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WITCHCRAFT and Witches Among the Cherokee - Both Past and Present

The teachings of John Red Hat Duke on the subject of Witchcraft

It seems that witchcraft has been, and may be, always among the Cherokee. It used to be the exception to the rule, back when we all believed that any bad resentful thought against another person was and is still considered to be witchcraft among the Cherokee.

In the 1880's, most all Cherokee except this Society and perhaps a few widely scattered families still practiced the old ways, but witchcraft became rampant. Witchcraft still is rampant today thanks to all the anger generated by a movement of American Indians in the 1960s that caused many to change their direction from something good into something bad.

Witches lie. Some deceive you covering themselves in "respect."

Trisha Jacobs is a non-Cherokee (and we say that because we know what a Cherokee really is and she shows she isn't one just by her actions alone) who slanders people just because other people on the Internet are slandering them. This is called GOSSIPING in the white world and gossip translates to witchcraft in the Cherokee old ways. Ignore her. She knows no one that belongs to this fire, and is pandering to Keetoowahs of younger fires.

Stay away from people like Darren McCathern who say that all Cherokee are fakes unless they are "Federally recognized." Darren (who oddly is a non-recognized Indian himself) is just another gossip who slanders persons that elders of the Society have actually met, had long discussions with, and are intimately and personally acquainted with, and have been found after examination to be persons of Cherokee blood who actually think like a Cherokee -- something Darren from his actions shows he does not do. Darren is spreading disinformation concerning Chickamauga Cherokee people whom the Society has the high regard for -- and even enjoy associations with  -- as opposed to association with most "federally recognized" Cherokee. You may safely ignore him.

This Society is not "Federally recognized" but everyone knows Nighthawks Keetoowahs are the true coin. There are many other good-hearted Cherokee medicine societies that survived our "diaspora" or scattering. You must first meet another Cherokee in order to judge them  -- and never judge a Cherokee by their covers.

We come in all colors. There is NO SUCH THING as a "full-blood" Cherokee, and there never was. Blood quantum is totally foreign to the Cherokee. We have always always welcomed outsiders until "politics" intervened over 100 years ago and a few Cherokee people seized what they saw as "power" and learned "politics" and "control" from some bad white people.

Most white people are very fine people. Some are snakes. Some Cherokee are snakes also. Learn to tell the difference. Learn to trust impressions when you actually meet someone. First impressions are usually correct, but not always. Remember, a "CDIB card" does not a Cherokee make... only blood or clan adoption can make a cultural Cherokee. The vast majority of Cherokees today have only a card to prove they are Cherokee. Dark skin is not a distinguishing feature... DeSoto reported red haired and blonde haired Cherokees in 1540.

If there is a group of Cherokee in your area, be friendly, respectful, and don't be afraid to give Cherokee who claim to know some of the "old ways" a few years of your friendship in order to get to know you -- and vice-versa. Don't be afraid to speak up wen you see injustice. If they reject you if you ask too many questions, they are simply not Cherokee.

We especially caution you from associating with a certain group claiming Bear Clan in Van Buren, Missouri who claim to be descendants of the the village at Amonute in Virginia. It is true (and can be verified at the  Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK) that Wahunsunacock (Powhatan) did marry a Cherokee woman and that Matoaka (Pocahontas) was a 1/2 Cherokee... but his information has been suppressed by the Cherokee Nation for political reasons. The Cherokee Nation DOES have a Pocahontas Society... and that speaks volumes. Why else would the Cherokee Nation have an exclusive "Pocahontas Society?"

Who knows -- we may all end up re-learning some old ways that were totally lost. The prophecies say this will happen. This Society does not claim to know all the old ways.

NEVER judge a Cherokee or a Cherokee group based on what you see written, spoken, or passed around the Internet. If anything, you should investigate controversial groups -- you will meet many fine people.  You MUST meet people face to face. This is the old way.

Be especially aware that the focus of Cherokee cultural groups that are very good organizations sometimes change negatively when they file for "federal recognition." We have seen this time after time and it is so sad when a good thing is ruined by politics and our genocide goes on and on.

See the Cherokee Nation of Mexico and Prophecykeepers Radio websites if you want to learn more of our old ways.

Contrary to what you may have hard, it is perfectly permissible to write books and use proceeds in order to support good spiritual works.

Smith, Redbird


from http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/naind/html/na_036500_smithredbird.htm

Cherokee religious and political leader

Redbird Smith was born in the Cherokee Nation just west of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to a Cherokee father and a half-Cherokee, half-German mother. His father, Pig Redbird Smith, was a blacksmith—thus the name Smith. Smith grew up in a highly conservative family, but by the 1850s most traditional Cherokee institutions had disintegrated. The clan system and the division of the political arena into White (peace) and Red (war) moieties had all but disappeared. Christianity had replaced the traditional tribal priesthood and community religious ceremonies. The sacred fires were no longer maintained; the stomp dances were no longer performed. Even the tribal wampum belts had been entrusted to the elected chief, John Ross. The only Cherokee religious rites still actively practiced were those related to healing, conjuring, and witchcraft. In most ways, the lifestyle of even the traditional tribesmen bore more resemblance to that of their white neighbors in Arkansas than to that of their ancestors.

Despite these changes, however, the western Cherokees were a deeply divided people. "Full-blood," Cherokee-speaking families lived primarily as subsistence farmers and hunters. They formed the core of a group that resisted further cultural change. Opposing them were acculturated, "mixed-blood" families, whose leaders were usually wealthy slave owners. Their plantation lifestyle was indistinguishable from that of wealthy southern whites. The two groups had divided in the 1830s over the issue of removal to Indian Territory. The "mixed-blood" leaders had signed the removal treaty of New Echota in 1835, and the "full bloods" had been forced west. In the years immediately following the removal, a virtual civil war of recrimination and revenge had raged within the Cherokee Nation. With the approach of the American Civil War, political issues imposed on the Cherokees from outside once again amplified the differences between these two groups.

In 1859 a white Baptist missionary, Evan Jones, revived the Keetoowah Society. The purpose of this secret society was to reestablish the moral life of the tribe. More social and political than overtly religious, the society quickly found favor among the conservative "full bloods" of all religious persuasions: Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and non-Christians. Their main cause was their opposition to slavery and to the power of the wealthy Cherokee planters. Pig Smith was an early member of the Keetoowah Society.

At the outbreak of the Civil War the Smith family, together with some other Keetoowah families, joined Opothleyaholo and the neutral Creeks and Seminoles in their disastrous flight to Kansas during the winter of 1861-62. Eventually most of the Keetoowah families ended up in the refugee camps in Kansas; Keetoowah men formed the core of the Cherokee regiments that opposed their government's alliance with the Confederacy and fought for the Union.

By the end of the war, Pig Smith had emerged as a major leader of the Keetoowahs, particularly among the most conservative, non-Christian element of the tribe. In 1867 he was elected to the Cherokee Senate and served as president. Pig Smith argued that the divisions and rivalry that had plagued the tribe since removal had been caused by the loss of traditional Cherokee values and beliefs. Foreseeing that his life would be too short to fulfill his mission (he in fact died in 1871), he took his son Redbird to Creek Sam, a Natchez religious leader, so that he could be educated to act as his adviser. Notchee (Natchez) town, located in the Illinois District of the Cherokee Nation, south of Tahlequah, was one of the most conservative communities in all of what is now Oklahoma. The Natchez had brought their sacred fire with them from the East, and their home in the Illinois District became the gathering place for religiously conservative kinsmen. It was in this community, with its living ties to preremoval Cherokee life, that Redbird Smith came of age.

In the years after the Civil War, the Keetoowahs became the major force in Cherokee politics. Tribal rivalries continued, however, and the "mixed bloods" gained control of the Cherokee government in 1887. That same year, pressure on all Indians to conform to Anglo-American norms increased as Congress adopted the General Allotment Act and pressed for tribes to divide up their lands. By 1889 many of the Keetoowahs believed that their society had become too political and had lost its original moral purpose. Meeting together, these dissenting Keetoowahs broke away from the old society and formed a new Keetoowah Society that would be religious as well as political. Redbird had been a "little captain" (community leader) in the old society. He now became a head captain of the Illinois District. In 1890 he was elected to the Cherokee council.

During the 1890s, as pressures from the federal government to allot the lands of the Five Civilized Tribes mounted and the number of non-Indians living in Indian Territory grew, conservatives such as the Keetoowahs and their supporters started banding together in opposition. The Four Mothers Society was established in the Illinois District, with the Natchez and their sacred fire forming its core. Redbird Smith, together with many other Cherokees as well as Creeks, became active in this new society. Some followers thought the society should be more overtly political, while others believed that it should withdraw entirely from society and focus exclusively on religion.

Redbird Smith sided with those who believed that the divisions in Cherokee society would not be healed until political opponents stopped resorting to violence and witchcraft. He argued that the Cherokees had brought their problems upon themselves by turning away from the teachings of their Creator. Only the Creator could save the Cherokee people. As he spoke out on the need to revive traditional religious practices, Smith called for the general adoption of the "White Path," the path of nonviolence and righteousness. To accomplish this goal, he instructed his followers to rekindle their sacred fires, revive the stomp dances, and take back their wampum belts.

Redbird Smith scored his first success when one of John Ross's sons gave the Keetoowahs seven tribal wampum belts. The interpretations of these belts became the basic teachings of a new religion. In 1896 Smith and his followers revived the Cherokee stomp dance. In 1902 they rekindled the first of the new Cherokee sacred fires. By 1906 there would be twenty-two sacred fires among the Cherokees. Finally, Smith and his followers formally broke with the earlier, political Keetoowah Society and became the Nighthawk Keetoowahs.

In spite of the opposition of the conservative Cherokees, the official tribal government agreed in 1900 to the allotment of Cherokee lands. As a member of the Cherokee Senate, Smith refused to vote on the agreement, and when it was presented for approval he declared he would not sign it. Smith encouraged his followers to resist allotment by refusing to register for their lands. It was estimated that over five thousand Cherokees followed his lead. In frustration, the Dawes Commission, the body charged with overseeing the allotment process among the Five Civilized Tribes, ordered the arrest of Smith and several other Nighthawk Keetoowah leaders. They were jailed briefly, but the Dawes Commission released them and proceeded to add their names to the allotment roll and assign them allotments.

In 1906 Redbird Smith appeared before a special U.S. Senate investigating committee in Tahlequah, asking that the federal government stop the process of allotment and honor its treaty obligations to the tribe. Although allotments had been assigned to the Nighthawks, hundreds refused to recognize their new titles or to live on their allotments. In 1910, seeing that the government was not going to change its position and that resistance was no longer in his followers' interest, Smith accepted an allotment. Although he continued to try to find a peaceful way to restore traditional beliefs, the power and influence of the Nighthawks began to wane. By the time of his death in 1918, many of the sacred fires had been consolidated and the Nighthawk Keetoowah Society had become primarily a religious movement; its days as an active political force were over.

Janey B. Hendrix and Garrick Bailey, Redbird Smith and the Nighthawk Keetoowahs (Park Hill, Okla.: Cross Cultural Education Center, 1983).

Roberta Glenn Bailey

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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