Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cherokee Misconceptions, Part 1

Recently [May 9, 2013 issue], I wrote an article on Cherokee Misconceptions.  It was such a success, I am going to expand on it by popular request.  In this series, I will be addressing in detail ten of the more common misconceptions about the Cherokee:

1. The Cherokee lived in Tipi’s.
2. The Cherokee were masterful horsemen and cruised in bark canoes
3. Cherokee squaws walked 10 paces behind their husbands
4. Squaw is an insult referencing a woman’s private parts
5. Cherokee were noble savages relying on their hunting skills
6. Cherokee slaves were granted Cherokee citizenship
7. You may be the descendant of a Cherokee princess
8. Only Cherokee chiefs wore feathered headdresses
9. A type of leprechaun lived in the Cherokee mountains
10. The Cherokee had a written constitution of their own.

Think you know the truth?  You may be surprised!  I have found that the Cherokee were nothing like the Native American portrayed in movies and on T.V.  Follow me to discover what the Cherokee called: the Ani-Yun Wiya, which means “The Real People”.

First, most people are surprised to learn that the Cherokee did not live in Tipi’s.  That is mainly because the American Indian that we see in Westerns almost always lives in a Tipi.  Well, in defense of Westerns, the point in history when settlers were moving west to start a new life they were pushing into the United States plains and bumping up against the Plains Indians many of whom did, in fact, live in Tipi’s.  Oddly, though, there were a number of tribes that the settlers came across that did not live in Tipi’s but they are rarely shown in movies or T.V.

The Cherokee originally lived in South Carolina, Kentucky, northern Georgia.  Mostly in the area we call the Great Smoky Mountains.  The United States had grown to include these states and the Cherokee Territories were being whittled away by treaties and outright encroachment.  In 1836, under president Andrew Jackson’s direction, the Cherokee people were rounded up and relocated to Oklahoma ("for their own good").  That awful trek through one of the worst winters on record came to be known by the Cherokee as “the trail of tears.”  That is another subject.

The time that I am focusing on in these articles is the time before the Europeans came to America.  As you can see in the examples in the picture, the American Indian lived in many different types of houses.  If you picked “Wattle and Daub” for the Cherokee, you would be correct.  The Cherokee were not nomadic like the Plains Indians.  If you were to go back in time and visit an ancient Cherokee village, your first impression might be that you were visiting a frontier fort.  The villages of the Cherokee were surrounded by palisaded walls.  But inside the walls, the villages were very different from a frontier fort, there were streets lined with frame stucco houses that would look quite modern. 
A large seven-sided Council House would sit majestically atop a large, rectangular mound.  Across from the Council House would have been a large field used for Ball Play (the Anetsa was similar to today’s LaCrosse) and used for dances and ceremonies.  Beside each house their would have been a large, domed dwelling, called an asi, used to keep warm in winter and for many private ceremonies and functions.  The houses often were multi-roomed with windows for light and ventillation.  Bedrooms would have had beds and bunks very familiar to what we use today.

The Cherokee at that time were farmers as well as hunters and were recognized by the colonists, rightly so, as “a civilized tribe.”
--Courtney Miller
Author of the "Cherokee Chronicles"
is currently available at a book store
near you or at Barnes and Noble and

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