Sunday, November 8, 2009
Ani-Kituhwa-gi, A Nation within a Nation ( Part 1 ).
Days pass, seasons change and years come and go all to fast. People live their lives on a daily routine and most of them never notice the changes that have taken place around them. Though many of us can see these changes happening in todays society it was the changes of long ago that actually created the lands we all call home. Over 11,000 years ago in the hills of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee lived a nation of people within a nation. At the end of the Ice Age, their ancestors hunted the great mastodons with spears in those very mountains that we now call The Great Smoky Mountains. Over the years the " Ani-Kituhwa-gi " or Cherokee people flourished throughout the mountains creating towns and villages. The men hunted and fished, helped in the fields and pursued trade, diplomacy, and war required to maintain an empire that included 36,000 people within 140,000 square miles covering eight present-day southern states. The women enjoyed respect and honor, running the household and working the land while the men cultivated friendships. Generosity was a cardinal virtue, meaning that anyone hungry was fed, anyone traveling was housed and for the first 200 years of contact with the European settlers, starting with De Soto in 1540, the Cherokees offered hospitality to newcomers who needed help. The Cherokee people became literate only months after Sequoyah developed a written language of the Cherokee alphabet and presented it to the Cherokee National Council in 1821. This written language of the Cherokee people was called " Talking Leaves ".By 1838 the Cherokee people had proven themselves to be neighborly, industrious and open to outside ideas but with the onrushing settlers and the U.S. government , the Cherokee people were forcably removed from their lands and into the east to Oklahoma, which was known in our history books as The Trail of Tears. One quarter to half of the Cherokee people who began this long journey to Oklahoma died of exposure, disease and shock of exile. Today, from those who hid in the hills ,defying removal and from those who returned, many on foot, live the 14,000 Cherokee of the Eastern band in North Carolina on a 100 square mile tract called the Qualla Boundary.