|Chief Smith in 2002|
|Chief Smith in 2002|
|At this size, they can also drill for oil!|
|Olmec Figurines with miniature stelae|
A: The song, popularized by Walela, is legitimate. It was sung by women only as part of the morning prayers, facing the rising sun, welcoming the new day. The men sang a different song that could be blended or even done as a "round" with the women's song; I've heard it exactly once.
I've spoken to Elders who actually remember hearing it sung in the mornings. However, the words are NOT Cherokee. Opinion differs on whether the words are:
 Saponi, a Siouan language of the Virginia-Carolina panhandle,
 one of the Algonquin languages of the Virginia/Ohio Valley, such as
 Tihanama, a linguistic isolate spoken by a nomadic trading group that migrated annually from lower Michigan to the Florida Panhandle.
 Yet another highly dubious source calls it "ancient Cherokee," which is doubtful. The same source claims that there were actually over 30 Cherokee clans.
The only research on it by recognized academics points to Tihanama. According to one of the remaining fluent speakers, the phrase means “Our hearts (spirits) are strong.” There is no evidence for the claim often repeated on the Internet that it means “I am of the Great Spirit, aho.”
One Elder told us the song was actually brought by "the help," those who tended fields for the Cherokee landowners. These could have been refugees from any of the groups mentioned, who sought refuge in the Cherokee highlands after the destruction of the coastal and lowland nations. It could also refer to the Tihanama, who often hired out as seasonal farm labor. That would also explain why the Coolidge sisters and my own sources remember hearing it in the mountain communities of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, in areas along the migratory route of the Tihanama.
Over the years, it has been adopted by many Cherokees, especially in the eastern portions of
Q: But I've been to presentations where Native elders have sung and even taught the song. Why would they do that?
A: Because  it's a pretty song,  thanks to the recordings, people may already be familiar with it,  it's simple enough for beginners to learn, and  the presenter doesn't speak Cherokee or know any real Cherokee prayer songs.