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Friday, October 24, 2008

Cherokee Hair Styles

Just had a question from a student about the Cherokee language.

Let me be clear in case I wasn’t clear enough before: when you enroll in Speak Cherokee.com, I’m available if you have a problem. I want this experience to be as two-way and interactive for you as possible; as they used to say, “The next best thing to being there.”

On the sheets of vocabulary “stickers” I give you as a gift just for coming onto the mailing list, one of the words is “bow.” He wondered if this meant an archery bow, or a ribbon bow. It hadn’t occurred to me that this word has a double meaning in English. The word on the vocabulary sheet means only an archery bow. I’ll make that clear in the audio/video I’m doing for the free members.

He also had a question about hair. He wants to donate his long hair to Locks Of Love, a charity that makes wigs for children who lose their hair from chemotherapy, allopecia, or other medical conditions. He has also heard that some nations place a great value on the length of a man’s hair.

Historically, Cherokee men have worn their hair a little on the short side, ranging from a pudding bowl – Amish looking cut, to shaved or plucked with a single hair lock. Short hair makes good sense in dense forests full of parasites. Out traditional hairstyles are still found in the Amazon.
The long, full hair style so popular today was actually borrowed from European settlers, who considered shaved or plucked scalps to look too “savage.” It also has an historic pedigree, and is also a legitimate alternative. Older men might wear it to show off their gray and white hair, and thereby their status as an elder.

Not only would there be no prohibition against a Cherokee man cutting his hair, we would salute that man for sacrificing a part of himself to help a sick child.

By the way, the word for the old Cherokee scalp lock is gidla. Good luck finding that in any Cherokee dictionary!

-Brian Wilkes
Keep the Culture Alive! Enroll Now!

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