One of my great-grandmothers was at least half Cherokee but she died before I was born. She was orphaned at an early age so I have been unable to find out much about her. I have read about Native American culture and visited museums and 'culture centers' but definitely am not an expert on the subject. I welcome suggestions of things to add to this page. I know it is politically incorrect to refer to Native Americans as 'Indians'. However, in direct quotes, poems and website names I leave them as is.
After reading the statement above, Linda Vigil of Tucson, AZ sent me an email. In part it said: ... my name is Linda Vigil I am Tsalagi my great-grandmother was Grace White Feather from the Eastern Band of the Anitsisqua Tsalagi/Cherokee bird clan...it is not politically incorrect to call us Indians. In fact we are Indians. The new age movement is the ones that call themselves native americans which they are not. Its a long story. (Linda has an interesting page on Facebook.)
An old Cherokee told his grandson that a battle that goes on inside each us.
The battle is between two 'wolves'.
One 'wolf' is Evil. It has anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other 'wolf' is Good. It has joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
(Last words of Crow-Blackfoot warrior and orator, 1890)
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath if a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Oh great Spirit, stay our fears
As we trod this trail of tears--
Fears that're born of lands unknown
As like the tumbleweed we're blown
Across the prairies by evil winds,
Tell us, Great Spirit, where it ends.
When food is taken from our mouth
And we're driven from the south--
It is because of our past deeds
Or only the white man's lust and greed?
The wily white man who call us brothers
Then doth rape and defile our mothers,
Who drives us from our ancestral home
To wander endlessly and forever roam
Through this sere and barren land
Always waiting for that next command,
"Move on Red Dog! You can't stay here!"
So we trod again that trail of tears.
(Rea had an ancestor on the Trail of Tears)
(Makah or Cherokee Poem)
Do not stand by my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am a diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there . . . I DID NOT DIE.
The said, "You are no longer a lad."
They said, "Enter the council lodge."
They said, "Our lands are at stake."
They said, "We are at war."
They said, "Prepare red war symbols."
They said, "Count coups."
They said, "You'll see friends die."
They said, "Desperate warriors fight best."
They said, "Some will be wounded."
They said, "To die is glorious."
(I know 'counting coups' does not mean scalping or killing but I like the poem well enough to include it.)
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prairie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
(Chippewa song translated by Mary Austin)
When I hear the old men
Telling of heroes,
Telling of great deeds
Of ancient days,
When I hear them telling,
Then I think within me
I too am one of these.
When I hear the people
Praising great ones,
Then I know that I too
Shall be esteemed,
I too when my time comes
Shall do mightily.
Now you will feel no rain, for each
of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each
of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness, for each
of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good
and long upon the earth.
May the sun bring you new energy each day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.
(Crowfoot, Blackfoot Chief)
A little while and
I will be gone from among you,
from nowhere we come;
into nowhere we go.
What is life?
It is a flash of a firefly
in the night.
It is a breadth of a buffalo
in the winter time.
It is the little shadow
that runs across the grass
and loses itself in the sunset.
(Chief Dan George)
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars,
the trail of the sun,
the strength of fire,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars.
(Lydia Huntley Sigourney)
"How can the red men be forgotten,
while so many of our states and territories,
bays, lakes, and rivers,
are indelibly stamped by names of their giving?"
Ye say they all have passed away,
That noble race and brave,
That their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave;
That 'mid the forests where they roamed
There rings no hunter's shout,
But their name is on your waters,
Ye may not wash it out.
'Tis where Ontario's billow
Like Ocean's surge is curled,
Where strong Niagara's thunders wake
The echo of the world.
Where red Missouri bringeth
Rich tribute from the west,
And Rappahannock sweetly sleeps
On green Virginia's breast.
Ye say their cone-like cabins,
That clustered o'er the vale,
Have fled away like withered leaves,
Before the autumn gale,
But their memory liveth on your hills,
Their baptism on your shore,
Your everlasting rivers speak
Their dialect of yore.
Old Massachusetts wears it,
Within her lordly crown,
And broad Ohio bears it,
Amid his young renown;
Connecticut hath wreathed it
Where her quiet foliage waves,
And bold Kentucky breathed it hoarse
Through all her ancient caves.
Wachuset hides its lingering voice
Within his rocky heart,
And Allegheny graves its tone
Throughout his lofty chart;
Monadnock on his forehead hoar
Doth seal the sacred trust,
Your mountains build their monument
Though ye destroy their dust.
Ye call these red-browed brethren
The insects of an hour,
Crushed like the noteless worm amid
The regions of their power;
Ye drive them from their fathers' lands,
Ye break of faith the seal,
But can ye from the court of Heaven
Exclude their last appeal?
Ye see their unresisting tribes,
With toilsome step and slow,
On through the trackless desert pass,
A caravan of woe;
Think ye the Eternal's ear is deaf?
His sleepless vision dim?
Think ye the soul's blood may not cry
From that far land to him?
(Lydia Huntley Sigourney)
Ye bid us hence. these vales are dear,
To infant hope, to patriot pride,
These streamlets tuneful to our ear,
Where our light shallops peaceful glide.
Beneath yon consecrated mounds
Our fathers' treasur'd ashes rest,
Our hands have till'd these corn-clad ground,
Our children's birth these home have blest,
Here, on our soil a Saviour's love
First beam'd with renovating ray,
Why should we from these haunts remove?
But still you warn us hence away.
Child, ask not where! I cannot tell,
Save where wide wastes uncultur'd spread,
Where unknown waters fiercely roll,
And savage monsters howling tread;
Where no blest Church with hallow'd train,
Nor hymns of praise, nor voice of prayer,
Like angels soothe the wanderer's pain;
Ask me no more. I know not where.
Go seek thy Sire. The anguish charm
That shades his brow like frowning wrath,
Divide the burden from his arm,
And gird him for his pilgrim-path.
Come, moaning babe! Thy mothers arms
Shall bear thee on our weary course,
Shall be thy shield from midnight harms,
And baleful dews, and tempests hoarse.
(Hilda Conkling, written when she was 8-years old)
Swung high in the branches
Hears a song of birds, stars, clouds,
Small nests of birds,
Small buds of flowers.
But he is thinking of his mother with dark hair
Like her horse's mane.
Fair clouds nod to him
Where he swings in the tree,
But he is thinking of his father
Dark and glistening and wonderful,
Of his father with a voice like ice and velvet,
And tones of falling water,
Of his father who shouts
Like a storm.
(This was the surrender speech given by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians in 1877. There is a great book about this--I Will Fight No More Forever written by Merrill D. Beal. The book was made into a TV movie of the same name in 1975. It is a powerful movie but so very, very sad.)
I am tired of fighting.
Our chiefs are killed.
Looking Glass is dead.
Toohulhulsote is dead.
The old men are all dead.
It is the young men who say no and yes.
He who led the young men is dead.
It is cold and we have no blankets.
The little children are freezing to death.
My people, some of them,
Have run away to the hills
And have no blankets, no food.
No one knows where they are--
Perhaps they are freezing to death.
I want to have time to look for my children
And see how many of them I can find.
Maybe I shall find them among the dead.
Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired
My heart is sad and sick.
From where the sun now stands
I will fight no more . . . forever.
An Indian and three cowboys had been in the saddle since early morning. Toward sundown, the cowboys' conversation turned to the big dinner they'd eat when they got to town. Asked if he was hungry, however, the Indian replied simply, "No."
Finally reaching town, each rider ordered steak with all the trimmings. As the Indian wolfed down everything in sight, one of his cowboy friends remarked that only an hour ago he'd said he wasn't hungry.
The brave looked up from his plate. "No use to be hungry back there," he answered disdainfully. "No food."