Thursday, June 11, 2015

Preserving the Culture: Introduction

 
In ancient times, the Cherokee culture was preserved and passed on to each generation through ceremony and oral stories.  It was an informal process that incorporated changes slowly and naturally over the ages.  Cultures change as new generations bring new ideas and new interpretations to old traditions.  Cultures are influenced by their neighbors, by changing climate, by changing food sources, by war, and by changing political influences.
 
Today, we have but hints and whispers of the ancient Cherokee culture.  So much has vanished under the influence of the European explorers, colonists, and the formation of the new European-American governments.  The pressures and influences of this foreign culture forced the Cherokee to examine what had once been a natural progression and introduced the conscious effort of “preserving the culture”.
 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Author's Book Praised by Native Americans

With the release of my new book, The Raven Mocker’s Legacy, this week’s article takes a look at the first two books of The Cherokee Chronicles series and their impact on the Native American community.

Author’s New Book praised by Natchez Chief
 K. T. “Hutke” Fields, Uvcenv Cunv Uvsel, Principal Chief of the Natchez Nation, has great praise for award-winning author Courtney Miller’s new book, “The Raven Mocker’s Legacy”, Book 2 of a 7-book series entitled “The Cherokee Chronicles”. The chronicles follows a fictional Cherokee family starting in mythical times and follows the generations through classical pre-contact, first contact, European colonization, and ends with the forced relocation of the Cherokee people in the 1800’s.
 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cherokee Fables: The Bird Tribes, Part 2

The ancient Cherokee’s connection to the “Bird Tribes” is fascinating and we are so fortunate that the elders and medicine men shared their stories with James Mooney in the 1870’s.  Here is the continuing account from his book, Myths of the Cherokee.
 
Raven on tree stumpThe raven (kâ’länû) is occasionally seen in the mountains, but is not prominent in folk belief, excepting in connection with the grewsome tales of the Raven Mocker (q. v.). In former times its name was sometimes assumed as a war title. The crow, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, does not seem to appear in that of the Cherokee. Three varieties of owls are recognized, each under a different name, viz: tskïlï’ [also tsigili], the dusky horned owl (Bubo virginianus saturatus); u’guku’, the barred or hooting owl (Syrnium nebulosum), and wa`huhu’, the screech owl (Megascops asio). The first of these names signifies a witch, the others being onomatopes. Owls and other night-crying birds are believed to be embodied ghosts or disguised witches, and their cry is dreaded as a sound of evil omen. If the eyes of a child be bathed with water in which one of the long wing or tail feathers of an owl has been soaked, the child will be able to keep awake all night. The feather must be found by chance, and not procured intentionally for the purpose. On the other hand, an application of water in which the feather of a blue jay, procured in the same way, has been soaked will make the child an early riser.
 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cherokee Fables: Bird Tribes, Part 1


The sky is the flyway of the bird, whose freedom is to light and go at will … .  When evening shadows fall upon the earth and a lone jet cuts the puffy clouds with straight lines, it does not bother the birds.  They chirp and murmur night sounds and settle down to sleep.  We forget and think we are all there is. –Joyce Sequichie Hifler (A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume 2)
 
This morning (Monday, May 11, 2015) while I brushed the snow off our solar panels, my best friend Näkwïsï’ (Meadowlark) serenaded loudly, proudly, and eloquently from the flocked lawn.  He was not serenading for me but for a beautiful, quiet lady wearing a golden blouse adorned with a black necklace.  She pretended to ignore him knowing it would inspire him to sing bolder and more melodious; to be more inventive and creative; to be more alluring and beguiling.  She has the heart of a woman and he the heart of a man in courtship and it is beautiful. [listen to a pretty nakwisi
 
And so I am inspired to share the beautiful concept of the Cherokee bird tribes as told by a Cherokee Medicine man to James Mooney in 1887-90.
 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cherokee Fables: The Rabbit and the Possum after a Wife

Spring is here and with the month of May comes the season for weddings!  The ancient Cherokee told a funny story about the devious rabbit and the lazy possum who decide to team up to find wives.
 
In most of the stories involving the rabbit, the Cherokee portrayed them as clever, devious, and the penultimate trickster.  The Cherokee rabbit fables are so similar to the “Uncle Remus” and “Brer Rabbit” fables, that I think they must be connected.  [refer to my article: Tar Baby vs Tar Wolf]

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Native American Firsts

 
640px-A_Quechua_girl_and_her_Llama
The January issue of National Geographic magazine is called “The Firsts Issue”.  I think that Native Americans might “take issue” with some of the “firsts”.   Chocolate is one of the very few firsts attributed to ancient Americans.  So, maybe we should revisit this topic from a Native American bias.
 
Since the earliest date for American occupation only goes back to 16,000 B.C., I guess we’ll have start there to see how Native Americans compete with mankind’s firsts.  Well, on the National Geographic Firsts Chart only the control of fire is listed as a first before 16,000 B.C.   So, everything else is fair game.
 
 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Brothers on Parade

Tonight, April 23, 2015, is an interesting night for sky watchers.  At 8 pm Mountain Time, right after the sun goes down, you may be able to see a parade of prominent star brothers.  Just after Grandmother Sun sets, she is followed by Mars and Mercury, then the Ani Tsutsa (Pleiades Constellation), then the Evening Star (Venus),  and then the crescent Moon.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Native American Skies: Eclipse Legends



A couple of weeks ago, we observed a “Lunar Eclipse”.  Because this year is when the moon is in its minor “Lunar Standstill” (refer to article on Lunar Standstill at Chimney Rock), it was the shortest Lunar Eclipse for many years.  Because of the nature of the Moon’s and the Earth’s planes of orbit, an eclipse is an irregular event, that is, it appears to happen randomly.


 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chaco Phenomenon (Yupkoyvi): A Hopi Story

The civilization that inhabited the canyon in central New Mexico known as “Chaco Canyon” was indeed a “phenomenon”.  Despite extensive archaeological study, there is little known of the society or the people that lived there.  It seems to defy fitting into a known political and/or ritual society.  As Lynne Sebastian, director of historic preservation programs at the SRI Foundation, puts it, “The extraordinary archaeological record of this society indicates both a strong political structure and an intense emphasis on ritual.”
 
So, why not look at the descendants of the people that lived in Chaco Canyon one thousand years ago?  Again from Sebastian, “these descendants have not only tenaciously survived, but have, to a remarkable extent, been able to preserve knowledge of their traditional lifeways.”  But, she sees their preserved knowledge as both a blessing and a curse, “. . . a blessing because it provides us with the potential for detailed, clearly applicable analogies for a wide variety of past behaviors.  It is a curse because the richness of the living cultures makes it too easy to grow myopic and not consider other cultural patterns from beyond this region.”
 
This is a preview of Chaco Phenomenon (Yupkoyvi): A Hopi Story. Read the full post (1117 words, 15 images, estimated 4:28 mins reading time)

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dark Skies in Westcliffe/Silvercliff

For many centuries, dark skies filled with billions of twinkling stars was taken as a matter of fact.  Shepherds, nomads, farmers and travelers used the sky to guide them and teach them.  The movements and cycles of the heavens were well-known and closely observed by all.  But, as populations have grown, first candle light and now electric lights have slowly started to block out the night sky with their light domes.
Until recently, there were only eight places in the world “certified” as “Dark Sky Communities” by the International Dark-Skies Association headquartered in Tucson, Arizona.  They are:
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Borregos Springs, California
  • Isle of Sark, Channel Islands
  • Homer Glen, Illinois
  • Isle of Coll, Scotland
  • Dripping Springs, Texas
  • Beverly Shores, Indiana
  • Sedona, Arizona

Thursday, March 19, 2015

First American: New Discoveries

It seems that every year discoveries push back the date for the first Americans.  The January edition of the National Geographic magazine features an article on the discovery of a young teenaged girl who fell to her death into one of the many cenotes, or sink holes, in Central American Yucatan 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.  Although this date is roughly the date Clovis points were being manufactured in New Mexico and does not push back the date of first Americans,  of significance is its connection to the “Kennewick Man” discovered along the Columbia River in Washington.
 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill in Chaco Canyon

March 05, 2015
  
Earth-Moon declinations
In any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year.  When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices.  The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices.  [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill at Chimney Rock

During the month, the moon rises at different points across the eastern horizon.  When it reaches the farthest point north it pauses, or rises in the same spot for a couple of days, and then reverses course.  This pause is called a “Lunar Standstill”.  The same thing happens two weeks later at its farthest point south.   You may have noticed that the sun does the same thing, but it takes the sun a year to move from its farthest point north (Summer Solstice) to its farthest point south (Winter Solstice) and back again.  At each solstice, the sun pauses before reversing course and this is called a Solar Standstill. 

[refer to last week’s article: Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstil

197px-Ecliptic_plane_3d_viewHave you noticed how fast the earth has been moving lately?  Probably not, but in fact the earth moves faster in the winter than in the summer.  The reason is because the earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit, not circular, so as the earth gets closer to the sun it speeds up and as it flies away from the sun it slows down.  In North America, the winter half of the year is approximately eight days shorter than the summer half.
 

 

 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Cherokee Valentine

Saturday is Valentines Day, a national holiday in the United States, but what does it mean to Native Americans?
 
For the Cherokee in ancient times, this time of the year was known as “Kagali”, or the “Bony
Moon”.  It has been said that the reason for the name stems from there being less food available so the people were chewing on the bones.  It was also a time for remembering the deceased, celebrated with fasting, a dance, and ritual observance led by the Uku or “Didanawiskawi” (medicine person).
 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 5: Arrogant and Proud Barbarians

Garcilasco de la Vega, "The Inca"
In his account of the Soto expedition, “The Inca” [see Part 1] gives what I believe to be the most accurate and eloquent account of the attitudes of the Spaniards towards the Indians, and the Indians towards the Spaniards I have ever read.  So, this week, I want to simply quote his articulate description of those attitudes.  Note: the Inca’s reference to “Acuera” does not agree with other chroniclers.  However, it was most likely the chief of the “Timucua” Indians that Soto was trying to befriend.
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 4: Panfilo de Narvaez

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
Inspired by the stories of Cabeza de Vaca, who had survived in North America after becoming a castaway and just returned to Spain, in 1540,  Hernando de Soto petitioned the King of Spain and was appointed governor of Cuba and granted the right to explore and colonize North America [refer to Part 1].   Cabeza de Vaca had originally gone to Florida with Panfilo de Narvaez in 1527.   The King of Spain had granted Narvaez the right to explore and colonize Florida and de Vaca was his second in command.
 
Panfilo de Narvaez

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 3: Ponce de Leon

Juan Ponce de Leon
Hernando de Soto was not the first to make contact with Native Americans in Florida.  As “The Inca” [Part 1] tells in his chronicles of the expedition, “The first Spaniard who discovered La Florida was Juan Ponce de Leon, a gentleman who was a native of Leon and a nobleman, having been governor of Puerto Rico.  Inasmuch as the Spaniards of that time thought of nothing except the discovery of new lands, he fitted out two caravels and went in search of an island they called Bimini or, according to others, Buyoca.  There, according to fabulous tales of the Indians, was a fountain that rejuvenated the aged.  He traveled in search of it for many days, lost, and without finding it.  At the end of this time he was driven by a storm on the coast to the north of Cuba, which coast he named Florida because of the day on which he saw it being Easter.”
 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 2: Like Deer

In 1537, after amassing a sizable fortune as a conquistador, slave trader, and business man in South America, Hernando de Soto quickly grew bored of civilian life in Spain and acquired permission from King Charles I of Spain to  conquer, colonize, (and plunder) what was then known as Florida and, in addition was made governor of Cuba. [see Part 1]
 

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 1: Hernando de Soto

This is part of a series of articles by Courtney Miller on the subject of “First Contact”–the initial contact of the Native Americans with the Europeans. “The Soto Expedition” delves into Hernando de Soto’s commission from King Charles I of Spain to “conquer and colonize” Florida.
 
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto
Part 1: Hernando de Soto
 
Hernando de Soto, grew up poor in the impoverished Extremadura region of southwestern Spain and dreamed of travelling to the New World to make a fortune. Around the age of 14, de Soto managed to join an expedition to the West Indies led by Pedro Arias Dávila where he earned a fortune from Dávila’s conquest of Panama and Nicaragua. Sixteen years later, he was the leading slave trader and one of the richest men in Nicaragua.