Käna’sta: The Lost Settlement of the Cherokees

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le:Chief Standing Deer – Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina (5756036106).jpg From Wikimedia Commons – Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina – Source: Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina – Author: Boston Public Library

James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who studied among the Southeastern Native American people as well as those on the Great Plains.  He spent several years living with the Cherokee people and compiling their myths, legends, and traditions into a book,  Myths of the Cherokee (1902),   Some of these legends and myths reveal that the Cherokees believed that there existed a kind of “otherworld”.  This was populated by a people who appeared similar to themselves but were invisible unless certain rituals and fasting was performed which allowed the Cherokees to make contact with them.  However, these people could make themselves known to the Cherokee at will and sometimes did. There were also various spirit beings large and small similar to giants, dwarves, and fairies.  Presented here is a legend collected by Mooney called  Käna’sta, The Lost Settlement that feature the belief in the otherworld and its spiritual inhabitants  and what follows is a rewrite base upon this.

Two Strangers Arrive

A legend says that one day two strangers visited Käna’sta and asked to be taken to see the chief as they had a message for him.  The strangers looked very much the same as the villagers and did not seem to be a threat so they were taken to see the chief.

After making the traditional greetings and welcoming them with full Cherokee hospitality the chief asked them what message they carried to him, thinking they were probably from a Cherokee village to the west of Käna’sta. To his surprise, they told him,

“Like you, we are also Cherokees and our town is very close but you have never seen it, but we are there.  In Käna’sta you have sickness and disease.  All around you are enemies who make war on you when they can. One day a stronger enemy will attack and drive you from your homes and take Käna’sta and make you homeless and miserable.  All who live in our town are happy and free of sickness and no enemy can find us.  We have been sent to Käna’sta to invite you to come and live with us in Tsuwa`tel’da which is the name of our town.”

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Cherokee Folklore: The Strange Legend of Tsuwe’nähï and the Secret Town

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Pilot Mountain, North Carolina – Image Credit: Wahkeenah – Public Domain

In his book Myths of the Cherokee People (1902) the American ethnographer, James Mooney (1861-1921) compiled a large bank of folklore, legend, and mythology of the Cherokee people that provides a remarkable insight into how they viewed and made sense of the world around them.   Some of these legends tell of a secret or invisible tribe of Cherokees who live either inside Pilot Mountain or in some hidden valley only reached by passing a concealed entrance in the mountain’s side.  The following work is a rewrite of the legend called Tsuwe’nähï: A Legend of Pilot Knob from Mooney’s book that tells of these secret people and their hidden town.

Lazy Tsuwe’nähï

There was once a lazy man whose name was Tsuwe’nähï.  He lived in an old town called Känuga that was situated on the banks of the Pigeon River.  He was too lazy to build his own house so instead, he lived with friends and relatives moving frequently from one to another.   Although he liked to spend all of his time in the woods he never bothered to hunt to bring back game as thanks to those who kept him through their good nature.

At last the good nature of his friends and relatives ran thin and they tired of him living off their generosity and they told him so.  Tsuwe’nähï pleaded for a last chance and asked them to prepare some parched corn for him to take on a hunting trip.  He promised them he would bring back deer, or some other kind of game, telling them if he failed he would never bother them again.

So his friends and relatives gave him a pouch with enough corn to sustain him on his hunting trip and he headed off into the mountains.   Many days passed, and weeks turned to months but he did not return and everyone thought they would never see him again.  Then one day he appeared in the town with a strange tale to tell.

The Strange Tale of Tsuwe’nähï

He told his friends and relatives that he had followed the trail towards the mountains and as he passed across a ridge he had met a stranger.  They greeted each other in a friendly fashion and stopped to talk to each other.  The stranger asked him where he was going out in the wilds on his own.   Tsuwe’nähï told him that his friends had relatives had driven him out of their homes telling him he was lazy.  He told him that he must bring back game to share with them or they would not have him back and ruefully he explained he was not a very good hunter.  The stranger smiled at him and said, “Come and visit my town. It is not far and you will see that you have relatives and friends there.”

The Secret Town on Pilot Mountain

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Big Pinnacle of Pilot Mountain – Image Credit:AnDrew McKenzie – CC BY-SA 3.0

Tsuwe’nähï was very grateful for the offer.  He was ashamed about how he had lived off his family and friends for so long and did not want to return empty handed, so he accepted.  The stranger led him towards the mountain called Tsuwa`tel’da which is also known as Pilot Mountain or Pilot Knob.   Eventually, they came to a bare rock face and the stranger led him to a hidden cave and gestured and said, “Please follow me!”

Tsuwe’nähï followed the stranger into the cave and down along a passage that ran into the heart of the mountain,  Eventually the passage opened out into a wide and beautiful valley. Looking down into the valley Tsuwe’nähï saw a great town thronged with many people.

Tsuwe’nähï and the stranger walked down the valley towards the town.  The townsfolk seeing him coming ran to meet him greeting him in warmth and friendship and showed him to the house of their chief.   The chief greeted him warmly and told him he was welcome and offered him a seat beside the fire.  Tsuwe’nähï gladly accepted and sat down but was surprised to find the seat moved underneath him.  Then he looked down and saw there was a turtle’s head poking out of its shell and realized he was seated upon the back of a huge turtle and jumped up in surprise.

“It’s alright,” said the chief, “he is only looking to see who you are!”   Tsuwe’nähï sat down gently and carefully and the turtle drew its head back into its shell. He was then offered food the kind of which he was accustomed to and he was encouraged to eat and drink his fill.  When he had finished the chief took him on a tour around the settlement and introduced him to many of its people.  Eventually, Tsuwe’nähï grew tired and was allowed to rest.  After he had rested the chief led him back to the mouth of the cave he had entered the strange country from and showed him the path that led back to the river telling him,  “Although you are going back to the place you call home you will never again be happy there. Nevertheless, you have seen us and whenever you are ready you can come to us as you now know where we are.”

Tsuwe’nähï Returns Home

The chief turned and left. Tsuwe’nähï made his way back down the mountain path towards the river following it until he found his way back to Känuga.  On his return, he told his story to his family and friends but none of them would believe him and laughed calling him foolish.   After his return, he would often go off alone into the forest sometimes being away for several days at a time.  When he came back he would tell folk he had been visiting the hidden people on Pilot Mountain but still, no one believed him.

Then one day after returning from such a trip he told a group of friends about his visit to the hidden people.   Most laughed at dismissed his story and walked away but one man stayed and told him he believed him and would like to go with him to see for himself the next time he visited the hidden people on Pilot Mountain.

At Last Someone Believes Him

Tsuwe’nähï was pleased that he had, at last, found someone who would listen to him and readily agreed to his company. A few days later he took the man into the forest and the two of them made their way to Pilot Mountain.    After a good trek, they decided to make rest and Tsuwe’nähï said to his companion to remain at the spot and set up camp while he went on ahead telling him he would soon return.

So his friend set up camp and waited for the return of his guide.  While he waited he did some hunting and set up a fire to cook his game.  After two days and two nights the man heard  Tsuwe’nähï approaching but although he appeared to be alone he was talking to someone else close by him.  Although he could see no one the man heard the voices of two girls who were talking to Tsuwe’nähï and he to them.

As Tsuwe’nähï stepped into the firelight he greeted his friend and said,  “Look I have returned with friends and they say that in two nights time there will be a dance at their town and they are inviting us to go.”  

His friend liked the idea of a dance at the strange town and readily accepted even though he could not see who else he was talking to.   Then Tsuwe’nähï spoke as if to someone nearby saying, “He accepts and thanks you for the invitation” and turned to his friend and said, “Our sisters ask for some venison”

His friend said, “What parts would they like?” and the girls said,  “Mother has asked us to request ribs,” and although he could not see who was speaking he cut them generous portions of ribs and handed them to Tsuwe’nähï.

“Thank you,” said Tsuwe’nähï taking the ribs and said, “We shall return for you in two days,”  and then turned about and disappeared into the forest night.  The man watched him disappear and listened as the voices faded into the forest and then all was quiet.

Just as he said two days later Tsuwe’nähï returned but this time the man could see he was accompanied by two girls who went and stood by the fire to warm themselves.  The man thought they were very handsome girls but one thing struck him as strange.  He noticed that their feet were not like human feet but more like the paws of a wolf.  As soon as they realized he had seen their feet they sat down to cover them up but said nothing about them and he decided out of politeness not to ask.

The party ate a meal together and then set out along a nearby creek to the trail that led to Tsuwa`tel’da and the hidden land.  They came to a bare cliff face where they entered a cave that was hidden by folds in the rock.  They made their way down a passage which opened up into a broad valley and walked down the path to the town below.  The man was surprised by everything he saw but found his legs became very weak and began to give way under him and he fell to the ground.

Tsuwe’nähï and the girls tried to help him to him to his feet but he could not move so one of the girls ran and fetched a medicine man.  The medicine man told him he could not walk because he had not prepared himself by fasting.  He then took out some old tobacco he kept in a pouch at his side and rubbed it on the legs of the man and placing it under his nose told him to smell it.  After this, the man was able to walk and went with others to the dance which had not yet begun.

The Dance

Tsuwe’nähï took his friend to the townhouse and gave him a seat close to the fire.  His friend looked warily at the seat.  It was covered in the long thorns of the honey locust and he was worried they may pierce his skin if he sat on it.  However, his Tsuwe’näh told him it would be safe to sit on so he sat down and found the long thorns soft and comfortable.

The drummer entered the townhouse and was followed by the dancers and the dancing commenced.  A man followed the dancers around crying, “Kû! Kû!” and Tsuwe’nähï explained that he was not one of the dancers.  He told him that the man had once got lost in the mountains and had gone round in circles calling out to his friends.  Eventually, the hidden people found him and took him in but he had lost his voice and was only able to say “Kû! Kû!” ever after.

Return to Känuga

When the dance finished Tsuwe’nähï and his friend went back to Känuga.  They told the people of Känuga all about the town on Pilot Mountain and how good and kind the townsfolk were.  This time because there were two of them the people listened and some said they wanted to go there.  Tsuwe’nähï told them that they had to fast for seven days while he went up to Pilot Mountain to tell the hidden people so that they could prepare for their coming.  After seven days he returned and led the people of Känuga who wanted to go to the town on Pilot Mountain.  The people who remained behind never saw those who went with Tsuwe’nähï to the secret town again.

© 22/02/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright February 22nd, 2017 zteve t evans

Cherokee Folklore: The Legend of the Origin of Strawberries

The Cherokee have many wonderful stories that explain aspects of their life and nature and help them to make sense of their place in the world.  In 1902, James Mooney, an ethnographer, published Myths of the Cherokee which presented a collection of myths, legend, traditions and customs of the Cherokee people.  In many of their legends and folktales there is no formal ending or conclusion as such which leaves it open for future generations to add their part in creating a living story.  A modified version of the Origin of Strawberries is presented here based on Mooney’s work and influenced by others.

 The legend of the origin of strawberries

The legend of the origin of strawberries begins in the early days when the world  was still young and the story was just beginning with the first man and the first woman who lived together as husband and wife.  For a long time they were very happy with each other but there came a time when things were not as good and they began to argue.

After many arguments the woman finally decided she would take no more.  Leaving her husband behind she set off east in the direction of the Sun land that is called Nûñdâgûñ′yĭ.  Her husband was sorry they had argued and followed at a distance grieving for her.  The wife never once looked around but continued walking towards the Sun land in the east.

The man was distraught and prayed that she may come back to him and continued following her.    Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ looked down and saw the man following his wife and grieving and understood what had happened.  Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ felt sorry for the man and asked him why if he still felt anger towards his wife.  The man said he now felt no anger towards her but missed her company badly.  Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ asked the man if he would take her back as his wife again.  The man readily and eagerly told him that he would.

Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ looked down and seeing the woman was heading towards the east caused a bush of the juiciest huckleberries to spring from the ground right in her path.  The woman took no notice of them and passed round them continuing to walk into the east.

Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ was surprised and decided to try again.  Next he caused a bush of fine blackberries to grow right on the path she was taking to the Sun-land, thinking they would surely be too tempting for her not to stop and eat her fill.  Again she simply walked around the blackberry bushes ignoring them completely and continuing walking into the east.

Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ was perplexed and tried to tempt her with other fruits but she simply took no notice of them and continued walking into the east.  He then caused trees with branches laden with red service berries to grow in her path thinking this would surely tempt her to stop. The woman simply paid no attention to them and continued walking into the east.  At the end of his tether Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ created the most luscious fruit of the most gorgeous color of red to grow right in her path.  These  berries had never before been seen on earth and the woman seeing them was intrigued by the vibrancy their colour and scent.

She bent down and picked one and put it into her mouth.  The taste was delicious and she had never tasted anything so good in her life.  As she ate she looked towards the west where she knew her husband was and she remembered his face.   She remembered all the good times they had together and she no longer wanted to go to the Sun-land and sat down thinking she would wait for him to catch up.

The longer she waited the stronger grew her desire to see him.  Filling her hands with the biggest and juiciest strawberries she walked back the way she had come into the west. When she met her husband who was still following he was delighted to see her and she was delighted to see him.  Together they walked back to their home in the west sharing the strawberries she had picked together.  From the first man and the first woman came more people who spread out across the land like the strawberry plants and so the living story grew and multiplied and continues to unfold.

© 14/06/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright June 14th, 2016  zteve t evans

Cherokee folklore: The legend of the Cherokee Rose

For the Cherokee people the Cherokee Rose was a special symbol given in answer to their prayers to give them hope and strength through a terrible ordeal.  This work briefly looks at the terrible circumstances that caused most of the Cherokee and other people to be forcibly uprooted and moved to a new home many miles away.  It also tells a version of the legend of  how a wild flower became a symbol of hope for the Cherokee people and a sign that they were not forgotten.

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The Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) – Public Domain

On the 28th of May 1830, the United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This authorized Andrew Jackson, the President of the United States of America and his successor, Martin Van Burrens, to begin the “negotiations” for the removal of the southern Native American people from their homelands to land west of the Mississippi River. The intention was to free up their land for the ever increasing number of settlers who were steadily displacing them.  It was not supposed to legalize the enforced removal of people and although the Cherokees won an appeal in the Supreme Court Andrew Jackson would not comply and forced relocations, or death marches were enacted.

Although some had left voluntarily it was mostly through force that the relocations took place and involved the Cherokee, Seminole, Chocktaw, Chickasaw and Muscogge, or Creek people who were regarded as the Five Civilized Tribes.  It also involved other people including the Kickapoo,  Wyandot, Lenape,  Potowatomi and the Shawnee and some African slaves and European Americans and was done in stages.  A few of them who owned land were allowed to stay and some continued to live in the wilds.   Between 1830 and 1850 most were sent under armed escort on a a long and hazardous journey west of the Mississippi to land that the government had designated to them.   Some went overland and some went by river. Either way it was a terrible journey and many died.  The first of the people to be forcibly removed were the Choctaw who suffered greatly on the journey. One of their chief’s described it as a “trail of tears and death” and thereafter the forced journey became known as the Trail of Tears.

By 1928 the discovery of gold in Georgia put pressure on the government by settlers and prospectors and they forced the Cherokees and the other peoples to move to the allotted Indian Territories west of the Mississippi River which became Oklahoma.  Many Cherokees and other Native Americans died on that enforced march that began in 1834.  It was estimated that of about 16,543 Cherokees who took part up to 6,000 died on the journey.

The Trail of Tears

It was a long and terrible journey and although the brave Cherokees were hardy and stoic their ordeal began to tell on them.  Many children perished through disease and malnutrition along the way.  Their mothers were so full of grief and tears they began to struggle to help and encourage the remaining children to keep going and survive the journey to the new lands.

The Elders of the Cherokee people saw this and grew worried.  They knew that the children were the future of their people and for the people to survive in the future the children had to survive in the present, even under such terrible conditions.   For the children to survive they needed their mother’s strength and love and so they prayed for help and guidance and a sign.

Their prayer is answered

Their prayers were heard and they received a message and were told,

“In the morning tell the women to look back along the trail where their tears have fallen and watered the earth.  For every tear they will see the small green shoots of plants that will grow upwards fast and then fall back to the earth.  Wherever it touches the earth another plant shall grow and another and another and so forth.  The plant will grow fast in in the morning light and by the afternoon will flower with a beautiful rose with five petals.   

The petals of the rose will be pure white representing the purity of the tears of the Cherokee mothers.  The center is gold symbolizing the gold taken by the greed of those who drove the Cherokees from their ancestral lands.  The rose has seven leaves on each stem representing the seven clans of the Cherokee people.

This plant will spread.  It will be a strong plant and will take back some of the land stolen from the Cherokees.”

In the morning the mothers woke up and began weeping but the Elders told them to look back down the trail and the mothers obeyed.  Looking back the way they had come they marveled to see a small green shoots sprouting along the trail in the earth that their tears had watered.  As they walked on, each time they looked back they saw a trail of green plants back along the trail they had just walked along.  By noon these plants had grown into a beautiful white flowering rose.

The flower was created as a sign that they were being watched over and that they were still loved and to give them hope and strength. It became known as the Cherokee Rose and came to symbolize the pain and suffering of the Cherokee people on the long and terrible Trail of Tears that they call it “nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i,” or the “Trail Where They Cried.”

Today the Cherokee Rose grows all along the Trail of Tears all the way from Georgia and North Carolina to east Oklahoma to the land that had been decreed by the government to be the new home of the Cherokee Nation.

© 24/06/2016 zteve t evans

 References and Attributions

Copyright May 24th, 2016 zteve t evans

Cherokee folktales: Awi Usdi, the Little Deer

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The Cherokee folktale of Awi Usdi, the Little Deer, is a story that is very relevant to most human societies all around the world today. The Native American Cherokee people of the Southeastern states of the USA lived close to nature and before the arrival of Europeans a balance was achieved that benefited man and nature. Many of their myths, legends and folktales reflect this and evolved to explain the natural world, their place in it and express their spirituality. Presented here is a version I have curated, edited and adapted of the Cherokee folktale of  Awi Usdi, the Little Deer, followed by a thought of where it all may end.

The folktale of Awi Usdi, the Little Deer

In the early days when the world was young humans and animals spoke together as friends and lived peacefully side by side in happiness.  Although humans needed to kill animals for food or to make clothing it was only done out of necessity.  An understanding existed between humans and animals and the animals knew humans had to do this, because some of them had to kill other animals to live.  The hunted accepted the hunter  and the hunter respected the hunted and nature was balanced.

Then humans invented bows and arrows and learnt how to use them to kill animals quickly and easily.   They began to kill animals with their bows and arrows not out of necessity but because they could and for the thrill it gave them and this tipped the balance of nature.  As time wore on more and more animals were being killed unnecessarily and the animals grew worried that they would soon be exterminated.  All of the different clans of animals held meetings in their different clans to discuss what could be done to stop this.

The Bear clan meets

The bears met in their clan and after much debated decided they should fight back.  The problem was they did not know how. One of the their great warriors pointed out that humans would simply shoot them with their bows and arrows before they got near enough to fight them.

Then Old Bear their chief said to defend themselves the bears must learn how to make and use bows and arrows to restore the balance to nature.  So the bears set to work and managed to make a powerful bow and some arrows to fire from it.  bear-907684_1280The problem was that that when they tried to use it their long claws got in the way.

One of the bear warriors said that he would cut his claws and then try.  So he cut his claws and he found he could use the bow very well and shoot with great accuracy.  Old Bear looked on and then told him that he was very good with the bow and arrow but then asked him to climb a tree.

The warrior bear tried but without his claws he could not get a hold on the trunk.  Old Bear shook his head in dismay and said that without claws they could not climb trees, could not dig for food and could not hunt.  He told them because of these problems they could not use the same weapons against humans that they used on animals so they could not fight back like that.

All of the other animal clans held similar meetings one after the other.  Many different ideas were suggested but none was found that could work. The conclusion was that the animals had no way of fighting back against the humans.

Awi Usdi, the Little Deer

The very last of the animals to meet was the Deer clan and their leader was Awi Usdi, the Little Deer.  When all the members of his clan were gathered he spoke and told them that he could only see one way.  He told them that here was nothing that could be done to stop humans hunting animals and told them that was the way of the world.  The wolf hunts rabbit because it is the natural law and there is a balance and respect.

Awi Usdi, the Little Deer then said, “Humans are breaking the natural laws.  They kill animals out of greed not because they need to eat or clothe themselves.  They no longer respect us or nature.  In this way all of the animals are in danger of being wiped out by human greed and ignorance.  They have altered the balance and no longer respect us.”

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He then said, “I will visit the humans in their dreams and teach them what they must do.  First when they wish to kill a deer they must first prepare by holding a ceremony.  Secondly, they must ask permission to kill a deer. Thirdly, when they do kill a deer they must respect the spirit of the deer and ask it for pardon.”  

Then Awi Usdi, the Little Deer, told his clan that if humans did not obey these simple and fair rules he would work his magic on them crippling their limbs.  This would prevent them from using their bows and arrows and return the balance.

Awi Usdi, the Little Deer did as his word and went to the humans in the night and whispered into their ears teaching what they must do when hunting.  In the morning when they awoke the humans thought they had experienced a strange dream and many could not tell if it was real or not.

Some of the humans understood that Awi Usdi, the Little Deer had visited them and tried their hardest to follow and keep to what he had taught them.  They obeyed the natural laws and only hunted animals out necessity for food and clothing.  Just as they were told they prepared in a ceremonial way and asked for permission and pardon when a kill had to be made.

Sadly, there were still hunters that ignored what Awi Usdi, the Little Deer had taught and continued to kill animals when there was no need.  As he had promised Awi Usdi, the Little Deer visited them in the night and caused their limbs to become bent and crippled.  It was not too long before all humans began to treat animals with the respect they deserved and followed the teaching of Awi Usdi, the Little Deer.

This is why there are still animals in the wild today because  Awi Usdi, Little Deer taught the humans to show respect.  Because of Awi Usdi, the Little Deer, Cherokee people show respect. Even though humans and animals can no longer talk with each other respect must be given to the animals they hunt as Awi Usdi, the Little Deer taught  and the balance of nature maintained.

Where will it end?

But all this happened a long, long, time ago. Once again humans are inventing new and more powerful weapons and worse still have learnrt how to mechanise their killing of animals in numbers undreamed of in the past.  The natural balance has been lost and the sixth mass extinction has begun and no one knows where it will end. Perhaps if we listened to the teachings of Awi Usdi, Little Deer we may find it again, or perhaps it’s too late.  What do you think?

© 16/03/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright March 16th, 2016 zteve t evans

Atagâ’hï: The hidden lake of the Cherokees

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Cherokee tradition

The Cherokee are a Native American people from the Southeastern United States of America.  They evolved a rich culture centuries before the first Europeans set foot in the New World.  Like any other ancient people they saw the world around them and strove to make sense of their place in the great scheme of things. Over time they evolved, mythology, legends, folktales and lore which explained how they see their place in the world, how the world works and much more besides.  Presented here is the Cherokee tradition of the hidden lake of  Atagâ’hï that is said to only be able to be experienced and seen after careful preparations and a suitable plane of spiritual development has been attained by an individual.  This is followed by a short folktale of how a young Cherokee brave and his little sister believed they found the hidden place and finally conclude.

Seeking Atagâ’hï

The hidden lake of Atagâ’hï is a special place that the Cherokee people believe lies in the wild lands of the Great Smoky Mountains that separate Tennessee from North Carolina, somewhere west of the birthplace of the Oconaluftee river.  Atagâ’hï which means Gall place is not an easy place for humans to find and some people think it does not exist at all. The Cherokees know that it exists even though few people are said to have ever seen.  Its location although  secret to humans is known to the animals who seek it out for healing when they are sick or wounded.

If by chance some wanderer in the wild ventures close to it, he, or she, may hear the sound of the wings of the multitude of wild ducks and birds that inhabit the hidden place and fly in the skies above the waters.  Should that wanderer then follow that sound they will not find a lake, but may find a dry flat plain of mud. No birds, animals, plants or any living thing, or even its beautiful waters will be seen by the wanderer.

Nevertheless, the Cherokee people will tell you that it is still there but to see it and experience it then it is necessary to heighten your own inner spiritual development. Then it is necessary to fast and pray to the spirits and then begin an all night vigil.  Only then when the person has attained the right enhanced state of being will the lake and its inhabitants be visible to them as the sun rises after the night of the vigil.

People make the mistake of thinking that because the lake is not seen then it does not exist or if they stumbled across a mudflat in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains that it has dried up long ago.  It is not so. To see and experience the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï it is necessary to follow closely the procedure that has been given and then and only then can Atagâ’hï be seen and experienced.

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The Great Smoky Mountains – Public Domain

After the appropriate procedures have been followed the magical lake will appear at  sunrise as a wide but shallow expanse of beautiful blue water fed by springs falling from high cliffs around it.  The waters are home to many kinds of wild fowl, fish and reptiles. In the skies above birds of all kinds fly overhead or swim upon its surface and animal tracks of all kinds led down to the water edge.  It it is known that animals such as bears know how to find Atagâ’hï and bathe in the waters which heal their wounds and cure their sickness. This is a sacred place for all creatures and that is the reason why the lake is kept from the view of most humans especially hunters.

A message from the sun

Of the many people who have sought Atagâ’hï only a few have ever found it.  Two of these may have been two Cherokee youngsters by the name of Utani and Netani.  Utani was the elder brother of Netani, who was his little sister.  He was a young Cherokee lad, tall and strong, who was approaching the age when he would be considered a brave and be expected to act like one. Utani had been given a new knife with a bright and shiny blade that was razor sharp and gleamed and glittered in the sunshine.

He was fascinated by his knife and the way the blade reflected the sun.  He placed it upon the ground in the sun and stood and admired the way it gleamed in the sunshine.  He was so absorbed in staring at the blade gleaming in the sunlight that he did not notice the approach of his sister, Netani.  Not until her body cut out the sunlight from the blade stopping it gleaming did he notice she was there.

Seeing the knife suddenly stop gleaming Utani looked up and saw it was because his sister was blocking the sun by where she was standing and her shadow was falling upon it “Please remove your shadow from my knife,” he said but Netani just staring at him at him with puzzled look on her face.  “Please move so that that your body does not stop the sun from shining on my knife!” he said.  Netani did not move so he said it again.

Although Netani did not understand why Utani was staring at the blade, because he was her elder brother she obeyed him and moved out of the way allowing the sun to shine upon the knife again. Then she asked him why he was so fascinated about the knife.  Realising she may think him foolish and because he was now approaching the age of when a Cherokee boy becomes a brave and he did not want to sound childish.  He told her that he was watching the blade of his knife because the sun was shining on it and was sending him a message.

Utani had not reckoned on his little sister’s natural curiosity. She was fascinated and begged to know what the message was.  Thinking to quiet her curiosity he told her that the sun was telling him the secret location of Atagâ’hï the hidden lake. Too late Utani realised he had gone too far with his childishness.  But, he was obstinate. He did not want to be seen to lose face by telling his little sister that he had made it all up and did not know the way to the hidden lake.  If he did he would have to admit  that he had not received a message from the sun from his knife.  Netani was intrigued by the thought of Atagâ’hï and begged him to take her there.

In search of Atagâ’hï

gsm100_1547

Great Smokey Mountains – By Terry White

Utani realised he was in a fix but thinking now he was almost a brave he must begin to act like one. So he decided, perhaps foolishly, that he would try and find the way to the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï. Picking up his knife he placed it in its sheath at his side and taking his sister by the hand began walking towards the high ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains.

With no clear idea of which way to go Utani led his sister along the trails that led up to the high ridges.  They walked for hours through the wild woods climbing higher and ever higher along remote trails that few trod.  They got further away from home than Utani had ever been before and he began to feel scared, but he did not want to show fear in case he frightening his sister who had always placed her trust in him.  They walked and walked and came across no sign of the lake and Netani now began to grow tired and lagged behind.  She called to Utani to wait for her and suggested they rest and then head home as she was beginning to feel very hungry.  She suggested they come back tomorrow and look when they would have more time.

Secretly, Utani was very pleased because he had no idea where he was going and with his sister suggesting it was time to go home he would not lose face and he was also feeling very hungry and tired.  Making out he was angry he agreed to turn round and go home, but as he took his sister’s hand to return down the trail he kicked a pebble which rolled across the trail to one side and down a bank and they heard a plop as it fell into water.

Atagâ’hï

Brother and sister looked at each other with surprise and then very quietly and carefully walked to the side of the trail which had thick branches and foliage growing along it. Pulling the foliage out of the way Utani and Netani found themselves looking down a bank that ran to the the edge of a beautiful blue lake that was hidden by trees and bushes.  All around  around the edges of the lake great cliffs rose and springs of crystal clear water bubbled down their face into the lake.  There were multitudes of ducks and other water fowl and many different kinds of birds.  The waters were filled with fish and their were reptiles in among them  Around the shore of the lake there were the footprints of many kinds of animals and they could see bears and deer, squirrels and many other kinds of animals.  They knew they had found the Atagâ’hï the hidden lake of their Cherokee people.

They looked about them and realised it was getting towards sundown so they agreed to return home and come back again in the morning to explore it further.  When they arrived home it was dark and their mother and father and the older braves of the village were worried and angry.  They wanted to know where they had been and Netani told them happily that the sun had sent a message to Utani’s knife blade telling him where to find Atagâ’hï and that was where they had been.  Their parents laughed and the older braves laughed.  Utani and Netani did not laugh. They knew they had found the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï and could find it again.  Now, for those who wander in the Great Smoky Mountains sometimes along the trail in the wilds you may come across a young Cherokee brave and his sister kicking pebbles down a bank on the side of the trail.

Drawing conclusions

So that is the tradition and folktale of Atagâ’hï of the Cherokee people.  For those interested in conclusions it would seem fitting that I  leave the reader to form their own ideas and draw their own conclusions from their own knowledge and experience.

What do you think?

© 09/03/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright March 9th, 2016 zteve t evans