In the Beginning of the Cherokee World
as told by Kituwah-Cherokee Storyteller, Choogie Kingfisher
In the beginning, there were two worlds: The heavenly world called Ga-lun-la-ti, which was placed high in the heavens, and the lower, dark world where the forces of evil lived. Ga-lun-la-ti was populated with beings in animal, human and plant forms. All creatures spoke the Cherokee language and lived together in harmony. The earth was but a ball of water on which gigantic fish and reptiles lived. The universe of the Cherokees depended on harmony and balance. Light was balanced by dark; things of goodness balanced by things that hid from the light of day in the shadows of the darkness.
In the beginning there was no sun, but a Great Tree of Life grew in the center of Ga-lun-la-ti. It lit the world so all could see and cast its light down on the dark waters below. So it was that the Creator lived by the Tree of Life where he tended the plants and cared for the animals. Sometimes, the waterfowl, the hawks, and eagles flew down in the darkness below; giant turtles and muskrats swam on the water's surface and bathed in the pale light of the heavenly tree. The Creator led a solitary existence. When his work was done, he sat by the Tree, admiring his world around him and below. Sometimes he became lonely and longed for a companion, perhaps a daughter who would sit beside him in the evening, watching his creation live and grow.
Then, the Creator made a young lady whose beauty and grace touched his soul. He knew that she, too, would long for someone to run and play with so he created a man in his likeness and taught his children the things that he knew.
The Creator found that his daughter laughed and sang too much; and she talked constantly. She asked too many questions. Why do the leaves of the Tree of Life shine? Who created the Upper World? Who named the plants? Creator still loved her, for this was his daughter, but this constant laughter and questions, what could he do?
The Creator had told them many times to stay away from the Tree of Life and not to play around its trunk. But like all curious children she had to see why her father said these things. First Man would insist that she not go to the tree but every day First Woman would climb the tree to its highest limbs. One day she found a hole in the bottom of the trunk and started to go in. First Man was again insistent that she stay away from the tree but to no avail. She went in and fell out of the bottom of Ga-lun-la-ti.
Creator returned home to find First Woman was missing. He asked First Man "where is my daughter?" to which the young man replied "I told her not to go into the hole in the bottom of the tree, but she would not listen." Creator did not know what to do as he peered over the side of Ga-lun-la-ti and saw his daughter falling toward the awesome ball of water.
Creator summoned the birds of the sky, to catch his daughter that she might not drown. They created a great blanket with their wings on which they caught her. But, where should they put her? As they flew above the deep waters, the grandfather of all turtles surfaced. "Here, place her on my back," he said. The birds descended with the young woman, henceforth known as "Sky-Woman," and placed her on the surface of her new home. But it was not large enough, the Muskrat volunteered to find land and dove to the bottom of the waters and brought up mud, which he placed on the turtle's back. When she touched the earth that Muskrat had brought, it grew in all directions, becoming the earth that we know today as Turtle Island. The Creator knew that she would need more and so he sent down the plants and animals to take care of his daughter. He sent down the deer, buffalo, bear, rabbits, and squirrels to provide food and clothing. He sent the medicines of the plant people; cedar, sage, bloodroot, oak, and most importantly tobacco. Along with many others things, to provide for his future generation the Kituwah, the Cherokee.
When the First Woman, or Sky Woman, was happy with this world Creator sent First Man down to help take care of his creation. First man and First Woman were now husband and wife. They were happy and all things were good, but as in all good things bad will come and First Woman and First Man began to fight and argue.
Harsh words were said on both sides, and finally the wife said that she was leaving. Grabbing a few belongings, she began walking away from First Man. "I am going to find another place to live," she told her husband, "You are lazy and pay no attention to me." In a short time, the husband regretted his harsh words and tried to find his wife so he could apologize. Eventually, he realized that she was too far ahead, and he prayed to the Creator to help him. "Slow her down, Creator, so that I might tell her how much she means to me," he asked. "Is her soul one with yours?" Creator asked. First Man replied "We have been one since the beginning of our time. We have been one since you have breathed life into our souls and we shall remain one until the end of time itself."
Touched by the man's anguish, the Great Spirit intervened. Seeing the way First Woman was walking he began to make plants grow at her feet to slow her down. To one side grew the blackberries and to the other grew huckleberries, but still she walked on. Again he made the plants grow and to one side grew the gooseberries and to the other grew the serviceberries, but still she walked on. The Creator knew that this would have to slow her down and so he went to his garden and grabbed a handful of strawberry plants and threw them to the earth. When they landed at First Woman's feet they began to bloom and ripen, First Woman looked down to see the beautiful leaves and berries of the strawberry plant and stopped to taste just one small berry. As she plucked and ate the berries she forgot her anger. Finding a basket among her belongings, she quickly filled it, and longed for her husband once more.
First Man, hurrying on his way, was surprised to see his wife returning, and oh! how his heart did soar. She was smiling! She dipped her hand into her basket, and got a berry and placed it in his mouth. He smiled foolishly, and gave thanks to the Creator. Taking his hand, his wife led him back down the path to their home, feeding him strawberries on the way.
The Legend of the Corn Bead
as told by Kituwah-Cherokee Storyteller, Choogie Kingfisher
As the soldiers came to each household to gather the Cherokee people together many wept tears of sadness over the loss of homes and personal belongings. Many were only allowed to take what they could carry and many were not allowed to take anything at all. As the people were taken from their homes they would cry out asking the CREATOR to send a miracle.
Many realized that these things would happen according to some of our old teachings, but they still wept because this was the only home they had ever known. The CREATOR looked down upon his children, the Cherokee, and sent a miracle to help soothe their sorrows.
At the place where the tears of our people fell, up sprang a shoot that looked like a cornstalk. As the plant bloomed and opened up, tears of gray fell to the ground. CREATOR said, "This will be a sign unto all who pass that my children will always be a part of this land. The cornstalk represents life for my children and the tears are gray for the suffering and sorrow. "
As the Trail of Tears began the people cried their tears of sorrow. They cried for the loss of family and home. As they walked along the trail, tears fell to the ground. Where these tears fell, there sprang up a small shoot and from it fell the tears of our people's suffering.
Today these small plants can be found where the Cherokee once walked in times of sadness. From the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina to the Green Country of Oklahoma, to remind us that our people are strong and will survive just as this plant has. It also reminds us of the love our CREATOR has for his children.
*This legend is a new legend and was "born" on the Trail of Tears in the years 1836-38. Like our people it to has survived and lives to be told again.
you may contact the storyteller at firstname.lastname@example.org