Chief's Council of The Free Cherokee, one of five elders that were selected by the Clan to represent it's collective wishes before all the people (learn more at: http://www.freecherokee.org/potato/index.html) :
“We chose the Sweet Potato as our Clan symbol because it reminds us that our humanity/humility is more important than ego. The sweet potato is rather course and rough looking on the outside, but is nutritious and sweet on the inside. Let us be judged for what is on the inside (in our hearts) and not by what one perceives on the outside. At the center of our Clan shield, I painted a wild potato blossom. It is born out of sweet potato tubers.......this is to symbolize the honor we have for all parts of our mixed heritages, because indeed they are all connected. As Cherokee lore suggests, the wild potato provided sustenance for The People when hunting was not good and crops failed; and the sweet potato, also a morning glory family relative, is a staple in our modern world.
“We feel it is our responsibility to nurture and provide healing to both family and The Mother. Most of us practice some method of healing, whether physical or spiritual and we wish to offer this as part of our service to the community as a whole. As with the traditional Wild Potato Clan, we have strong bear medicine within our group, and are guided by our four legged relation.”
Continue to Part 3
-- Courtney Miller