I Feel Cherokee

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My Great-Great Grandmother Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. Can you help me find her true identity? She likely changed her last name at least.

My Great-Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. I believe she changed her last name. Do you know her?

I feel Cherokee.

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Shrouded in secrecy after hiding from Indian Removal in the 1800’s, my 1900’s family seemed unable to pass on important information to support our Cherokee heritage. We can trace all directions but this one.

Though just a small percentage runs through these veins, my Cherokee blood is mighty. I feel it when I look at the sky, when I walk near great waters, when I head toward the mountains, when I read their stories.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee values, these from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation website:

  • Spirituality, which creates a bond among Cherokee people in good times and bad, and is a source of hope.
  • Group harmony in community and kin relationships, and freely sharing and giving time, talent and treasures.
  • Strong individual character, with integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage, respect, trust, honor and humility.
  • Strong connection with the land and commitment to stewardship of the homelands of the Cherokee.
  • Honoring the past by knowing one’s ancestors, identifying with and belonging to the tribe, and living and preserving Cherokee culture.
  • Educating the children by providing values-oriented education and recreation, and by being strong role models for them.
  • Possessing a sense of humor, which can lighten pressure in serious situations and help people make good decisions.
Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Not knowing these values were Cherokee, they have been my values–except that I don’t know my ancestors. Not yet.

I want to know my ancestors. As a garden bed needs turning, I  feel the need to dig into the rich soil of those who have gone before.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee land. My husband and I sometimes dream about different places in the world we may like to retire to. When we are finally free of the commitments we have to our present locale, where will we land? Where is home? We could go anywhere.

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

The land that feels like home, though I wasn’t born or raised there, is the land of the Cherokee. It was their homeland for unknown centuries, until immigrants (whom they largely welcomed and helped) forcibly drove them out of it. Former leaders of our United States misled them, broke promises and cheated them out of their homeland. Now they have reservations. It all used to be theirs.

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

My daughter moved to their region recently. Nearly every day she posts pictures on Instagram, and expresses her pure joy and love for these mountains. I am moved. I can’t help but click ‘like’ on every photo! We love that land. We want it protected, nourished and cherished. We look forward to knowing and loving the people as well. If you would like to see more of her inspiring photography, you can follow her on Instagram, she is DENESIACHRISTINE.

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee history and culture. I love the way Cherokees welcomed and worked with settlers. I’m intrigued by their prophetic awareness of the Great Spirit, how they saw peril coming from the new people, yet they embraced them, believing in a greater good in the long run. I endorse their respectful practices regarding hunting, caring for all living things and wasting nothing. I love how their “good medicine” includes healthy relationships.

I have much to learn about and from the Cherokee. As I write my first novel, I will be doing just that. One of the main characters in my upcoming novel is Cherokee. We will explore and learn in and through her character. I hope to learn important information to support my family’s Cherokee heritage for future generations, and to support the Cherokee nation as a whole.

I feel Cherokee. It feels good. I hope you’ll enjoy feeling Cherokee with me.

©Joan  T. Warren

To begin learning more about Cherokee, and Appalachian history,  try these links:

http://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/655-at-long-last-cherokee-telling-their-own-story

http://appalachianstudies.org/resources/docs/97whisnant63.html

7 responses »

  1. Pingback: I Feel Cherokee | Joan T. Warren

  2. I feel Cherokee….and I’m not.
    I haven’t checked in with you for ages. And when I do, through your weekly digest, I find synchronicity again. I posted a music video that someone had shared on my Facebook page called ‘Reppin for tha Nativz’. It’s a fabulous video and social comment.
    I woke this morning with the word solidarity in mind and the intention to write a poem on it. Then I clicked here. I can feel your attachment through your words and recognise that sense of solidarity to people, traditions, humanity.
    I hope you can trace the rest of your family.
    Great pics from your daughter too. No wonder she loves it there.x

    Like

    • Hi! Great to hear from you again. I haven’t been blogging much through the holidays, and January is full of birthdays and anniveraries. It is good to be back. I will catch up with your writings and posts soon, too. I look forward to what you will say about solidarity. As we used to say in the 70’s, that’s solid, dude.

      Like

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