Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Today through the weekend, many Cherokees will be celebrating Agawela Seluutsi, the Green Corn Ceremony and Feast. Even though the corn became in June, which is “Green Corn” month in Cherokee.
In recent years, the Green Corn observance, when the corn was developed enough to mean there was a good chance of a harvest, and the Ripe Corn Ceremony, when the corn was developed enough to assure a harvest, have been combined. The months of June and July are called “Green Corn” and “Tasseling Corn” in Cherokee.
Today, Thursday is the new moon, the traditional start of the Cherokee month. In the old days, this was a time for new beginnings – one of several times in the course of a year to re-evaluate your life. People might destroy all their furniture and build new. It was definitely a time to clean out your closets and give away the things you didn’t really need… surplus clothing, food, and today, all those things that accumulate and clutter our lives. Time to give away or throw away!
Among the stress-generating things we also get rid of: debts, grudges, bad habits. In my case, about 50 pounds of weight would be good to get rid of!
The underlying teaching is to get rid of the old, broken, or unnecessary in your life to make room for the new blessings that are on the way. That includes making your home presentable and ready for company.
The harvest is almost ready, and there will be plenty for everyone. We won’t starve this coming winter. Seems assured today; but centuries ago, just getting through the winter alive was an accomplishment.
Today, we have different challenges. The economy has people worried because we need cash to pay our bills. But how much worse could it be if our nation’s crops failed? Green Corn is a reminder that Divine Providence will take care of our needs, but not all of our wants. That’s a matter of each of us cleaning out our own heart.
Witsatologi nihi, Many Blessings to You!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
All the way back to the story of the dog that sacrificed his life to warn his human family of the coming great flood, we Cherokees have always held a deep love for dogs. We’re told that when we cross the River of Death (the Milky Way) to enter Heaven, we will be met on the other shore by all the dogs we have befriended or rescued in this life. If our right to enter Heaven is questioned, they will testify on our behalf.
To this day, some observant Cherokees are buried with dog biscuits so they can give treats to their long-lost friends who will come to escort them, who will greet them even before their ancestors.
Are there dogs in Heaven? God’s a dog person! We say that when God painted the sky, his dog licked up some of the drips, and has blue spots on his tongue to this day. Cherokee/Carolina dogs, bears, and some wolves share this trait.
The word for dog is gitli (GEE-tlee), sometimes pronounced gihli (GEE-hlee) or even gikli (GEE-klee) depending on the community. But at one time they were called “burden-carrier”: soquili. When Europeans came, that word was gradually applied to the magical creature they brought, the horse, and dogs were used less and less as pack animals.
Today, the burden dogs carry is their devotion to us. They will risk their lives for us without hesitation; they will share our hardship as well as happiness, they will love unconditionally and forgive unremittingly.
Even on her way to the vet for the last time, Kayla continued the role that had become her main duty in later years; showing none of the pain that was devouring her, she was the jester entertaining every one of her crying human family right up to the end.
Years ago, a well-known Lakota traditionalist asked why I’m Christian.
“Because I believe in the healing power of love, of forgiveness, and I believe that these were woven into the fabric of the universe at the creation,” I answered.
He sneered, “There is no forgiveness in nature.”
All I could think of was, poor guy – he never had a dog. But I suddenly understood Pine Ridge a little better.
Don’t know what my future holds or the number of my days, but there will be plenty of cookies and dog treats in my coffin. That will be a small burden to carry.
After all, you can’t disappoint your best friends.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I'll be posting some of the responses I got to the question "WHY do you
want to learn Cherokee?" Most of the answers are not reasons, but
justifications, and it becomes increasingly clear to me why many of you
The first of the instructional course videos will be published today on
the free page. It's part of the Lesson 3 material. Tests 3 through 10
will be posted as videos.
VOYAGE OF NATIVE AMERICAN AWARENESS
A month ago, a group of Kentucky Indians put their canoes into the Ohio
River where it first touches Kentucky, up by the West Virginia border.
Their mission was to canoe the Kentucky's stretch of the Ohio, stopping
at towns along the way to tell people about issues and initiatives for
this state's Native community. This past Saturday, they finished their
voyage at Wickliffe Mounds, a few miles downriver from the junction
where the Ohio joins the Mississippi. It was a daunting and draining
undertaking, and I'm very proud to say that at least four of the
organizers, Jerry TwoFeather Thornton, his wife Vicki, Nighthawk
Troutman, and Mike Dunn (recently appointed to the state's Native
American Heritage Commission) are all current or former Cherokee
students. In fact, voyage leader Jerry Thornton organized live classes
in Taylorsville, KY two years ago after several years of trying to find
So congratulations to all for this impressive undertaking!
A few have invited me to set up as a vendor at their powwow, telling
people about the Speak Cherokee program. Because of the expense and time
commitment, I seldom go to powwows, and certainly not as a vendor.
However, if you are a powwow-er, I have business cards which you can put
out or hand out. In fact, I'd be grateful if you did. Just send me your
Incidentally, one reason I'm not big on powwows is that they have little
or nothing to do with our Southeastern cultures. While Gen. Sherman once
said "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," the powwow circuit follows
Hollywood in preaching "The only REAL Indian is a plains Indian."
August 12, 2009 Perseid Meteor Showers begin Wednesday morning….
And when we say August 12, we mean that morning … not that night. These typically fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus, and, like all meteors in annual showers, they cover a large part of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower when the moon is out of the way during the shower’s peak. Unfortnately, this year’s moon is not totally out of the way during the Perseids. The slightly waning gibbous moon rises around midnight – just as the Perseids start to pick up steam. Nonetheless, you should be able to catch some Perseid meteors before moonrise – and even after . The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as midnight ebbs toward dawn. Although not a favorable year, these meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. What’s more, enhanced activity may be in the works, so perhaps enough brighter meteors can overcome the moonlit glare to make this year’s production worthwhile. From late night on Tuesday, August 11 till dawn on Wednesday, August 12, a decent sprinkling of Perseid meteors may adorn this summer night, despite the pesky moon. Lie back and watch meteors until dawn’s light washes the stars, moon and planets from the sky.
Read more at http://www.earthsky.org/