Around 1300 A.D. ; the Cherokees had a disagreement between two major Chiefs, which resulted in a break off. These people in the break off, now called themselves the "Creek Nation". Originally there were many clans. As of 1835 there are seven clans of the Chickamauga Cherokee please see http://www.cherokee-nc.com/index.php?page=61
Homes were called " Long Houses ", which housed up to 30 families inside. Each had their own own apartment type area, complete privacy and all utilized a central fire. Smaller fires were used as Council or Sacred fires, and no one could cook on these.The central cooking fire was not only the place where everyone cooked and fed anyone who wanted to eat, but also a meeting place to have conversation, etc. In the village there were also "Sweat Lodges", these were huts built for ceremonial purification. Mixed sweats are often carried out by many tribes, but the Cherokees, maintained Women's / and Men's separate sweat lodges. Then there was also a "Healing Lodge", where the Medicine man/woman healed the ill and injured. Then there was also a "Women's Moon Lodge", strictly for women. The men had a "Sun Lodge", for there purposes. Then there was the "Birthing Lodge", for the need required. In some villages the Chief had his/her own lodge. And although the Cherokees did not implement or encourage promiscuity, there were some girls who lived in this manner, and so they had lodges on the outside edge of the village site.
Now in today's society, there is a portion of the worlds population that live as homosexuals. This was also present in Native cultures of all tribes. But unlike today's cultural attitudes, Native Americans treated these people as "special", as they were different from most, and in being so, walked with Spirits. These people were considered "Contraries". Now there are two types of Contraries in our culture; those who choose their own gender, and those who live in all manners backwards to the norm. This could be quite dangerous in war times if it turned out to be a contrary of the latter who needed to deliver a message.
Among the seven clans was a blood law, which mandated no one could marry within his/her own clan, thus stopping handicapped births. Among many tribes, children born with a handicap where drowned, not because of cruelty, but in fact with times being survival, the tribe could not assume responsibility of a child, and especially if in time its' parents died.
In death, the persons family prepared the body, washed it, and dressed the deceased person in their finest outfits, and after the Shaman had done a ceremony to help guide the person's Spirit to the night land, the person was put in a sitting position (or in ancient days, placed in a fetal position and placed in a woven burial basket) then weapons, tools, clothing, and anything personal were placed in the grave. The person was placed so his head faced west. Respect for the dead is of utmost sincerity. The desecration of a burial place, or its remains, was a death sentence. This is why Natives today, are strongly against grave robbers, or those fortune hunters who disturb a burial mound. To do so today, can easily buy a person a nice sized fine as well as a prison sentence. But can you blame us? Would you wish your mothers or fathers grave disturbed?
As a child was born, it was given a native name, now this could be something the mother saw, or a condition of birth. Then in some cultures, when the child reached adolescence, it was given a woman's life giving name, or a boy received one from an action, or way of being. Both sexes of children where highly prized by the Cherokees. Some tribes among the plains however, regarded female children as mere secondary citizens, as boys were more prized for the warrior he would someday be. Girls in those cases could be traded or often taken as second wives. However, among the Cherokee and Iroquois peoples, women were highly respected as life givers, and men looked upon as warriors. Unlike white cultures of that period, where white women held their place in the home, and had the children; Native women did the same but also farmed, and went to into battle beside their husbands as warrior women. Pre-European contact; Native women were the Chiefs; but upon contact, the Europeans would not meet or talk with the women, and considered women less than a mans value; thus the Native created male Chief roles, but the women still maintained the tribes true leadership in the Women's' Long House. Europeans were so disrespectful, to go as far as calling us "Squaws". Now the word originally was Squawitchiwaw, meaning woman chief... also to simply say squaw, meant "no penis", which was already obvious to all. So Native regard this term with the highest disrespect.
A woman was/is highly respected and treasured in the tribe, as she was daughter of Mother Earth, a life giver. Man was respected too, but revered in a different way. When a child was born, it was the uncles who raised it in a fathers way, and all the females were considered its aunt or sister. When referring to Elders they were always addressed as grandmother or grandfather. A Shaman or Medicine man is traditionally referred to as uncle/aunt. There are no strangers among Cherokees, as we address each other as cousin.
Now some may have heard of Vision Quests, these are/were special times, prepared for by prayer and fasting... to seek truths, and guidance from the Creator and Spirits. Also a person could seek visions through dreams, the sweat lodge, birthing, or name giving.
Now to address another thing about Native Americans; we were not as Europeans preferred to call us; Savages. We believed and still believe in one Creator, he has many name of reference, but he is indeed our Creator. We pray/prayed with respect and gratitude for all things from love to war. We Have/had moral laws much like the ten commandments, and we believed and still do that a persons word is their bond. The Europeans made Treaties, very few held. Their words were as the wind, here now, but gone too. We did not kill others in battle, we counted coup. We did not scalp until the French taught us how. We were children in Eden until the Europeans wished to modernize and develop our culture.
In the American culture, races of people live and breath racism. Some have known slavery, but have come to an almost equal state of being. Some have been the subjects of racial and tribal genocide. Everyone is having a difficult time adjusting to the other. But for the most part they can easily say they are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic. They choose religious beliefs and churches, even schools. You do not need to prove who you are. But as Native Americans, we are truly lost Americans. This is our Mother Land, we today fight for equal schooling, jobs, and housing. Some live with malnutrition, starvation, and inadequate homes and health clinics. We still have laws that segregate us,which are still active in courts today. We must prove who we are with a B.I.A., enrollment card. Some are not counted as citizens in this country, but pass taxes, and die in world battles. Our children whom are full blood suffer disrespect and hate from many, everyday. And those of mixed heritage, because of government laws, have no belonging in the white or red world, and must fight to be seen as humans. I have lived this fight and battle all of my life. Mother Earth, a great lady, whom the Creator entrusted us all, cry's daily for her people. Her heart beats strong for all, but we in today's culture must care for her everyday, better than the last... or there will be no history, no people, on earth for our children's tomorrows. Her heart will not beat for them, and she will cry no more.
That is what history is of our people; the past, the present, and the future.
~ Principal Little Red Wolf Chance, Mother Kimberley Little White Owl, Mother No Moccasin Woman, Chief Lone Wolf and the Cherokee Museum Archives
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