The myths     
    Cosmogonic myths      
        1. How the world was made      
        2. The first fire      
        3. Kana′tĭ and Selu: Origin of corn and game      
        4. Origin of disease and medicine      
        5. The Daughter of the Sun: Origin of death      
        6. How they brought back the Tobacco      
        7. The journey to the sunrise      
        8. The Moon and the Thunders      
        9. What the Stars are like      
        10. Origin of the Pleiades and the Pine      
        11. The milky way      
        12. Origin of strawberries      
        13. The Great Yellow-jacket: Origin of fish and frogs      
        14. The Deluge      
    Quadruped myths      
        15. The four-footed tribes      
        16. The Rabbit goes duck hunting      
        17. How the Rabbit stole the Otter’s coat      
        18. Why the Possum’s tail is bare      
        19. How the Wildcat caught the turkeys      
        20. How the Terrapin beat the Rabbit      
        21. The Rabbit and the tar wolf      
        22. The Rabbit and the Possum after a wife      
        23. The Rabbit dines the Bear      
        24. The Rabbit escapes from the wolves      
        25. Flint visits the Rabbit      
        26. How the Deer got his horns      
        27. Why the Deer’s teeth are blunt      
        28. What became of the Rabbit      
        29. Why the Mink smells      
        30. Why the Mole lives under ground      
        31. The Terrapin’s escape from the wolves      
        32. Origin of the Groundhog dance: The Groundhog’s head      
        33. The migration of the animals      
        34. The Wolf’s revenge: The Wolf and the Dog      
    Bird myths      
        35. The bird tribes      
        36. The ball game of the birds and animals      
        37. How the Turkey got his beard      
        38. Why the Turkey gobbles      
        39. How the Kingfisher got his bill      
        40. How the Partridge got his whistle      
        41. How the Redbird got his color      
        42. The Pheasant beating corn: The Pheasant dance      
        43. The race between the Crane and the Humming-bird      
        44. The Owl gets married      
        45. The Huhu gets married      
        46. Why the Buzzard’s head is bare      
        47. The Eagle’s revenge      
        48. The Hunter and the Buzzard      
    Snake, fish, and insect myths      
        49. The snake tribe      
        50. The Uktena and the Ulûñsû′tĭ      
        51. Âgan-Uni′tsi’s search for the Uktena      
        52. The Red Man and the Uktena      
        53. The Hunter and the Uksu′hĭ      
        54. The Ustû′tlĭ      
        55. The Uwʻtsûñ′ta      
        56. The Snake Boy      
        57. The Snake Man      
        58. The Rattlesnake’s vengeance      
        59. The smaller reptiles, fishes, and insects      
        60. Why the Bullfrog’s head is striped      
        61. The Bullfrog lover      
        62. The Katydid’s warning      
    Wonder stories      
        63. Ûñtsaiyĭ′, the Gambler      
        64. The nest of the Tlă′nuwa      
        65. The Hunter and the Tlă′nuwa      
        66. Uʻtlûñ′ta, the Spear-finger      
        67. Nûñ′yunu′wĭ, the stone man      
        68. The Hunter in the Dăkwă′      
        69. Atagâ′hĭ, the enchanted lake      
        70. The Bride from the south      
        71. The Ice Man      
        72. The Hunter and Selu      
        73. The underground panthers      
        74. The Tsundige′wĭ      
        75. Origin of the Bear: The Bear songs      
        76. The Bear Man      
        77. The Great Leech of Tlanusi′yĭ      
        78. The Nûñnĕ′hĭ and other spirit folk      
        79. The removed townhouses      
        80. The spirit defenders of Nĭkwăsĭ′      
        81. Tsulʻkălû′ the slant-eyed giant      
        82. Kana′sta, the lost settlement      
        83. Tsuwe′năhĭ, a legend of Pilot knob      
        84. The man who married the Thunder’s sister      
        85. The haunted whirlpool      
        86. Yahula      
        87. The water cannibals      
    Historical traditions      
        88. First contact with whites      
        89. The Iroquois war      
        90. Hiadeoni, the Seneca      
        91. The two Mohawks      
        92. Escape of the Seneca boys      
        93. The unseen helpers      
        94. Hatciñondoñ’s escape from the Cherokee      
        95. Hemp-carrier      
        96. The Seneca peacemakers      
        97. Origin of the Yontoñwisas dance      
        98. Gaʼna’s adventures among the Cherokee.      
        99. The Shawano wars      
        100. The raid on Tĭkwali′tsĭ      
        101. The last Shawano invasion      
        102. The false warriors of Chilhowee      
        103. Cowee town      
        104. The eastern tribes      
        105. The southern and western tribes      
        106. The giants from the west      
        107. The lost Cherokee      
        108. The massacre of the Ani′-Kuta′nĭ      
        109. The war medicine      
        110. Incidents of personal heroism      
        111. The mounds and the constant fire: The old sacred things      
    Miscellaneous myths and legends      
        112. The ignorant housekeeper      
        113. The man in the stump      
        114. Two lazy hunters      
        115. The two old men      
        116. The star feathers      
        117. The Mother Bear’s song      
        118. Baby song, to please the children.      
        119. When babies are born: The Wren and the Cricket      
        120. The Raven Mocker      
        121. Herbert’s spring      
        122. Local legends of North Carolina.      
        123. Local legends of South Carolina      
        124. Local legends of Tennessee      
        125. Local legends of Georgia      
        126. Plant lore      

Cosmogonic myths


The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.

When all was water, the animals were above in Gălûñ′lătĭ, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni′sĭ, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gălûñ′lătĭ. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.

When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska′gĭlĭ′, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ′gine Di′gălûñ′lătiyûñ′, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.

There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything—animals, plants, and people—save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter it, but to do this one must fast and go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.

When the animals and plants were first made—we do not know by whom—they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your hair every winter.”

Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.


In the beginning there was no fire, and the world was cold, until the Thunders (Ani′-Hyûñ′tĭkwălâ′skĭ), who lived up in Gălûñ′lătĭ, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there, because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was a long time ago.

Every animal that could fly or swim was anxious to go after the fire. The Raven offered, and because he was so large and strong they thought he could surely do the work, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water and alighted on the sycamore tree, but while he was wondering what to do next, the heat had scorched all his feathers black, and he was frightened and came back without the fire. The little Screech-owl (Wa′huhu′) volunteered to go, and reached the place safely, but while he was looking down into the hollow tree a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes. He managed to fly home as best he could, but it was a long time before he could see well, and his eyes are red to this day. Then the Hooting Owl (U′guku′) and the Horned Owl (Tskĭlĭ′) went, but by the time they got to the hollow tree the fire was burning so fiercely that the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had to come home again without the fire, but with all their rubbing they were never able to get rid of the white rings.

Now no more of the birds would venture, and so the little Uksu′hĭ snake, the black racer, said he would go through the water and bring back some fire. He swam across to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree, and went in by a small hole at the bottom. The heat and smoke were too much for him, too, and after dodging about blindly over the hot ashes until he was almost on fire himself he managed by good luck to get out again at the same hole, but his body had been scorched black, and he has ever since had the habit of darting and doubling on his track as if trying to escape from close quarters. He came back, and the great blacksnake, Gûle′gĭ, “The Climber,” offered to go for fire. He swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump, and before he could climb out again he was as black as the Uksu′hĭ.

Now they held another council, for still there was no fire, and the world was cold, but birds, snakes, and four-footed animals, all had some excuse for not going, because they were all afraid to venture near the burning sycamore, until at last Kănăne′skĭ Amai′yĕhĭ (the Water Spider) said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but the other one, with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She can run on top of the water or dive to the bottom, so there would be no trouble to get over to the island, but the question was, How could she bring back the fire? “I’ll manage that,” said the Water Spider; so she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl, which she fastened on her back. Then she crossed over to the island and through the grass to where the fire was still burning. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl, and came back with it, and ever since we have had fire, and the Water Spider still keeps her tusti bowl.


When I was a boy this is what the old men told me they had heard when they were boys.

Long years ago, soon after the world was made, a hunter and his wife lived at Pilot knob with their only child, a little boy. The father’s name was Kana′tĭ (The Lucky Hunter), and his wife was called Selu (Corn). No matter when Kana′tĭ went into the wood, he never failed to bring back a load of game, which his wife would cut up and prepare, washing off the blood from the meat in the river near the house. The little boy used to play down by the river every day, and one morning the old people thought they heard laughing and talking in the bushes as though there were two children there. When the boy came home at night his parents asked him who had been playing with him all day. “He comes out of the water,” said the boy, “and he calls himself my elder brother. He says his mother was cruel to him and threw him into the river.” Then they knew that the strange boy had sprung from the blood of the game which Selu had washed off at the river’s edge.

Every day when the little boy went out to play the other would join him, but as he always went back again into the water the old people never had a chance to see him. At last one evening Kana′tĭ said to his son, “Tomorrow, when the other boy comes to play, get him to wrestle with you, and when you have your arms around him hold on to him and call for us.” The boy promised to do as he was told, so the next day as soon as his playmate appeared he challenged him to a wrestling match. The other agreed at once, but as soon as they had their arms around each other, Kana′tĭ’s boy began to scream for his father. The old folks at once came running down, and as soon as the Wild Boy saw them he struggled to free himself and cried out, “Let me go; you threw me away!” but his brother held on until the parents reached the spot, when they seized the Wild Boy and took him home with them. They kept him in the house until they had tamed him, but he was always wild and artful in his disposition, and was the leader of his brother in every mischief. It was not long until the old people discovered that he had magic powers, and they called him I′năge-utăsûñ′hĭ (He-who-grew-up-wild).

Whenever Kana′tĭ went into the mountains he always brought back a fat buck or doe, or maybe a couple of turkeys. One day the Wild Boy said to his brother, “I wonder where our father gets all that game; let’s follow him next time and find out.” A few days afterward Kana′tĭ took a bow and some feathers in his hand and started off toward the west. The boys waited a little while and then went after him, keeping out of sight until they saw him go into a swamp where there were a great many of the small reeds that hunters use to make arrowshafts. Then the Wild Boy changed himself into a puff of bird’s down, which the wind took up and carried until it alighted upon Kana′tĭ’s shoulder just as he entered the swamp, but Kana′tĭ knew nothing about it. The old man cut reeds, fitted the feathers to them and made some arrows, and the Wild Boy—in his other shape—thought, “I wonder what those things are for?” When Kana′tĭ had his arrows finished he came out of the swamp and went on again. The wind blew the down from his shoulder, and it fell in the woods, when the Wild Boy took his right shape again and went back and told his brother what he had seen. Keeping out of sight of their father, they followed him up the mountain until he stopped at a certain place and lifted a large rock. At once there ran out a buck, which Kana′tĭ shot, and then lifting it upon his back he started for home again. “Oho!” exclaimed the boys, “he keeps all the deer shut up in that hole, and whenever he wants meat he just lets one out and kills it with those things he made in the swamp.” They hurried and reached home before their father, who had the heavy deer to carry, and he never knew that they had followed.

A few days later the boys went back to the swamp, cut some reeds, and made seven arrows, and then started up the mountain to where their father kept the game. When they got to the place, they raised the rock and a deer came running out. Just as they drew back to shoot it, another came out, and then another and another, until the boys got confused and forgot what they were about. In those days all the deer had their tails hanging down like other animals, but as a buck was running past the Wild Boy struck its tail with his arrow so that it pointed upward. The boys thought this good sport, and when the next one ran past the Wild Boy struck its tail so that it stood straight up, and his brother struck the next one so hard with his arrow that the deer’s tail was almost curled over his back. The deer carries his tail this way ever since. The deer came running past until the last one had come out of the hole and escaped into the forest. Then came droves of raccoons, rabbits, and all the other four-footed animals—all but the bear, because there was no bear then. Last came great flocks of turkeys, pigeons, and partridges that darkened the air like a cloud and made such a noise with their wings that Kana′tĭ, sitting at home, heard the sound like distant thunder on the mountains and said to himself, “My bad boys have got into trouble; I must go and see what they are doing.”

So he went up the mountain, and when he came to the place where he kept the game he found the two boys standing by the rock, and all the birds and animals were gone. Kana′tĭ was furious, but without saying a word he went down into the cave and kicked the covers off four jars in one corner, when out swarmed bedbugs, fleas, lice, and gnats, and got all over the boys. They screamed with pain and fright and tried to beat off the insects, but the thousands of vermin crawled over them and bit and stung them until both dropped down nearly dead. Kana′tĭ stood looking on until he thought they had been punished enough, when he knocked off the vermin and made the boys a talk. “Now, you rascals,” said he, “you have always had plenty to eat and never had to work for it. Whenever you were hungry all I had to do was to come up here and get a deer or a turkey and bring it home for your mother to cook; but now you have let out all the animals, and after this when you want a deer to eat you will have to hunt all over the woods for it, and then maybe not find one. Go home now to your mother, while I see if I can find something to eat for supper.”

When the boys got home again they were very tired and hungry and asked their mother for something to eat. “There is no meat,” said Selu, “but wait a little while and I’ll get you something.” So she took a basket and started out to the storehouse. This storehouse was built upon poles high up from the ground, to keep it out of the reach of animals, and there was a ladder to climb up by, and one door, but no other opening. Every day when Selu got ready to cook the dinner she would go out to the storehouse with a basket and bring it back full of corn and beans. The boys had never been inside the storehouse, so wondered where all the corn and beans could come from, as the house was not a very large one; so as soon as Selu went out of the door the Wild Boy said to his brother, “Let’s go and see what she does.” They ran around and climbed up at the back of the storehouse and pulled out a piece of clay from between the logs, so that they could look in. There they saw Selu standing in the middle of the room with the basket in front of her on the floor. Leaning over the basket, she rubbed her stomach—so—and the basket was half full of corn. Then she rubbed under her armpits—so—and the basket was full to the top with beans. The boys looked at each other and said, “This will never do; our mother is a witch. If we eat any of that it will poison us. We must kill her.”

When the boys came back into the house, she knew their thoughts before they spoke. “So you are going to kill me?” said Selu. “Yes,” said the boys, “you are a witch.” “Well,” said their mother, “when you have killed me, clear a large piece of ground in front of the house and drag my body seven times around the circle. Then drag me seven times over the ground inside the circle, and stay up all night and watch, and in the morning you will have plenty of corn.” The boys killed her with their clubs, and cut off her head and put it up on the roof of the house with her face turned to the west, and told her to look for her husband. Then they set to work to clear the ground in front of the house, but instead of clearing the whole piece they cleared only seven little spots. This is why corn now grows only in a few places instead of over the whole world. They dragged the body of Selu around the circle, and wherever her blood fell on the ground the corn sprang up. But instead of dragging her body seven times across the ground they dragged it over only twice, which is the reason the Indians still work their crop but twice. The two brothers sat up and watched their corn all night, and in the morning it was full grown and ripe.

When Kana′tĭ came home at last, he looked around, but could not see Selu anywhere, and asked the boys where was their mother. “She was a witch, and we killed her,” said the boys; “there is her head up there on top of the house.” When he saw his wife’s head on the roof, he was very angry, and said, “I won’t stay with you any longer; I am going to the Wolf people.” So he started off, but before he had gone far the Wild Boy changed himself again to a tuft of down, which fell on Kana′tĭ’s shoulder. When Kana′tĭ reached the settlement of the Wolf people, they were holding a council in the townhouse. He went in and sat down with the tuft of bird’s down on his shoulder, but he never noticed it. When the Wolf chief asked him his business, he said: “I have two bad boys at home, and I want you to go in seven days from now and play ball against them.” Although Kana′tĭ spoke as though he wanted them to play a game of ball, the Wolves knew that he meant for them to go and kill the two boys. They promised to go. Then the bird’s down blew off from Kana′tĭ’s shoulder, and the smoke carried it up through the hole in the roof of the townhouse. When it came down on the ground outside, the Wild Boy took his right shape again and went home and told his brother all that he had heard in the townhouse. But when Kana′tĭ left the Wolf people he did not return home, but went on farther.

The boys then began to get ready for the Wolves, and the Wild Boy—the magician—told his brother what to do. They ran around the house in a wide circle until they had made a trail all around it excepting on the side from which the Wolves would come, where they left a small open space. Then they made four large bundles of arrows and placed them at four different points on the outside of the circle, after which they hid themselves in the woods and waited for the Wolves. In a day or two a whole party of Wolves came and surrounded the house to kill the boys. The Wolves did not notice the trail around the house, because they came in where the boys had left the opening, but the moment they went inside the circle the trail changed to a high brush fence and shut them in. Then the boys on the outside took their arrows and began shooting them down, and as the Wolves could not jump over the fence they were all killed, excepting a few that escaped through the opening into a great swamp close by. The boys ran around the swamp, and a circle of fire sprang up in their tracks and set fire to the grass and bushes and burned up nearly all the other Wolves. Only two or three got away, and from these have come all the wolves that are now in the world.

Soon afterward some strangers from a distance, who had heard that the brothers had a wonderful grain from which they made bread, came to ask for some, for none but Selu and her family had ever known corn before. The boys gave them seven grains of corn, which they told them to plant the next night on their way home, sitting up all night to watch the corn, which would have seven ripe ears in the morning. These they were to plant the next night and watch in the same way, and so on every night until they reached home, when they would have corn enough to supply the whole people. The strangers lived seven days’ journey away. They took the seven grains and watched all through the darkness until morning, when they saw seven tall stalks, each stalk bearing a ripened ear. They gathered the ears and went on their way. The next night they planted all their corn, and guarded it as before until daybreak, when they found an abundant increase. But the way was long and the sun was hot, and the people grew tired. On the last night before reaching home they fell asleep, and in the morning the corn they had planted had not even sprouted. They brought with them to their settlement what corn they had left and planted it, and with care and attention were able to raise a crop. But ever since the corn must be watched and tended through half the year, which before would grow and ripen in a night.

As Kana′tĭ did not return, the boys at last concluded to go and find him. The Wild Boy took a gaming wheel and rolled it toward the Darkening land. In a little while the wheel came rolling back, and the boys knew their father was not there. He rolled it to the south and to the north, and each time the wheel came back to him, and they knew their father was not there. Then he rolled it toward the Sunland, and it did not return. “Our father is there,” said the Wild Boy, “let us go and find him.” So the two brothers set off toward the east, and after traveling a long time they came upon Kana′tĭ walking along with a little dog by his side. “You bad boys,” said their father, “have you come here?” “Yes,” they answered, “we always accomplish what we start out to do—we are men.” “This dog overtook me four days ago,” then said Kana′tĭ, but the boys knew that the dog was the wheel which they had sent after him to find him. “Well,” said Kana′tĭ, “as you have found me, we may as well travel together, but I shall take the lead.”

Soon they came to a swamp, and Kana′tĭ told them there was something dangerous there and they must keep away from it. He went on ahead, but as soon as he was out of sight the Wild Boy said to his brother, “Come and let us see what is in the swamp.” They went in together, and in the middle of the swamp they found a large panther asleep. The Wild Boy got out an arrow and shot the panther in the side of the head. The panther turned his head and the other boy shot him on that side. He turned his head away again and the two brothers shot together—tust, tust, tust! But the panther was not hurt by the arrows and paid no more attention to the boys. They came out of the swamp and soon overtook Kana′tĭ, waiting for them. “Did you find it?” asked Kana′tĭ. “Yes,” said the boys, “we found it, but it never hurt us. We are men.” Kana′tĭ was surprised, but said nothing, and they went on again.

After a while he turned to them and said, “Now you must be careful. We are coming to a tribe called the Anăda′dûñtăskĭ (“Roasters,” i. e., cannibals), and if they get you they will put you into a pot and feast on you.” Then he went on ahead. Soon the boys came to a tree which had been struck by lightning, and the Wild Boy directed his brother to gather some of the splinters from the tree and told him what to do with them. In a little while they came to the settlement of the cannibals, who, as soon as they saw the boys, came running out, crying, “Good, here are two nice fat strangers. Now we’ll have a grand feast!” They caught the boys and dragged them into the townhouse, and sent word to all the people of the settlement to come to the feast. They made up a great fire, put water into a large pot and set it to boiling, and then seized the Wild Boy and put him down into it. His brother was not in the least frightened and made no attempt to escape, but quietly knelt down and began putting the splinters into the fire, as if to make it burn better. When the cannibals thought the meat was about ready they lifted the pot from the fire, and that instant a blinding light filled the townhouse, and the lightning began to dart from one side to the other, striking down the cannibals until not one of them was left alive. Then the lightning went up through the smoke-hole, and the next moment there were the two boys standing outside the townhouse as though nothing had happened. They went on and soon met Kana′tĭ, who seemed much surprised to see them, and said, “What! are you here again?” “O, yes, we never give up. We are great men!” “What did the cannibals do to you?” “We met them and they brought us to their townhouse, but they never hurt us.” Kana′tĭ said nothing more, and they went on.

He soon got out of sight of the boys, but they kept on until they came to the end of the world, where the sun comes out. The sky was just coming down when they got there, but they waited until it went up again, and then they went through and climbed up on the other side. There they found Kana′tĭ and Selu sitting together. The old folk received them kindly and were glad to see them, telling them they might stay there a while, but then they must go to live where the sun goes down. The boys stayed with their parents seven days and then went on toward the Darkening land, where they are now. We call them Anisga′ya Tsunsdi′ (The Little Men), and when they talk to each other we hear low rolling thunder in the west.

After Kana′tĭ’s boys had let the deer out from the cave where their father used to keep them, the hunters tramped about in the woods for a long time without finding any game, so that the people were very hungry. At last they heard that the Thunder Boys were now living in the far west, beyond the sun door, and that if they were sent for they could bring back the game. So they sent messengers for them, and the boys came and sat down in the middle of the townhouse and began to sing.

At the first song there was a roaring sound like a strong wind in the northwest, and it grew louder and nearer as the boys sang on, until at the seventh song a whole herd of deer, led by a large buck, came out from the woods. The boys had told the people to be ready with their bows and arrows, and when the song was ended and all the deer were close around the townhouse, the hunters shot into them and killed as many as they needed before the herd could get back into the timber.

Then the Thunder Boys went back to the Darkening land, but before they left they taught the people the seven songs with which to call up the deer. It all happened so long ago that the songs are now forgotten—all but two, which the hunters still sing whenever they go after deer.


After the world had been brought up from under the water, “They then made a man and a woman and led them around the edge of the island. On arriving at the starting place they planted some corn, and then told the man and woman to go around the way they had been led. This they did, and on returning they found the corn up and growing nicely. They were then told to continue the circuit. Each trip consumed more time. At last the corn was ripe and ready for use.”

Another story is told of how sin came into the world. A man and a woman reared a large family of children in comfort and plenty, with very little trouble about providing food for them. Every morning the father went forth and very soon returned bringing with him a deer, or a turkey, or some other animal or fowl. At the same time the mother went out and soon returned with a large basket filled with ears of corn which she shelled and pounded in a mortar, thus making meal for bread.

When the children grew up, seeing with what apparent ease food was provided for them, they talked to each other about it, wondering that they never saw such things as their parents brought in. At last one proposed to watch when their parents went out and to follow them.

Accordingly next morning the plan was carried out. Those who followed the father saw him stop at a short distance from the cabin and turn over a large stone that appeared to be carelessly leaned against another. On looking closely they saw an entrance to a large cave, and in it were many different kinds of animals and birds, such as their father had sometimes brought in for food. The man standing at the entrance called a deer, which was lying at some distance and back of some other animals. It rose immediately as it heard the call and came close up to him. He picked it up, closed the mouth of the cave, and returned, not once seeming to suspect what his sons had done.

When the old man was fairly out of sight, his sons, rejoicing how they had outwitted him, left their hiding place and went to the cave, saying they would show the old folks that they, too, could bring in something. They moved the stone away, though it was very heavy and they were obliged to use all their united strength. When the cave was opened, the animals, instead of waiting to be picked up, all made a rush for the entrance, and leaping past the frightened and bewildered boys, scattered in all directions and disappeared in the wilderness, while the guilty offenders could do nothing but gaze in stupefied amazement as they saw them escape. There were animals of all kinds, large and small—buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, raccoons, and squirrels; even catamounts and panthers, wolves and foxes, and many others, all fleeing together. At the same time birds of every kind were seen emerging from the opening, all in the same wild confusion as the quadrupeds—turkeys, geese, swans, ducks, quails, eagles, hawks, and owls.

Those who followed the mother saw her enter a small cabin, which they had never seen before, and close the door. The culprits found a small crack through which they could peer. They saw the woman place a basket on the ground and standing over it shake herself vigorously, jumping up and down, when lo and behold! large ears of corn began to fall into the basket. When it was well filled she took it up and, placing it on her head, came out, fastened the door, and prepared their breakfast as usual. When the meal had been finished in silence the man spoke to his children, telling them that he was aware of what they had done; that now he must die and they would be obliged to provide for themselves. He made bows and arrows for them, then sent them to hunt for the animals which they had turned loose.

Then the mother told them that as they had found out her secret she could do nothing more for them; that she would die, and they must drag her body around over the ground; that wherever her body was dragged corn would come up. Of this they were to make their bread. She told them that they must always save some for seed and plant every year.


In the old days the beasts, birds, fishes, insects, and plants could all talk, and they and the people lived together in peace and friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that their settlements spread over the whole earth, and the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. This was bad enough, but to make it worse Man invented bows, knives, blowguns, spears, and hooks, and began to slaughter the larger animals, birds, and fishes for their flesh or their skins, while the smaller creatures, such as the frogs and worms, were crushed and trodden upon without thought, out of pure carelessness or contempt. So the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their common safety.

The Bears were the first to meet in council in their townhouse under Kuwâ′hĭ mountain, the “Mulberry place,” and the old White Bear chief presided. After each in turn had complained of the way in which Man killed their friends, ate their flesh, and used their skins for his own purposes, it was decided to begin war at once against him. Some one asked what weapons Man used to destroy them. “Bows and arrows, of course,” cried all the Bears in chorus. “And what are they made of?” was the next question. “The bow of wood, and the string of our entrails,” replied one of the Bears. It was then proposed that they make a bow and some arrows and see if they could not use the same weapons against Man himself. So one Bear got a nice piece of locust wood and another sacrificed himself for the good of the rest in order to furnish a piece of his entrails for the string. But when everything was ready and the first Bear stepped up to make the trial, it was found that in letting the arrow fly after drawing back the bow, his long claws caught the string and spoiled the shot. This was annoying, but some one suggested that they might trim his claws, which was accordingly done, and on a second trial it was found that the arrow went straight to the mark. But here the chief, the old White Bear, objected, saying it was necessary that they should have long claws in order to be able to climb trees. “One of us has already died to furnish the bow-string, and if we now cut off our claws we must all starve together. It is better to trust to the teeth and claws that nature gave us, for it is plain that man’s weapons were not intended for us.”

No one could think of any better plan, so the old chief dismissed the council and the Bears dispersed to the woods and thickets without having concerted any way to prevent the increase of the human race. Had the result of the council been otherwise, we should now be at war with the Bears, but as it is, the hunter does not even ask the Bear’s pardon when he kills one.

The Deer next held a council under their chief, the Little Deer, and after some talk decided to send rheumatism to every hunter who should kill one of them unless he took care to ask their pardon for the offense. They sent notice of their decision to the nearest settlement of Indians and told them at the same time what to do when necessity forced them to kill one of the Deer tribe. Now, whenever the hunter shoots a Deer, the Little Deer, who is swift as the wind and can not be wounded, runs quickly up to the spot and, bending over the blood-stains, asks the spirit of the Deer if it has heard the prayer of the hunter for pardon. If the reply be “Yes,” all is well, and the Little Deer goes on his way; but if the reply be “No,” he follows on the trail of the hunter, guided by the drops of blood on the ground, until he arrives at his cabin in the settlement, when the Little Deer enters invisibly and strikes the hunter with rheumatism, so that he becomes at once a helpless cripple. No hunter who has regard for his health ever fails to ask pardon of the Deer for killing it, although some hunters who have not learned the prayer may try to turn aside the Little Deer from his pursuit by building a fire behind them in the trail.

Next came the Fishes and Reptiles, who had their own complaints against Man. They held their council together and determined to make their victims dream of snakes twining about them in slimy folds and blowing foul breath in their faces, or to make them dream of eating raw or decaying fish, so that they would lose appetite, sicken, and die. This is why people dream about snakes and fish.

Finally the Birds, Insects, and smaller animals came together for the same purpose, and the Grubworm was chief of the council. It was decided that each in turn should give an opinion, and then they would vote on the question as to whether or not Man was guilty. Seven votes should be enough to condemn him. One after another denounced Man’s cruelty and injustice toward the other animals and voted in favor of his death. The Frog spoke first, saying: “We must do something to check the increase of the race, or people will become so numerous that we shall be crowded from off the earth. See how they have kicked me about because I’m ugly, as they say, until my back is covered with sores;” and here he showed the spots on his skin. Next came the Bird—no one remembers now which one it was—who condemned Man “because he burns my feet off,” meaning the way in which the hunter barbecues birds by impaling them on a stick set over the fire, so that their feathers and tender feet are singed off. Others followed in the same strain. The Ground-squirrel alone ventured to say a good word for Man, who seldom hurt him because he was so small, but this made the others so angry that they fell upon the Ground-squirrel and tore him with their claws, and the stripes are on his back to this day.

They began then to devise and name so many new diseases, one after another, that had not their invention at last failed them, no one of the human race would have been able to survive. The Grubworm grew constantly more pleased as the name of each disease was called off, until at last they reached the end of the list, when some one proposed to make menstruation sometimes fatal to women. On this he rose up in his place and cried: “Wadâñ′! I’m glad some more of them will die, for they are getting so thick that they tread on me.” The thought fairly made him shake with joy, so that he fell over backward and could not get on his feet again, but had to wriggle off on his back, as the Grubworm has done ever since.

When the Plants, who were friendly to Man, heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to defeat the latters’ evil designs. Each Tree, Shrub, and Herb, down even to the Grasses and Mosses, agreed to furnish a cure for some one of the diseases named, and each said: “I shall appear to help Man when he calls upon me in his need.” Thus came medicine; and the plants, every one of which has its use if we only knew it, furnish the remedy to counteract the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. Even weeds were made for some good purpose, which we must find out for ourselves. When the doctor does not know what medicine to use for a sick man the spirit of the plant tells him.


The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west she used to stop at her daughter’s house for dinner.

Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. She said to her brother, the Moon, “My grandchildren are ugly; they grin all over their faces when they look at me.” But the Moon said, “I like my younger brothers; I think they are very handsome”—because they always smiled pleasantly when they saw him in the sky at night, for his rays were milder.

The Sun was jealous and planned to kill all the people, so every day when she got near her daughter’s house she sent down such sultry rays that there was a great fever and the people died by hundreds, until everyone had lost some friend and there was fear that no one would be left. They went for help to the Little Men, who said the only way to save themselves was to kill the Sun.

The Little Men made medicine and changed two men to snakes, the Spreading-adder and the Copperhead, and sent them to watch near the door of the daughter of the Sun to bite the old Sun when she came next day. They went together and hid near the house until the Sun came, but when the Spreading-adder was about to spring, the bright light blinded him and he could only spit out yellow slime, as he does to this day when he tries to bite. She called him a nasty thing and went by into the house, and the Copperhead crawled off without trying to do anything.

So the people still died from the heat, and they went to the Little Men a second time for help. The Little Men made medicine again and changed one man into the great Uktena and another into the Rattlesnake and sent them to watch near the house and kill the old Sun when she came for dinner. They made the Uktena very large, with horns on his head, and everyone thought he would be sure to do the work, but the Rattlesnake was so quick and eager that he got ahead and coiled up just outside the house, and when the Sun’s daughter opened the door to look out for her mother, he sprang up and bit her and she fell dead in the doorway. He forgot to wait for the old Sun, but went back to the people, and the Uktena was so very angry that he went back, too. Since then we pray to the rattlesnake and do not kill him, because he is kind and never tries to bite if we do not disturb him. The Uktena grew angrier all the time and very dangerous, so that if he even looked at a man, that man’s family would die. After a long time the people held a council and decided that he was too dangerous to be with them, so they sent him up to Gălûñ′lătĭ, and he is there now. The Spreading-adder, the Copperhead, the Rattlesnake, and the Uktena were all men.

When the Sun found her daughter dead, she went into the house and grieved, and the people did not die any more, but now the world was dark all the time, because the Sun would not come out. They went again to the Little Men, and these told them that if they wanted the Sun to come out again they must bring back her daughter from Tsûsginâ′ĭ, the Ghost country, in Usûñhi′yĭ, the Darkening land in the west. They chose seven men to go, and gave each a sourwood rod a hand-breadth long. The Little Men told them they must take a box with them, and when they got to Tsûsginâ′ĭ they would find all the ghosts at a dance. They must stand outside the circle, and when the young woman passed in the dance they must strike her with the rods and she would fall to the ground. Then they must put her into the box and bring her back to her mother, but they must be very sure not to open the box, even a little way, until they were home again.

They took the rods and a box and traveled seven days to the west until they came to the Darkening land. There were a great many people there, and they were having a dance just as if they were at home in the settlements. The young woman was in the outside circle, and as she swung around to where the seven men were standing, one struck her with his rod and she turned her head and saw him. As she came around the second time another touched her with his rod, and then another and another, until at the seventh round she fell out of the ring, and they put her into the box and closed the lid fast. The other ghosts seemed never to notice what had happened.

They took up the box and started home toward the east. In a little while the girl came to life again and begged to be let out of the box, but they made no answer and went on. Soon she called again and said she was hungry, but still they made no answer and went on. After another while she spoke again and called for a drink and pleaded so that it was very hard to listen to her, but the men who carried the box said nothing and still went on. When at last they were very near home, she called again and begged them to raise the lid just a little, because she was smothering. They were afraid she was really dying now, so they lifted the lid a little to give her air, but as they did so there was a fluttering sound inside and something flew past them into the thicket and they heard a redbird cry, “kwish! kwish! kwish!” in the bushes. They shut down the lid and went on again to the settlements, but when they got there and opened the box it was empty.

So we know the Redbird is the daughter of the Sun, and if the men had kept the box closed, as the Little Men told them to do, they would have brought her home safely, and we could bring back our other friends also from the Ghost country, but now when they die we can never bring them back.

The Sun had been glad when they started to the Ghost country, but when they came back without her daughter she grieved and cried, “My daughter, my daughter,” and wept until her tears made a flood upon the earth, and the people were afraid the world would be drowned. They held another council, and sent their handsomest young men and women to amuse her so that she would stop crying. They danced before the Sun and sang their best songs, but for a long time she kept her face covered and paid no attention, until at last the drummer suddenly changed the song, when she lifted up her face, and was so pleased at the sight that she forgot her grief and smiled.


In the beginning of the world, when people and animals were all the same, there was only one tobacco plant, to which they all came for their tobacco until the Dagûlʻkû geese stole it and carried it far away to the south. The people were suffering without it, and there was one old woman who grew so thin and weak that everybody said she would soon die unless she could get tobacco to keep her alive.

Different animals offered to go for it, one after another, the larger ones first and then the smaller ones, but the Dagûlʻkû saw and killed every one before he could get to the plant. After the others the little Mole tried to reach it by going under the ground, but the Dagûlʻkû saw his track and killed him as he came out.

At last the Hummingbird offered, but the others said he was entirely too small and might as well stay at home. He begged them to let him try, so they showed him a plant in a field and told him to let them see how he would go about it. The next moment he was gone and they saw him sitting on the plant, and then in a moment he was back again, but no one had seen him going or coming, because he was so swift. “This is the way I’ll do,” said the Hummingbird, so they let him try.

He flew off to the east, and when he came in sight of the tobacco the Dagûlʻkû were watching all about it, but they could not see him because he was so small and flew so swiftly. He darted down on the plant—tsa!—and snatched off the top with the leaves and seeds, and was off again before the Dagûlʻkû knew what had happened. Before he got home with the tobacco the old woman had fainted and they thought she was dead, but he blew the smoke into her nostrils, and with a cry of “Tsâ′lû! ” she opened her eyes and was alive again.


The people had tobacco in the beginning, but they had used it all, and there was great suffering for want of it. There was one old man so old that he had to be kept alive by smoking, and as his son did not want to see him die he decided to go himself to try and get some more. The tobacco country was far in the south, with high mountains all around it, and the passes were guarded, so that it was very hard to get into it, but the young man was a conjurer and was not afraid. He traveled southward until he came to the mountains on the border of the tobacco country. Then he opened his medicine bag and took out a hummingbird skin and put it over himself like a dress. Now he was a hummingbird and flew over the mountains to the tobacco field and pulled some of the leaves and seed and put them into his medicine bag.

He was so small and swift that the guards, whoever they were, did not see him, and when he had taken as much as he could carry he flew back over the mountains in the same way. Then he took off the hummingbird skin and put it into his medicine bag, and was a man again. He started home, and on his way came to a tree that had a hole in the trunk, like a door, near the first branches, and a very pretty woman was looking out from it. He stopped and tried to climb the tree, but although he was a good climber he found that he always slipped back. He put on a pair of medicine moccasins from his pouch, and then he could climb the tree, but when he reached the first branches he looked up and the hole was still as far away as before. He climbed higher and higher, but every time he looked up the hole seemed to be farther than before, until at last he was tired and came down again. When he reached home he found his father very weak, but still alive, and one draw at the pipe made him strong again. The people planted the seed and have had tobacco ever since.


A long time ago several young men made up their minds to find the place where the Sun lives and see what the Sun is like. They got ready their bows and arrows, their parched corn and extra moccasins, and started out toward the east. At first they met tribes they knew, then they came to tribes they had only heard about, and at last to others of which they had never heard.

There was a tribe of root eaters and another of acorn eaters, with great piles of acorn shells near their houses. In one tribe they found a sick man dying, and were told it was the custom there when a man died to bury his wife in the same grave with him. They waited until he was dead, when they saw his friends lower the body into a great pit, so deep and dark that from the top they could not see the bottom. Then a rope was tied around the woman’s body, together with a bundle of pine knots, a lighted pine knot was put into her hand, and she was lowered into the pit to die there in the darkness after the last pine knot was burned.

The young men traveled on until they came at last to the sunrise place where the sky reaches down to the ground. They found that the sky was an arch or vault of solid rock hung above the earth and was always swinging up and down, so that when it went up there was an open place like a door between the sky and ground, and when it swung back the door was shut. The Sun came out of this door from the east and climbed along on the inside of the arch. It had a human figure, but was too bright for them to see clearly and too hot to come very near. They waited until the Sun had come out and then tried to get through while the door was still open, but just as the first one was in the doorway the rock came down and crushed him. The other six were afraid to try it, and as they were now at the end of the world they turned around and started back again, but they had traveled so far that they were old men when they reached home.


The Sun was a young woman and lived in the East, while her brother, the Moon, lived in the West. The girl had a lover who used to come every month in the dark of the moon to court her. He would come at night, and leave before daylight, and although she talked with him she could not see his face in the dark, and he would not tell her his name, until she was wondering all the time who it could be. At last she hit upon a plan to find out, so the next time he came, as they were sitting together in the dark of the âsĭ, she slyly dipped her hand into the cinders and ashes of the fireplace and rubbed it over his face, saying, “Your face is cold; you must have suffered from the wind,” and pretending to be very sorry for him, but he did not know that she had ashes on her hand. After a while he left her and went away again.

The next night when the Moon came up in the sky his face was covered with spots, and then his sister knew he was the one who had been coming to see her. He was so much ashamed to have her know it that he kept as far away as he could at the other end of the sky all the night. Ever since he tries to keep a long way behind the Sun, and when he does sometimes have to come near her in the west he makes himself as thin as a ribbon so that he can hardly be seen.

Some old people say that the moon is a ball which was thrown up against the sky in a game a long time ago. They say that two towns were playing against each other, but one of them had the best runners and had almost won the game, when the leader of the other side picked up the ball with his hand—a thing that is not allowed in the game—and tried to throw it to the goal, but it struck against the solid sky vault and was fastened there, to remind players never to cheat. When the moon looks small and pale it is because some one has handled the ball unfairly, and for this reason they formerly played only at the time of a full moon.

When the sun or moon is eclipsed it is because a great frog up in the sky is trying to swallow it. Everybody knows this, even the Creeks and the other tribes, and in the olden times, eighty or a hundred years ago, before the great medicine men were all dead, whenever they saw the sun grow dark the people would come together and fire guns and beat the drum, and in a little while this would frighten off the great frog and the sun would be all right again.

The common people call both Sun and Moon Nûñdă, one being “Nûñdă that dwells in the day” and the other “Nûñdă that dwells in the night,” but the priests call the Sun Su′tălidihĭ′, “Six-killer,” and the Moon Ge′ʻyăgu′ga, though nobody knows now what this word means, or why they use these names. Sometimes people ask the Moon not to let it rain or snow.

The great Thunder and his sons, the two Thunder boys, live far in the west above the sky vault. The lightning and the rainbow are their beautiful dress. The priests pray to the Thunder and call him the Red Man, because that is the brightest color of his dress. There are other Thunders that live lower down, in the cliffs and mountains, and under waterfalls, and travel on invisible bridges from one high peak to another where they have their town houses. The great Thunders above the sky are kind and helpful when we pray to them, but these others are always plotting mischief. One must not point at the rainbow, or one’s finger will swell at the lower joint.


There are different opinions about the stars. Some say they are balls of light, others say they are human, but most people say they are living creatures covered with luminous fur or feathers.

One night a hunting party camping in the mountains noticed two lights like large stars moving along the top of a distant ridge. They wondered and watched until the light disappeared on the other side. The next night, and the next, they saw the lights again moving along the ridge, and after talking over the matter decided to go on the morrow and try to learn the cause. In the morning they started out and went until they came to the ridge, where, after searching some time, they found two strange creatures about so large (making a circle with outstretched arms), with round bodies covered with fine fur or downy feathers, from which small heads stuck out like the heads of terrapins. As the breeze played upon these feathers showers of sparks flew out.

The hunters carried the strange creatures back to the camp, intending to take them home to the settlements on their return. They kept them several days and noticed that every night they would grow bright and shine like great stars, although by day they were only balls of gray fur, except when the wind stirred and made the sparks fly out. They kept very quiet, and no one thought of their trying to escape, when, on the seventh night, they suddenly rose from the ground like balls of fire and were soon above the tops of the trees. Higher and higher they went, while the wondering hunters watched, until at last they were only two bright points of light in the dark sky, and then the hunters knew that they were stars.


Long ago, when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatayû′stĭ game, rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it. Their mothers scolded, but it did no good, so one day they collected some gatayû′stĭ stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner. When the boys came home hungry their mothers dipped out the stones and said, “Since you like the gatayû′stĭ better than the cornfield, take the stones now for your dinner.”

The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, “As our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we shall never trouble them any more.” They began a dance—some say it was the Feather dance—and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them. At last their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse, and as they watched they noticed that their feet were off the earth, and that with every round they rose higher and higher in the air. They ran to get their children, but it was too late, for they were already above the roof of the townhouse—all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayû′stĭ pole, but he struck the ground with such force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.

The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee still call Ani′tsutsă (The Boys). The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot until the earth was damp with her tears. At last a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we call now the pine, and the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.


Some people in the south had a corn mill, in which they pounded the corn into meal, and several mornings when they came to fill it they noticed that some of the meal had been stolen during the night. They examined the ground and found the tracks of a dog, so the next night they watched, and when the dog came from the north and began to eat the meal out of the bowl they sprang out and whipped him. He ran off howling to his home in the north, with the meal dropping from his mouth as he ran, and leaving behind a white trail where now we see the Milky Way, which the Cherokee call to this day Giʻlĭ′-utsûñ′stănûñ′yĭ, “Where the dog ran.”


When the first man was created and a mate was given to him, they lived together very happily for a time, but then began to quarrel, until at last the woman left her husband and started off toward Nûñdâgûñ′yĭ, the Sun land, in the east. The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ, the great Apportioner (the Sun), took pity on him and asked him if he was still angry with his wife. He said he was not, and Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.

So Une′ʻlănûñ′hĭ caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paying any attention to them. Farther on he put a clump of blackberries, but these also she refused to notice. Other fruits, one, two, and three, and then some trees covered with beautiful red service berries, were placed beside the path to tempt her, but she still went on until suddenly she saw in front a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known. She stooped to gather a few to eat, and as she picked them she chanced to turn her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to go on. She sat down, but the longer she waited the stronger became her desire for her husband, and at last she gathered a bunch of the finest berries and started back along the path to give them to him. He met her kindly and they went home together.


A long time ago the people of the old town of Kanu′gaʻlâ′yĭ (“Brier place,” or Briertown), on Nantahala river, in the present Macon county, North Carolina, were much annoyed by a great insect called U′laʻgû′, as large as a house, which used to come from some secret hiding place, and darting swiftly through the air, would snap up children from their play and carry them away. It was unlike any other insect ever known, and the people tried many times to track it to its home, but it was too swift to be followed.

They killed a squirrel and tied a white string to it, so that its course could be followed with the eye, as bee hunters follow the flight of a bee to its tree. The U′laʻgû′ came and carried off the squirrel with the string hanging to it, but darted away so swiftly through the air that it was out of sight in a moment. They killed a turkey and put a longer white string to it, and the U′laʻgû′ came and took the turkey, but was gone again before they could see in what direction it flew. They took a deer ham and tied a white string to it, and again the U′laʻgû′ swooped down and bore it off so swiftly that it could not be followed. At last they killed a yearling deer and tied a very long white string to it. The U′laʻgû′ came again and seized the deer, but this time the load was so heavy that it had to fly slowly and so low down that the string could be plainly seen.

The hunters got together for the pursuit. They followed it along a ridge to the east until they came near where Franklin now is, when, on looking across the valley to the other side, they saw the nest of the U′laʻgû′ in a large cave in the rocks. On this they raised a great shout and made their way rapidly down the mountain and across to the cave. The nest had the entrance below with tiers of cells built up one above another to the roof of the cave. The great U′laʻgû′ was there, with thousands of smaller ones, that we now call yellow-jackets. The hunters built fires around the hole, so that the smoke filled the cave and smothered the great insect and multitudes of the smaller ones, but others which were outside the cave were not killed, and these escaped and increased until now the yellow-jackets, which before were unknown, are all over the world. The people called the cave Tsgâgûñ′yĭ, “Where the yellow-jacket was,” and the place from which they first saw the nest they called Aʻtahi′ta, “Where they shouted,” and these are their names today.

They say also that all the fish and frogs came from a great monster fish and frog which did much damage until at last they were killed by the people, who cut them up into little pieces which were thrown into the water and afterward took shape as the smaller fishes and frogs.


A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl. At last the man was angry and scolded the dog, which then spoke to him and said: “Very soon there is going to be a great freshet and the water will come so high that everybody will be drowned; but if you will make a raft to get upon when the rain comes you can be saved, but you must first throw me into the water.” The man did not believe it, and the dog said, “If you want a sign that I speak the truth, look at the back of my neck.” He looked and saw that the dog’s neck had the skin worn off so that the bones stuck out.

Then he believed the dog, and began to build a raft. Soon the rain came and he took his family, with plenty of provisions, and they all got upon it. It rained for a long time, and the water rose until the mountains were covered and all the people in the world were drowned. Then the rain stopped and the waters went down again, until at last it was safe to come off the raft. Now there was no one alive but the man and his family, but one day they heard a sound of dancing and shouting on the other side of the ridge. The man climbed to the top and looked over; everything was still, but all along the valley he saw great piles of bones of the people who had been drowned, and then he knew that the ghosts had been dancing.


Quadruped Myths


In Cherokee mythology, as in that of Indian tribes generally, there is no essential difference between men and animals. In the primal genesis period they seem to be completely undifferentiated, and we find all creatures alike living and working together in harmony and mutual helpfulness until man, by his aggressiveness and disregard for the rights of the others, provokes their hostility, when insects, birds, fishes, reptiles, and fourfooted beasts join forces against him (see story, “Origin of Disease and Medicine”). Henceforth their lives are apart, but the difference is always one of degree only. The animals, like the people, are organized into tribes and have like them their chiefs and townhouses, their councils and ballplays, and the same hereafter in the Darkening land of Usûñhi′yĭ. Man is still the paramount power, and hunts and slaughters the others as his own necessities compel, but is obliged to satisfy the animal tribes in every instance, very much as a murder is compounded for, according to the Indian system, by “covering the bones of the dead” with presents for the bereaved relatives.

This pardon to the hunter is made the easier through a peculiar doctrine of reincarnation, according to which, as explained by the shamans, there is assigned to every animal a definite life term which can not be curtailed by violent means. If it is killed before the expiration of the allotted time the death is only temporary and the body is immediately resurrected in its proper shape from the blood drops, and the animal continues its existence until the end of the predestined period, when the body is finally dissolved and the liberated spirit goes to join its kindred shades in the Darkening land. This idea appears in the story of the bear man and in the belief concerning the Little Deer. Death is thus but a temporary accident and the killing a mere minor crime. By some priests it is held that there are seven successive reanimations before the final end.

Certain supernatural personages, Kana′tĭ and Tsulʻkălû′ (see the myths), have dominion over the animals, and are therefore regarded as the distinctive gods of the hunter. Kana′tĭ at one time kept the game animals, as well as the pestiferous insects, shut up in a cave under ground, from which they were released by his undutiful sons. The primeval animals—the actors in the animal myths and the predecessors of the existing species—are believed to have been much larger, stronger, and cleverer than their successors of the present day. In these myths we find the Indian explanation of certain peculiarities of form, color, or habit, and the various animals are always consistently represented as acting in accordance with their well-known characteristics.

First and most prominent in the animal myths is the Rabbit (Tsistu), who figures always as a trickster and deceiver, generally malicious, but often beaten at his own game by those whom he had intended to victimize. The connection of the rabbit with the dawn god and the relation of the Indian myths to the stories current among the southern negroes are discussed in another place. Ball players while in training are forbidden to eat the flesh of the rabbit, because this animal so easily becomes confused in running. On the other hand, their spies seek opportunity to strew along the path which must be taken by their rivals a soup made of rabbit hamstrings, with the purpose Of rendering them timorous in action.

In a ball game between the birds and the fourfooted animals (see story) the Bat, which took sides with the birds, is said to have won the victory for his party by his superior dodging abilities. For this reason the wings or sometimes the stuffed skin of the bat are tied to the implements used in the game to insure success for the players. According to the same myth the Flying Squirrel (Tewa) also aided in securing the victory, and hence both these animals are still invoked by the ball player. The meat of the common gray squirrel (sălâ′lĭ) is forbidden to rheumatic patients, on account of the squirrel’s habit of assuming a cramped position when eating. The stripes upon the back of the ground squirrel (kiyu′ʻga) are the mark of scratches made by the angry animals at a memorable council in which he took it upon himself to say a good word for the archenemy, Man (see “Origin of Disease and Medicine”). The peculiarities of the mink (sûñgĭ) are accounted for by another story.

The buffalo, the largest game animal of America, was hunted in the southern Allegheny region until almost the close of the last century, the particular species being probably that known in the West as the wood or mountain buffalo. The name in use among the principal gulf tribes was practically the same, and can not be analyzed, viz, Cherokee, yûñsû′; Hichitee, ya′nasi; Creek, yĕna′sa; Choctaw, yanash. Although the flesh of the buffalo was eaten, its skin dressed for blankets and bed coverings, its long hair woven into belts, and its horns carved into spoons, it is yet strangely absent from Cherokee folklore. So far as is known it is mentioned in but a single one of the sacred formulas, in which a person under treatment for rheumatism is forbidden to eat the meat, touch the skin, or use a spoon made from the horn of the buffalo, upon the ground of an occult connection between the habitual cramped attitude of a rheumatic and the natural “hump” of that animal.

The elk is known, probably by report, under the name of aʻwĭ′ e′gwa, “great deer”, but there is no myth or folklore in connection with it.

The deer, aʻwĭ′, which is still common in the mountains, was the principal dependence of the Cherokee hunter, and is consequently prominent in myth, folklore, and ceremonial. One of the seven gentes of the tribe is named from it (Ani′-Kawĭ′, “Deer People”). According to a myth given elsewhere, the deer won his horns in a successful race with the rabbit. Rheumatism is usually ascribed to the work of revengeful deer ghosts, which the hunter has neglected to placate, while on the other hand the aid of the deer is invoked against frostbite, as its feet are believed to be immune from injury by frost. The wolf, the fox, and the opossum are also invoked for this purpose, and for the same reason. When the redroot (Ceanothus americanus) puts forth its leaves the people say the young fawns are then in the mountains. On killing a deer the hunter always cuts out the hamstring from the hind quarter and throws it away, for fear that if he ate it he would thereafter tire easily in traveling.

The powerful chief of the deer tribe is the Awĭ′ Usdi′, or “Little Deer,” who is invisible to all except the greatest masters of the hunting secrets, and can be wounded only by the hunter who has supplemented years of occult study with frequent fasts and lonely vigils. The Little Deer keeps constant protecting watch over his subjects, and sees well to it that not one is ever killed in wantonness. When a deer is shot by the hunter the Little Deer knows it at once and is instantly at the spot. Bending low his head he asks of the blood stains upon the ground if they have heard—i. e., if the hunter has asked pardon for the life that he has taken. If the formulistic prayer has been made, all is well, because the necessary sacrifice has been atoned for; but if otherwise, the Little Deer tracks the hunter to his house by the blood drops along the trail, and, unseen and unsuspected, puts into his body the spirit of rheumatism that shall rack him with aches and pains from that time henceforth. As seen at rare intervals—perhaps once in a long lifetime—the Little Deer is pure white and about the size of a small dog, has branching antlers, and is always in company with a large herd of deer. Even though shot by the master-hunter, he comes to life again, being immortal, but the fortunate huntsman who can thus make prize of his antlers has in them an unfailing talisman that brings him success in the chase forever after. The smallest portion of one of those horns of the Little Deer, when properly consecrated, attracts the deer to the hunter, and when exposed from the wrapping dazes them so that they forget to run and thus become an easy prey. Like the Ulûñsû′tĭ stone (see number 50), it is a dangerous prize when not treated with proper respect, and is—or was—kept always in a secret place away from the house to guard against sacrilegious handling.

Somewhat similar talismanic power attached to the down from the young antler of the deer when properly consecrated. So firm was the belief that it had influence over “anything about a deer” that eighty and a hundred years ago even white traders used to bargain with the Indians for such charms in order to increase their store of deerskins by drawing the trade to themselves. The faith in the existence of the miraculous Little Deer is almost as strong and universal to-day among the older Cherokee as is the belief in a future life.

The bears (yânû) are transformed Cherokee of the old clan of the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ (see story, “Origin of the Bear”). Their chief is the White Bear, who lives at Kuwâ′hĭ, “Mulberry place,” one of the high peaks of the Great Smoky mountains, near to the enchanted lake of Atagâ′hĭ (see number 69), to which the wounded bears go to be cured of their hurts. Under Kuwâ′hĭ and each of three other peaks in the same mountain region the bears have townhouses, where they congregate and hold dances every fall before retiring to their dens for the winter. Being really human, they can talk if they only would, and once a mother bear was heard singing to her cub in words which the hunter understood. There is one variety known as kalâs′-gûnăhi′ta, “long hams,” described as a large black bear with long legs and small feet, which is always lean, and which the hunter does not care to shoot, possibly on account of its leanness. It is believed that new-born cubs are hairless, like mice.

The wolf (wa′ʻya) is revered as the hunter and watchdog of Kana′tĭ, and the largest gens in the tribe bears the name of Ani′-wa′ʻya, “Wolf people.” The ordinary Cherokee will never kill one if he can possibly avoid it, but will let the animal go by unharmed, believing that the kindred of a slain wolf will surely revenge his death, and that the weapon with which the deed is done will be rendered worthless for further shooting until cleaned and exorcised by a medicine man. Certain persons, however, having knowledge of the proper atonement rites, may kill wolves with impunity, and are hired for this purpose by others who have suffered from raids upon their fish traps or their stock. Like the eagle killer (see “The Bird Tribes”), the professional wolf killer, after killing one of these animals, addresses to it a prayer in which he seeks to turn aside the vengeance of the tribe by laying the burden of blame upon the people of some other settlement. He then unscrews the barrel of his gun and inserts into it seven small sourwood rods heated over the fire, and allows it to remain thus overnight in the running stream; in the morning the rods are taken out and the barrel is thoroughly dried and cleaned.

The dog (giʻlĭ′), although as much a part of Indian life among the Cherokee as in other tribes, hardly appears in folklore. One myth makes him responsible for the milky way; another represents him as driving the wolf from the comfortable house fire and taking the place for himself. He figures also in connection with the deluge. There is no tradition of the introduction of the horse (sâ′gwălĭ, asâ′gwălihû′, “a pack or burden”) or of the cow (wa′ʻka, from the Spanish, vaca). The hog is called sĭkwă, this being originally the name of the opossum, which somewhat resembles it in expression, and which is now distinguished as sĭkwă utse′tstĭ, “grinning sĭkwă.” In the same way the sheep, another introduced animal, is called aʻwĭ′ unăde′na, “woolly deer”; the goat, aʻwĭ′ ahănu′lăhĭ, “bearded deer,” and the mule, sâ′gwă′lĭ digû′lanăhi′ta, “long-eared horse.” The cat, also obtained from the whites, is called wesă, an attempt at the English “pussy.” When it purrs by the fireside, the children say it is counting in Cherokee, “ta′ladu′, nûñ′gĭ, ta′ladu′, nûñ′gĭ,” “sixteen, four, sixteen, four.” The elephant, which a few of the Cherokee have seen in shows, is called by them kăma′mă u′tănû, “great butterfly,” from the supposed resemblance of its long trunk and flapping ears to the proboscis and wings of that insect. The anatomical peculiarities of the opossum, of both sexes, are the subject of much curious speculation among the Indians, many of whom believe that its young are produced without any help from the male. It occurs in one or two of the minor myths.

The fox (tsu′ʻlă) is mentioned in one of the formulas, but does not appear in the tribal folklore. The black fox is known by a different name (inâ′lĭ). The odor of the skunk (dĭlă′) is believed to keep off contagious diseases, and the scent bag is therefore taken out and hung over the doorway, a small hole being pierced in it in order that the contents may ooze out upon the timbers. At times, as in the smallpox epidemic of 1866, the entire body of the animal was thus hung up, and in some cases, as an additional safeguard, the meat was cooked and eaten and the oil rubbed over the skin of the person. The underlying idea is that the fetid smell repels the disease spirit, and upon the same principle the buzzard, which is so evidently superior to carrion smells, is held to be powerful against the same diseases.

The beaver (dâ′yĭ), by reason of its well-known gnawing ability, against which even the hardest wood is not proof, is invoked on behalf of young children just getting their permanent teeth. According to the little formula which is familiar to nearly every mother in the tribe, when the loosened milk tooth is pulled out or drops out of itself, the child runs with it around the house, repeating four times, “Dâ′yĭ, skĭntă′ (Beaver, put a new tooth into my jaw)” after which he throws the tooth upon the roof of the house.

In a characteristic song formula to prevent frostbite the traveler, before starting out on a cold winter morning, rubs his feet in the ashes of the fire and sings a song of four verses, by means of which, according to the Indian idea, he acquires in turn the cold-defying powers of the wolf, deer, fox, and opossum, four animals whose feet, it is held, are never frostbitten. After each verse he imitates the cry and the action of the animal. The words used are archaic in form and may be rendered “I become a real wolf,” etc. The song runs:

Tsûñ′wa′ʻya-ya′ (repeated four times), wa + a! (prolonged howl). (Imitates a wolf pawing the ground with his feet.)

Tsûñ′-ka′wi-ye′ (repeated four times), sauh! sauh! sauh! sauh! (Imitates call and jumping of a deer.)

Tsûñ′-tsu′ʻla-ya′ (repeated four times), gaih! gaih! gaih! gaih! (Imitates barking and scratching of a fox.)

Tsûñ′-sĭ′kwa-ya′ (repeated four times), kĭ +. (Imitates the cry of an opossum when cornered, and throws his head back as that animal does when feigning death.)


The Rabbit was so boastful that he would claim to do whatever he saw anyone else do, and so tricky that he could usually make the other animals believe it all. Once he pretended that he could swim in the water and eat fish just as the Otter did, and when the others told him to prove it he fixed up a plan so that the Otter himself was deceived.

Soon afterward they met again and the Otter said, “I eat ducks sometimes.” Said the Rabbit, “Well, I eat ducks too.” The Otter challenged him to try it; so they went up along the river until they saw several ducks in the water and managed to get near without being seen. The Rabbit told the Otter to go first. The Otter never hesitated, but dived from the bank and swam under water until he reached the ducks, when he pulled one down without being noticed by the others, and came back in the same way.

While the Otter had been under the water the Rabbit had peeled some bark from a sapling and made himself a noose. “Now,” he said, “Just watch me;” and he dived in and swam a little way under the water until he was nearly choking and had to come up to the top to breathe. He went under again and came up again a little nearer to the ducks. He took another breath and dived under, and this time he came up among the ducks and threw the noose over the head of one and caught it. The duck struggled hard and finally spread its wings and flew up from the water with the Rabbit hanging on to the noose.

It flew on and on until at last the Rabbit could not hold on any longer, but had to let go and drop. As it happened, he fell into a tall, hollow sycamore stump without any hole at the bottom to get out from, and there he stayed until he was so hungry that he had to eat his own fur, as the rabbit does ever since when he is starving. After several days, when he was very weak with hunger, he heard children playing outside around the trees. He began to sing:

Cut a door and look at me; I’m the prettiest thing you ever did see.

The children ran home and told their father, who came and began to cut a hole in the tree. As he chopped away the Rabbit inside kept singing, “Cut it larger, so you can see me better; I’m so pretty.” They made the hole larger, and then the Rabbit told them to stand back so that they could take a good look as he came out. They stood away back, and the Rabbit watched his chance and jumped out and got away.


The animals were of different sizes and wore coats of various colors and patterns. Some wore long fur and others wore short. Some had rings on their tails, and some had no tails at all. Some had coats of brown, others of black or yellow. They were always disputing about their good looks, so at last they agreed to hold a council to decide who had the finest coat.

They had heard a great deal about the Otter, who lived so far up the creek that he seldom came down to visit the other animals. It was said that he had the finest coat of all, but no one knew just what it was like, because it was a long time since anyone had seen him. They did not even know exactly where he lived—only the general direction; but they knew he would come to the council when the word got out.

Now the Rabbit wanted the verdict for himself, so when it began to look as if it might go to the Otter he studied up a plan to cheat him out of it. He asked a few sly questions until he learned what trail the Otter would take to get to the council place. Then, without saying anything, he went on ahead and after four days’ travel he met the Otter and knew him at once by his beautiful coat of soft dark-brown fur. The Otter was glad to see him and asked him where he was going. “O,” said the Rabbit, “the animals sent me to bring you to the council; because you live so far away they were afraid you mightn’t know the road.” The Otter thanked him, and they went on together.

They traveled all day toward the council ground, and at night the Rabbit selected the camping place, because the Otter was a stranger in that part of the country, and cut down bushes for beds and fixed everything in good shape. The next morning they started on again. In the afternoon the Rabbit began to pick up wood and bark as they went along and to load it on his back. When the Otter asked what this was for the Rabbit said it was that they might be warm and comfortable at night. After a while, when it was near sunset, they stopped and made their camp.

When supper was over the Rabbit got a stick and shaved it down to a paddle. The Otter wondered and asked again what that was for.

“I have good dreams when I sleep with a paddle under my head,” said the Rabbit.

When the paddle was finished the Rabbit began to cut away the bushes so as to make a clean trail down to the river. The Otter wondered more and more and wanted to know what this meant.

Said the Rabbit, “This place is called Di′tatlâski′yĭ . Sometimes it rains fire here, and the sky looks a little that way to-night. You go to sleep and I’ll sit up and watch, and if the fire does come, as soon as you hear me shout, you run and jump into the river. Better hang your coat on a limb over there, so it won’t get burnt.”

The Otter did as he was told, and they both doubled up to go to sleep, but the Rabbit kept awake. After a while the fire burned down to red coals. The Rabbit called, but the Otter was fast asleep and made no answer. In a little while he called again, but the Otter never stirred. Then the Rabbit filled the paddle with hot coals and threw them up into the air and shouted, “It’s raining fire! It’s raining fire!”

The hot coals fell all around the Otter and he jumped up. “To the water!” cried the Rabbit, and the Otter ran and jumped into the river, and he has lived in the water ever since.

The Rabbit took the Otter’s coat and put it on, leaving his own instead, and went on to the council. All the animals were there, every one looking out for the Otter. At last they saw him in the distance, and they said one to the other, “The Otter is coming!” and sent one of the small animals to show him the best seat. They were all glad to see him and went up in turn to welcome him, but the Otter kept his head down, with one paw over his face. They wondered that he was so bashful, until the Bear came up and pulled the paw away, and there was the Rabbit with his split nose. He sprang up and started to run, when the Bear struck at him and pulled his tail off, but the Rabbit was too quick for them and got away.


The Possum used to have a long, bushy tail, and was so proud of it that he combed it out every morning and sang about it at the dance, until the Rabbit, who had had no tail since the Bear pulled it out, became very jealous and made up his mind to play the Possum a trick.

There was to be a great council and a dance at which all the animals were to be present. It was the Rabbit’s business to send out the news, so as he was passing the Possum’s place he stopped to ask him if he intended to be there. The Possum said he would come if he could have a special seat, “because I have such a handsome tail that I ought to sit where everybody can see me.” The Rabbit promised to attend to it and to send some one besides to comb and dress the Possum’s tail for the dance, so the Possum was very much pleased and agreed to come.

Then the Rabbit went over to the Cricket, who is such an expert hair cutter that the Indians call him the barber, and told him to go next morning and dress the Possum’s tail for the dance that night. He told the Cricket just what to do and then went on about some other mischief.

In the morning the Cricket went to the Possum’s house and said he had come to get him ready for the dance. So the Possum stretched himself out and shut his eyes while the Cricket combed out his tail and wrapped a red string around it to keep it smooth until night. But all this time, as he wound the string around, he was clipping off the hair close to the roots, and the Possum never knew it.

When it was night the Possum went to the townhouse where the dance was to be and found the best seat ready for him, just as the Rabbit had promised. When his turn came in the dance he loosened the string from his tail and stepped into the middle of the floor. The drummers began to drum and the Possum began to sing, “See my beautiful tail.” Everybody shouted and he danced around the circle and sang again, “See what a fine color it has.” They shouted again and he danced around another time, singing, “See how it sweeps the ground.” The animals shouted more loudly than ever, and the Possum was delighted. He danced around again and sang, “See how fine the fur is.” Then everybody laughed so long that the Possum wondered what they meant. He looked around the circle of animals and they were all laughing at him. Then he looked down at his beautiful tail and saw that there was not a hair left upon it, but that it was as bare as the tail of a lizard. He was so much astonished and ashamed that he could not say a word, but rolled over helpless on the ground and grinned, as the Possum does to this day when taken by surprise.


The Wildcat once caught the Rabbit and was about to kill him, when the Rabbit begged for his life, saying: “I’m so small I would make only a mouthful for you, but if you let me go I’ll show you where you can get a whole drove of Turkeys.” So the Wildcat let him up and went with him to where the Turkeys were.

When they came near the place the Rabbit said to the Wildcat, “Now, you must do just as I say. Lie down as if you were dead and don’t move, even if I kick you, but when I give the word jump up and catch the largest one there.” The Wildcat agreed and stretched out as if dead, while the Rabbit gathered some rotten wood and crumbled it over his eyes and nose to make them look flyblown, so that the Turkeys would think he had been dead some time.

Then the Rabbit went over to the Turkeys and said, in a sociable way, “Here, I’ve found our old enemy, the Wildcat, lying dead in the trail. Let’s have a dance over him.” The Turkeys were very doubtful, but finally went with him to where the Wildcat was lying in the road as if dead. Now, the Rabbit had a good voice and was a great dance leader, so he said, “I’ll lead the song and you dance around him.” The Turkeys thought that fine, so the Rabbit took a stick to beat time and began to sing: “Gălăgi′na hasuyak′, Gălăgi′na hasuyak′ (pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler).”

“Why do you say that?” said the old Turkey. “O, that’s all right,” said the Rabbit, “that’s just the way he does, and we sing about it.” He started the song again and the Turkeys began to dance around the Wildcat. When they had gone around several times the Rabbit said, “Now go up and hit him, as we do in the war dance.” So the Turkeys, thinking the Wildcat surely dead, crowded in close around him and the old gobbler kicked him. Then the Rabbit drummed hard and sang his loudest, “Pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler,” and the Wildcat jumped up and caught the Gobbler.


The Rabbit was a great runner, and everybody knew it. No one thought the Terrapin anything but a slow traveler, but he was a great warrior and very boastful, and the two were always disputing about their speed. At last they agreed to decide the matter by a race. They fixed the day and the starting place and arranged to run across four mountain ridges, and the one who came in first at the end was to be the winner.

The Rabbit felt so sure of it that he said to the Terrapin, “You know you can’t run. You can never win the race, so I’ll give you the first ridge and then you’ll have only three to cross while I go over four.”

The Terrapin said that would be all right, but that night when he went home to his family he sent for his Terrapin friends and told them he wanted their help. He said he knew he could not outrun the Rabbit, but he wanted to stop the Rabbit’s boasting. He explained his plan to his friends and they agreed to help him.

When the day came all the animals were there to see the race. The Rabbit was with them, but the Terrapin was gone ahead toward the first ridge, as they had arranged, and they could hardly see him on account of the long grass. The word was given and the Rabbit started off with long jumps up the mountain, expecting to win the race before the Terrapin could get down the other side. But before he got up the mountain he saw the Terrapin go over the ridge ahead of him. He ran on, and when he reached the top he looked all around, but could not see the Terrapin on account of the long grass. He kept on down the mountain and began to climb the second ridge, but when he looked up again there was the Terrapin just going over the top. Now he was surprised and made his longest jumps to catch up, but when he got to the top there was the Terrapin away in front going over the third ridge. The Rabbit was getting tired now and nearly out of breath, but he kept on down the mountain and up the other ridge until he got to the top just in time to see the Terrapin cross the fourth ridge and thus win the race.

The Rabbit could not make another jump, but fell over on the ground, crying mĭ, mĭ, mĭ, mĭ, as the Rabbit does ever since when he is too tired to run any more. The race was given to the Terrapin and all the animals wondered how he could win against the Rabbit, but he kept still and never told. It was easy enough, however, because all the Terrapin’s friends looked just alike, and he had simply posted one near the top of each ridge to wait until the Rabbit came in sight and then climb over and hide in the long grass. When the Rabbit came on he could not find the Terrapin and so thought the Terrapin was ahead, and if he had met one of the other terrapins he would have thought it the same one because they looked so much alike. The real Terrapin had posted himself on the fourth ridge, so as to come in at the end of the race and be ready to answer questions if the animals suspected anything.

Because the Rabbit had to lie down and lose the race the conjurer now, when preparing his young men for the ball play, boils a lot of rabbit hamstrings into a soup, and sends some one at night to pour it across the path along which the other players are to come in the morning, so that they may become tired in the same way and lose the game. It is not always easy to do this, because the other party is expecting it and has watchers ahead to prevent it.


Once there was such a long spell of dry weather that there was no more water in the creeks and springs, and the animals held a council to see what to do about it. They decided to dig a well, and all agreed to help except the Rabbit, who was a lazy fellow, and said, “I don’t need to dig for water. The dew on the grass is enough for me.” The others did not like this, but they went to work together and dug their well.

They noticed that the Rabbit kept sleek and lively, although it was still dry weather and the water was getting low in the well. They said, “That tricky Rabbit steals our water at night,” so they made a wolf of pine gum and tar and set it up by the well to scare the thief. That night the Rabbit came, as he had been coming every night, to drink enough to last him all next day. He saw the queer black thing by the well and said, “Who’s there?” but the tar wolf said nothing. He came nearer, but the wolf never moved, so he grew braver and said, “Get out of my way or I’ll strike you.” Still the wolf never moved and the Rabbit came up and struck it with his paw, but the gum held his foot and it stuck fast. Now he was angry and said, “Let me go or I’ll kick you.” Still the wolf said nothing. Then the Rabbit struck again with his hind foot, so hard that it was caught in the gum and he could not move, and there he stuck until the animals came for water in the morning. When they found who the thief was they had great sport over him for a while and then got ready to kill him, but as soon as he was unfastened from the tar wolf he managed to get away.—Wafford.


“Once upon a time there was such a severe drought that all streams of water and all lakes were dried up. In this emergency the beasts assembled together to devise means to procure water. It was proposed by one to dig a well. All agreed to do so except the hare. She refused because it would soil her tiny paws. The rest, however, dug their well and were fortunate enough to find water. The hare beginning to suffer and thirst, and having no right to the well, was thrown upon her wits to procure water. She determined, as the easiest way, to steal from the public well. The rest of the animals, surprised to find that the hare was so well supplied with water, asked her where she got it. She replied that she arose betimes in the morning and gathered the dewdrops. However the wolf and the fox suspected her of theft and hit on the following plan to detect her:

They made a wolf of tar and placed it near the well. On the following night the hare came as usual after her supply of water. On seeing the tar wolf she demanded who was there. Receiving no answer she repeated the demand, threatening to kick the wolf if he did not reply. She receiving no reply kicked the wolf, and by this means adhered to the tar and was caught. When the fox and wolf got hold of her they consulted what it was best to do with her. One proposed cutting her head off. This the hare protested would be useless, as it had often been tried without hurting her. Other methods were proposed for dispatching her, all of which she said would be useless. At last it was proposed to let her loose to perish in a thicket. Upon this the hare affected great uneasiness and pleaded hard for life. Her enemies, however, refused to listen and she was accordingly let loose. As soon, however, as she was out of reach of her enemies she gave a whoop, and bounding away she exclaimed: ‘This is where I live.’”—


The Rabbit and the Possum each wanted a wife, but no one would marry either of them. They talked over the matter and the Rabbit said, “We can’t get wives here; let’s go to the next settlement. I’m the messenger for the council, and I’ll tell the people that I bring an order that everybody must take a mate at once, and then we’ll be sure to get our wives.”

The Possum thought this a fine plan, so they started off together to the next town. As the Rabbit traveled faster he got there first and waited outside until the people noticed him and took him into the townhouse. When the chief came to ask his business the Rabbit said he brought an important order from the council that everybody must get married without delay. So the chief called the people together and told them the message from the council. Every animal took a mate at once, and the Rabbit got a wife.

The Possum traveled so slowly that he got there after all the animals had mated, leaving him still without a wife. The Rabbit pretended to feel sorry for him and said, “Never mind, I’ll carry the message to the people in the next settlement, and you hurry on as fast as you can, and this time you will get your wife.”

So he went on to the next town, and the Possum followed close after him. But when the Rabbit got to the townhouse he sent out the word that, as there had been peace so long that everybody was getting lazy the council had ordered that there must be war at once and they must begin right in the townhouse. So they all began fighting, but the Rabbit made four great leaps and got away just as the Possum came in. Everybody jumped on the Possum, who had not thought of bringing his weapons on a wedding trip, and so could not defend himself. They had nearly beaten the life out of him when he fell over and pretended to be dead until he saw a good chance to jump up and get away. The Possum never got a wife, but he remembers the lesson, and ever since he shuts his eyes and pretends to be dead when the hunter has him in a close corner.


The Bear invited the Rabbit to dine with him. They had beans in the pot, but there was no grease for them, so the Bear cut a slit in his side and let the oil run out until they had enough to cook the dinner. The Rabbit looked surprised, and thought to himself, “That’s a handy way. I think I’ll try that.” When he started home he invited the Bear to come and take dinner with him four days later.

When the Bear came the Rabbit said, “I have beans for dinner, too. Now I’ll get the grease for them.” So he took a knife and drove it into his side, but instead of oil, a stream of blood gushed out and he fell over nearly dead. The Bear picked him up and had hard work to tie up the wound and stop the bleeding. Then he scolded him, “You little fool, I’m large and strong and lined with fat all over; the knife don’t hurt me; but you’re small and lean, and you can’t do such things.”


Some Wolves once caught the Rabbit and were going to eat him when he asked leave to show them a new dance he was practicing. They knew that the Rabbit was a great song leader, and they wanted to learn the latest dance, so they agreed and made a ring about him while he got ready. He patted his feet and began to dance around in a circle, singing:

Tlâge′sitûñ′ găli′sgi′sidâ′hă—

Ha′nia lĭl! lĭl! Ha′nia lĭl! lĭl!

On the edge of the field I dance about—

Ha′nia lĭl! lĭl! Ha′nia lĭl! lĭl!

“Now,” said the Rabbit, “when I sing ‘on the edge of the field,’ I dance that way”—and he danced over in that direction—“and when I sing ‘lĭl! lĭl!’ you must all stamp your feet hard.” The Wolves thought it fine. He began another round singing the same song, and danced a little nearer to the field, while the Wolves all stamped their feet. He sang louder and louder and danced nearer and nearer to the field until at the fourth song, when the Wolves were stamping as hard as they could and thinking only of the song, he made one jump and was off through the long grass. They were after him at once, but he ran for a hollow stump and climbed up on the inside. When the the Wolves got there one of them put his head inside to look up, but the Rabbit spit into his eye, so that he had to pull his head out again. The others were afraid to try, and they went away, with the Rabbit still in the stump.


In the old days Tăwi′skălă (Flint) lived up in the mountains, and all the animals hated him because he had helped to kill so many of them. They used to get together to talk over means to put him out of the way, but everybody was afraid to venture near his house until the Rabbit, who was the boldest leader among them, offered to go after Flint and try to kill him. They told him where to find him, and the Rabbit set out and at last came to Flint’s house.

Flint was standing at his door when the Rabbit came up and said, sneeringly, “Siyu′! Hello! Are you the fellow they call Flint?” “Yes; that’s what they call me,” answered Flint. “Is this where you live?” “Yes; this is where I live.” All this time the Rabbit was looking about the place trying to study out some plan to take Flint off his guard. He had expected Flint to invite him into the house, so he waited a little while, but when Flint made no move, he said, “Well, my name is Rabbit; I’ve heard a good deal about you, so I came to invite you to come and see me.”

Flint wanted to know where the Rabbit’s house was, and he told him it was down in the broom-grass field near the river. So Flint promised to make him a visit in a few days. “Why not come now and have supper with me?” said the Rabbit, and after a little coaxing Flint agreed and the two started down the mountain together.

When they came near the Rabbit’s hole the Rabbit said, “There is my house, but in summer I generally stay outside here where it is cooler.” So he made a fire, and they had their supper on the grass. When it was over, Flint stretched out to rest and the Rabbit got some heavy sticks and his knife and cut out a mallet and wedge. Flint looked up and asked what that was for. “Oh,” said the Rabbit, “I like to be doing something, and they may come handy.” So Flint lay down again, and pretty soon he was sound asleep. The Rabbit spoke to him once or twice to make sure, but there was no answer. Then he came over to Flint and with one good blow of the mallet he drove the sharp stake into his body and ran with all his might for his own hole; but before he reached it there was a loud explosion, and pieces of flint flew all about. That is why we find flint in so many places now. One piece struck the Rabbit from behind and cut him just as he dived into his hole. He sat listening until everything seemed quiet again. Then he put his head out to look around, but just at that moment another piece fell and struck him on the lip and split it, as we still see it.


In the beginning the Deer had no horns, but his head was smooth just like a doe’s. He was a great runner and the Rabbit was a great jumper, and the animals were all curious to know which could go farther in the same time. They talked about it a good deal, and at last arranged a match between the two, and made a nice large pair of antlers for a prize to the winner. They were to start together from one side of a thicket and go through it, then turn and come back, and the one who came out first was to get the horns.

On the day fixed all the animals were there, with the antlers put down on the ground at the edge of the thicket to mark the starting point. While everybody was admiring the horns the Rabbit said: “I don’t know this part of the country; I want to take a look through the bushes where I am to run.” They thought that all right, so the Rabbit went into the thicket, but he was gone so long that at last the animals suspected he must be up to one of his tricks. They sent a messenger to look for him, and away in the middle of the thicket he found the Rabbit gnawing down the bushes and pulling them away until he had a road cleared nearly to the other side.

The messenger turned around quietly and came back and told the other animals. When the Rabbit came out at last they accused him of cheating, but he denied it until they went into the thicket and found the cleared road. They agreed that such a trickster had no right to enter the race at all, so they gave the horns to the Deer, who was admitted to be the best runner, and he has worn them ever since. They told the Rabbit that as he was so fond of cutting down bushes he might do that for a living hereafter, and so he does to this day.


The Rabbit felt sore because the Deer had won the horns (see the last story), and resolved to get even. One day soon after the race he stretched a large grapevine across the trail and gnawed it nearly in two in the middle. Then he went back a piece, took a good run, and jumped up at the vine. He kept on running and jumping up at the vine until the Deer came along and asked him what he was doing?

“Don’t you see?” says the Rabbit. “I’m so strong that I can bite through that grapevine at one jump.”

The Deer could hardly believe this, and wanted to see it done. So the Rabbit ran back, made a tremendous spring, and bit through the vine where he had gnawed it before. The Deer, when he saw that, said, “Well, I can do it if you can.” So the Rabbit stretched a larger grapevine across the trail, but without gnawing it in the middle. The Deer ran back as he had seen the Rabbit do, made a spring, and struck the grapevine right in the center, but it only flew back and threw him over on his head. He tried again and again, until he was all bruised and bleeding.

“Let me see your teeth,” at last said the Rabbit. So the Deer showed him his teeth, which were long like a wolf’s teeth, but not very sharp.

“No wonder you can’t do it,” says the Rabbit; “your teeth are too blunt to bite anything. Let me sharpen them for you like mine. My teeth are so sharp that I can cut through a stick just like a knife.” And he showed him a black locust twig, of which rabbits gnaw the young shoots, which he had shaved off as well as a knife could do it, in regular rabbit fashion. The Deer thought that just the thing. So the Rabbit got a hard stone with rough edges and filed and filed away at the Deer’s teeth until they were worn down almost to the gums.

“It hurts,” said the Deer; but the Rabbit said it always hurt a little when they began to get sharp; so the Deer kept quiet.

“Now try it,” at last said the Rabbit. So the Deer tried again, but this time he could not bite at all.

“Now you’ve paid for your horns,” said the Rabbit, as he jumped away through the bushes. Ever since then the Deer’s teeth are so blunt that he can not chew anything but grass and leaves.


The Deer was very angry at the Rabbit for filing his teeth and determined to be revenged, but he kept still and pretended to be friendly until the Rabbit was off his guard. Then one day, as they were going along together talking, he challenged the Rabbit to jump against him. Now the Rabbit is a great jumper, as every one knows, so he agreed at once. There was a small stream beside the path, as there generally is in that country, and the Deer said:

“Let’s see if you can jump across this branch. We’ll go back a piece, and then when I say Kû! then both run and jump.”

“All right,” said the Rabbit. So they went back to get a good start, and when the Deer gave the word Kû! they ran for the stream, and the Rabbit made one jump and landed on the other side. But the Deer had stopped on the bank, and when the Rabbit looked back the Deer had conjured the stream so that it was a large river. The Rabbit was never able to get back again and is still on the other side. The rabbit that we know is only a little thing that came afterwards.


The Mink was such a great thief that at last the animals held a council about the matter. It was decided to burn him, so they caught the Mink, built a great fire, and threw him into it. As the blaze went up and they smelt the roasted flesh, they began to think he was punished enough and would probably do better in the future, so they took him out of the fire. But the Mink was already burned black and is black ever since, and whenever he is attacked or excited he smells again like roasted meat. The lesson did no good, however, and he is still as great a thief as ever.


A man was in love with a woman who disliked him and would have nothing to do with him. He tried every way to win her favor, but to no purpose, until at last he grew discouraged and made himself sick thinking over it. The Mole came along, and finding him in such low condition asked what was the trouble. The man told him the whole story, and when he had finished the Mole said: “I can help you, so that she will not only like you, but will come to you of her own will.” So that night the Mole burrowed his way underground to where the girl was in bed asleep and took out her heart. He came back by the same way and gave the heart to the man, who could not see it even when it was put into his hand. “There,” said the Mole, “swallow it, and she will be drawn to come to you and can not keep away.” The man swallowed the heart, and when the girl woke up she somehow thought at once of him, and felt a strange desire to be with him, as though she must go to him at once. She wondered and could not understand it, because she had always disliked him before, but at last the feeling grew so strong that she was compelled to go herself to the man and tell him she loved him and wanted to be his wife. And so they were married, but all the magicians who had known them both were surprised and wondered how it had come about. When they found that it was the work of the Mole, whom they had always before thought too insignificant for their notice, they were very jealous and threatened to kill him, so that he hid himself under the ground and has never since dared to come up to the surface.


The Possum and the Terrapin went out together to hunt persimmons, and found a tree full of ripe fruit. The Possum climbed it and was throwing down the persimmons to the Terrapin when a wolf came up and began to snap at the persimmons as they fell, before the Terrapin could reach them. The Possum waited his chance, and at last managed to throw down a large one (some say a bone which he carried with him), so that it lodged in the wolf’s throat as he jumped up at it and choked him to death. “I’ll take his ears for hominy spoons,” said the Terrapin, and cut off the wolf’s ears and started home with them, leaving the Possum still eating persimmons up in the tree. After a while he came to a house and was invited to have some kanahe′na gruel from the jar that is set always outside the door. He sat down beside the jar and dipped up the gruel with one of the wolf’s ears for a spoon. The people noticed and wondered. When he was satisfied he went on, but soon came to another house and was asked to have some more kanahe′na. He dipped it up again with the wolf’s ear and went on when he had enough. Soon the news went around that the Terrapin had killed the Wolf and was using his ears for spoons. All the Wolves got together and followed the Terrapin’s trail until they came up with him and made him prisoner. Then they held a council to decide what to do with him, and agreed to boil him in a clay pot. They brought in a pot, but the Terrapin only laughed at it and said that if they put him into that thing he would kick it all to pieces. They said they would burn him in the fire, but the Terrapin laughed again and said he would put it out. Then they decided to throw him into the deepest hole in the river and drown him. The Terrapin begged and prayed them not to do that, but they paid no attention, and dragged him over to the river and threw him in. That was just what the Terrapin had been waiting for all the time, and he dived under the water and came up on the other side and got away.

Some say that when he was thrown into the river he struck against a rock, which broke his back in a dozen places. He sang a medicine song:

Gû′daye′wû, Gû′daye′wû,

I have sewed myself together,
I have sewed myself together,
and the pieces came together,
but the scars remain on his shell to this day.


Seven wolves once caught a Groundhog and said, “Now we’ll kill you and have something good to eat.” But the Groundhog said, “When we find good food we must rejoice over it, as people do in the Green-corn dance. I know you mean to kill me and I can’t help myself, but if you want to dance I’ll sing for you. This is a new dance entirely. I’ll lean up against seven trees in turn and you will dance out and then turn and come back, as I give the signal, and at the last turn you may kill me.”

The wolves were very hungry, but they wanted to learn the new dance, so they told him to go ahead. The Groundhog leaned up against a tree and began the song, Ha′wiye′ĕhĭ′, and all the wolves danced out in front, until he gave the signal, Yu! and began with Hi′yagu′wĕ, when they turned and danced back in line. “That’s fine,” said the Groundhog, and went over to the next tree and started the second song. The wolves danced out and then turned at the signal and danced back again. “That’s very fine,” said the Groundhog, and went over to another tree and started the third song. The wolves danced their best and the Groundhog encouraged them, but at each song he took another tree, and each tree was a little nearer to his hole under a stump. At the seventh song he said, “Now, this is the last dance, and when I say Yu! you will all turn and come after me, and the one who gets me may have me.” So he began the seventh song and kept it up until the wolves were away out in front. Then he gave the signal, Yu! and made a jump for his hole. The wolves turned and were after him, but he reached the hole first and dived in. Just as he got inside, the foremost wolf caught him by the tail and gave it such a pull that it broke off, and the Groundhog’s tail has been short ever since.

The unpleasant smell of the Groundhog’s head was given it by the other animals to punish an insulting remark made by him in council. The story is a vulgar one, without wit enough to make it worth recording.


In the old times when the animals used to talk and hold councils, and the Grubworm and Woodchuck used to marry people, there was once a great famine of mast in the mountains, and all the animals and birds which lived upon it met together and sent the Pigeon out to the low country to see if any food could be found there. After a time she came back and reported that she had found a country where the mast was “up to our ankles” on the ground. So they got together and moved down into the low country in a great army.


Kana′tĭ had wolves to hunt for him, because they are good hunters and never fail. He once sent out two wolves at once. One went to the east and did not return. The other went to the north, and when he returned at night and did not find his fellow he knew he must be in trouble and started after him. After traveling on some time he found his brother lying nearly dead beside a great greensnake (sălikwâ′yĭ) which had attacked him. The snake itself was too badly wounded to crawl away, and the angry wolf, who had magic powers, taking out several hairs from his own whiskers, shot them into the body of the snake and killed it. He then hurried back to Kana′tĭ, who sent the Terrapin after a great doctor who lived in the west to save the wounded wolf. The wolf went back to help his brother and by his magic powers he had him cured long before the doctor came from the west, because the Terrapin was such a slow traveler and the doctor had to prepare his roots before he started.

In the beginning, the people say, the Dog was put on the mountain and the Wolf beside the fire. When the winter came the Dog could not stand the cold, so he came down to the settlement and drove the Wolf from the fire. The Wolf ran to the mountains, where it suited him so well that he prospered and increased, until after a while he ventured down again and killed some animals in the settlements. The people got together and followed and killed him, but his brothers came from the mountains and took such revenge that ever since the people have been afraid to hurt a wolf.


Bird Myths


Winged creatures of all kinds are classed under the generic term of aninâ′hilidâ′hĭ (flyers). Birds are called, alike in the singular and plural, tsi′skwa, the term being generally held to exclude the domestic fowls introduced by the whites. When it is necessary to make the distinction they are mentioned, respectively, as inăgĕhĭ (living in the woods), and uluñni′ta (tame). The robin is called tsiskwa′gwă, a name which can not be analyzed, while the little sparrow is called tsiskwâ′yă (the real or principal bird), perhaps, in accord with a principle in Indian nomenclature, on account of its wide distribution. As in other languages, many of the bird names are onomatopes, as waʻhuhu′ (the screech owl), u′guku′ (the hooting owl), wagulĭ′ (the whippoorwill), kâgû (the crow), gŭgwĕ′ (the quail), huhu (the yellow mocking-bird), tsĭ′kĭlilĭ′ (the chickadee), sa′sa′ (the goose). The turtledove is called gulĕ′-diskaʻnihĭ′ (it cries for acorns), on account of the resemblance of its cry to the sound of the word for acorn (gulĕ′). The meadow lark is called năkwĭsĭ′ (star), on account of the appearance of its tail when spread out as it soars. The nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is called tsulie′na (deaf), and is supposed to be without hearing, possibly on account of its fearless disregard for man’s presence. Certain diseases are diagnosed by the doctors as due to birds, either revengeful bird ghosts, bird feathers about the house, or bird shadows falling upon the patient from overhead.

The eagle (awâ′hĭlĭ) is the great sacred bird of the Cherokee, as of nearly all our native tribes, and figures prominently in their ceremonial ritual, especially in all things relating to war. The particular species prized was the golden or war eagle (Aquila chrysætus), called by the Cherokee the “pretty-feathered eagle,” on account of its beautiful tail feathers, white, tipped with black, which were in such great demand for decorative and ceremonial purposes that among the western tribes a single tail was often rated as equal in value to a horse. Among the Cherokee in the old times the killing of an eagle was an event which concerned the whole settlement, and could be undertaken only by the professional eagle killer, regularly chosen for the purpose on account of his knowledge of the prescribed forms and the prayers to be said afterwards in order to obtain pardon for the necessary sacrilege, and thus ward off vengeance from the tribe. It is told of one man upon the reservation that having deliberately killed an eagle in defiance of the ordinances he was constantly haunted by dreams of fierce eagles swooping down upon him, until the nightmare was finally exorcised after a long course of priestly treatment. In 1890 there was but one eagle killer remaining among the East Cherokee. It does not appear that the eagle was ever captured alive as among the plains tribes.

The eagle must be killed only in the winter or late fall after the crops were gathered and the snakes had retired to their dens. If killed in the summertime a frost would come to destroy the corn, while the songs of the Eagle dance, when the feathers were brought home, would so anger the snakes that they would become doubly dangerous. Consequently the Eagle songs were never sung until after the snakes had gone to sleep for the winter.

When the people of a town had decided upon an Eagle dance the eagle killer was called in, frequently from a distant settlement, to procure the feathers for the occasion. He was paid for his services from offerings made later at the dance, and as the few professionals guarded their secrets carefully from outsiders their business was a quite profitable one. After some preliminary preparation the eagle killer sets out alone for the mountains, taking with him his gun or bow and arrows. Having reached the mountains, he goes through a vigil of prayer and fasting, possibly lasting four days, after which he hunts until he succeeds in killing a deer. Then, placing the body in a convenient exposed situation upon one of the highest cliffs, he conceals himself near by and begins to sing in a low undertone the songs to call down the eagles from the sky. When the eagle alights upon the carcass, which will be almost immediately if the singer understands his business, he shoots it, and then standing over the dead bird, he addresses to it a prayer in which he begs it not to seek vengeance upon his tribe, because it is not a Cherokee, but a Spaniard (Askwa′nĭ) that has done the deed. The selection of such a vicarious victim of revenge is evidence at once of the antiquity of the prayer in its present form and of the enduring impression which the cruelties of the early Spanish adventurers made upon the natives.

The prayer ended, he leaves the dead eagle where it fell and makes all haste to the settlement, where the people are anxiously expecting his return. On meeting the first warriors he says simply, “A snowbird has died,” and passes on at once to his own quarters, his work being now finished. The announcement is made in this form in order to insure against the vengeance of any eagles that might overhear, the little snowbird being considered too insignificant a creature to be dreaded.

Having waited four days to allow time for the insect parasites to leave the body, the hunters delegated for the purpose go out to bring in the feathers. On arriving at the place they strip the body of the large tail and wing feathers, which they wrap in a fresh deerskin brought with them, and then return to the settlement, leaving the body of the dead eagle upon the ground, together with that of the slain deer, the latter being intended as a sacrifice to the eagle spirits. On reaching the settlement, the feathers, still wrapped in the deerskin, are hung up in a small, round hut built for this special purpose near the edge of the dance ground (detsănûñ′lĭ) and known as the place “where the feathers are kept,” or feather house. Some settlements had two such feather houses, one at each end of the dance ground. The Eagle dance was held on the night of the same day on which the feathers were brought in, all the necessary arrangements having been made beforehand. In the meantime, as the feathers were supposed to be hungry after their journey, a dish of venison and corn was set upon the ground below them and they were invited to eat. The body of a flaxbird or scarlet tanager (Piranga rubra) was also hung up with the feathers for the same purpose. The food thus given to the feathers was disposed of after the dance, as described in another place.

The eagle being regarded as a great ada′wehĭ, only the greatest warriors and those versed in the sacred ordinances would dare to wear the feathers or to carry them in the dance. Should any person in the settlement dream of eagles or eagle feathers he must arrange for an Eagle dance, with the usual vigil and fasting, at the first opportunity; otherwise some one of his family will die. Should the insect parasites which infest the feathers of the bird in life get upon a man they will breed a skin disease which is sure to develop, even though it may be latent for years. It is for this reason that the body of the eagle is allowed to remain four days upon the ground before being brought into the settlement.

The raven (kâ′lănû) is occasionally seen in the mountains, but is not prominent in folk belief, excepting in connection with the grewsome tales of the Raven Mocker (q. v.). In former times its name was sometimes assumed as a war title. The crow, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, does not seem to appear in that of the Cherokee. Three varieties of owls are recognized, each under a different name, viz: tskĭlĭ′, the dusky horned owl (Bubo virginianus saturatus); u′guku′, the barred or hooting owl (Syrnium nebulosum), and waʻhuhu′, the screech owl (Megascops asio). The first of these names signifies a witch, the others being onomatopes. Owls and other night-crying birds are believed to be embodied ghosts or disguised witches, and their cry is dreaded as a sound of evil omen. If the eyes of a child be bathed with water in which one of the long wing or tail feathers of an owl has been soaked, the child will be able to keep awake all night. The feather must be found by chance, and not procured intentionally for the purpose. On the other hand, an application of water in which the feather of a blue jay, procured in the same way, has been soaked will make the child an early riser.

The buzzard (sulĭ′) is said to have had a part in shaping the earth, as was narrated in the genesis myth. It is reputed to be a doctor among birds, and is respected accordingly, although its feathers are never worn by ball players, for fear of becoming bald. Its own baldness is accounted for by a vulgar story. As it thrives upon carrion and decay, it is held to be immune from sickness, especially of a contagious character, and a small quantity of its flesh eaten, or of the soup used as a wash, is believed to be a sure preventive of smallpox, and was used for this purpose during the smallpox epidemic among the East Cherokee in 1866. According to the Wahnenauhi manuscript, it is said also that a buzzard feather placed over the cabin door will keep out witches. In treating gunshot wounds, the medicine is blown into the wound through a tube cut from a buzzard quill and some of the buzzard’s down is afterwards laid over the spot.

There is very little concerning hawks, excepting as regards the great mythic hawk, the Tlă′nuwă′. The tlă′nuwă′ usdi′, or “little tlă′nuwă,” is described as a bird about as large as a turkey and of a grayish blue color, which used to follow the flocks of wild pigeons, flying overhead and darting down occasionally upon a victim, which it struck and killed with its sharp breast and ate upon the wing, without alighting. It is probably the goshawk (Astur atricapillus).

The common swamp gallinule, locally known as mudhen or didapper (Gallinula galeata), is called diga′gwanĭ′ (lame or crippled), on account of its habit of flying only for a very short distance at a time. In the Diga′gwanĭ′ dance the performers sing the name of the bird and endeavor to imitate its halting movements. The dagûl′kû, or white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), appears in connection with the myth of the origin of tobacco. The feathers of the tskwâyĭ, the great white heron or American egret (Herodias egretta), are worn by ball players, and this bird probably the “swan” whose white wing was used as a peace emblem in ancient times.

A rare bird said to have been seen occasionally upon the reservation many years ago was called by the curious name of nûñdă-dikanĭ′, “it looks at the sun,” “sun-gazer.” It is described as resembling a blue crane, and may possibly have been the Floridus cerulea, or little blue heron. Another infrequent visitor, which sometimes passed over the mountain country in company with flocks of wild geese, was the gu′wisguwĭ′, so called from its cry. It is described as resembling a large snipe, with yellow legs and feet unwebbed, and is thought to visit Indian Territory at intervals. It is chiefly notable from the fact that the celebrated chief John Ross derives his Indian name, Gu′wisguwĭ′, from this bird, the name being perpetuated in Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee Nation in the West.

Another chance visitant, concerning which there is much curious speculation among the older men of the East Cherokee, was called tsun′digwûntsu′ʻgĭ or tsun′digwûn′tskĭ, “forked,” referring to the tail. It appeared but once, for a short season, about forty years ago, and has not been seen since. It is said to have been pale blue, with red in places, and nearly the size of a crow, and to have had a long forked tail like that of a fish. It preyed upon hornets, which it took upon the wing, and also feasted upon the larvæ in the nests. Appearing unexpectedly and as suddenly disappearing, it was believed to be not a bird but a transformed red-horse fish (Moxostoma, Cherokee âligă′), a theory borne out by the red spots and the long, forked tail. It is even maintained that about the time those birds first appeared some hunters on Oconaluftee saw seven of them sitting on the limb of a tree and they were still shaped like a red-horse, although they already had wings and feathers. It was undoubtedly the scissor-tail or swallow-tailed flycatcher (Milvulus forficatus), which belongs properly in Texas and the adjacent region, but strays occasionally into the eastern states.

On account of the red throat appendage of the turkey, somewhat resembling the goitrous growth known in the South as “kernels” (Cherokee, dule′tsĭ), the feathers of this bird are not worn by ball players, neither is the neck allowed to be eaten by children or sick persons, under the fear that a growth of “kernels” would be the result. The meat of the ruffed grouse, locally known as the pheasant (Bonasa umbellus), is tabued to a pregnant woman, because this bird hatches a large brood, but loses most of them before maturity. Under a stricter construction of the theory this meat is forbidden to a woman until she is past child bearing.

The redbird, tatsu′hwă, is believed to have been originally the daughter of the Sun (see the story). The huhu, or yellow mocking-bird, occurs in several stories. It is regarded as something supernatural, possibly on account of its imitative powers, and its heart is given to children to make them quick to learn.

The chickadee (Parus carolinensis), tsĭkĭlilĭ′, and the tufted titmouse, (Parus bicolor), utsu′ʻgĭ, or u′stûtĭ, are both regarded as news bringers, but the one is venerated as a truth teller while the other is scoffed at as a lying messenger, for reasons which appear in the story of Nûñyunu′wĭ (q. v.). When the tsĭkĭlilĭ′ perches on a branch near the house and chirps its song it is taken as an omen that an absent friend will soon be heard from or that a secret enemy is plotting mischief. Many stories are told in confirmation of this belief, among which may be instanced that of Tom Starr, a former noted outlaw of the Cherokee Nation of the West, who, on one occasion, was about to walk unwittingly into an ambush prepared for him along a narrow trail, when he heard the warning note of the tsĭkĭlilĭ′, and, turning abruptly, ran up the side of the ridge and succeeded in escaping with his life, although hotly pursued by his enemies.


Once the animals challenged the birds to a great ballplay, and the birds accepted. The leaders made the arrangements and fixed the day, and when the time came both parties met at the place for the ball dance, the animals on a smooth grassy bottom near the river and the birds in the treetops over by the ridge. The captain of the animals was the Bear, who was so strong and heavy that he could pull down anyone who got in his way. All along the road to the ball ground he was tossing up great logs to show his strength and boasting of what he would do to the birds when the game began. The Terrapin, too—not the little one we have now, but the great original Terrapin—was with the animals. His shell was so hard that the heaviest blows could not hurt him, and he kept rising up on his hind legs and dropping heavily again to the ground, bragging that this was the way he would crush any bird that tried to take the ball from him. Then there was the Deer, who could outrun every other animal. Altogether it was a fine company.

The birds had the Eagle for their captain, with the Hawk and the great Tlă′nuwă, all swift and strong of flight, but still they were a little afraid of the animals. The dance was over and they were all pruning their feathers up in the trees and waiting for the captain to give the word when here came two little things hardly larger than field mice climbing up the tree in which sat perched the bird captain. At last they reached the top, and creeping along the limb to where the Eagle captain sat they asked to be allowed to join in the game. The captain looked at them, and seeing that they were four-footed, he asked why they did not go to the animals, where they belonged. The little things said that they had, but the animals had made fun of them and driven them off because they were so small. Then the bird captain pitied them and wanted to take them.

But how could they join the birds when they had no wings? The Eagle, the Hawk, and the others consulted, and at last it was decided to make some wings for the little fellows. They tried for a long time to think of something that might do, until someone happened to remember the drum they had used in the dance. The head was of ground-hog skin and maybe they could cut off a corner and make wings of it. So they took two pieces of leather from the drumhead and cut them into shape for wings, and stretched them with cane splints and fastened them on to the forelegs of one of the small animals, and in this way came Tla′mehă, the Bat. They threw the ball to him and told him to catch it, and by the way he dodged and circled about, keeping the ball always in the air and never letting it fall to the ground, the birds soon saw that he would be one of their best men.

Now they wanted to fix the other little animal, but they had used up all their leather to make wings for the Bat, and there was no time to send for more. Somebody said that they might do it by stretching his skin, so two large birds took hold from opposite sides with their strong bills, and by pulling at his fur for several minutes they managed to stretch the skin on each side between the fore and hind feet, until they had Tewa, the Flying Squirrel. To try him the bird captain threw up the ball, when the Flying Squirrel sprang off the limb after it, caught it in his teeth and carried it through the air to another tree nearly across the bottom.

When they were all ready the signal was given and the game began, but almost at the first toss the Flying Squirrel caught the ball and carried it up a tree, from which he threw it to the birds, who kept it in the air for some time until it dropped. The Bear rushed to get it, but the Martin darted after it and threw it to the Bat, who was flying near the ground, and by his dodging and doubling kept it out of the way of even the Deer, until he finally threw it in between the posts and won the game for the birds.

The Bear and the Terrapin, who had boasted so of what they would do, never got a chance even to touch the ball. For saving the ball when it dropped, the birds afterwards gave the Martin a gourd in which to build his nest, and he still has it.


When the Terrapin won the race from the Rabbit (see the story) all the animals wondered and talked about it a great deal, because they had always thought the Terrapin slow, although they knew that he was a warrior and had many conjuring secrets beside. But the Turkey was not satisfied and told the others there must be some trick about it. Said he, “I know the Terrapin can’t run—he can hardly crawl—and I’m going to try him.”

So one day the Turkey met the Terrapin coming home from war with a fresh scalp hanging from his neck and dragging on the ground as he traveled. The Turkey laughed at the sight and said: “That scalp don’t look right on you. Your neck is too short and low down to wear it that way. Let me show you.”

The Terrapin agreed and gave the scalp to the Turkey, who fastened it around his neck. “Now,” said the Turkey, “I’ll walk a little way and you can see how it looks.” So he walked ahead a short distance and then turned and asked the Terrapin how he liked it. Said the Terrapin, “It looks very nice; it becomes you.”

“Now I’ll fix it in a different way and let you see how it looks,” said the Turkey. So he gave the string another pull and walked ahead again. “O, that looks very nice,” said the Terrapin. But the Turkey kept on walking, and when the Terrapin called to him to bring back the scalp he only walked faster and broke into a run. Then the Terrapin got out his bow and by his conjuring art shot a number of cane splints into the Turkey’s leg to cripple him so that he could not run, which accounts for all the many small bones in the Turkey’s leg, that are of no use whatever; but the Terrapin never caught the Turkey, who still wears the scalp from his neck.


The Grouse used to have a fine voice and a good halloo in the ball play. All the animals and birds used to play ball in those days and were just as proud of a loud halloo as the ball players of to-day. The Turkey had not a good voice, so he asked the Grouse to give him lessons. The Grouse agreed to teach him, but wanted pay for his trouble, and the Turkey promised to give him some feathers to make himself a collar. That is how the Grouse got his collar of turkey feathers. They began the lessons and the Turkey learned very fast until the Grouse thought it was time to try his voice. “Now,” said the Grouse, “I’ll stand on this hollow log, and when I give the signal by tapping on it, you must halloo as loudly as you can.” So he got upon the log ready to tap on it, as a Grouse does, but when he gave the signal the Turkey was so eager and excited that he could not raise his voice for a shout, but only gobbled, and ever since then he gobbles whenever he hears a noise.


Some old men say that the Kingfisher was meant in the beginning to be a water bird, but as he had not been given either web feet or a good bill he could not make a living. The animals held a council over it and decided to make him a bill like a long sharp awl for a fish-gig (fish-spear). So they made him a fish-gig and fastened it on in front of his mouth. He flew to the top of a tree, sailed out and darted down into the water, and came up with a fish on his gig. And he has been the best gigger ever since.

Some others say it was this way: A Blacksnake found a Yellowhammer’s nest in a hollow tree, and after swallowing the young birds, coiled up to sleep in the nest, where the mother bird found him when she came home. She went for help to the Little People, who sent her to the Kingfisher. He came, and after flying back and forth past the hole a few times, made one dart at the snake and pulled him out dead. When they looked they found a hole in the snake’s head where the Kingfisher had pierced it with a slender tugălû′nă fish, which he carried in his bill like a lance. From this the Little People concluded that he would make a first-class gigger if he only had the right spear, so they gave him his long bill as a reward.


In the old days the Terrapin had a fine whistle, but the Partridge had none. The Terrapin was constantly going about whistling and showing his whistle to the other animals until the Partridge became jealous, so one day when they met the Partridge asked leave to try it. The Terrapin was afraid to risk it at first, suspecting some trick, but the Partridge said, “I’ll give it back right away, and if you are afraid you can stay with me while I practice.” So the Terrapin let him have the whistle and the Partridge walked around blowing on it in fine fashion. “How does it sound with me?” asked the Partridge. “O, you do very well,” said the Terrapin, walking alongside. “Now, how do you like it,” said the Partridge, running ahead and whistling a little faster. “That’s fine,” answered the Terrapin, hurrying to keep up, “but don’t run so fast.” “And now, how do you like this?” called the Partridge, and with that he spread his wings, gave one long whistle, and flew to the top of a tree, leaving the poor Terrapin to look after him from the ground. The Terrapin never recovered his whistle, and from that, and the loss of his scalp, which the Turkey stole from him, he grew ashamed to be seen, and ever since he shuts himself up in his box when anyone comes near him.


A Raccoon passing a Wolf one day made several insulting remarks, until at last the Wolf became angry and turned and chased him. The Raccoon ran his best and managed to reach a tree by the river side before the Wolf came up. He climbed the tree and stretched out on a limb overhanging the water. When the Wolf arrived he saw the reflection in the water, and thinking it was the Raccoon he jumped at it and was nearly drowned before he could scramble out again, all wet and dripping. He lay down on the bank to dry and fell asleep, and while he was sleeping the Raccoon came down the tree and plastered his eyes with dung. When the Wolf awoke he found he could not open his eyes, and began to whine. Along came a little brown bird through the bushes and heard the Wolf crying and asked what was the matter. The Wolf told his story and said, “If you will get my eyes open, I will show you where to find some nice red paint to paint yourself.” “All right,” said the brown bird; so he pecked at the Wolf’s eyes until he got off all the plaster. Then the Wolf took him to a rock that had streaks of bright red paint running through it, and the little bird painted himself with it, and has ever since been a Redbird.


The Pheasant once saw a woman beating corn in a wooden mortar in front of the house. “I can do that, too,” said he, but the woman would not believe it, so the Pheasant went into the woods and got upon a hollow log and “drummed” with his wings as a pheasant does, until the people in the house heard him and thought he was really beating corn.

In the Pheasant dance, a part of the Green-corn dance, the instrument used is the drum, and the dancers beat the ground with their feet in imitation of the drumming sound made by the pheasant. They form two concentric circles, the men being on the inside, facing the women in the outer circle, each in turn advancing and retreating at the signal of the drummer, who sits at one side and sings the Pheasant songs. According to the story, there was once a winter famine among the birds and animals. No mast (fallen nuts) could be found in the woods, and they were near starvation when a Pheasant discovered a holly tree, loaded with red berries, of which the Pheasant is said to be particularly fond. He called his companion birds, and they formed a circle about the tree, singing, dancing, and drumming with their wings in token of their joy, and thus originated the Pheasant dance.


The Hummingbird and the Crane were both in love with a pretty woman. She preferred the Hummingbird, who was as handsome as the Crane was awkward, but the Crane was so persistent that in order to get rid of him she finally told him he must challenge the other to a race and she would marry the winner. The Hummingbird was so swift—almost like a flash of lightning—and the Crane so slow and heavy, that she felt sure the Hummingbird would win. She did not know the Crane could fly all night.

They agreed to start from her house and fly around the circle of the world to the beginning, and the one who came in first would marry the woman. At the word the Hummingbird darted off like an arrow and was out of sight in a moment, leaving his rival to follow heavily behind. He flew all day, and when evening came and he stopped to roost for the night he was far ahead. But the Crane flew steadily all night long, passing the Hummingbird soon after midnight and going on until he came to a creek and stopped to rest about daylight. The Hummingbird woke up in the morning and flew on again, thinking how easily he would win the race, until he reached the creek and there found the Crane spearing tadpoles, with his long bill, for breakfast. He was very much surprised and wondered how this could have happened, but he flew swiftly by and soon left the Crane out of sight again.

The Crane finished his breakfast and started on, and when evening came he kept on as before. This time it was hardly midnight when he passed the Hummingbird asleep on a limb, and in the morning he had finished his breakfast before the other came up. The next day he gained a little more, and on the fourth day he was spearing tadpoles for dinner when the Hummingbird passed him. On the fifth and sixth days it was late in the afternoon before the Hummingbird came up, and on the morning of the seventh day the Crane was a whole night’s travel ahead. He took his time at breakfast and then fixed himself up as nicely as he could at the creek and came in at the starting place where the woman lived, early in the morning. When the Hummingbird arrived in the afternoon he found he had lost the race, but the woman declared she would never have such an ugly fellow as the Crane for a husband, so she stayed single.


A widow with one daughter was always warning the girl that she must be sure to get a good hunter for a husband when she married. The young woman listened and promised to do as her mother advised. At last a suitor came to ask the mother for the girl, but the widow told him that only a good hunter could have her daughter. “I’m just that kind,” said the lover, and again asked her to speak for him to the young woman. So the mother went to the girl and told her a young man had come a-courting, and as he said he was a good hunter she advised her daughter to take him. “Just as you say,” said the girl. So when he came again the matter was all arranged, and he went to live with the girl.

The next morning he got ready and said he would go out hunting, but before starting he changed his mind and said he would go fishing. He was gone all day and came home late at night, bringing only three small fish, saying that he had had no luck, but would have better success to-morrow. The next morning he started off again to fish and was gone all day, but came home at night with only two worthless spring lizards (duwĕ′gă) and the same excuse. Next day he said he would go hunting this time. He was gone again until night, and returned at last with only a handful of scraps that he had found where some hunters had cut up a deer.

By this time the old woman was suspicious. So next morning when he started off again, as he said, to fish, she told her daughter to follow him secretly and see how he set to work. The girl followed through the woods and kept him in sight until he came down to the river, where she saw her husband change to a hooting owl (uguku′) and fly over to a pile of driftwood in the water and cry, “U-gu-ku! hu! hu! u! u!” She was surprised and very angry and said to herself, “I thought I had married a man, but my husband is only an owl.” She watched and saw the owl look into the water for a long time and at last swoop down and bring up in his claws a handful of sand, from which he picked out a crawfish. Then he flew across to the bank, took the form of a man again, and started home with the crawfish. His wife hurried on ahead through the woods and got there before him. When he came in with the crawfish in his hand, she asked him where were all the fish he had caught. He said he had none, because an owl had frightened them all away. “I think you are the owl,” said his wife, and drove him out of the house. The owl went into the woods and there he pined away with grief and love until there was no flesh left on any part of his body except his head.


A widow who had an only a daughter, but no son, found it very hard to make a living and was constantly urging upon the young woman that they ought to have a man in the family, who would be a good hunter and able to help in the field. One evening a stranger lover came courting to the house, and when the girl told him that she could marry only one who was a good worker, he declared that he was exactly that sort of man; so the girl talked to her mother, and on her advice they were married.

The next morning the widow gave her new son-in-law a hoe and sent him out to the cornfield. When breakfast was ready she went to call him, following a sound as of some one hoeing on stony soil, but when she came to the spot she found only a small circle of hoed ground and no sign of her son-in-law. Away over in the thicket she heard a huhu calling.

He did not come in for dinner, either, and when he returned home in the evening the old woman asked him where he had been all day. “Hard at work,” said he. “But I didn’t see you when I came to call you to breakfast.” “I was down in the thicket cutting sticks to mark off the field,” said he. “But why didn’t you come in to dinner?” “I was too busy working,” said he. So the old woman was satisfied, and they had their supper together.

Early next morning he started off with his hoe over his shoulder. When breakfast was ready the old woman went again to call him, but found no sign of him, only the hoe lying there and no work done. And away over in the thicket a huhu was calling, “Sau-h! sau-h! sau-h! hu! hu! hu! hu! hu! hu! chi! chi! chi!—whew!”

She went back to the house, and when at last he came home in the evening she asked him again what he had been doing all day. “Working hard,” said he. “But you were not there when I came after you.” “O, I just went over in the thicket a while to see some of my kinsfolk,” said he. Then the old woman said, “I have lived here a long time and there is nothing living in the swamp but huhus. My daughter wants a husband that can work and not a lazy huhu; so you may go.” And she drove him from the house.


The buzzard used to have a fine topknot, of which he was so proud that he refused to eat carrion, and while the other birds were pecking at the body of a deer or other animal which they had found he would strut around and say: “You may have it all, it is not good enough for me.” They resolved to punish him, and with the help of the buffalo carried out a plot by which the buzzard lost not his topknot alone, but nearly all the other feathers on his head. He lost his pride at the same time, so that he is willing enough now to eat carrion for a living.


Once a hunter in the mountains heard a noise at night like a rushing wind outside the cabin, and on going out he found that an eagle had just alighted on the drying pole and was tearing at the body of a deer hanging there. Without thinking of the danger, he shot the eagle. In the morning he took the deer and started back to the settlement, where he told what he had done, and the chief sent out some men to bring in the eagle and arrange for an Eagle dance. They brought back the dead eagle, everything was made ready, and that night they started the dance in the townhouse.

About midnight there was a whoop outside and a strange warrior came into the circle and began to recite his exploits. No one knew him, but they thought he had come from one of the farther Cherokee towns. He told how he had killed a man, and at the end of the story he gave a hoarse yell, Hi! that startled the whole company, and one of the seven men with the rattles fell over dead. He sang of another deed, and at the end straightened up with another loud yell. A second rattler fell dead, and the people were so full of fear that they could not stir from their places. Still he kept on, and at every pause there came again that terrible scream, until the last of the seven rattlers fell dead, and then the stranger went out into the darkness. Long afterward they learned from the eagle killer that it was the brother of the eagle shot by the hunter.


A hunter had been all day looking for deer in the mountains without success until he was completely tired out and sat down on a log to rest and wonder what he should do, when a buzzard—a bird which always has magic powers—came flying overhead and spoke to him, asking him what was his trouble. When the hunter had told his story the buzzard said there were plenty of deer on the ridges beyond if only the hunter were high up in the air where he could see them, and proposed that they exchange forms for a while, when the buzzard would go home to the hunter’s wife while the hunter would go to look for deer. The hunter agreed, and the buzzard became a man and went home to the hunter’s wife, who received him as her husband, while the hunter became a buzzard and flew off over the mountain to locate the deer. After staying some time with the woman, who thought always it was her real husband, the buzzard excused himself, saying he must go again to look for game or they would have nothing to eat. He came to the place where he had first met the hunter, and found him already there, still in buzzard form, awaiting him. He asked the hunter what success he had had, and the hunter replied that he had found several deer over the ridge, as the buzzard had said. Then the buzzard restored the hunter to human shape, and became himself a buzzard again and flew away. The hunter went where he had seen the deer and killed several, and from that time he never returned empty-handed from the woods.


Snake, Fish, and Insect Myths


The generic name for snakes is inădû′. They are all regarded as anida′wehĭ, “supernaturals,” having an intimate connection with the rain and thunder gods, and possessing a certain influence over the other animal and plant tribes. It is said that the snakes, the deer, and the ginseng act as allies, so that an injury to one is avenged by all. The feeling toward snakes is one of mingled fear and reverence, and every precaution is taken to avoid killing or offending one, especially the rattlesnake. He who kills a snake will soon see others; and should he kill a second one, so many will come around him whichever way he may turn that he will become dazed at the sight of their glistening eyes and darting tongues and will go wandering about like a crazy man, unable to find his way out of the woods. To guard against this misfortune there are certain prayers which the initiated say in order that a snake may not cross their path, and on meeting the first one of the season the hunter humbly begs of him, “Let us not see each other this summer.” Certain smells, as that of the wild parsnip, and certain songs, as those of the Unika′wĭ or Townhouse dance, are offensive to the snakes and make them angry. For this reason the Unika′wĭ dance is held only late in the fall, after they have retired to their dens for the winter.

When one dreams of being bitten by a snake he must be treated the same as for an actual bite, because it is a snake ghost that has bitten him; otherwise the place will swell and ulcerate in the same way, even though it be years afterwards. For fear of offending them, even in speaking, it is never said that a man has been bitten by a snake, but only that he has been “scratched by a brier.” Most of the beliefs and customs in this connection have more special reference to the rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake is called utsa′nătĭ, which may be rendered, “he has a bell,” alluding to the rattle. According to a myth given elsewhere, he was once a man, and was transformed to his present shape that he might save the human race from extermination by the Sun, a mission which he accomplished successfully after others had failed. By the old men he is also spoken of as “the Thunder’s necklace” (see the story of Ûñtsaiyĭ′), and to kill one is to destroy one of the most prized ornaments of the thunder god. In one of the formulas addressed to the Little Men, the sons of the Thunder, they are implored to take the disease snake to themselves, because “it is just what you adorn yourselves with.”

For obvious reasons the rattlesnake is regarded as the chief of the snake tribe and is feared and respected accordingly. Few Cherokee will venture to kill one except under absolute necessity, and even then the crime must be atoned for by asking pardon of the snake ghost, either in person or through the mediation of a priest, according to a set formula. Otherwise the relatives of the dead snake will send one of their number to track up the offender and bite him so that he will die (see story, “The Rattlesnake’s Vengeance”). The only thing of which the rattlesnake is afraid is said to be the plant known as campion, or “rattlesnake’s master” (Silene stellata), which is used by the doctors to counteract the effect of the bite, and it is believed that a snake will flee in terror from the hunter who carries a small piece of the root about his person. Chewed linn bark is also applied to the bite, perhaps from the supposed occult connection between the snake and the thunder, as this tree is said to be immune from the lightning stroke.

Notwithstanding the fear of the rattlesnake, his rattles, teeth, flesh, and oil are greatly prized for occult or medical uses, the snakes being killed for this purpose by certain priests who know the necessary rites and formulas for obtaining pardon. This device for whipping the devil around the stump, and incidentally increasing their own revenues, is a common trick of Indian medicine men. Outsiders desiring to acquire this secret knowledge are discouraged by being told that it is a dangerous thing to learn, for the reason that the new initiate is almost certain to be bitten, in order that the snakes may “try” him to know if he has correctly learned the formula. When a rattlesnake is killed the head must be cut off and buried an arm’s length deep in the ground and the body carefully hidden away in a hollow log. If it is left exposed to the weather, the angry snakes will send such torrents of rain that all the streams will overflow their banks. Moreover, they will tell their friends, the deer, and the ginseng in the mountains, so that these will hide themselves and the hunters will seek them in vain.

The tooth of a rattlesnake which has been killed by the priest with the proper ceremonies while the snake was lying stretched out from east to west is used to scarify patients preliminary to applying the medicine in certain ailments. Before using it the doctor holds it between the thumb and finger of his right hand and addresses it in a prayer, at the end of which the tooth “becomes alive,” when it is ready for the operation. The explanation is that the tense, nervous grasp of the doctor causes his hand to twitch and the tooth to move slightly between his fingers. The rattles are worn on the head, and sometimes a portion of the flesh is eaten by ball players to make them more terrible to their opponents, but it is said to have the bad effect of making them cross to their wives. From the lower half of the body, thought to be the fattest portion, the oil is extracted and is in as great repute among the Indians for rheumatism and sore joints as among the white mountaineers. The doctor who prepares the oil must also eat the flesh of the snake. In certain seasons of epidemic a roasted (barbecued) rattlesnake was kept hanging up in the house, and every morning the father of the family bit off a small piece and chewed it, mixing it then with water, which he spit upon the bodies of the others to preserve them from the contagion. It was said to be a sure cure, but apt to make the patients hot tempered.

The copperhead, wâ′dige-askâ′lĭ, “brown-head,” although feared on account of its poisonous bite, is hated, instead of being regarded with veneration, as is the rattlesnake. It is believed to be a descendant of a great mythic serpent (see number 5) and is said to have “eyes of fire,” on account of their intense brightness. The blacksnake is called gûle′gĭ, “the climber.” Biting its body is said to be a preventive of toothache, and there is also a belief, perhaps derived from the whites, that if the body of one be hung upon a tree it will bring rain within three (four?) days. The small greensnake is called sălikwâ′yĭ, the same name being also applied to a certain plant, the Eryngium virginianum, or bear grass, whose long, slender leaves bear some resemblance to a greensnake. As with the blacksnake, it is believed that toothache may be prevented and sound teeth insured as long as life lasts by biting the greensnake along its body. It must be held by the head and tail, and all the teeth at once pressed down four times along the middle of its body, but without biting into the flesh or injuring the snake. Some informants say that the operation must be repeated four times upon as many snakes and that a certain food tabu must also be observed. The water moccasin, kanegwâ′tĭ, is not specially regarded, but a very rare wood snake, said to resemble it except that it has blue eyes, is considered to have great supernatural powers, in what way is not specified. The repulsive but harmless spreading adder (Heterodon) is called dalĭkstă′, “vomiter,” on account of its habit of spitting, and sometimes kwandăya′hû, a word of uncertain etymology. It was formerly a man, but was transformed into a snake in order to accomplish the destruction of the Daughter of the Sun (see the story). For its failure on this occasion it is generally despised.

The Wahnenauhi manuscript mentions a legend of a great serpent called on account of its color the “ground snake.” To see it was an omen of death to the one who saw it, and if it was seen by several persons some great tribal calamity was expected. For traditions and beliefs in regard to the Uktena, the Uksuhĭ, and other mythic serpents, see under those headings.


Long ago—hĭlahi′yu—when the Sun became angry at the people on earth and sent a sickness to destroy them, the Little Men changed a man into a monster snake, which they called Uktena, “The Keen-eyed,” and sent him to kill her. He failed to do the work, and the Rattlesnake had to be sent instead, which made the Uktena so jealous and angry that the people were afraid of him and had him taken up to Gălûñ′lătĭ, to stay with the other dangerous things.1 He left others behind him, though, nearly as large and dangerous as himself, and they hide now in deep pools in the river and about lonely passes in the high mountains, the places which the Cherokee call “Where the Uktena stays.”

Those who know say that the Uktena is a great snake, as large around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright, blazing crest like a diamond upon its forehead, and scales glittering like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its whole length, and can not be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life. The blazing diamond is called Ulûñsû′tĭ, “Transparent,” and he who can win it may become the greatest wonder worker of the tribe, but it is worth a man’s life to attempt it, for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape. Even to see the Uktena asleep is death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.

Of all the daring warriors who have started out in search of the Ulûñsû′tĭ only Âgăn-uni′tsĭ ever came back successful.2 The East Cherokee still keep the one which he brought. It is like a large transparent crystal, nearly the shape of a cartridge bullet, with a blood-red streak running through the center from top to bottom. The owner keeps it wrapped in a whole deerskin, inside an earthen jar hidden away in a secret cave in the mountains. Every seven days he feeds it with the blood of small game, rubbing the blood all over the crystal as soon as the animal has been killed. Twice a year it must have the blood of a deer or some other large animal. Should he forget to feed it at the proper time it would come out from its cave at night in a shape of fire and fly through the air to slake its thirst with the lifeblood of the conjurer or some one of his people. He may save himself from this danger by telling it, when he puts it away, that he will not need it again for a long time. It will then go quietly to sleep and feel no hunger until it is again brought out to be consulted. Then it must be fed again with blood before it is used.

No white man must ever see it and no person but the owner will venture near it for fear of sudden death. Even the conjurer who keeps it is afraid of it, and changes its hiding place every once in a while so that it can not learn the way out. When he dies it will be buried with him. Otherwise it will come out of its cave, like a blazing star, to search for his grave, night after night for seven years, when, if still not able to find him, it will go back to sleep forever where he has placed it.

Whoever owns the Ulûñsû′tĭ is sure of success in hunting, love, rain-making, and every other business, but its great use is in life prophecy. When it is consulted for this purpose the future is seen mirrored in the clear crystal as a tree is reflected in the quiet stream below, and the conjurer knows whether the sick man will recover, whether the warrior will return from battle, or whether the youth will live to be old.


In one of their battles with the Shawano, who are all magicians, the Cherokee captured a great medicine-man whose name was Âgăn-uni′tsĭ, “The Ground-hogs’ Mother.” They had tied him ready for the torture when he begged for his life and engaged, if spared, to find for them the great wonder worker, the Ulûñsû′tĭ. Now, the Ulûñsû′tĭ is like a blazing star set in the forehead of the great Uktena serpent, and the medicine-man who could possess it might do marvelous things, but everyone knew this could not be, because it was certain death to meet the Uktena. They warned him of all this, but he only answered that his medicine was strong and he was not afraid. So they gave him his life on that condition and he began the search.

The Uktena used to lie in wait in lonely places to surprise its victims, and especially haunted the dark passes of the Great Smoky mountains. Knowing this, the magician went first to a gap in the range on the far northern border of the Cherokee country. He searched and found there a monster blacksnake, larger than had ever been known before, but it was not what he was looking for, and he laughed at it as something too small for notice. Coming southward to the next gap he found there a great moccasin snake, the largest ever seen, but when the people wondered he said it was nothing. In the next gap he found a greensnake and called the people to see “the pretty sălikwâ′yĭ,” but when they found an immense greensnake coiled up in the path they ran away in fear. Coming on to U′tăwagûn′ta, the Bald mountain, he found there a great diya′hălĭ (lizard) basking, but, although it was large and terrible to look at, it was not what he wanted and he paid no attention to it. Going still south to Walâsi′yĭ, the Frog place, he found a great frog squatting in the gap, but when the people who came to see it were frightened like the others and ran away from the monster he mocked at them for being afraid of a frog and went on to the next gap. He went on to Duniskwaʻlgûñ′yĭ, the Gap of the Forked Antler, and to the enchanted lake of Atagâ′hĭ, and at each he found monstrous reptiles, but he said they were nothing. He thought the Uktena might be hiding in the deep water at Tlanusi′yĭ, the Leech place, on Hiwassee, where other strange things had been seen before, and going there he dived far down under the surface. He saw turtles and water snakes, and two immense sun-perches rushed at him and retreated again, but that was all. Other places he tried, going always southward, and at last on Gahû′tĭ mountain he found the Uktena asleep.

Turning without noise, he ran swiftly down the mountain side as far as he could go with one long breath, nearly to the bottom of the slope. There he stopped and piled up a great circle of pine cones, and inside of it he dug a deep trench. Then he set fire to the cones and came back again up the mountain.

The Uktena was still asleep, and, putting an arrow to his bow, Âgăn-uni′tsĭ shot and sent the arrow through its heart, which was under the seventh spot from the serpent’s head. The great snake raised his head, with the diamond in front flashing fire, and came straight at his enemy, but the magician, turning quickly, ran at full speed down the mountain, cleared the circle of fire and the trench at one bound, and lay down on the ground inside.

The Uktena tried to follow, but the arrow was through his heart, and in another moment he rolled over in his death struggle, spitting poison over all the mountain side. But the poison drops could not pass the circle of fire, but only hissed and sputtered in the blaze, and the magician on the inside was untouched except by one small drop which struck upon his head as he lay close to the ground; but he did not know it. The blood, too, as poisonous as the froth, poured from the Uktena’s wound and down the slope in a dark stream, but it ran into the trench and left him unharmed. The dying monster rolled over and over down the mountain, breaking down large trees in its path until it reached the bottom. Then Âgăn-uni′tsĭ called every bird in all the woods to come to the feast, and so many came that when they were done not even the bones were left.

After seven days he went by night to the spot. The body and the bones of the snake were gone, all eaten by the birds, but he saw a bright light shining in the darkness, and going over to it he found, resting on a low-hanging branch, where a raven had dropped it, the diamond from the head of the Uktena. He wrapped it up carefully and took it with him, and from that time he became the greatest medicine-man in the whole tribe.

When Âgăn-uni′tsĭ came down again to the settlement the people noticed a small snake hanging from his head where the single drop of poison from the Uktena had struck; but so long as he lived he himself never knew that it was there.

Where the blood of the Uktena had filled the trench a lake formed afterwards, and the water was black and in this water the women used to dye the cane splits for their baskets.


Two brothers went hunting together, and when they came to a good camping place in the mountains they made a fire, and while one gathered bark to put up a shelter the other started up the creek to look for a deer. Soon he heard a noise on the top of the ridge as if two animals were fighting. He hurried through the bushes to see what it might be, and when he came to the spot he found a great uktena coiled around a man and choking him to death. The man was fighting for his life, and called out to the hunter: “Help me, nephew; he is your enemy as well as mine.” The hunter took good aim, and, drawing the arrow to the head, sent it through the body of the uktena, so that the blood spouted from the hole. The snake loosed its coils with a snapping noise, and went tumbling down the ridge into the valley, tearing up the earth like a water spout as it rolled.

The stranger stood up, and it was the Asga′ya Gi′găgeĭ, the Red Man of the Lightning. He said to the hunter: “You have helped me, and now I will reward you, and give you a medicine so that you can always find game.” They waited until it was dark, and then went down the ridge to where the dead uktena had rolled, but by this time the birds and insects had eaten the body and only the bones were left. In one place were flashes of light coming up from the ground, and on digging here, just under the surface, the Red Man found a scale of the uktena. Next he went over to a tree that had been struck by lightning, and gathering a handful of splinters he made a fire and burned the uktena scale to a coal. He wrapped this in a piece of deerskin and gave it to the hunter, saying: “As long as you keep this you can always kill game.” Then he told the hunter that when he went back to camp he must hang up the medicine on a tree outside, because it was very strong and dangerous. He told him also that when he went into the cabin he would find his brother lying inside nearly dead on account of the presence of the uktena’s scale, but he must take a small piece of cane, which the Red Man gave him, and scrape a little of it into water and give it to his brother to drink and he would be well again. Then the Red Man was gone, and the hunter could not see where he went. He returned to camp alone, and found his brother very sick, but soon cured him with the medicine from the cane, and that day and the next, and every day after, he found game whenever he went for it.


A man living down in Georgia came to visit some relatives at Hickory-log. He was a great hunter, and after resting in the house a day or two got ready to go into the mountains. His friends warned him not to go toward the north, as in that direction, near a certain large uprooted tree, there lived a dangerous monster uksu′hĭ snake. It kept constant watch, and whenever it could spring upon an unwary hunter it would coil about him and crush out his life in its folds and then drag the dead body down the mountain side into a deep hole in Hiwassee.

He listened quietly to the warning, but all they said only made him the more anxious to see such a monster, so, without saying anything of his intention, he left the settlement and took his way directly up the mountain toward the north. Soon he came to the fallen tree and climbed upon the trunk, and there, sure enough, on the other side was the great uksu′hĭ stretched out in the grass, with its head raised, but looking the other way. It was about so large . The frightened hunter got down again at once and started to run; but the snake had heard the noise and turned quickly and was after him. Up the ridge the hunter ran, the snake close behind him, then down the other side toward the river. With all his running the uksu′hĭ gained rapidly, and just as he reached the low ground it caught up with him and wrapped around him, pinning one arm down by his side, but leaving the other free.

Now it gave him a terrible squeeze that almost broke his ribs, and then began to drag him along toward the water. With his free hand the hunter clutched at the bushes as they passed, but the snake turned its head and blew its sickening breath into his face until he had to let go his hold. Again and again this happened, and all the time they were getting nearer to a deep hole in the river, when, almost at the last moment, a lucky thought came into the hunter’s mind.

He was sweating all over from his hard run across the mountain, and suddenly remembered to have heard that snakes can not bear the smell of perspiration. Putting his free hand into his bosom he worked it around under his armpit until it was covered with perspiration. Then withdrawing it he grasped at a bush until the snake turned its head, when he quickly slapped his sweaty hand on its nose. The uksu′hĭ gave one gasp almost as if it had been wounded, loosened its coil, and glided swiftly away through the bushes, leaving the hunter, bruised but not disabled, to make his way home to Hickory-log.


There was once a great serpent called the Ustû′tlĭ that made its haunt upon Cohutta mountain. It was called the Ustû′tlĭ or “foot” snake, because it did not glide like other snakes, but had feet at each end of its body, and moved by strides or jerks, like a great measuring worm. These feet were three-cornered and flat and could hold on to the ground like suckers. It had no legs, but would raise itself up on its hind feet, with its snaky head waving high in the air until it found a good place to take a fresh hold; then it would bend down and grip its front feet to the ground while it drew its body up from behind. It could cross rivers and deep ravines by throwing its head across and getting a grip with its front feet and then swinging its body over. Wherever its footprints were found there was danger. It used to bleat like a young fawn, and when the hunter heard a fawn bleat in the woods he never looked for it, but hurried away in the other direction. Up the mountain or down, nothing could escape the Ustû′tlĭ’s pursuit, but along the side of the ridge it could not go, because the great weight of its swinging head broke its hold on the ground when it moved sideways.

It came to pass after a while that not a hunter about Cohutta would venture near the mountain for dread of the Ustû′tlĭ. At last a man from one of the northern settlements came down to visit some relatives in that neighborhood. When he arrived they made a feast for him, but had only corn and beans, and excused themselves for having no meat because the hunters were afraid to go into the mountains. He asked the reason, and when they told him he said he would go himself to-morrow and either bring in a deer or find the Ustû′tlĭ. They tried to dissuade him from it, but as he insisted upon going they warned him that if he heard a fawn bleat in the thicket he must run at once and if the snake came after him he must not try to run down the mountain, but along the side of the ridge.

In the morning he started out and went directly toward the mountain. Working his way through the bushes at the base, he suddenly heard a fawn bleat in front. He guessed at once that it was the Ustû′tlĭ, but he had made up his mind to see it, so he did not turn back, but went straight forward, and there, sure enough, was the monster, with its great head in the air, as high as the pine branches, looking in every direction to discover a deer, or maybe a man, for breakfast. It saw him and came at him at once, moving in jerky strides, every one the length of a tree trunk, holding its scaly head high above the bushes and bleating as it came.

The hunter was so badly frightened that he lost his wits entirely and started to run directly up the mountain. The great snake came after him, gaining half its length on him every time it took a fresh grip with its fore feet, and would have caught the hunter before he reached the top of the ridge, but that he suddenly remembered the warning and changed his course to run along the sides of the mountain. At once the snake began to lose ground, for every time it raised itself up the weight of its body threw it out of a straight line and made it fall a little lower down the side of the ridge. It tried to recover itself, but now the hunter gained and kept on until he turned the end of the ridge and left the snake out of sight. Then he cautiously climbed to the top and looked over and saw the Ustû′tlĭ still slowly working its way toward the summit.

He went down to the base of the mountain, opened his fire pouch, and set fire to the grass and leaves. Soon the fire ran all around the mountain and began to climb upward. When the great snake smelled the smoke and saw the flames coming it forgot all about the hunter and turned to make all speed for a high cliff near the summit. It reached the rock and got upon it, but the fire followed and caught the dead pines about the base of the cliff until the heat made the Ustû′tlĭ’s scales crack. Taking a close grip of the rock with its hind feet it raised its body and put forth all its strength in an effort to spring across the wall of fire that surrounded it, but the smoke choked it and its hold loosened and it fell among the blazing pine trunks and lay there until it was burned to ashes.


At Nûñ′dăye′ʻlĭ, the wildest spot on Nantahala river, in what is now Macon county, North Carolina, where the overhanging cliff is highest and the river far below, there lived in the old time a great snake called the Uwʼtsûñ′ta or “bouncer,” because it moved by jerks like a measuring worm, with only one part of its body on the ground at a time. It stayed generally on the east side, where the sun came first in the morning, and used to cross by reaching over from the highest point of the cliff until it could get a grip on the other side, when it would pull over the rest of its body. It was so immense that when it was thus stretched across its shadow darkened the whole valley below. For a long time the people did not know it was there, but when at last they found out about it they were afraid to live in the valley, so that it was deserted even while still Indian country.


There was a boy who used to go bird hunting every day, and all the birds he brought home he gave to his grandmother, who was very fond of him. This made the rest of the family jealous, and they treated him in such fashion that at last one day he told his grandmother he would leave them all, but that she must not grieve for him. Next morning he refused to eat any breakfast, but went off hungry to the woods and was gone all day. In the evening he returned, bringing with him a pair of deer horns, and went directly to the hothouse (âsĭ), where his grandmother was waiting for him. He told the old woman he must be alone that night, so she got up and went into the house where the others were.

At early daybreak she came again to the hothouse and looked in, and there she saw an immense uktena that filled the âsĭ, with horns on its head, but still with two human legs instead of a snake tail. It was all that was left of her boy. He spoke to her and told her to leave him, and she went away again from the door. When the sun was well up, the uktena began slowly to crawl out, but it was full noon before it was all out of the âsĭ. It made a terrible hissing noise as it came out, and all the people ran from it. It crawled on through the settlement, leaving a broad trail in the ground behind it, until it came to a deep bend in the river, where it plunged in and went under the water.

The grandmother grieved much for her boy, until the others of the family got angry and told her that as she thought -so much of him she ought to go and stay with him. So she left them and went along the trail made by the uktena to the river and walked directly into the water and disappeared. Once after that a man fishing near the place saw her sitting on a large rock in the river, looking just as she had always looked, but as soon as she caught sight of him she jumped into the water and was gone.


Two hunters, both for some reason under a tabu against the meat of a squirrel or turkey, had gone into the woods together. When evening came they found a good camping place and lighted a fire to prepare their supper. One of them had killed several squirrels during the day, and now got ready to broil them over the fire. His companion warned him that if he broke the tabu and ate squirrel meat he would become a snake, but the other laughed and said that was only a conjurer’s story. He went on with his preparation, and when the squirrels were roasted made his supper of them and then lay down beside the fire to sleep.

Late that night his companion was aroused by groaning, and on looking around he found the other lying on the ground rolling and twisting in agony, and with the lower part of his body already changed to the body and tail of a large water snake. The man was still able to speak and called loudly for help, but his companion could do nothing, but only sit by and try to comfort him while he watched the arms sink into the body and the skin take on a scaly change that mounted gradually toward the neck, until at last even the head was a serpent’s head and the great snake crawled away from the fire and down the bank into the river.


One day in the old times when we could still talk with other creatures, while some children were playing about the house, their mother inside heard them scream. Running out she found that a rattlesnake had crawled from the grass, and taking up a stick she killed it. The father was out hunting in the mountains, and that evening when coming home after dark through the gap he heard a strange wailing sound. Looking about he found that he had come into the midst of a whole company of rattlesnakes, which all had their mouths open and seemed to be crying. He asked them the reason of their trouble, and they told him that his own wife had that day killed their chief, the Yellow Rattlesnake, and they were just now about to send the Black Rattlesnake to take revenge.

The hunter said he was very sorry, but they told him that if he spoke the truth he must be ready to make satisfaction and give his wife as a sacrifice for the life of their chief. Not knowing what might happen otherwise, he consented. They then told him that the Black Rattlesnake would go home with him and coil up just outside the door in the dark. He must go inside, where he would find his wife awaiting him, and ask her to get him a drink of fresh water from the spring. That was all.

He went home and knew that the Black Rattlesnake was following. It was night when he arrived and very dark, but he found his wife waiting with his supper ready. He sat down and asked for a drink of water. She handed him a gourd full from the jar, but he said he wanted it fresh from the spring, so she took a bowl and went out of the door. The next moment he heard a cry, and going out he found that the Black Rattlesnake had bitten her and that she was already dying. He stayed with her until she was dead, when the Black Rattlesnake came out from the grass again and said his tribe was now satisfied. He then taught the hunter a prayer song, and said, “When you meet any of us hereafter sing this song and we will not hurt you; but if by accident one of us should bite one of your people then sing this song over him and he will recover.” And the Cherokee have kept the song to this day.


There are several varieties of frogs and toads, each with a different name, but there is very little folklore in connection with them. The common green frog is called walâ′sĭ, and among the Cherokee, as among uneducated whites, the handling of it is thought to cause warts, which for this reason are called by the same name, walâ′sĭ. A solar eclipse is believed to be caused by the attempt of a great frog to swallow the sun, and in former times it was customary on such occasions to fire guns and make other loud noises to frighten away the frog. The smaller varieties are sometimes eaten, and on rare occasions the bullfrog also, but the meat is tabued to ball players while in training, for fear that the brittleness of the frog’s bones would be imparted to those of the player.

The land tortoise (tûksĭ′) is prominent in the animal myths, and is reputed to have been a great warrior in the old times. On account of the stoutness of its legs ball players rub their limbs with them before going into the contest. The common water turtle (săligu′gĭ), which occupies so important a place in the mythology of the northern tribes, is not mentioned in Cherokee myth or folklore, and the same is true of the soft-shelled turtle (uʻlănă′wă), perhaps for the reason that both are rare in the cold mountain streams of the Cherokee country.

There are perhaps half a dozen varieties of lizard, each with a different name. The gray road lizard, or diyâ′hălĭ (alligator lizard, Sceloporus undulatus), is the most common. On account of its habit of alternately puffing out and drawing in its throat as though sucking, when basking in the sun, it is invoked in the formulas for drawing out the poison from snake bites. If one catches the first diyâ′hălĭ seen in the spring, and, holding it between his fingers, scratches his legs downward with its claws, he will see no dangerous snakes all summer. Also, if one be caught alive at any time and rubbed over the head and throat of an infant, scratching the skin very slightly at the same time with the claws, the child will never be fretful, but will sleep quietly without complaining, even when sick or exposed to the rain. This is a somewhat risky experiment, however, as the child is liable thereafter to go to sleep wherever it may be laid down for a moment, so that the mother is in constant danger of losing it. According to some authorities this sleep lizard is not the diyâ′hălĭ, but a larger variety akin to the next described.

The gigă-tsuha′ʻlĭ (“bloody mouth,” Pleistodon?) is described as a very large lizard, nearly as large as a water dog, with the throat and corners of the mouth red, as though from drinking blood. It is believed to be not a true lizard but a transformed ugûñste′lĭ fish (described below) on account of the similarity of coloring and the fact that the fish disappears about the time the gigă-tsuha′ʻlĭ begins to come out. It is ferocious and a hard biter, and pursues other lizards. In dry weather it cries or makes a noise like a cicada, raising itself up as it cries. It has a habit of approaching near to where some person is sitting or standing, then halting and looking fixedly at him, and constantly puffing out its throat until its head assumes a bright red color. It is thought then to be sucking the blood of its victim, and is dreaded and shunned accordingly. The small scorpion lizard (tsâne′nĭ) is sometimes called also gigă-danegi′skĭ, “blood taker.” It is a striped lizard which frequents sandy beaches and resemble the diyâ′hălĭ, but is of a brown color. It is believed also to be sucking blood in some mysterious way whenever it nods its head, and if its heart be eaten by a dog that animal will be able to extract all the nutrient properties from food by simply looking at these who are eating.

The small spring lizard (duwĕ′ʻgă), which lives in springs, is supposed to cause rain whenever it crawls out of the spring. It is frequently invoked in the formulas. Another spring (?) lizard, red, with black spots, is called dăgan′ʻtû′ or aniganti′skĭ “the rain maker,” because its cry is said to bring rain. The water dog (tsuwă′, mud puppy, Menopoma or Protonopsis) is a very large lizard, or rather salamander, frequenting muddy water. It is rarely eaten, from an unexplained belief that if one who has eaten its meat goes into the field immediately afterward the crop will be ruined. There are names for one or two other varieties of lizard as well as for the alligator (tsula′skĭ), but no folklore in connection with them.

Although the Cherokee country abounds in swift-flowing streams well stocked with fish, of which the Indians make free use, there is but little fish lore. A number of “dream” diseases, really due to indigestion, are ascribed to revengeful fish ghosts, and the doctor usually tries to effect the cure by invoking some larger fish or fish-eating bird to drive out the ghost.

Toco creek, in Monroe county, Tennessee, derives its name from a mythic monster fish, the Dăkwă′, considered the father of all the fish tribe, which is said to have lived formerly in Little Tennessee river at that point (see story, “The Hunter and the Dăkwă′”). A fish called ugûñste′lĭ, “having horns,” which appears only in spring, is believed to be transformed later into the giga-tsuha′lĭ lizard, already mentioned. The fish is described as having horns or projections upon its nose and beautiful red spots upon its head, and as being attended or accompanied by many smaller red fish, all of which, including the ugûñste′lĭ, are accustomed to pile up small stones in the water. As the season advances it disappears and is believed then to have turned into a giga-tsuha′lĭ lizard, the change beginning at the head and finishing with the tail. It is probably the Campostoma or stone roller, which is conspicuous for its bright coloring in early spring, but loses its tints after spawning. The meat of the sluggish hog-sucker is tabued to the ball player, who must necessarily be active in movement. The fresh-water mussel is called dăgû′nă, and the same name is applied to certain pimples upon the face, on account of a fancied resemblance. The ball player rubs himself with an eel skin to make himself slippery and hard to hold, and, according to the Wahnenauhi manuscript, women formerly tied up their hair with the dried skin of an eel to make it grow long. A large red crawfish called tsiska′gĭlĭ, much resembling a lobster, is used to scratch young children in order to give them a strong grip, each hand of the child being lightly scratched once with the pincer of the living animal. A mother whose grown son had been thus treated when an infant claimed that he could hold anything with his thumb and finger. It is said, however, to render the child quarrelsome and disposed to bite.

Of insects there is more to be said. The generic name for all sorts of small insects and worms is tsgâya, and according to the doctors, who had anticipated the microbe theory by several centuries, these tsgâya are to blame for nearly every human ailment not directly traceable to the asgina of the larger animals or to witchcraft. The reason is plain. There are such myriads of them everywhere on the earth and in the air that mankind is constantly destroying them by wholesale, without mercy and almost without knowledge, and this is their method of taking revenge.

Beetles are classed together under a name which signifies “insects with shells.” The little water-beetle or mellow-bug (Dineutes discolor) is called dâyuni′sĭ, “beaver’s grandmother,” and according to the genesis tradition it brought up the first earth from under the water. A certain green-headed beetle with horns (Phanæus carnifex) is spoken of as the dog of the Thunder boys, and the metallic-green luster upon its forehead is said to have been caused by striking at the celebrated mythic gambler, Ûñtsaiyĭ′, “Brass” (see the story). The June-bug (Allorhina nitida), another green beetle, is tagû, but is frequently called by the curious name of tu′ya-dĭ′skalawʻsti′skĭ, “one who keeps fire under the beans.” Its larva is the grubworm which presided at the meeting held by the insects to compass the destruction of the human race (see the story, “Origin of Disease and Medicine”). The large horned beetle (Dynastes tityus?) is called tsistû′na, “crawfish,” aʻwĭ′, “deer,” or gălăgi′na, “buck,” on account of its branching horns. The snapping beetle (Alaus oculatus?) is called tûlsku′wa, “one that snaps with his head.”

When the lâlû or jar-fly (Cicada auletes) begins to sing in midsummer they say: “The jar-fly has brought the beans,” his song being taken as the signal that beans are ripe and that green corn is not far behind. When the katydid (tsĭkĭkĭ′) is heard a little later they say, “Katydid has brought the roasting-ear bread.” The cricket (tăla′tŭ′) is often called “the barber” (ditastaye′skĭ), on account of its habit of gnawing hair from furs, and when the Cherokee meet a man with his hair clipped unevenly they sometimes ask playfully, “Did the cricket cut your hair?” (see story, “Why the Possum’s Tail is Bare”). Certain persons are said to drink tea made of crickets in order to become good singers.

The mole cricket (Gryllotalpa), so called because it tunnels in the earth and has hand-like claws fitted for digging, is known to the Cherokee as gûlʻkwâgĭ, a word which literally means “seven,” but is probably an onomatope. It is reputed among them to be alert, hard to catch, and an excellent singer, who “never makes mistakes.” Like the crawfish and the cricket, it plays an important part in preparing people for the duties of life. Infants slow in learning to speak have their tongues scratched with the claw of a gûlʻkwâgĭ, the living insect being held in the hand during the operation, in order that they may soon learn to speak distinctly and be eloquent, wise, and shrewd of speech as they grow older, and of such quick intelligence as to remember without effort anything once heard. The same desirable result may be accomplished with a grown person, but with much more difficulty, as in that case it is necessary to scratch the inside of the throat for four successive mornings, the insect being pushed down with the fingers and again withdrawn, while the regular tabus must be strictly observed for the same period, or the operation will be without effect. In some cases the insect is put into a small bowl of water overnight, and if still alive in the morning it is taken out and the water given to the patient to drink, after which the gûlʻkwâgĭ is set at liberty.

Bees are kept by many of the Cherokee, in addition to the wild bees which are hunted in the woods. Although they are said to have come originally from the whites, the Cherokee have no tradition of a time when they did not know them; there seems, however, to be no folklore connected with them. The cow-ant (Myrmica?), a large, red, stinging ant, is called properly dasûñ′tălĭ atatsûñ′skĭ, “stinging ant,” but, on account of its hard body-case, is frequently called nûñ′yunu′wĭ, “stone-dress,” after a celebrated mythic monster. Strange as it may seem, there appears to be no folklore connected with either the firefly or the glowworm, while the spider, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, appears in but a single Cherokee myth, where it brings back the fire from across the water. In the formulas it is frequently invoked to entangle in its threads the soul of a victim whom the conjurer desires to bring under his evil spells. From a fancied resemblance in appearance the name for spider, kă′năne′skĭ, is applied also to a watch or clock. A small yellowish moth which flies about the fire at night is called tûñ′tăwû, a name implying that it goes into and out of the fire, and when at last it flits too near and falls into the blaze the Cherokee say, “Tûñ′tăwû is going to bed.” On account of its affinity for the fire it is invoked by the doctor in all “fire diseases,” including sore eyes and frostbite.


According to one version the Bullfrog was always ridiculing the great gambler Ûñtsai′yĭ, “Brass,” (see the story) until the latter at last got angry and dared the Bullfrog to play the gatayû′stĭ (wheel-and-stick) game with him, whichever lost to be scratched on his forehead. Brass won, as he always did, and the yellow stripes on the Bullfrog’s head show where the gambler’s fingers scratched him.

Another story is that the Bullfrog had a conjurer to paint his head with yellow stripes (brass) to make him appear more handsome to a pretty woman he was courting.


A young man courted a girl, who liked him well enough, but her mother was so much opposed to him that she would not let him come near the house. At last he made a trumpet from the handle of a gourd and hid himself after night near the spring until the old woman came down for water. While she was dipping up the water he put the trumpet to his lips and grumbled out in a deep voice like a bullfrog’s:

Yañdaska′gă hûñyahu′skă,

Yañdaska′gă hûñyahu′skă.

The faultfinder will die,

The faultfinder will die.

The woman thought it a witch bullfrog, and was so frightened that she dropped her dipper and ran back to the house to tell the people They all agreed that it was a warning to her to stop interfering with her daughter’s affairs, so she gave her consent, and thus the young man won his wife.

There is another story of a girl who, every day when she went down to the spring for water, heard a voice singing, Kûnu′nŭ tû′tsahyesĭ′, Kûnu′nŭ tû′tsahyesĭ′, “A bullfrog will marry you, A bullfrog will marry you.” She wondered much until one day when she came down she saw sitting on a stone by the spring a bullfrog, which suddenly took the form of a young man and asked her to marry him. She consented and took him back with her to the house. But although he had the shape of a man there was a queer bullfrog look about his face, so that the girl’s family hated him and at last persuaded her to send him away. She told him and he went away, but when they next went down to the spring they heard a voice: Ste′tsĭ tûya′husĭ, Ste′tsĭ tûyahusĭ′, “Your daughter will die, Your daughter will die,” and so it happened soon after.

As some tell it, the lover was a tadpole, who took on human shape, retaining only his tadpole mouth. To conceal it he constantly refused to eat with the family, but stood with his back to the fire and his face screwed up, pretending that he had a toothache. At last his wife grew suspicious and turning him suddenly around to the firelight, exposed the tadpole mouth, at which they all ridiculed him so much that he left the house forever.


Two hunters camping in the woods were preparing supper one night when a Katydid began singing near them. One of them said sneeringly, “Kû! It sings and don’t know that it will die before the season ends.” The Katydid answered: “Kû! niwĭ (onomatope); O, so you say; but you need not boast. You will die before to-morrow night.” The next day they were surprised by the enemy and the hunter who had sneered at the Katydid was killed.

Wonder Stories


Thunder lives in the west, or a little to the south of west, near the place where the sun goes down behind the water. In the old times he sometimes made a journey to the east, and once after he had come back from one of these journeys a child was born in the east who, the people said, was his son. As the boy grew up it was found that he had scrofula sores all over his body, so one day his mother said to him, “Your father, Thunder, is a great doctor. He lives far in the west, but if you can find him he can cure you.”

So the boy set out to find his father and be cured. He traveled long toward the west, asking of every one he met where Thunder lived, until at last they began to tell him that it was only a little way ahead. He went on and came to Ûñtiguhĭ′, on Tennessee, where lived Ûñtsaiyĭ′ “Brass.” Now Ûñtsaiyĭ′ was a great gambler, and made his living that way. It was he who invented the gatayûstĭ game that we play with a stone wheel and a stick. He lived on the south side of the river, and everybody who came that way he challenged to play against him. The large flat rock, with the lines and grooves where they used to roll the wheel, is still there, with the wheels themselves and the stick turned to stone. He won almost every time, because he was so tricky, so that he had his house filled with all kinds of fine things. Sometimes he would lose, and then he would bet all that he had, even to his own life, but the winner got nothing for his trouble, for Ûñtsaiyĭ′ knew how to take on different shapes, so that he always got away.

As soon as Ûñtsaiyĭ′ saw him he asked him to stop and play a while, but the boy said he was looking for his father, Thunder, and had no time to wait. “Well,” said Ûñtsaiyĭ′, “he lives in the next house; you can hear him grumbling over there all the time”—he meant the Thunder—“so we may as well have a game or two before you go on.” The boy said he had nothing to bet. “That’s all right,” said the gambler, “we’ll play for your pretty spots.” He said this to make the boy angry so that he would play, but still the boy said he must go first and find his father, and would come back afterwards.

He went on, and soon the news came to Thunder that a boy was looking for him who claimed to be his son. Said Thunder, “I have traveled in many lands and have many children. Bring him here and we shall soon know.” So they brought in the boy, and Thunder showed him a seat and told him to sit down. Under the blanket on the seat were long, sharp thorns of the honey locust, with the points all sticking up, but when the boy sat down they did not hurt him, and then Thunder knew that it was his son. He asked the boy why he had come. “I have sores all over my body, and my mother told me you were my father and a great doctor, and if I came here you would cure me.” “Yes,” said his father, “I am a great doctor, and I’ll soon fix you.”

There was a large pot in the corner and he told his wife to fill it with water and put it over the fire. When it was boiling, he put in some roots, then took the boy and put him in with them. He let it boil a long time until one would have thought that the flesh was boiled from the poor boy’s bones, and then told his wife to take the pot and throw it into the river, boy and all. She did as she was told, and threw it into the water, and ever since there is an eddy there that we call Ûñ′tiguhĭ′, “Pot-in-the-water.” A service tree and a calico bush grew on the bank above. A great cloud of steam came up and made streaks and blotches on their bark, and it has been so to this day. When the steam cleared away she looked over and saw the boy clinging to the roots of the service tree where they hung down into the water, but now his skin was all clean. She helped him up the bank, and they went back to the house. On the way she told him, “When we go in, your father will put a new dress on you, but when he opens his box and tells you to pick out your ornaments be sure to take them from the bottom. Then he will send for his other sons to play ball against you. There is a honey-locust tree in front of the house, and as soon as you begin to get tired strike at that and your father will stop the play, because he does not want to lose the tree.”

When they went into the house, the old man was pleased to see the boy looking so clean, and said, “I knew I could soon cure those spots. Now we must dress you.” He brought out a fine suit of buckskin, with belt and headdress, and had the boy put them on. Then he opened a box and said, “Now pick out your necklace and bracelets.” The boy looked, and the box was full of all kinds of snakes gliding over each other with their heads up. He was not afraid, but remembered what the woman had told him, and plunged his hand to the bottom and drew out a great rattlesnake and put it around his neck for a necklace. He put down his hand again four times and drew up four copperheads and twisted them around his wrists and ankles. Then his father gave him a war club and said, “Now you must play a ball game with your two elder brothers. They live beyond here in the Darkening land, and I have sent for them.” He said a ball game, but he meant that the boy must fight for his life. The young men came, and they were both older and stronger than the boy, but he was not afraid and fought against them. The thunder rolled and the lightning flashed at every stroke, for they were the young Thunders, and the boy himself was Lightning. At last he was tired from defending himself alone against two, and pretended to aim a blow at the honey-locust tree. Then his father stopped the fight, because he was afraid the lightning would split the tree, and he saw that the boy was brave and strong.

The boy told his father how Ûñtsaiyĭ′ had dared him to play, and had even offered to play for the spots on his skin. “Yes,” said Thunder, “he is a great gambler and makes his living that way, but I will see that you win.” He brought a small cymling gourd with a hole bored through the neck, and tied it on the boy’s wrist. Inside the gourd there was a string of beads, and one end hung out from a hole in the top, but there was no end to the string inside. “Now,” said his father, “go back the way you came, and as soon as he sees you he will want to play for the beads. He is very hard to beat, but this time he will lose every game. When he cries out for a drink, you will know he is getting discouraged, and then strike the rock with your war club and water will come, so that you can play on without stopping. At last he will bet his life, and lose. Then send at once for your brothers to kill him, or he will get away, he is so tricky.”

The boy took the gourd and his war club and started east along the road by which he had come. As soon as Ûñtsaiyĭ′ saw him he called to him, and when he saw the gourd with the bead string hanging out he wanted to play for it. The boy drew out the string, but there seemed to be no end to it, and he kept on pulling until enough had come out to make a circle all around the playground. “I will play one game for this much against your stake,” said the boy, “and when that is over we can have another game.”

They began the game with the wheel and stick and the boy won. Ûñtsaiyĭ′ did not know what to think of it, but he put up another stake and called for a second game. The boy won again, and so they played on until noon, when Ûñtsaiyĭ′ had lost nearly everything he had and was about discouraged. It was very hot, and he said, “I am thirsty,” and wanted to stop long enough to get a drink. “No,” said the boy, and struck the rock with his club so that water came out, and they had a drink. They played on until Ûñtsaiyĭ′ had lost all his buckskins and beaded work, his eagle feathers and ornaments, and at last offered to bet his wife. They played and the boy won her. Then Ûñtsaiyĭ′ was desperate and offered to stake his life. “If I win I kill you, but if you win you may kill me.” They played and the boy won.

“Let me go and tell my wife,” said Ûñtsaiyĭ′, “so that she will receive her new husband, and then you may kill me.” He went into the house, but it had two doors, and although the boy waited long Ûñtsaiyĭ′ did not come back. When at last he went to look for him he found that the gambler had gone out the back way and was nearly out of sight going east.

The boy ran to his father’s house and got his brothers to help him. They brought their dog—the Horned Green Beetle—and hurried after the gambler. He ran fast and was soon out of sight, and they followed as fast as they could. After a while they met an old woman making pottery and asked her if she had seen Ûñtsaiyĭ′ and she said she had not. “He came this way,” said the brothers. “Then he must have passed in the night,” said the old woman, “for I have been here all day.” They were about to take another road when the Beetle, which had been circling about in the air above the old woman, made a dart at her and struck her on the forehead, and it rang like brass—ûñtsaiyĭ′! Then they knew it was Brass and sprang at him, but he jumped up in his right shape and was off, running so fast that he was soon out of sight again. The Beetle had struck so hard that some of the brass rubbed off, and we can see it on the beetle’s forehead yet.

They followed and came to an old man sitting by the trail, carving a stone pipe. They asked him if he had seen Brass pass that way and he said no, but again the Beetle—which could know Brass under any shape—struck him on the forehead so that it rang like metal, and the gambler jumped up in his right form and was off again before they could hold him. He ran east until he came to the great water; then he ran north until he came to the edge of the world, and had to turn again to the west. He took every shape to throw them off the track, but the Green Beetle always knew him, and the brothers pressed him so hard that at last he could go no more and they caught him just as he reached the edge of the great water where the sun goes down.

They tied his hands and feet with a grapevine and drove a long stake through his breast, and planted it far out in the deep water. They set two crows on the end of the pole to guard it and called the place Kâgûñ′yĭ, “Crow place.” But Brass never died, and can not die until the end of the world, but lies there always with his face up. Sometimes he struggles under the water to get free, and sometimes the beavers, who are his friends, come and gnaw at the grapevine to release him. Then the pole shakes and the crows at the top cry Ka! Ka! Ka! and scare the beavers away.


On the north bank of Little Tennessee river, in a bend below the mouth of Citico creek, in Blount county, Tennessee, is a high cliff hanging over the water, and about halfway up the face of the rock is a cave with two openings. The rock projects outward above the cave, so that the mouth can not be seen from above, and it seems impossible to reach the cave either from above or below. There are white streaks in the rock from the cave down to the water. The Cherokee call it Tlă′nuwâ′ĭ, “the place of the Tlă′nuwă,” or great mythic hawk.

In the old time, away back soon after the creation, a pair of Tlă′nuwăs had their nest in this cave. The streaks in the rock were made by the droppings from the nest. They were immense birds, larger than any that live now, and very strong and savage. They were forever flying up and down the river, and used to come into the settlements and carry off dogs and even young children playing near the houses. No one could reach the nest to kill them, and when the people tried to shoot them the arrows only glanced off and were seized and carried away in the talons of the Tlă′nuwăs.

At last the people went to a great medicine man, who promised to help them. Some were afraid that if he failed to kill the Tlă′nuwăs they would take revenge on the people, but the medicine man said he could fix that. He made a long rope of linn bark, just as the Cherokee still do, with loops in it for his feet, and had the people let him down from the top of the cliff at a time when he knew that the old birds were away. When he came opposite the mouth of the cave he still could not reach it, because the rock above hung over, so he swung himself backward and forward several times until the rope swung near enough for him to pull himself into the cave with a hooked stick that he carried, which he managed to fasten in some bushes growing at the entrance. In the nest he found four young ones, and on the floor of the cave were the bones of all sorts of animals that had been carried there by the hawks. He pulled the young ones out of the nest and threw them over the cliff into the deep water below, where a great Uktena serpent that lived there finished them. Just then he saw the two old ones coming, and had hardly time to climb up again to the top of the rock before they reached the nest.

When they found the nest empty they were furious, and circled round and round in the air until they saw the snake put up its head from the water. Then they darted straight downward, and while one seized the snake in his talons and flew far up in the sky with it, his mate struck at it and bit off piece after piece until nothing was left. They were so high up that when the pieces fell they made holes in the rock, which are still to be seen there, at the place which we call “Where the Tlă′nuwă cut it up,” opposite the mouth of Citico. Then the two Tlă′nuwăs circled up and up until they went out of sight, and they have never been seen since.


A hunter out in the woods one day saw a Tlă′nuwă overhead and tried to hide from it, but the great bird had already seen him, and sweeping down struck its claws into his hunting pack and carried him far up into the air. As it flew, the Tlă′nuwă, which was a mother bird, spoke and told the hunter that he need not be afraid, as she would not hurt him, but only wanted him to stay for a while with her young ones to guard them until they were old enough to leave the nest. At last they alighted at the mouth of a cave in the face of a steep cliff. Inside the water was dripping from the roof, and at the farther end was a nest of sticks in which were two young birds. The old Tlă′nuwă set the hunter down and then flew away, returning soon with a fresh-killed deer, which it tore in pieces, giving the first piece to the hunter and then feeding the two young hawks.

The hunter stayed in the cave many days until the young birds were nearly grown, and every day the old mother hawk would fly away from the nest and return in the evening with a deer or a bear, of which she always gave the first piece to the hunter. He grew very anxious to see his home again, but the Tlă′nuwă kept telling him not to be uneasy, but to wait a little while longer. At last he made up his mind to escape from the cave and finally studied out a plan. The next morning, after the old bird had gone, he dragged one of the young birds to the mouth of the cave and tied himself to one of its legs with a strap from his hunting pack. Then with the flat side of his tomahawk he struck it several times in the head until it was dazed and helpless, and pushed the bird and himself together off the shelf of rock into the air.

They fell far, far down toward the earth, but the air from below held up the bird’s wings, so that it was almost as if they were flying. As the Tlă′nuwă revived it tried to fly upward toward the nest, but the hunter struck it again with his hatchet until it was dazed and dropped again. At last they came down in the top of a poplar tree, when the hunter untied the strap from the leg of the young bird and let it fly away, first pulling out a feather from its wing. He climbed down from the tree and went to his home in the settlement, but when he looked in his pack for the feather he found a stone instead.


Long, long ago—hĭlahi′yu—there dwelt in the mountains a terrible ogress, a woman monster, whose food was human livers. She could take on any shape or appearance to suit her purpose, but in her right form she looked very much like an old woman, excepting that her whole body was covered with a skin as hard as a rock that no weapon could wound or penetrate, and that on her right hand she had a long, stony forefinger of bone, like an awl or spearhead, with which she stabbed everyone to whom she could get near enough. On account of this fact she was called Uʻtlûñ′tă, “Spear-finger,” and on account of her stony skin she was sometimes called Nûñ′yunu′wĭ, “Stone-dress.” There was another stone-clothed monster that killed people, but that is a different story.

Spear-finger had such powers over stone that she could easily lift and carry immense rocks, and could cement them together by merely striking one against another. To get over the rough country more easily she undertook to build a great rock bridge through the air from Nûñyû′-tluʻgûñ′yĭ, the “Tree rock,” on Hiwassee, over to Sanigilâ′gĭ (Whiteside mountain), on the Blue ridge, and had it well started from the top of the “Tree rock” when the lightning struck it and scattered the fragments along the whole ridge, where the pieces can still be seen by those who go there. She used to range all over the mountains about the heads of the streams and in the dark passes of Nantahala, always hungry and looking for victims. Her favorite haunt on the Tennessee side was about the gap on the trail where Chilhowee mountain comes down to the river.

Sometimes an old woman would approach along the trail where the children were picking strawberries or playing near the village, and would say to them coaxingly, “Come, my grandchildren, come to your granny and let granny dress your hair.” When some little girl ran up and laid her head in the old woman’s lap to be petted and combed the old witch would gently run her fingers through the child’s hair until it went to sleep, when she would stab the little one through the heart or back of the neck with the long awl finger, which she had kept hidden under her robe. Then she would take out the liver and eat it.

She would enter a house by taking the appearance of one of the family who happened to have gone out for a short time, and would watch her chance to stab some one with her long finger and take out his liver. She could stab him without being noticed, and often the victim did not even know it himself at the time—for it left no wound and caused no pain—but went on about his own affairs, until all at once he felt weak and began gradually to pine away, and was always sure to die, because Spear-finger had taken his liver.

When the Cherokee went out in the fall, according to their custom, to burn the leaves off from the mountains in order to get the chestnuts on the ground, they were never safe, for the old witch was always on the lookout, and as soon as she saw the smoke rise she knew there were Indians there and sneaked up to try to surprise one alone. So as well as they could they tried to keep together, and were very cautious of allowing any stranger to approach the camp. But if one went down to the spring for a drink they never knew but it might be the liver eater that came back and sat with them.

Sometimes she took her proper form, and once or twice, when far out from the settlements, a solitary hunter had seen an old woman, with a queer-looking hand, going through the woods singing low to herself:

Uwe′la nátsĭkû′. Su′ să′ sai′.

Liver, I eat it. Su′ să′ sai′.

It was rather a pretty song, but it chilled his blood, for he knew it was the liver eater, and he hurried away, silently, before she might see him.

At last a great council was held to devise some means to get rid of Uʼtlûñ′tă before she should destroy everybody. The people came from all around, and after much talk it was decided that the best way would be to trap her in a pitfall where all the warriors could attack her at once. So they dug a deep pitfall across the trail and covered it over with earth and grass as if the ground had never been disturbed. Then they kindled a large fire of brush near the trail and hid themselves in the laurels, because they knew she would come as soon as she saw the smoke.

Sure enough they soon saw an old woman coming along the trail. She looked like an old woman whom they knew well in the village, and although several of the wiser men wanted to shoot at her, the others interfered, because they did not want to hurt one of their own people. The old woman came slowly along the trail, with one hand under her blanket, until she stepped upon the pitfall and tumbled through the brush top into the deep hole below. Then, at once, she showed her true nature, and instead of the feeble old woman there was the terrible Uʼtlûñ′tă with her stony skin, and her sharp awl finger reaching out in every direction for some one to stab.

The hunters rushed out from the thicket and surrounded the pit, but shoot as true and as often as they could, their arrows struck the stony mail of the witch only to be broken and fall useless at her feet, while she taunted them and tried to climb out of the pit to get at them. They kept out of her way, but were only wasting their arrows when a small bird, Utsŭ′ʻgĭ, the titmouse, perched on a tree overhead and began to sing “un, un, un.” They thought it was saying u′nahŭ′, heart, meaning that they should aim at the heart of the stone witch. They directed their arrows where the heart should be, but the arrows only glanced off with the flint heads broken.

Then they caught the Utsŭ′ʻgĭ and cut off its tongue, so that ever since its tongue is short and everybody knows it is a liar. When the hunters let it go it flew straight up into the sky until it was out of sight and never came back again. The titmouse that we know now is only an image of the other.

They kept up the fight without result until another bird, little Tsĭ′kĭlilĭ′, the chickadee, flew down from a tree and alighted upon the witch’s right hand. The warriors took this as a sign that they must aim there, and they were right, for her heart was on the inside of her hand, which she kept doubled into a fist, this same awl hand with which she had stabbed so many people. Now she was frightened in earnest, and began to rush furiously at them with her long awl finger and to jump about in the pit to dodge the arrows, until at last a lucky arrow struck just where the awl joined her wrist and she fell down dead.

Ever since the tsĭ′kĭlilĭ′ is known as a truth teller, and when a man is away on a journey, if this bird comes and perches near the house and chirps its song, his friends know he will soon be safe home.


This is what the old men told me when I was a boy.

Once when all the people of the settlement were out in the mountains on a great hunt one man who had gone on ahead climbed to the top of a high ridge and found a large river on the other side. While he was looking across he saw an old man walking about on the opposite ridge, with a cane that seemed to be made of some bright, shining rock. The hunter watched and saw that every little while the old man would point his cane in a certain direction, then draw it back and smell the end of it. At last he pointed it in the direction of the hunting camp on the other side of the mountain, and this time when he drew back the staff he sniffed it several times as if it smelled very good, and then started along the ridge straight for the camp. He moved very slowly, with the help of the cane, until he reached the end of the ridge, when he threw the cane out into the air and it became a bridge of shining rock stretching across the river. After he had crossed over upon the bridge it became a cane again, and the old man picked it up and started over the mountain toward the camp.

The hunter was frightened, and felt sure that it meant mischief, so he hurried on down the mountain and took the shortest trail back to the camp to get there before the old man. When he got there and told his story the medicine-man said the old man was a wicked cannibal monster called Nûñ′yunu′wĭ, “Dressed in Stone,” who lived in that part of the country, and was always going about the mountains looking for some hunter to kill and eat. It was very hard to escape from him, because his stick guided him like a dog, and it was nearly as hard to kill him, because his whole body was covered with a skin of solid rock. If he came he would kill and eat them all, and there was only one way to save themselves. He could not bear to look upon a menstrual woman, and if they could find seven menstrual women to stand in the path as he came along the sight would kill him.

So they asked among all the women, and found seven who were sick in that way, and with one of them it had just begun. By the order of the medicine-man they stripped themselves and stood along the path where the old man would come. Soon they heard Nûñ′yunu′wĭ coming through the woods, feeling his way with his stone cane. He came along the trail to where the first woman was standing, and as soon as he saw her he started and cried out: “Yu! my grandchild; you are in a very bad state!” He hurried past her, but in a moment he met the next woman, and cried out again: “Yu! my child; you are in a terrible way,” and hurried past her, but now he was vomiting blood. He hurried on and met the third and the fourth and the fifth woman, but with each one that he saw his step grew weaker until when he came to the last one, with whom the sickness had just begun, the blood poured from his mouth and he fell down on the trail.

Then the medicine-man drove seven sourwood stakes through his body and pinned him to the ground, and when night came they piled great logs over him and set fire to them, and all the people gathered around to see. Nûñ′yunu′wĭ was a great ada′wehĭ and knew many secrets, and now as the fire came close to him he began to talk, and told them the medicine for all kinds of sickness. At midnight he began to sing, and sang the hunting songs for calling up the bear and the deer and all the animals of the woods and mountains. As the blaze grew hotter his voice sank low and lower, until at last when daylight came, the logs were a heap of white ashes and the voice was still.

Then the medicine-man told them to rake off the ashes, and where the body had lain they found only a large lump of red wâ′dĭ paint and a magic u′lûñsû′ti stone. He kept the stone for himself, and calling the people around him he painted them, on face and breast, with the red wâ′dĭ, and whatever each person prayed for while the painting was being done—whether for hunting success, for working skill, or for a long life—that gift was his.


In the old days there was a great fish called the Dăkwă′, which lived in Tennessee river where Toco creek comes in at Dăkwâ′ĭ, the “Dăkwă′ place,” above the mouth of Tellico, and which was so large that it could easily swallow a man. Once a canoe filled with warriors was crossing over from the town to the other side of the river, when the Dăkwă′ suddenly rose up under the boat and threw them all into the air. As they came down it swallowed one with a single snap of its jaws and dived with him to the bottom of the river. As soon as the hunter came to his senses he found that he had not been hurt, but it was so hot and close inside the Dăkwă′ that he was nearly smothered. As he groped around in the dark his hand struck a lot of mussel shells which the fish had swallowed, and taking one of these for a knife he began to cut his way out, until soon the fish grew uneasy at the scraping inside his stomach and came up to the top of the water for air. He kept on cutting until the fish was in such pain that it swam this way and that across the stream and thrashed the water into foam with its tail. Finally the hole was so large that he could look out and saw that the Dăkwă′ was now resting in shallow water near the shore. Reaching up he climbed out from the side of the fish, moving very carefully so that the Dăkwă′ would not know it, and then waded to shore and got back to the settlement, but the juices in the stomach of the great fish had scalded all the hair from his head and he was bald ever after.


A boy was sent on an errand by his father, and not wishing to go he ran away to the river. After playing in the sand for a short time some boys of his acquaintance came by in a canoe and invited him to join them. Glad of the opportunity to get away he went with them, but had no sooner got in than the canoe began to tip and rock most unaccountably. The boys became very much frightened, and in the confusion the bad boy fell into the water and was immediately swallowed by a large fish. After lying in its stomach for some time he became very hungry, and on looking around he saw the fish’s liver hanging over his head. Thinking it dried meat, he tried to cut off a piece with a mussel shell he had been playing with and still held in his hand. The operation sickened the fish and it vomited the boy.


Westward from the headwaters of Oconaluftee river, in the wildest depths of the Great Smoky mountains, which form the line between North Carolina and Tennessee, is the enchanted lake of Atagâ′hĭ, “Gall place.” Although all the Cherokee know that it is there, no one has ever seen it, for the way is so difficult that only the animals know how to reach it. Should a stray hunter come near the place he would know of it by the whirring sound of the thousands of wild ducks flying about the lake, but on reaching the spot he would find only a dry flat, without bird or animal or blade of grass, unless he had first sharpened his spiritual vision by prayer and fasting and an all-night vigil.

Because it is not seen, some people think the lake has dried up long ago, but this is not true. To one who had kept watch and fast through the night it would appear at daybreak as a wide-extending but shallow sheet of purple water, fed by springs spouting from the high cliffs around. In the water are all kinds of fish and reptiles, and swimming upon the surface or flying overhead are great flocks of ducks and pigeons, while all about the shores are bear tracks crossing in every direction. It is the medicine lake of the birds and animals, and whenever a bear is wounded by the hunters he makes his way through the woods to this lake and plunges into the water, and when he comes out upon the other side his wounds are healed. For this reason the animals keep the lake invisible to the hunter.


The North went traveling, and after going far and meeting many different tribes he finally fell in love with the daughter of the South and wanted to marry her. The girl was willing, but her parents objected and said, “Ever since you came the weather has been cold, and if you stay here we may all freeze to death.” The North pleaded hard, and said that if they would let him have their daughter he would take her back to his own country, so at last they consented. They were married and he took his bride to his own country, and when she arrived there she found the people all living in ice houses.

The next day, when the sun rose, the houses began to leak, and as it climbed higher they began to melt, and it grew warmer and warmer, until finally the people came to the young husband and told him he must send his wife home again, or the weather would get so warm that the whole settlement would be melted. He loved his wife and so held out as long as he could, but as the sun grew hotter the people were more urgent, and at last he had to send her home to her parents.

The people said that as she had been born in the South, and nourished all her life upon food that grew in the same climate, her whole nature was warm and unfit for the North.


Once when the people were burning the woods in the fall the blaze set fire to a poplar tree, which continued to burn until the fire went down into the roots and burned a great hole in the ground. It burned and burned, and the hole grew constantly larger, until the people became frightened and were afraid it would burn the whole world. They tried to put out the fire, but it had gone too deep, and they did not know what to do.

At last some one said there was a man living in a house of ice far in the north who could put out the fire, so messengers were sent, and after traveling a long distance they came to the ice house and found the Ice Man at home. He was a little fellow with long hair hanging down to the ground in two plaits. The messengers told him their errand and he at once said, “O yes, I can help you,” and began to unplait his hair. When it was all unbraided he took it up in one hand and struck it once across his other hand, and the messengers felt a wind blow against their cheeks. A second time he struck his hair across his hand, and a light rain began to fall. The third time he struck his hair across his open hand there was sleet mixed with the raindrops, and when he struck the fourth time great hailstones fell upon the ground, as if they had come out from the ends of his hair. “Go back now,” said the Ice Man, “and I shall be there to-morrow.” So the messengers returned to their people, whom they found still gathered helplessly about the great burning pit.

The next day while they were all watching about the fire there came a wind from the north, and they were afraid, for they knew that it came from the Ice Man. But the wind only made the fire blaze up higher. Then a light rain began to fall, but the drops seemed only to make the fire hotter. Then the shower turned to a heavy rain, with sleet and hail that killed the blaze and made clouds of smoke and steam rise from the red coals. The people fled to their homes for shelter, and the storm rose to a whirlwind that drove the rain into every burning crevice and piled great hailstones over the embers, until the fire was dead and even the smoke ceased. When at last it was all over and the people returned they found a lake where the burning pit had been, and from below the water came a sound as of embers still crackling.


A hunter had been tramping over the mountains all day long without finding any game and when the sun went down, he built a fire in a hollow stump, swallowed a few mouthfuls of corn gruel and lay down to sleep, tired out and completely discouraged. About the middle of the night he dreamed and seemed to hear the sound of beautiful singing, which continued until near daybreak and then appeared to die away into the upper air.

All next day he hunted with the same poor success, and at night made his lonely camp again in the woods. He slept and the strange dream came to him again, but so vividly that it seemed to him like an actual happening. Rousing himself before daylight, he still heard the song, and feeling sure now that it was real, he went in the direction of the sound and found that it came from a single green stalk of corn (selu). The plant spoke to him, and told him to cut off some of its roots and take them to his home in the settlement, and the next morning to chew them and “go to water” before anyone else was awake, and then to go out again into the woods, and he would kill many deer and from that time on would always be successful in the hunt. The corn plant continued to talk, teaching him hunting secrets and telling him always to be generous with the game he took, until it was noon and the sun was high, when it suddenly took the form of a woman and rose gracefully into the air and was gone from sight, leaving the hunter alone in the woods.

He returned home and told his story, and all the people knew that he had seen Selu, the wife of Kana′tĭ. He did as the spirit had directed, and from that time was noted as the most successful of all the hunters in the settlement.


A hunter was in the woods one day in winter when suddenly he saw a panther coming toward him and at once prepared to defend himself. The panther continued to approach, and the hunter was just about to shoot when the animal spoke, and at once it seemed to the man as if there was no difference between them, and they were both of the same nature. The panther asked him where he was going, and the man said that he was looking for a deer. “Well,” said the panther, “we are getting ready for a Green-corn dance, and there are seven of us out after a buck, so we may as well hunt together.”

The hunter agreed and they went on together. They started up one deer and another, but the panther made no sign, and said only, “Those are too small; we want something better.” So the hunter did not shoot, and they went on. They started up another deer, a larger one, and the panther sprang upon it and tore its throat, and finally killed it after a hard struggle. The hunter got out his knife to skin it, but the panther said the skin was too much torn to be used and they must try again. They started up another large deer, and this the panther killed without trouble, and then, wrapping his tail around it, threw it across his back. “Now, come to our townhouse,” he said to the hunter.

The panther led the way, carrying the captured deer upon his back, up a little stream branch until they came to the head spring, when it seemed as if a door opened in the side of the hill and they went in. Now the hunter found himself in front of a large townhouse, with the finest detsănûñ′lĭ he had ever seen, and the trees around were green, and the air was warm, as in summer. There was a great company there getting ready for the dance, and they were all panthers, but somehow it all seemed natural to the hunter. After a while the others who had been out came in with the deer they had taken, and the dance began. The hunter danced several rounds, and then said it was growing late and he must be getting home. So the panthers opened the door and he went out, and at once found himself alone in the woods again, and it was winter and very cold, with snow on the ground and on all the trees. When he reached the settlement he found a party just starting out to search for him. They asked him where he had been so long, and he told them the story, and then he found that he had been in the panther townhouse several days instead of only a very short time, as he had thought.

He died within seven days after his return, because he had already begun to take on the panther nature, and so could not live again with men. If he had stayed with the panthers he would have lived.


Once some young men of the Cherokee set out to see what was in the world and traveled south until they came to a tribe of little people called Tsundige′wĭ, with very queer shaped bodies, hardly tall enough to reach up to a man’s knee, who had no houses, but lived in nests scooped in the sand and covered over with dried grass. The little fellows were so weak and puny that they could not fight at all, and were in constant terror from the wild geese and other birds that used to come in great flocks from the south to make war upon them.

Just at the time that the travelers got there they found the little men in great fear, because there was a strong wind blowing from the south and it blew white feathers and down along the sand, so that the Tsundige′wĭ knew their enemies were coming not far behind. The Cherokee asked them why they did not defend themselves, but they said they could not, because they did not know how. There was no time to make bows and arrows, but the travelers told them to take sticks for clubs, and showed them where to strike the birds on the necks to kill them.

The wind blew for several days, and at last the birds came, so many that they were like a great cloud in the air, and alighted on the sands. The little men ran to their nests, and the birds followed and stuck in their long bills to pull them out and eat them. This time, though, the Tsundige′wĭ had their clubs, and they struck the birds on the neck, as the Cherokee had shown them, and killed so many that at last the others were glad to spread their wings and fly away again to the south.

The little men thanked the Cherokee for their help and gave them the best they had until the travelers went on to see the other tribes. They heard afterwards that the birds came again several times, but that the Tsundige′wĭ always drove them off with their clubs, until a flock of sandhill cranes came. They were so tall that the little men could not reach up to strike them on the neck, and so at last the cranes killed them all.


Long ago there was a Cherokee clan called the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while he went oftener and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, but started off at daybreak and did not come back until night. His parents scolded, but that did no good, and the boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would not even eat at home. Said the boy, “I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon I am going into the woods to stay all the time.” His parents were worried and begged him not to leave them, but he said, “It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you will never have to work for it; but if you want to come you must first fast seven days.”

The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said they decided: “Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says there is always plenty without work. We will go with him.” So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning all the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.

When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ to stay at home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. The Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ would not come back, but said, “We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called yânû (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always.” Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them, and the bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.

First Bear Song

He-e! Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, akwandu′li e′lanti′ ginûn′ti,

Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, akwandu′li e′lanti′ ginûn′ti—Yû!

He-e! The Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, I want to lay them low on the ground,

The Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ, I want to lay them low on the ground—Yû!

The bear hunter starts out each morning fasting and does not eat until near evening. He sings this song as he leaves camp, and again the next morning, but never twice the same day.

* *

Second Bear Song

This song also is sung by the bear hunter, in order to attract the bears, while on his way from the camp to the place where he expects to hunt during the day. The melody is simple and plaintive.

He-e! Hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′,

Tsistuyi′ nehandu′yanû′, Tsistuyi′ nehandu′yanû′—Yoho-o!

He-e! Hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′,

Kuwâhi′ nehandu′yanû′, Kuwâhi′ nehandu′yanû′—Yoho-o!

He-e! Hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′,

Uyâhye′ nehandu′yanû′, Uyâhye′ nehandu′yanû′—Yoho-o!

He-e! Hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′, hayuya′haniwă′,

Gâtegwâ′ nehandu′yanû′, Gâtegwâ′ nehandu′yanû′—Yoho-o!

(Recited) Ûlĕ-ʻnû′ asĕhĭ′ tadeyâ′statakûhĭ′ gûñ′năge astû′ tsĭkĭ′.

He! Hayuya′haniwă′ (four times),

In Tsistu′yĭ you were conceived (two times)—Yoho!

He! Hayuya′haniwă′ (four times),

In Kuwâ′hĭ you were conceived (two times)—Yoho!

He! Hayuya′haniwă′ (four times),

In Uyâ′hye you were conceived (two times)—Yoho!

He! Hayuya′haniwă′ (four times),

In Gâte′gwâ you were conceived (two times)—Yoho!

And now surely we and the good black things, the best of all, shall see each other.


A man went hunting in the mountains and came across a black bear, which he wounded with an arrow. The bear turned and started to run the other way, and the hunter followed, shooting one arrow after another into it without bringing it down. Now, this was a medicine bear, and could talk or read the thoughts of people without their saying a word. At last he stopped and pulled the arrows out of his side and gave them to the man, saying, “It is of no use for you to shoot at me, for you can not kill me. Come to my house and let us live together.” The hunter thought to himself, “He may kill me;” but the bear read his thoughts and said, “No, I won’t hurt you.” The man thought again, “How can I get anything to eat?” but the bear knew his thoughts, and said, “There shall be plenty.” So the hunter went with the bear.

They went on together until they came to a hole in the side of the mountain, and the bear said, “This is not where I live, but there is going to be a council here and we will see what they do.” They went in, and the hole widened as they went, until they came to a large cave like a townhouse. It was full of bears—old bears, young bears, and cubs, white bears, black bears, and brown bears—and a large white bear was the chief. They sat down in a corner, but soon the bears scented the hunter and began to ask, “What is it that smells bad?” The chief said, “Don’t talk so; it is only a stranger come to see us. Let him alone.” Food was getting scarce in the mountains, and the council was to decide what to do about it. They had sent out messengers all over, and while they were talking two bears came in and reported that they had found a country in the low grounds where there were so many chestnuts and acorns that mast was knee deep. Then they were all pleased, and got ready for a dance, and the dance leader was the one the Indians call Kalâs′-gûnăhi′ta, “Long Hams,” a great black bear that is always lean. After the dance the bears noticed the hunter’s bow and arrows, and one said, “This is what men use to kill us. Let us see if we can manage them, and may be we can fight man with his own weapons.” So they took the bow and arrows from the hunter to try them. They fitted the arrow and drew back the string, but when they let go it caught in their long claws and the arrows dropped to the ground. They saw that they could not use the bow and arrows and gave them back to the man. When the dance and the council were over, they began to go home, excepting the White Bear chief, who lived there, and at last the hunter and the bear went out together.

They went on until they came to another hole in the side of the mountain, when the bear said, “This is where I live,” and they went in. By this time the hunter was very hungry and was wondering how he could get something to eat. The other knew his thoughts, and sitting up on his hind legs he rubbed his stomach with his forepaws—so—and at once he had both paws full of chestnuts and gave them to the man. He rubbed his stomach again—so—and had his paws full of huckleberries, and gave them to the man. He rubbed again—so—and gave the man both paws full of blackberries. He rubbed again—so—and had his paws full of acorns, but the man said that he could not eat them, and that he had enough already.

The hunter lived in the cave with the bear all winter, until long hair like that of a bear began to grow all over his body and he began to act like a bear; but he still walked like a man. One day in early spring the bear said to him, “Your people down in the settlement are getting ready for a grand hunt in these mountains, and they will come to this cave and kill me and take these clothes from me”—he meant his skin—“but they will not hurt you and will take you home with them.” The bear knew what the people were doing down in the settlement just as he always knew what the man was thinking about. Some days passed and the bear said again, “This is the day when the Topknots will come to kill me, but the Split-noses will come first and find us. When they have killed me they will drag me outside the cave and take off my clothes and cut me in pieces. You must cover the blood with leaves, and when they are taking you away look back after you have gone a piece and you will see something.”

Soon they heard the hunters coming up the mountain, and then the dogs found the cave and began to bark. The hunters came and looked inside and saw the bear and killed him with their arrows. Then they dragged him outside the cave and skinned the body and cut it in quarters to carry home. The dogs kept on barking until the hunters thought there must be another bear in the cave. They looked in again and saw the man away at the farther end. At first they thought it was another bear on account of his long hair, but they soon saw it was the hunter who had been lost the year before, so they went in and brought him out. Then each hunter took a load of the bear meat and they started home again, bringing the man and the skin with them. Before they left the man piled leaves over the spot where they had cut up the bear, and when they had gone a little way he looked behind and saw the bear rise up out of the leaves, shake himself, and go back into the woods.

When they came near the settlement the man told the hunters that he must be shut up where no one could see him, without anything to eat or drink for seven days and nights, until the bear nature had left him and he became like a man again. So they shut him up alone in a house and tried to keep very still about it, but the news got out and his wife heard of it. She came for her husband, but the people would not let her near him; but she came every day and begged so hard that at last after four or five days they let her have him. She took him home with her, but in a short time he died, because he still had a bear’s nature and could not live like a man. If they had kept him shut up and fasting until the end of the seven days he would have become a man again and would have lived.


The spot where Valley river joins Hiwassee, at Murphy, in North Carolina, is known among the Cherokees as Tlanusi′yĭ, “The Leech place,” and this is the story they tell of it:

Just above the junction is a deep hole in Valley river, and above it is a ledge of rock running across the stream, over which people used to go as on a bridge. On the south side the trail ascended a high bank, from which they could look down into the water. One day some men going along the trail saw a great red object, full as large as a house, lying on the rock ledge in the middle of the stream below them. As they stood wondering what it could be they saw it unroll—and then they knew it was alive—and stretch itself out along the rock until it looked like a great leech with red and white stripes along its body. It rolled up into a ball and again stretched out at full length, and at last crawled down the rock and was out of sight in the deep water. The water began to boil and foam, and a great column of white spray was thrown high in the air and came down like a waterspout upon the very spot where the men had been standing, and would have swept them all into the water but that they saw it in time and ran from the place.

More than one person was carried down in this way, and their friends would find the body afterwards lying upon the bank with the ears and nose eaten off, until at last the people were afraid to go across the ledge any more, on account of the great leech, or even to go along that part of the trail. But there was one young fellow who laughed at the whole story, and said that he was not afraid of anything in Valley river, as he would show them. So one day he painted his face and put on his finest buckskin and started off toward the river, while all the people followed at a distance to see what might happen. Down the trail he went and out upon the ledge of rock, singing in high spirits:

Tlanu′sĭ găne′ga digi′găge


I’ll tie red leech skins

On my legs for garters.

But before he was half way across the water began to boil into white foam and a great wave rose and swept over the rock and carried him down, and he was never seen again.

Just before the Removal, sixty years ago, two women went out upon the ledge to fish. Their friends warned them of the danger, but one woman who had her baby on her back said, “There are fish there and I’m going to have some; I’m tired of this fat meat.” She laid the child down on the rock and was preparing the line when the water suddenly rose and swept over the ledge, and would have carried off the child but that the mother ran in time to save it. The great leech is still there in the deep hole, because when people look down they see something alive moving about on the bottom, and although they can not distinguish its shape on account of the ripples on the water, yet they know it is the leech. Some say there is an underground waterway across to Nottely river, not far above the mouth, where the river bends over toward Murphy, and sometimes the leech goes over there and makes the water boil as it used to at the rock ledge. They call this spot on Nottely “The Leech place” also.


The Nûñnĕ′hĭ or immortals, the “people who live anywhere,” were a race of spirit people who lived in the highlands of the old Cherokee country and had a great many townhouses, especially in the bald mountains, the high peaks on which no timber ever grows. They had large townhouses in Pilot knob and under the old Nĭkwăsĭ′ mound in North Carolina, and another under Blood mountain, at the head of Nottely river, in Georgia. They were invisible excepting when they wanted to be seen, and then they looked and spoke just like other Indians. They were very fond of music and dancing, and hunters in the mountains would often hear the dance songs and the drum beating in some invisible townhouse, but when they went toward the sound it would shift about and they would hear it behind them or away in some other direction, so that they could never find the place where the dance was. They were a friendly people, too, and often brought lost wanderers to their townhouses under the mountains and cared for them there until they were rested and then guided them back to their homes. More than once, also, when the Cherokee were hard pressed by the enemy, the Nûñnĕ′hĭ warriors have come out, as they did at old Nĭkwăsĭ′, and have saved them from defeat. Some people have thought that they are the same as the Yûñwĭ Tsunsdi′, the “Little People”; but these are fairies, no larger in size than children.

There was a man in Nottely town who had been with the Nûñnĕ′hĭ when he was a boy, and he told Wafford all about it. He was a truthful, hard-headed man, and Wafford had heard the story so often from other people that he asked this man to tell it. It was in this way:

When he was about 10 or 12 years old he was playing one day near the river, shooting at a mark with his bow and arrows, until he became tired, and started to build a fish trap in the water. While he was piling up the stones in two long walls a man came and stood on the bank and asked him what he was doing. The boy told him, and the man said, “Well, that’s pretty hard work and you ought to rest a while. Come and take a walk up the river.” The boy said, “No”; that he was going home to dinner soon. “Come right up to my house,” said the stranger, “and I’ll give you a good dinner there and bring you home again in the morning.” So the boy went with him up the river until they came to a house, when they went in, and the man’s wife and the other people there were very glad to see him, and gave him a fine dinner, and were very kind to him. While they were eating a man that the boy knew very well came in and spoke to him, so that he felt quite at home.

After dinner he played with the other children and slept there that night, and in the morning, after breakfast, the man got ready to take him home. They went down a path that had a cornfield on one side and a peach orchard fenced in on the other, until they came to another trail, and the man said, “Go along this trail across that ridge and you will come to the river road that will bring you straight to your home, and now I’ll go back to the house.” So the man went back to the house and the boy went on along the trail, but when he had gone a little way he looked back, and there was no cornfield or orchard or fence or house; nothing but trees on the mountain side.

He thought it very queer, but somehow he was not frightened, and went on until he came to the river trail in sight of his home. There were a great many people standing about talking, and when they saw him they ran toward him shouting, “Here he is! He is not drowned or killed in the mountains!” They told him they had been hunting him ever since yesterday noon, and asked him where he had been. “A man took me over to his house just across the ridge, and I had a fine dinner and a good time with the children,” said the boy, “I thought Udsi′skală here”—that was the name of the man he had seen at dinner—“would tell you where I was.” But Udsi′skală said, “I haven’t seen you. I was out all day in my canoe hunting you. It was one of the Nûñnĕ′hĭ that made himself look like me.” Then his mother said, “You say you had dinner there?” “Yes, and I had plenty, too,” said the boy; but his mother answered, “There is no house there—only trees and rocks—but we hear a drum sometimes in the big bald above. The people you saw were the Nûñnĕ′hĭ.”

Once four Nûñnĕ′hĭ women came to a dance at Nottely town, and danced half the night with the young men there, and nobody knew that they were Nûñnĕ′hĭ, but thought them visitors from another settlement. About midnight they left to go home, and some men who had come out from the townhouse to cool off watched to see which way they went. They saw the women go down the trail to the river ford, but just as they came to the water they disappeared, although it was a plain trail, with no place where they could hide. Then the watchers knew they were Nûñnĕ′hĭ women. Several men saw this happen, and one of them was Wafford’s father-in-law, who was known for an honest man. At another time a man named Burnt-tobacco was crossing over the ridge from Nottely to Hemptown in Georgia and heard a drum and the songs of dancers in the hills on one side of the trail. He rode over to see who could be dancing in such a place, but when he reached the spot the drum and the songs were behind him, and he was so frightened that he hurried back to the trail and rode all the way to Hemptown as hard as he could to tell the story. He was a truthful man, and they believed what he said.

There must have been a good many of the Nûñnĕ′hĭ living in that neighborhood, because the drumming was often heard in the high balds almost up to the time of the Removal.

On a small upper branch of Nottely, running nearly due north from Blood mountain, there was also a hole, like a small well or chimney, in the ground, from which there came up a warm vapor that heated all the air around. People said that this was because the Nûñnĕ′hĭ had a townhouse and a fire under the mountain. Sometimes in cold weather hunters would stop there to warm themselves, but they were afraid to stay long. This was more than sixty years ago, but the hole is probably there yet.

Close to the old trading path from South Carolina up to the Cherokee Nation, somewhere near the head of Tugaloo, there was formerly a noted circular depression about the size of a townhouse, and waist deep. Inside it was always clean as though swept by unknown hands. Passing traders would throw logs and rocks into it, but would always, on their return, find them thrown far out from the hole. The Indians said it was a Nûñnĕ′hĭ townhouse, and never liked to go near the place or even to talk about it, until at last some logs thrown in by the traders were allowed to remain there, and then they concluded that the Nûñnĕ′hĭ, annoyed by the persecution of the white men, had abandoned their townhouse forever.

There is another race of spirits, the Yûñwĭ Tsunsdi′, or “Little People,” who live in rock caves on the mountain side. They are little fellows, hardly reaching up to a man’s knee, but well shaped and handsome, with long hair falling almost to the ground. They are great wonder workers and are very fond of music, spending half their time drumming and dancing. They are helpful and kind-hearted, and often when people have been lost in the mountains, especially children who have strayed away from their parents, the Yûñwĭ Tsunsdi′ have found them and taken care of them and brought them back to their homes. Sometimes their drum is heard in lonely places in the mountains, but it is not safe to follow it, because the Little People do not like to be disturbed at home, and they throw a spell over the stranger so that he is bewildered and loses his way, and even if he does at last get back to the settlement he is like one dazed ever after. Sometimes, also, they come near a house at night and the people inside hear them talking, but they must not go out, and in the morning they find the corn gathered or the field cleared as if a whole force of men had been at work. If anyone should go out to watch, he would die. When a hunter finds anything in the woods, such as a knife or a trinket, he must say, “Little People, I want to take this,” because it may belong to them, and if he does not ask their permission they will throw stones at him as he goes home.

Once a hunter in winter found tracks in the snow like the tracks of little children. He wondered how they could have come there and followed them until they led him to a cave, which was full of Little People, young and old, men, women, and children. They brought him in and were kind to him, and he was with them some time; but when he left they warned him that he must not tell or he would die. He went back to the settlement and his friends were all anxious to know where he had been. For a long time he refused to say, until at last he could not hold out any longer, but told the story, and in a few days he died. Only a few years ago two hunters from Raventown, going behind the high fall near the head of Oconaluftee on the East Cherokee reservation, found there a cave with fresh footprints of the Little People all over the floor.

During the smallpox among the East Cherokee just after the war one sick man wandered off, and his friends searched, but could not find him. After several weeks he came back and said that the Little People had found him and taken him to one of their caves and tended him until he was cured.

About twenty-five years ago a man named Tsantăwû′ was lost in the mountains on the head of Oconaluftee. It was winter time and very cold and his friends thought he must be dead, but after sixteen days he came back and said that the Little People had found him and taken him to their cave, where he had been well treated, and given plenty of everything to eat except bread. This was in large loaves, but when he took them in his hand to eat they seemed to shrink into small cakes so light and crumbly that though he might eat all day he would not be satisfied. After he was well rested they had brought him a part of the way home until they came to a small creek, about knee deep, when they told him to wade across to reach the main trail on the other side. He waded across and turned to look back, but the Little People were gone and the creek was a deep river. When he reached home his legs were frozen to the knees and he lived only a few days.

Once the Yûñwĭ Tsunsdi′ had been very kind to the people of a certain settlement, helping them at night with their work and taking good care of any lost children, until something happened to offend them and they made up their minds to leave the neighborhood. Those who were watching at the time saw the whole company of Little People come down to the ford of the river and cross over and disappear into the mouth of a large cave on the other side. They were never heard of near the settlement again.

There are other fairies, the Yûñwĭ Amai′yĭnĕ′hĭ, or Water-dwellers, who live in the water, and fishermen pray to them for help. Other friendly spirits live in people’s houses, although no one can see them, and so long as they are there to protect the house no witch can come near to do mischief.

Tsăwa′sĭ and Tsăga′sĭ are the names of two small fairies, who are mischievous enough, but yet often help the hunter who prays to them. Tsăwa′sĭ, or Tsăwa′sĭ Usdi′ga (Little Tsăwa′sĭ), is a tiny fellow, very handsome, with long hair falling down to his feet, who lives in grassy patches on the hillsides and has great power over the game. To the deer hunter who prays to him he gives skill to slip up on the deer through the long grass without being seen. Tsăga′sĭ is another of the spirits invoked by the hunter and is very helpful, but when someone trips and falls, we know that it is Tsăga′sĭ who has caused it. There are several other of these fairies with names, all good-natured, but more or less tricky.

Then there is De′tsătă. De′tsătă was once a boy who ran away to the woods to avoid a scratching and tries to keep himself invisible ever since. He is a handsome little fellow and spends his whole time hunting birds with blowgun and arrow. He has a great many children who are all just like him and have the same name. When a flock of birds flies up suddenly as if frightened it is because De′tsătă is chasing them. He is mischievous and sometimes hides an arrow from the bird hunter, who may have shot it off into a perfectly clear space, but looks and looks without finding it. Then the hunter says, “De′tsătă, you have my arrow, and if you don’t give it up I’ll scratch you,” and when he looks again he finds it.

There is one spirit that goes about at night with a light. The Cherokee call it Atsil′-dihye′gĭ, “The Fire-carrier,” and they are all afraid of it, because they think it dangerous, although they do not know much about it. They do not even know exactly what it looks like, because they are afraid to stop when they see it. It may be a witch instead of a spirit. Wafford’s mother saw the “Fire-carrier” once when she was a young woman, as she was coming home at night from a trading post in South Carolina. It seemed to be following her from behind, and she was frightened and whipped up her horse until she got away from it and never saw it again.


Long ago, long before the Cherokee were driven from their homes in 1838, the people on Valley river and Hiwassee heard voices of invisible spirits in the air calling and warning them of wars and misfortunes which the future held in store, and inviting them to come and live with the Nûñnĕ′hĭ, the Immortals, in their homes under the mountains and under the waters. For days the voices hung in the air, and the people listened until they heard the spirits say, “If you would live with us, gather everyone in your townhouses and fast there for seven days, and no one must raise a shout or a warwhoop in all that time. Do this and we shall come and you will see us and we shall take you to live with us.”

The people were afraid of the evils that were to come, and they knew that the Immortals of the mountains and the waters were happy forever, so they counciled in their townhouses and decided to go with them. Those of Anisgayâ′yĭ town came all together into their townhouse and prayed and fasted for six days. On the seventh day there was a sound from the distant mountains, and it came nearer and grew louder until a roar of thunder was all about the townhouse and they felt the ground shake under them. Now they were frightened, and despite the warning some of them screamed out. The Nûñnĕ′hĭ, who had already lifted up the townhouse with its mound to carry it away, were startled by the cry and let a part of it fall to the earth, where now we see the mound of Sĕ′tsĭ. They steadied themselves again and bore the rest of the townhouse, with all the people in it, to the top of Tsuda′yeʻlûñ′yĭ (Lone peak), near the head of Cheowa, where we can still see it, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal.

The people of another town, on Hiwassee, at the place which we call now Du′stiyaʻlûñ′yĭ, where Shooting creek comes in, also prayed and fasted, and at the end of seven days the Nûñnĕ′hĭ came and took them away down under the water. They are there now, and on a warm summer day, when the wind ripples the surface, those who listen well can hear them talking below. When the Cherokee drag the river for fish the fish-drag always stops and catches there, although the water is deep, and the people know it is being held by their lost kinsmen, who do not want to be forgotten.

When the Cherokee were forcibly removed to the West one of the greatest regrets of those along Hiwassee and Valley rivers was that they were compelled to leave behind forever their relatives who had gone to the Nûñnĕ′hĭ.

In Tennessee river, near Kingston, 18 miles below Loudon, Tennessee, is a place which the Cherokee call Gustĭ′, where there once was a settlement long ago, but one night while the people were gathered in the townhouse for a dance the bank caved in and carried them all down into the river. Boatmen passing the spot in their canoes see the round dome of the townhouse—now turned to stone—in the water below them and sometimes hear the sound of the drum and dance coming up, and they never fail to throw food into the water in return for being allowed to cross in safety.


Long ago a powerful unknown tribe invaded the country from the southeast, killing people and destroying settlements wherever they went. No leader could stand against them, and in a little while they had wasted all the lower settlements and advanced into the mountains. The warriors of the old town of Nĭkwăsĭ′, on the head of Little Tennessee, gathered their wives and children into the townhouse and kept scouts constantly on the lookout for the presence of danger. One morning just before daybreak the spies saw the enemy approaching and at once gave the alarm. The Nĭkwăsĭ′ men seized their arms and rushed out to meet the attack, but after a long, hard fight they found themselves overpowered and began to retreat, when suddenly a stranger stood among them and shouted to the chief to call off his men and he himself would drive back the enemy. From the dress and language of the stranger the Nĭkwăsĭ′ people thought him a chief who had come with reinforcements from the Overhill settlements in Tennessee. They fell back along the trail, and as they came near the townhouse they saw a great company of warriors coming out from the side of the mound as through an open doorway. Then they knew that their friends were the Nûñnĕ′hĭ, the Immortals, although no one had ever heard before that they lived under Nĭkwăsĭ′ mound.

The Nûñnĕ′hĭ poured out by hundreds, armed and painted for the fight, and the most curious thing about it all was that they became invisible as soon as they were fairly outside of the settlement, so that although the enemy saw the glancing arrow or the rushing tomahawk, and felt the stroke, he could not see who sent it. Before such invisible foes the invaders soon had to retreat, going first south along the ridge to where joins the main ridge which separates the French Broad from the Tuckasegee, and then turning with it to the northeast. As they retreated they tried to shield themselves behind rocks and trees, but the Nûñnĕ′hĭ arrows went around the rocks and killed them from the other side, and they could find no hiding place. All along the ridge they fell, until when they reached the head of Tuckasegee not more than half a dozen were left alive, and in despair they sat down and cried out for mercy. Ever since then the Cherokee have called the place Dayûlsûñ′yĭ, “Where they cried.” Then the Nûñnĕ′hĭ chief told them they had deserved their punishment for attacking a peaceful tribe, and he spared their lives and told them to go home and take the news to their people. This was the Indian custom, always to spare a few to carry back the news of defeat. They went home toward the north and the Nûñnĕ′hĭ went back to the mound.

And they are still there, because, in the last war, when a strong party of Federal troops came to surprise a handful of Confederates posted there they saw so many soldiers guarding the town that they were afraid and went away without making an attack.

There is another story, that once while all the warriors of a certain town were off on a hunt, or at a dance in another settlement, one old man was chopping wood on the side of the ridge when suddenly a party of the enemy came upon him—Shawano, Seneca, or some other tribe. Throwing his hatchet at the nearest one, he turned and ran for the house to get his gun and make the best defense that he might. On coming out at once with the gun he was surprised to find a large body of strange warriors driving back the enemy. It was no time for questions, and taking his place with the others, they fought hard until the enemy was pressed back up the creek and finally broke and retreated across the mountain. When it was over and there was time to breathe again, the old man turned to thank his new friends, but found that he was alone—they had disappeared as though the mountain had swallowed them. Then he knew that they were the Nûñnĕ′hĭ, who had come to help their friends, the Cherokee.


A long time ago a widow lived with her one daughter at the old town of Kănuga on Pigeon river. The girl was of age to marry, and her mother used to talk with her a good deal, and tell her she must be sure to take no one but a good hunter for a husband, so that they would have some one to take care of them and would always have plenty of meat in the house. The girl said such a man was hard to find, but her mother advised her not to be in a hurry, and to wait until the right one came.

Now the mother slept in the house while the girl slept outside in the âsĭ. One dark night a stranger came to the âsĭ wanting to court the girl, but she told him her mother would let her marry no one but a good hunter. “Well,” said the stranger, “I am a great hunter,” so she let him come in, and he stayed all night. Just before day he said he must go back now to his own place, but that he had brought some meat for her mother, and she would find it outside. Then he went away and the girl had not seen him. When day came she went out and found there a deer, which she brought into the house to her mother, and told her it was a present from her new sweetheart. Her mother was pleased, and they had deersteaks for breakfast.

He came again the next night, but again went away before daylight, and this time he left two deer outside. The mother was more pleased this time, but said to her daughter, “I wish your sweetheart would bring us some wood.” Now wherever he might be, the stranger knew their thoughts, so when he came the next time he said to the girl, “Tell your mother I have brought the wood”; and when she looked out in the morning there were several great trees lying in front of the door, roots and branches and all. The old woman was angry, and said, “He might have brought us some wood that we could use instead of whole trees that we can’t split, to litter up the road with brush.” The hunter knew what she said, and the next time he came he brought nothing, and when they looked out in the morning the trees were gone and there was no wood at all, so the old woman had to go after some herself.

Almost every night he came to see the girl, and each time he brought a deer or some other game, but still he always left before daylight. At last her mother said to her, “Your husband always leaves before daylight. Why don’t he wait? I want to see what kind of a son-in-law I have.” When the girl told this to her husband he said he could not let the old woman see him, because the sight would frighten her. “She wants to see you, anyhow,” said the girl, and began to cry, until at last he had to consent, but warned her that her mother must not say that he looked frightful (usga′sĕʻti′yu).

The next morning he did not leave so early, but stayed in the âsĭ, and when it was daylight the girl went out and told her mother. The old woman came and looked in, and there she saw a great giant, with long slanting eyes (tsulʻkălû′), lying doubled up on the floor, with his head against the rafters in the left-hand corner at the back, and his toes scraping the roof in the right-hand corner by the door. She gave only one look and ran back to the house, crying, Usga′sĕʻti′yu! Usga′sĕʻti′yu!

Tsulʻkălû′ was terribly angry. He untwisted himself and came out of the âsĭ, and said good-bye to the girl, telling her that he would never let her mother see him again, but would go back to his own country. Then he went off in the direction of Tsunegûñ′yĭ.

Soon after he left the girl had her monthly period. There was a very great flow of blood, and the mother threw it all into the river. One night after the girl had gone to bed in the âsĭ her husband came again to the door and said to her, “It seems you are alone,” and asked where was the child. She said there had been none. Then he asked where was the blood, and she said that her mother had thrown it into the river. She told just where the place was, and he went there and found a small worm in the water. He took it up and carried it back to the âsĭ, and as he walked it took form and began to grow, until, when he reached the âsĭ, it was a baby girl that he was carrying. He gave it to his wife and said, “Your mother does not like me and abuses our child, so come and let us go to my home.” The girl wanted to be with her husband, so, after telling her mother good-bye, she took up the child and they went off together to Tsunegûñ′yĭ.

Now, the girl had an older brother, who lived with his own wife in another settlement, and when he heard that his sister was married he came to pay a visit to her and her new husband, but when he arrived at Kănuga his mother told him his sister had taken her child and gone away with her husband, nobody knew where. He was sorry to see his mother so lonely, so he said he would go after his sister and try to find her and bring her back. It was easy to follow the footprints of the giant, and the young man went along the trail until he came to a place where they had rested, and there were tracks on the ground where a child had been lying and other marks as if a baby had been born there. He went on along the trail and came to another place where they had rested, and there were tracks of a baby crawling about and another lying on the ground. He went on and came to where they had rested again, and there were tracks of a child walking and another crawling about. He went on until he came where they had rested again, and there were tracks of one child running and another walking. Still he followed the trail along the stream into the mountains, and came to the place where they had rested again, and this time there were footprints of two children running all about, and the footprints can still be seen in the rock at that place.

Twice again he found where they had rested, and then the trail led up the slope of Tsunegûñ′yĭ, and he heard the sound of a drum and voices, as if people were dancing inside the mountain. Soon he came to a cave like a doorway in the side of the mountain, but the rock was so steep and smooth that he could not climb up to it, but could only just look over the edge and see the heads and shoulders of a great many people dancing inside. He saw his sister dancing among them and called to her to come out. She turned when she heard his voice, and as soon as the drumming stopped for a while she came out to him, finding no trouble to climb down the rock, and leading her two little children by the hand. She was very glad to meet her brother and talked with him a long time, but did not ask him to come inside, and at last he went away without having seen her husband.

Several other times her brother came to the mountain, but always his sister met him outside, and he could never see her husband. After four years had passed she came one day to her mother’s house and said her husband had been hunting in the woods near by, and they were getting ready to start home to-morrow, and if her mother and brother would come early in the morning they could see her husband. If they came too late for that, she said, they would find plenty of meat to take home. She went back into the woods, and the mother ran to tell her son. They came to the place early the next morning, but Tsulʻkălû′ and his family were already gone. On the drying poles they found the bodies of freshly killed deer hanging, as the girl had promised, and there were so many that they went back and told all their friends to come for them, and there were enough for the whole settlement.

Still the brother wanted to see his sister and her husband, so he went again to the mountain, and she came out to meet him. He asked to see her husband, and this time she told him to come inside with her. They went in as through a doorway, and inside he found it like a great townhouse. They seemed to be alone, but his sister called aloud, “He wants to see you,” and from the air came a voice, “You can not see me until you put on a new dress, and then you can see me.” “I am willing,” said the young man, speaking to the unseen spirit, and from the air came the voice again, “Go back, then, and tell your people that to see me they must go into the townhouse and fast seven days, and in all that time they must not come out from the townhouse or raise the war whoop, and on the seventh day I shall come with new dresses for you to put on so that you can all see me.”

The young man went back to Kănuga and told the people. They all wanted to see Tsulʻkălû′, who owned all the game in the mountains, so they went into the townhouse and began the fast. They fasted the first day and the second and every day until the seventh—all but one man from another settlement, who slipped out every night when it was dark to get something to eat and slipped in again when no one was watching. On the morning of the seventh day the sun was just coming up in the east when they heard a great noise like the thunder of rocks rolling down the side of Tsunegûñ′yĭ. They were frightened and drew near together in the townhouse, and no one whispered. Nearer and louder came the sound until it grew into an awful roar, and every one trembled and held his breath—all but one man, the stranger from the other settlement, who lost his senses from fear and ran out of the townhouse and shouted the war cry.

At once the roar stopped and for some time there was silence. Then they heard it again, but as if it were going farther away, and then farther and farther, until at last it died away in the direction of Tsunegûñ′yĭ, and then all was still again. The people came out from the townhouse, but there was silence, and they could see nothing but what had been seven days before.

Still the brother was not disheartened, but came again to see his sister, and she brought him into the mountain. He asked why Tsulʻkâlû′ had not brought the new dresses, as he had promised, and the voice from the air said, “I came with them, but you did not obey my word, but broke the fast and raised the war cry.” The young man answered, “It was not done by our people, but by a stranger. If you will come again, we will surely do as you say.” But the voice answered, “Now you can never see me.” Then the young man could not say any more, and he went back to Kănuga.


Long ago, while people still lived in the old town of Kăna′sta, on the French Broad, two strangers, who looked in no way different from other Cherokee, came into the settlement one day and made their way into the chief’s house. After the first greetings were over the chief asked them from what town they had come, thinking them from one of the western settlements, but they said, “We are of your people and our town is close at hand, but you have never seen it. Here you have wars and sickness, with enemies on every side, and after a while a stronger enemy will come to take your country from you. We are always happy, and we have come to invite you to live with us in our town over there,” and they pointed toward Tsuwaʻtel′da (Pilot knob). “We do not live forever, and do not always find game when we go for it, for the game belongs to Tsulʻkălû′, who lives in Tsunegûñ′yĭ, but we have peace always and need not think of danger. We go now, but if your people will live with us let them fast seven days, and we shall come then to take them.” Then they went away toward the west.

The chief called his people together into the townhouse and they held a council over the matter and decided at last to go with the strangers. They got all their property ready for moving, and then went again into the townhouse and began their fast. They fasted six days, and on the morning of the seventh, before yet the sun was high, they saw a great company coming along the trail from the west, led by the two men who had stopped with the chief. They seemed just like Cherokee from another settlement, and after a friendly meeting they took up a part of the goods to be carried, and the two parties started back together for Tsuwaʻtel′da. There was one man from another town visiting at Kăna′sta, and he went along with the rest.

When they came to the mountain, the two guides led the way into a cave, which opened out like a great door in the side of the rock. Inside they found an open country and a town, with houses ranged in two long rows from east to west. The mountain people lived in the houses on the south side, and they had made ready the other houses for the new comers, but even after all the people of Kăna′sta, with their children and belongings, had moved in, there were still a large number of houses waiting ready for the next who might come. The mountain people told them that there was another town, of a different people, above them in the same mountain, and still farther above, at the very top, lived the Ani′-Hyûñtĭkwălâ′skĭ (the Thunders).

Now all the people of Kăna′sta were settled in their new homes, but the man who had only been visiting with them wanted to go back to his own friends. Some of the mountain people wanted to prevent this, but the chief said, “No; let him go if he will, and when he tells his friends they may want to come, too. There is plenty of room for all.” Then he said to the man, “Go back and tell your friends that if they want to come and live with us and be always happy, there is a place here ready and waiting for them. Others of us live in Datsu′nalâsgûñ′yĭ and in the high mountains all around, and if they would rather go to any of them it is all the same. We see you wherever you go and are with you in all your dances, but you can not see us unless you fast. If you want to see us, fast four days, and we will come and talk with you; and then if you want to live with us, fast again seven days, and we will come and take you.” Then the chief led the man through the cave to the outside of the mountain and left him there, but when the man looked back he saw no cave, but only the solid rock.

The people of the lost settlement were never seen again, and they are still living in Tsuwaʻtel′da. Strange things happen there, so that the Cherokee know the mountain is haunted and do not like to go near it. Only a few years ago a party of hunters camped there, and as they sat around their fire at supper time they talked of the story and made rough jokes about the people of old Kăna′sta. That night they were aroused from sleep by a noise as of stones thrown at them from among the trees, but when they searched they could find nobody, and were so frightened that they gathered up their guns and pouches and left the place.


In the old town of Kănuga, on Pigeon river, there was a lazy fellow named Tsuwe′năhĭ, who lived from house to house among his relatives and never brought home any game, although he used to spend nearly all his time in the woods. At last his friends got very tired of keeping him, so he told them to get some parched corn ready for him and he would go and bring back a deer or else would never trouble them again. They filled his pouch with parched corn, enough for a long trip, and he started off for the mountains. Day after day passed until they thought they had really seen the last of him, but before the month was half gone he was back again at Kănuga, with no deer, but with a wonderful story to tell.

He said that he had hardly turned away from the trail to go up the ridge when he met a stranger, who asked him where he was going. Tsuwe′năhĭ answered that his friends in the settlement had driven him out because he was no good hunter, and that if he did not find a deer this time he would never go back again. “Why not come with me?” said the stranger, “my town is not far from here, and you have relatives there.” Tsuwe′năhĭ was very glad of the chance, because he was ashamed to go back to his own town; so he went with the stranger, who took him to Tsuwaʻtel′da (Pilot knob). They came to a cave, and the other said, “Let us go in here;” but the cave ran clear to the heart of the mountain, and when they were inside the hunter found there an open country like a wide bottom land, with a great settlement and hundreds of people. They were all glad to see him, and brought him to their chief, who took him into his own house and showed him a seat near the fire. Tsuwe′năhĭ sat down, but he felt it move under him, and when he looked again he saw that it was a turtle, with its head sticking out from the shell. He jumped up, but the chief said, “It won’t hurt you; it only wants to see who you are.” So he sat down very carefully, and the turtle drew in its head again. They brought food, of the same kind that he had been accustomed to at home, and when he had eaten the chief took him through the settlement until he had seen all the houses and talked with most of the people. When he had seen everything and had rested some days, he was anxious to get back to his home, so the chief himself brought him to the mouth of the cave and showed him the trail that led down to the river. Then he said, “You are going back to the settlement, but you will never be satisfied there any more. Whenever you want to come to us, you know the way.” The chief left him, and Tsuwe′năhĭ went down the mountain and along the river until he came to Kănuga.

He told his story, but no one believed it and the people only laughed at him. After that he would go away very often and be gone for several days at a time, and when he came back to the settlement he would say he had been with the mountain people. At last one man said he believed the story and would go with him to see. They went off together to the woods, where they made a camp, and then Tsuwe′năhĭ went on ahead, saying he would be back soon. The other waited for him, doing a little hunting near the camp, and two nights afterwards Tsuwe′năhĭ was back again. He seemed to be alone, but was talking as he came, and the other hunter heard girls’ voices, although he could see no one. When he came up to the fire he said, “I have two friends with me, and they say there is to be a dance in their town in two nights, and if you want to go they will come for you.” The hunter agreed at once, and Tsuwe′năhĭ called out, as if to some one close by, “He says he will go.” Then he said, “Our sisters have come for some venison.” The hunter had killed a deer and had the meat drying over the fire, so he said, “What kind do they want?” The voices answered, “Our mother told us to ask for some of the ribs,” but still he could see nothing. He took down some rib pieces and gave them to Tsuwe′năhĭ, who took them and said, “In two days we shall come again for you.” Then he started off, and the other heard the voices going through the woods until all was still again.

In two days Tsuwe′năhĭ came, and this time he had two girls with him. As they stood near the fire the hunter noticed that their feet were short and round, almost like dogs’ paws, but as soon as they saw him looking they sat down so that he could not see their feet. After supper the whole party left the camp and went up along the creek to Tsuwaʻtel′da. They went in through the cave door until they got to the farther end and could see houses beyond, when all at once the hunter’s legs felt as if they were dead and he staggered and fell to the ground. The others lifted him up, but still he could not stand, until the medicine-man brought some “old tobacco” and rubbed it on his legs and made him smell it until he sneezed. Then he was able to stand again and went in with the others. He could not stand at first, because he had not prepared himself by fasting before he started.

The dance had not yet begun and Tsuwe′năhĭ took the hunter into the townhouse and showed him a seat near the fire, but it had long thorns of honey locust sticking out from it and he was afraid to sit down. Tsuwe′năhĭ told him not to be afraid, so he sat down and found that the thorns were as soft as down feathers. Now the drummer came in and the dancers, and the dance began. One man followed at the end of the line, crying Kû! Kû! all the time, but not dancing. The hunter wondered, and they told him, “This man was lost in the mountains and had been calling all through the woods for his friends until his, voice failed and he was only able to pant Kû! Kû! and then we found him and took him in.”

When it was over Tsuwe′năhĭ and the hunter went back to the settlement. At the next dance in Kănuga they told all they had seen at Tsuwaʻtel′da, what a large town was there and how kind everybody was, and this time—because there were two of them—the people believed it. Now others wanted to go, but Tsuwe′năhĭ told them they must first fast seven days, while he went ahead to prepare everything, and then he would come and bring them. He went away and the others fasted, until at the end of seven days he came for them and they went with him to Tsuwaʻtel′da, and their friends in the settlement never saw them again.


In the old times the people used to dance often and all night. Once there was a dance at the old town of Sâkwi′yĭ, on the head of Chattahoochee, and after it was well started two young women with beautiful long hair came in, but no one knew who they were or whence they had come. They danced with one partner and another, and in the morning slipped away before anyone knew that they were gone; but a young warrior had fallen in love with one of the sisters on account of her beautiful hair, and after the manner of the Cherokee had already asked her through an old man if she would marry him and let him live with her. To this the young woman had replied that her brother at home must first be consulted, and they promised to return for the next dance seven days later with an answer, but in the meantime if the young man really loved her he must prove his constancy by a rigid fast until then. The eager lover readily agreed and impatiently counted the days.

In seven nights there was another dance. The young warrior was on hand early, and later in the evening the two sisters appeared as suddenly as before. They told him their brother was willing, and after the dance they would conduct the young man to their home, but warned him that if he told anyone where he went or what he saw he would surely die.

He danced with them again and about daylight the three came away just before the dance closed, so as to avoid being followed, and started off together. The women led the way along a trail through the woods, which the young man had never noticed before, until they came to a small creek, where, without hesitating, they stepped into the water. The young man paused in surprise on the bank and thought to himself, “They are walking in the water; I don’t want to do that.” The women knew his thoughts just as though he had spoken and turned and said to him, “This is not water; this is the road to our house.” He still hesitated, but they urged him on until he stepped into the water and found it was only soft grass that made a fine level trail.

They went on until the trail came to a large stream which he knew for Tallulah river. The women plunged boldly in, but again the warrior hesitated on the bank, thinking to himself, “That water is very deep and will drown me; I can’t go on.” They knew his thoughts and turned and said, “This is no water, but the main trail that goes past our house, which is now close by.” He stepped in, and instead of water there was tall waving grass that closed above his head as he followed them.

They went only a short distance and came to a rock cave close under Ugûñ′yĭ (Tallulah falls). The women entered, while the warrior stopped at the mouth; but they said, “This is our house; come in and our brother will soon be home; he is coming now.” They heard low thunder in the distance. He went inside and stood up close to the entrance. Then the women took off their long hair and hung it up on a rock, and both their heads were as smooth as a pumpkin. The man thought, “It is not hair at all,” and he was more frightened than ever.

The younger woman, the one he was about to marry, then sat down and told him to take a seat beside her. He looked, and it was a large turtle, which raised itself up and stretched out its claws as if angry at being disturbed. The young man said it was a turtle, and refused to sit down, but the woman insisted that it was a seat. Then there was a louder roll of thunder and the woman said, “Now our brother is nearly home.” While they urged and he still refused to come nearer or sit down, suddenly there was a great thunder clap just behind him, and turning quickly he saw a man standing in the doorway of the cave.

“This is my brother,” said the woman, and he came in and sat down upon the turtle, which again rose up and stretched out its claws. The young warrior still refused to come in. The brother then said that he was just about to start to a council, and invited the young man to go with him. The hunter said he was willing to go if only he had a horse; so the young woman was told to bring one. She went out and soon came back leading a great uktena snake, that curled and twisted along the whole length of the cave. Some people say this was a white uktena and that the brother himself rode a red one. The hunter was terribly frightened, and said “That is a snake; I can’t ride that.” The others insisted that it was no snake, but their riding-horse. The brother grew impatient and said to the woman, “He may like it better if you bring him a saddle, and some bracelets for his wrists and arms.” So they went out again and brought in a saddle and some arm bands, and the saddle was another turtle, which they fastened on the uktena’s back, and the bracelets were living slimy snakes, which they got ready to twist around the hunter’s wrists.

He was almost dead with fear, and said, “What kind of horrible place is this? I can never stay here to live with snakes and creeping things.” The brother got very angry and called him a coward, and then it was as if lightening flashed from his eyes and struck the young man, and a terrible crash of thunder stretched him senseless.

When at last he came to himself again he was standing with his feet in the water and both hands grasping a laurel bush that grew out from the bank, and there was no trace of the cave or the Thunder People, but he was alone in the forest. He made his way out and finally reached his own settlement, but found then that he had been gone so very long that all the people had thought him dead, although to him it seemed only the day after the dance. His friends questioned him closely, and, forgetting the warning, he told the story; but in seven days he died, for no one can come back from the underworld and tell it and live.


At the mouth of Suck creek, on the Tennessee, about 8 miles below Chattanooga, is a series of dangerous whirlpools, known as “The Suck,” and noted among the Cherokee as the place where Ûñtsaiyĭ′, the gambler, lived long ago (see the story). They call it Ûñ′tiguhĭ′, “Pot-in-the-water,” on account of the appearance of the surging, tumbling water, suggesting a boiling pot. They assert that in the old times the whirlpools were intermittent in character, and the canoemen attempting to pass the spot used to hug the bank, keeping constantly on the alert for signs of a coming eruption, and when they saw the water begin to revolve more rapidly would stop and wait until it became quiet again before attempting to proceed.

It happened once that two men, going down the river in a canoe, as they came near this place saw the water circling rapidly ahead of them. They pulled up to the bank to wait until it became smooth again, but the whirlpool seemed to approach with wider and wider circles, until they were drawn into the vortex. They were thrown out of the canoe and carried down under the water, where one man was seized by a great fish and was never seen again. The other was taken round and round down to the very lowest center of the whirlpool, when another circle caught him and bore him outward and upward until he was finally thrown up again to the surface and floated out into the shallow water, whence he made his escape to shore. He told afterwards that when he reached the narrowest circle of the maelstrom the water seemed to open below him and he could look down as through the roof beams of a house, and there on the bottom of the river he had seen a great company of people, who looked up and beckoned to him to join them, but as they put up their hands to seize him the swift current caught him and took him out of their reach.


Yahoola creek, which flows by Dahlonega, in Lumpkin county, Georgia, is called Yahulâ′ĭ (Yahula place) by the Cherokees, and this is the story of the name:

Years ago, long before the Revolution, Yahula was a prosperous stock trader among the Cherokee, and the tinkling of the bells hung around the necks of his ponies could be heard on every mountain trail. Once there was a great hunt and all the warriors were out, but when it was over and they were ready to return to the settlement Yahula was not with them. They waited and searched, but he could not be found, and at last they went back without him, and his friends grieved for him as for one dead. Some time after his people were surprised and delighted to have him walk in among them and sit down as they were at supper in the evening. To their questions he told them that he had been lost in the mountains, and that the Nûñnĕ′hĭ, the Immortals, had found him and brought him to their town, where he had been kept ever since, with the kindest care and treatment, until the longing to see his old friends had brought him back. To the invitation of his friends to join them at supper he said that it was now too late—he had tasted the fairy food and could never again eat with human kind, and for the same reason he could not stay with his family, but must go back to the Nûñnĕ′hĭ. His wife and children and brother begged him to stay, but he said that he could not; it was either life with the Immortals or death with his own people—and after some further talk he rose to go. They saw him as he sat talking to them and as he stood up, but the moment he stepped out the doorway he vanished as if he had never been.

After that he came back often to visit his people. They would see him first as he entered the house, and while he sat and talked he was his old self in every way, but the instant he stepped across the threshold he was gone, though a hundred eyes might be watching. He came often, but at last their entreaties grew so urgent that the Nûñnĕ′hĭ must have been offended, and he came no more. On the mountain at the head of the creek, about 10 miles above the present Dahlonega, is a small square inclosure of uncut stone, without roof or entrance. Here it was said that he lived, so the Cherokee called it Yahulâ′ĭ and called the stream by the same name. Often at night a belated traveler coming along the trail by the creek would hear the voice of Yahula singing certain favorite old songs that he used to like to sing as he drove his pack of horses across the mountain, the sound of a voice urging them on, and the crack of a whip and the tinkling of bells went with the song, but neither driver nor horses could be seen, although the sounds passed close by. The songs and the bells were heard only at night.

There was one man who had been his friend, who sang the same songs for a time after Yahula had disappeared, but he died suddenly, and then the Cherokee were afraid to sing these songs any more until it was so long since anyone had heard the sounds on the mountain that they thought Yahula must be gone away, perhaps to the West, where others of the tribe had already gone. It is so long ago now that even the stone house may have been destroyed by this time, but more than one old man’s father saw it and heard the songs and the bells a hundred years ago. When the Cherokee went from Georgia to Indian Territory in 1838 some of them said, “Maybe Yahula has gone there and we shall hear him,” but they have never heard him again.


Besides the friendly Nûñnĕ′hĭ of the streams and mountains there is a race of cannibal spirits, who stay at the bottom of the deep rivers and live upon human flesh, especially that of little children. They come out just after daybreak and go about unseen from house to house until they find some one still asleep, when they shoot him with their invisible arrows and carry the dead body down under the water to feast upon it. That no one may know what has happened they leave in place of the body a shade or image of the dead man or little child, that wakes up and talks and goes about just as he did, but there is no life in it, and in seven days it withers and dies, and the people bury it and think they are burying their dead friend. It was a long time before the people found out about this, but now they always try to be awake at daylight and wake up the children, telling them “The hunters are among you.”

This is the way they first knew about the water cannibals: There was a man in Tĭkwăli′tsĭ town who became sick and grew worse until the doctors said he could not live, and then his friends went away from the house and left him alone to die. They were not so kind to each other in the old times as they are now, because they were afraid of the witches that came to torment dying people.

He was alone several days, not able to rise from his bed, when one morning an old woman came in at the door. She looked just like the other women of the settlement, but he did not know her. She came over to the bed and said, “You are very sick and your friends seem to have left you. Come with me and I will make you well.” The man was so near death that he could not move, but now her words made him feel stronger at once, and he asked her where she wanted him to go. “We live close by; come with me and I will show you,” said the woman, so he got up from his bed and she led the way down to the water. When she came to the water she stepped in and he followed, and there was a road under the water, and another country there just like that above.

They went on until they came to a settlement with a great many houses, and women going about their work and children playing. They met a party of hunters coming in from a hunt, but instead of deer or bear quarters hanging from their shoulders they carried the bodies of dead men and children, and several of the bodies the man knew for those of his own friends in Tĭkwăli′tsĭ. They came to a house and the woman said “This is where I live,” and took him in and fixed a bed for him and made him comfortable.

By this time he was very hungry, but the woman knew his thoughts and said, “We must get him something to eat.” She took one of the bodies that the hunters had just brought in and cut off a slice to roast. The man was terribly frightened, but she read his thoughts again and said, “I see you can not eat our food.” Then she turned away from him and held her hands before her stomach—so—and when she turned around again she had them full of bread and beans such as he used to have at home.

So it was every day, until soon he was well and strong again. Then she told him he might go home now, but he must be sure not to speak to anyone for seven days, and if any of his friends should question him he must make signs as if his throat were sore and keep silent. She went with him along the same trail to the water’s edge, and the water closed over her and he went back alone to Tĭkwăli′tsĭ. When he came there his friends were surprised, because they thought he had wandered off and died in the woods. They asked him where he had been, but he only pointed to his throat and said nothing, so they thought he was not yet well and let him alone until the seven days were past, when he began to talk again and told the whole story.

Historical Traditions


There are a few stories concerning the first contact of the Cherokee with whites and negroes. They are very modern and have little value as myths, but throw some light upon the Indian estimate of the different races.

One story relates how the first whites came from the east and tried to enter into friendly relations, but the Indians would have nothing to do with them for a long time. At last the whites left a jug of whisky and a dipper near a spring frequented by the Indians. The Indians came along, tasted the liquor, which they had never known before, and liked it so well that they ended by all getting comfortably drunk. While they were in this happy frame of mind some white men came up, and this time the Indians shook hands with them and they have been friends after a fashion ever since. This may possibly be a Cherokee adaptation of the story of Hudson’s first landing on the island of Manhattan.

At the creation an ulûñsû′tĭ was given to the white man, and a piece of silver to the Indian. But the white man despised the stone and threw it away, while the Indian did the same with the silver. In going about the white man afterward found the silver piece and put it into his pocket and has prized it ever since. The Indian, in like manner, found the ulûñsû′tĭ where the white man had thrown it. He picked it up and has kept it since as his talisman, as money is the talismanic power of the white man. This story is quite general and is probably older than others of its class.

When Sequoya, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, was trying to introduce it among his people, about 1822, some of them opposed it upon the ground that Indians had no business with reading. They said that when the Indian and the white man were created, the Indian, being the elder, was given a book, while the white man received a bow and arrows. Each was instructed to take good care of his gift and make the best use of it, but the Indian was so neglectful of his book that the white man soon stole it from him, leaving the bow in its place, so that books and reading now belong of right to the white man, while the Indian ought to be satisfied to hunt for a living.—Cherokee Advocate, October 26, 1844.

The negro made the first locomotive for a toy and put it on a wooden track and was having great fun with it when a white man came along, watched until he saw how to run it, and then killed the negro and took the locomotive for himself. This, also, although plainly of very recent origin, was heard from several informants.


Long wars were waged between the Cherokee and their remote northern relatives, the Iroquois, with both of whom the recollection, now nearly faded, was a vivid tradition fifty years ago. The (Seneca) Iroquois know the Cherokee as Oyadaʼgeʻoñnoñ, a name rather freely rendered “cave people.” The latter call the Iroquois, or rather their largest and most aggressive tribe, the Seneca, Nûndăwe′gĭ, Ani′-Nûn-dăwe′gĭ, or Ani′-Sĕ′nikă, the first forms being derived from Nûndawa′ga or Nûndawa′-ono, “people of the great hills,” the name by which the Seneca know themselves. According to authorities quoted by Schoolcraft, the Seneca claim to have at one time had a settlement, from which they were afterward driven, at Seneca, South Carolina, known in history as one of the principal towns of the Lower Cherokee.

The league of the Iroquois was probably founded about the middle of the sixteenth century. Before 1680 they had conquered or exterminated all the tribes upon their immediate borders and had turned their arms against the more distant Illinois, Catawba, and Cherokee. According to Iroquois tradition, the Cherokee were the aggressors, having attacked and plundered a Seneca hunting party somewhere in the west, while in another story they are represented as having violated a peace treaty by the murder of the Iroquois delegates. Whatever the cause, the war was taken up by all the tribes of the league.

From the Iroquois country to the Cherokee frontier was considered a five days’ journey for a rapidly traveling war party. As the distance was too great for large expeditions, the war consisted chiefly of a series of individual exploits, a single Cherokee often going hundreds of miles to strike a blow, which was sure to be promptly retaliated by the warriors from the north, the great object of every Iroquois boy being to go against the Cherokee as soon as he was old enough to take the war path. Captives were made on both sides, and probably in about equal numbers, the two parties being too evenly matched for either to gain any permanent advantage, and a compromise was finally made by which the Tennessee river came to be regarded as the boundary between their rival claims, all south of that stream being claimed by the Cherokee, and being acknowledged by the Iroquois, as the limit of their own conquests in that direction. This Indian boundary was recognized by the British government up to the time of the Revolution.

Morgan states that a curious agreement was once made between the two tribes, by which this river was also made the limit of pursuit. If a returning war party of the Cherokee could recross the Tennessee before they were overtaken by the pursuing Iroquois they were as safe from attack as though entrenched behind a stockade. The pursuers, if they chose, might still invade the territory of the enemy, but they passed by the camp of the retreating Cherokee without offering to attack them. A similar agreement existed for a time between the Seneca and the Erie.

The Buffalo dance of the Iroquois is traditionally said to have had its origin in an expedition against the Cherokee. When the warriors on their way to the south reached the Kentucky salt lick they found there a herd of buffalo, and heard them, for the first time, “singing their favorite songs,” i. e., bellowing and snorting. From the bellowing and the movements of the animals were derived the music and action of the dance.

According to Cherokee tradition, as given by the chief Stand Watie, the war was finally brought to an end by the Iroquois, who sent a delegation to the Cherokee to propose a general alliance of the southern and western tribes. The Cherokee accepted the proposition, and in turn sent out invitations to the other tribes, all of which entered into the peace excepting the Osage, of whom it was therefore said that they should be henceforth like a wild fruit on the prairie, at which every bird should pick, and so the Osage have remained ever a predatory tribe without friends or allies. This may be the same treaty described in the story of “The Seneca Peacemakers.” A formal and final peace between the two tribes was arranged through the efforts of the British agent, Sir William Johnson, in 1768.

In 1847 there were still living among the Seneca the grandchildren of Cherokee captives taken in these wars. In 1794 the Seneca pointed out to Colonel Pickering a chief who was a native Cherokee, having been taken when a boy and adopted among the Seneca, who afterward made him chief. This was probably the same man of whom they told Schoolcraft fifty years later. He was a full-blood Cherokee, but had been captured when too young to have any memory of the event. Years afterward, when he had grown to manhood and had become a chief in the tribe, he learned of his foreign origin, and was filled at once with an overpowering longing to go back to the south to find his people and live and die among them. He journeyed to the Cherokee country, but on arriving there found to his great disappointment that the story of his capture had been forgotten in the tribe, and that his relatives, if any were left, failed to recognize him. Being unable to find his kindred, he made only a short visit and returned again to the Seneca.

From James Wafford, of Indian Territory, the author obtained a detailed account of the Iroquois peace embassy referred to by Stand Watie, and of the wampum belt that accompanied it. Wafford’s information concerning the proceedings at Echota was obtained directly from two eyewitnesses—Sequoya, the inventor of the alphabet, and Gatûñ′waʻlĭ, “Hard-mush,” who afterward explained the belt at the great council near Tahlequah seventy years later. Sequoya, at the time of the Echota conference, was a boy living with his mother at Taskigi town a few miles away, while Gatûñ′waʻlĭ was already a young man.

The treaty of peace between the Cherokee and Iroquois, made at Johnson Hall in New York in 1768, appears from the record to have been brought about by the Cherokee, who sent for the purpose a delegation of chiefs, headed by Âgănstâ′ta, “Groundhog-sausage,” of Echota, their great leader in the war of 1760–61 against the English. After the treaty had been concluded the Cherokee delegates invited some of the Iroquois chiefs to go home with them for a visit, but the latter declined on the ground that it was not yet safe, and in fact some of their warriors were at that very time out against the Cherokee, not yet being aware of the peace negotiations. It is probable, therefore, that the Iroquois delegates did not arrive at Echota until some considerable time, perhaps three years, after the formal preliminaries had been concluded in the north.

According to Sequoya’s account, as given to Wafford, there had been a long war between the Cherokee and the northern Indians, who were never able to conquer the Cherokee or break their spirit, until at last the Iroquois were tired of fighting and sent a delegation to make peace. The messengers set out for the south with their wampum belts and peace emblems, but lost their way after passing Tennessee river, perhaps from the necessity of avoiding the main trail, and instead of arriving at Itsâ′tĭ or Echota, the ancient peace town and capital of the Cherokee Nation—situated on Little Tennessee river below Citico creek, in the present Monroe county, Tennessee—they found themselves on the outskirts of Tă′likwă′ or Tellico, on Tellico river, some 10 or 15 miles to the southward.

Ancient Iroquois wampum belts.“The Onondagas retain the custody of the wampums of the Five Nations, and the keeper of the wampums, Thomas Webster, of the Snipe tribe, a consistent, thorough pagan, is their interpreter. Notwithstanding the claims made that the wampums can be read as a governing code of law, it is evident that they are simply monumental reminders of preserved traditions, without any literal details whatever. “The first group from left to right, represents a convention of the Six Nations at the adoption of the Tuscaroras into the league; the second, the Five Nations, upon seven strands, illustrates a treaty with seven Canadian tribes before the year 1600; the third signifies the guarded approach of strangers to the councils of the Five Nations (a guarded gate, with a long, white path leading to the inner gate, where the Five Nations are grouped, with the Onondagas in the center and a safe council house behind all); the fourth represents a treaty when but four of the Six Nations were represented, and the fifth embodies the pledge of seven Canadian christianized nations to abandon their crooked ways and keep an honest peace (having a cross for each tribe, and with a zigzag line below, to indicate that their ways had been crooked but would ever after be as sacred as the cross). Above this group is another, claiming to bear date about 1608, when Champlain joined the Algonquins against the Iroquois.”—Carrington, in Six Nations of New York, Extra Bulletin, Eleventh Census, pp. 33–34, 1892.

Concealing themselves in the neighborhood, they sent one of their number into the town to announce their coming. As it happened the chief and his family were at work in their cornfield, and his daughter had just gone up to the house for some reason when the Iroquois entered and asked for something to eat. Seeing that he was a stranger, she set out food for him according to the old custom of hospitality. While he was eating her father, the chief, came in to see what was delaying her, and was surprised to find there one of the hereditary enemies of his tribe. By this time the word had gone out that an Iroquois was in the chief’s house, and the men of the town had left their work and seized their guns to kill him, but the chief heard them coming and standing in the doorway kept them off, saying: “This man has come here on a peace mission, and before you kill him you must first kill me.” They finally listened to him, and allowed the messenger to go out and bring his companions to the chief’s house, where they were all taken care of.

When they were well rested after their long journey the chief of Tă′likwă himself went with them to Itsâ′tĭ, the capital, where lived the great chief Âgănstâ′ta, who was now the civil ruler of the Nation. The chiefs of the various towns were summoned and a council was held, at which the speaker for the Iroquois delegation delivered his message and produced the wampum belts and pipes, which they brought as proofs of their mission and had carried all the way in packs upon their backs.

He said that for three years his people had been wanting to make peace. There was a spring of dark, cloudy water in their country, and they had covered it over for one year and then looked, but the water was still cloudy. Again they had covered it over, but when they looked at the end of another year it was still dark and troubled. For another year they had covered the spring, and this time when they looked the water was clear and sparkling. Then they knew the time had come, and they left home with their wampum belts to make peace with their enemies.

The friendly message was accepted by the Cherokee, and the belts and other symbolic peace tokens were delivered over to their keeping. Other belts in turn were probably given to the Iroquois, and after the usual round of feasting and dancing the messengers returned to their people in the north and the long war was at an end.

For nearly a century these symbolic records of the peace with the Iroquois were preserved by the Cherokee, and were carried with them to the western territory when the tribe was finally driven from its old home in 1838. They were then in the keeping of John Ross, principal chief at the time of the removal, and were solemnly produced at a great intertribal council held near Tahlequah, in the Indian Territory, in June, 1843, when they were interpreted by the Cherokee speaker, Gatûñ′waʻlĭ, “Hard-mush,” who had seen them delivered to the chiefs of his tribe at old Itsâ′tĭ seventy years before. Wafford was present on this occasion and describes it.

Holding the belts over his arm while speaking, Hard-mush told of the original treaty with the Iroquois, and explained the meaning of each belt in turn. According to the best of Wafford’s recollection, there was one large belt, to which the smaller belts were fitted. The beads did not seem to be of shell, and may have been of porcelain. There were also red pipes for the warriors, grayish-white pipes for the chiefs who were foremost in making the peace, and some fans or other ornaments of feathers. There were several of the red pipes, resembling the red-stone pipes of the Sioux, but only one, or perhaps two, of the white peace pipes, which may have been only painted, and were much larger than the others. The pipes were passed around the circle at the council, so that each delegate might take a whiff. The objects altogether made a considerable package, which was carefully guarded by the Cherokee keeper. It is thought that they were destroyed in the War of the Rebellion when the house of John Ross, a few miles south of Tahlequah, was burned by the Confederate Cherokee under their general, Stand Watie.


“Hiadeoni was the father of the late chief Young-king. He was a Seneca warrior, a man of great prowess, dexterity, and swiftness of foot, and had established his reputation for courage and skill on many occasions. He resolved while the Seneca were still living on the Genesee river to make an incursion alone into the country of the Cherokee. He plumed himself with the idea that he could distinguish himself in this daring adventure, and he prepared for it, according to the custom of warriors. They never encumber themselves with baggage. He took nothing but his arms and the meal of a little parched and pounded corn. The forest gave him his meat.

Hiadeoni reached the confines of the Cherokee country in safety and alone. He waited for evening before he entered the precincts of a village. He found the people engaged in a dance. He watched his opportunity, and when one of the dancers went out from the ring into the bushes he dispatched him with his hatchet. In this way he killed two men that night in the skirts of the woods without exciting alarm, and took their scalps and retreated. It was late when he came to a lodge, standing remote from the rest, on his course homeward. Watching here, he saw a young man come out, and killed him as he had done the others, and took his scalp. Looking into the lodge cautiously he saw it empty, and ventured in with the hope of finding some tobacco and ammunition to serve him on his way home.

While thus busied in searching the lodge he heard footsteps at the door, and immediately threw himself on the bed from which the young man had risen, and covered his face, feigning sleep. They proved to be the footsteps of his last victim’s mother. She, supposing him to be her son, whom she had a short time before left lying there, said, “My son, I am going to such a place, and will not be back till morning.” He made a suitable response, and the old woman went out. Insensibly he fell asleep, and knew nothing till morning, when the first thing he heard was the mother’s voice. She, careful for her son, was at the fireplace very early, pulling some roasted squashes out of the ashes, and after putting them out, and telling him she left them for him to eat, she went away. He sprang up instantly and fled; but the early dawn had revealed his inroad, and he was hotly pursued. Light of foot, and having the start, he succeeded in reaching and concealing himself in a remote piece of woods, where he laid till night, and then pursued his way toward the Genesee, which, in due time he reached, bringing his three Cherokee scalps as trophies of his victory and prowess.”


“In the year 1747 a couple of the Mohawk Indians came against the lower towns of the Cheerake, and so cunningly ambuscaded them through most part of the spring and summer, as to kill above twenty in different attacks before they were discovered by any party of the enraged and dejected people. They had a thorough knowledge of the most convenient ground for their purpose, and were extremely swift and long-winded. Whenever they killed any and got the scalp they made off to the neighboring mountains, and ran over the broad ledges of rocks in contrary courses, as occasion offered, so as the pursuers could by no means trace them. Once, when a large company was in chase of them, they ran round a steep hill at the head of the main eastern branch of Savana river, intercepted, killed, and scalped the hindmost of the party, and then made off between them and Keeowhee. As this was the town to which the company belonged, they hastened home in a close body, as the proper place of security from such enemy wizards. In this manner did those two sprightly, gallant savages perplex and intimidate their foes for the space of four moons in the greatest security, though they often were forced to kill and barbecue what they chiefly lived upon, in the midst of their watchful enemies. Having sufficiently revenged their relations’ blood and gratified their own ambition with an uncommon number of scalps, they resolved to captivate one and run home with him as a proof of their having killed none but the enemies of their country. Accordingly, they approached very near to Keeowhee, about half a mile below the late Fort Prince George. Advancing with the usual caution on such an occasion, one crawled along under the best cover of the place about the distance of a hundred yards ahead, while the other shifted from tree to tree, looking sharply every way. In the evening, however, an old, beloved man discovered them from the top of an adjoining hill, and knew them to be enemies by the cut of their hair, light trim for running, and their postures. He returned to the town and called first at the house of one of our traders and informed him of the affair, enjoining him not to mention it to any, lest the people should set off against them without success before their tracks were to be discovered and he be charged with having deceived them. But, contrary to the true policy of traders among unforgiving savages, that thoughtless member of the Choktah Sphynx Company busied himself, as usual, out of his proper sphere, sent for the headmen, and told them the story. As the Mohawks were allies and not known to molest any of the traders in the paths and woods, he ought to have observed a strict neutrality. The youth of the town, by order of their headmen, carried on their noisy public diversions in their usual manner to prevent their foes from having any suspicion of their danger, while runners were sent from the town to their neighbors to come silently and assist them to secure the prey in its state of security. They came like silent ghosts, concerted their plan of operation, passed over the river at the old trading ford opposite to the late fort, which lay between two contiguous commanding hills, and, proceeding downward over a broad creek, formed a large semicircle from the river bank, while the town seemed to be taking its usual rest. They then closed into a narrower compass, and at last discovered the two brave, unfortunate men lying close under the tops of some fallen young pine trees. The company gave the war signal, and the Mohawks, bounding up, bravely repeated it; but, by their sudden spring from under thick cover, their arms were useless. They made desperate efforts, however, to kill or be killed, as their situation required. One of the Cheerake, the noted half-breed of Istanare town, which lay 2 miles from thence, was at the first onset knocked down and almost killed with his own cutlass, which was wrested from him, though he was the strongest of the whole nation. But they were overpowered by numbers, captivated, and put to the most exquisite tortures of fire, amidst a prodigious crowd of exulting foes.

One of the present Choktah traders, who was on the spot, told me that when they were tied to the stake the younger of the two discovered our traders on a hill near, addressed them in English, and entreated them to redeem their lives. The elder immediately spoke to him, in his own language, to desist. On this, he recollected himself, and became composed like a stoic, manifesting an indifference to life or death, pleasure or pain, according to their standard of martial virtue, and their dying behaviour did not reflect the least dishonor on their former gallant actions. All the pangs of fiery torture served only to refine their manly spirits, and as it was out of the power of the traders to redeem them they, according to our usual custom, retired as soon as the Indians began the diabolical tragedy.”


Some Seneca warriors were hunting in the woods, and one morning, on starting out for the day, they left two boys behind to take care of the camp. Soon after they had gone, a war party of Cherokee came up, and finding the boys alone took them both and started back to the south, traveling at such a rate that when the hunters returned in the evening they decided that it was of no use to follow them. When the Cherokee reached their own country they gave the boys to an old man, whose sons had been killed by the Seneca. He took the boys and adopted them for his own, and they grew up with him until they were large and strong enough to go hunting for themselves.

But all the time they remembered their own home, and one day the older one said to his brother, “Let’s kill the old man and run away.” “No,” said the other, “we might get lost if we ran away, we are so far from home.” “I remember the way,” said his brother, so they made a plan to escape. A few days later the old man took the boys with him and the three set out together for a hunt in the mountains. When they were well away from the settlement the boys killed the old man, took all the meat and parched corn meal they could easily carry, and started to make their way back to the north, keeping away from the main trail and following the ridge of the mountains. After many days they came to the end of the mountains and found a trail which the older brother knew as the one along which they had been taken when they were first captured. They went on bravely now until they came to a wide clearing with houses at the farther end, and the older brother said, “I believe there is where we used to live.” It was so long ago that they were not quite sure, and besides they were dressed now like Cherokee, so they thought it safer to wait until dark. They saw a river ahead and went down to it and sat behind a large tree to wait. Soon several women came down for water and passed close to the tree without noticing the boys. Said the older brother, “I know those women. One of them is our mother.” They waited until the women had filled their buckets and started to the village, when both ran out to meet them with the Seneca hailing-shout, “Gowe′! Gowe′!” At first the women were frightened and thought it a party of Cherokee, but when they heard their own language they came nearer. Then the mother recognized her two sons, and said, “Let us go back and dance for the dead come to life,” and they were all very glad and went into the village together.—Arranged from Curtin, Seneca manuscript.


Ganogwioeoñ, a war chief of the Seneca, led a party against the Cherokee. When they came near the first town he left his men outside and went in alone. At the first house he found an old woman and her granddaughter. They did not see him, and he went into the âsĭ and hid himself under some wood. When darkness came on he heard the old woman say, “Maybe Ganogwioeoñ is near; I’ll close the door.” After a while he heard them going to bed. When he thought they were asleep he went into the house. The fire had burned down low, but the girl was still awake and saw him. She was about to scream, when he said, “I am Ganogwioeoñ. If you scream I’ll kill you. If you keep quiet I’ll not hurt you.” They talked together, and he told her that in the morning she must bring the chief’s daughter to him. She promised to do it, and told him where he should wait. Just before daylight he left the house.

In the morning the girl went to the chief’s house and said to his daughter, “Let’s go out together for wood.” The chief’s daughter got ready and went with her, and when they came to the place where Ganogwioeoñ was hiding he sprang out and killed her, but did not hurt the other girl. He pulled off the scalp and gave such a loud scalp yell that all the warriors in the town heard it and came running out after him. He shook the scalp at them and then turned and ran. He killed the first one that came up, but when he tried to shoot the next one the bow broke and the Cherokee got him.

They tied him and carried him to the two women of the tribe who had the power to decide what should be done with him. Each of these women had two snakes tattooed on her lips, with their heads opposite each other, in such a way that when she opened her mouth the two snakes opened their mouths also. They decided to burn the soles of his feet until they were blistered, then to put grains of corn under the skin and to chase him with clubs until they had beaten him to death.

They stripped him and burnt his feet. Then they tied a bark rope around his waist, with an old man to hold the other end, and made him run between two lines of people, and with clubs in their hands. When they gave the word to start Ganogwioeoñ pulled the rope away from the old man and broke through the line and ran until he had left them all out of sight. When night came he crawled into a hollow log. He was naked and unarmed, with his feet in a pitiful condition, and thought he could never get away.

He heard footsteps on the leaves outside and thought his enemies were upon him. The footsteps came up to the log and some one said to another, “This is our friend.” Then the stranger said to Ganogwioeoñ, “You think you are the same as dead; but it is not so. We will take care of you. Stick out your feet.” He put out his feet from the log and felt something licking them. After a while the voice said, “I think we have licked his feet enough. Now we must crawl inside the log and lie on each side of him to keep him warm.” They crawled in beside him. In the morning they crawled out and told him to stick out his feet again. They licked them again and then said to him, “Now we have done all we can do this time. Go on until you come to the place where you made a bark shelter a long time ago, and under the bark you will find something to help you.” Ganogwioeoñ crawled out of the log, but they were gone. His feet were better now and he could walk comfortably. He went on until about noon, when he came to the bark shelter, and under it he found a knife, an awl, and a flint, that his men had hidden there two years before. He took them and started on again.

Toward evening he looked around until he found another hollow tree and crawled into it to sleep. At night he heard the footsteps and voices again. When he put out his feet again, as the strangers told him to do, they licked his feet as before and then crawled in and lay down on each side of him to keep him warm. Still he could not see them. In the morning after they went out they licked his feet again and said to him, “At noon you will find food.” Then they went away.

Ganogwioeoñ crawled out of the tree and went on. At noon he came to a burning log, and near it was a dead bear, which was still warm, as if it had been killed only a short time before. He skinned the bear and found it very fat. He cut up the meat and roasted as much as he could eat or carry. While it was roasting he scraped the skin and rubbed rotten wood dust on it to clean it until he was tired. When night came he lay down to sleep. He heard the steps and the voices again and one said, “Well, our friend is lying down. He has plenty to eat, and it does not seem as if he is going to die. Let us lick his feet again.” When they had finished they said to him, “You need not worry any more now. You will get home all right.” Before it was day they left him.

When morning came he put the bearskin around him like a shirt, with the hair outside, and started on again, taking as much of the meat as he could carry. That night his friends came to him again. They said, “Your feet are well, but you will be cold,” so they lay again on each side of him. Before daylight they left, saying, “About noon you will find something to wear.” He went on and about midday he came to two young bears just killed. He skinned them and dressed the skins, then roasted as much meat as he wanted and lay down to sleep. In the morning he made leggings of the skins, took some of the meat, and started on.

His friends came again the next night and told him that in the morning he would come upon something else to wear. As they said, about noon he found two fawns just killed. He turned the skins and made himself a pair of moccasins, then cut some of the meat, and traveled on until evening, when he made a fire and had supper.

That night again he heard the steps and voices, and one said, “My friend, very soon now you will reach home safely and find your friends all well. Now we will tell you why we have helped you. Whenever you went hunting you always gave the best part of the meat to us and kept only the smallest part for yourself. For that we are thankful and help you. In the morning you will see us and know who we are.”

In the morning when he woke up they were still there—two men as he thought—but after he had said the last words to them and started on, he turned again to look, and one was a white wolf and the other a black wolf. That day he reached home.—Arranged from Curtin, Seneca manuscript.


Hatcinoñdoñ was a great warrior, the greatest among the Seneca. Once he led a company against the Cherokee. They traveled until they came to the great ridge on the border of the Cherokee country, and then they knew their enemies were on the lookout on the other side. Hatcinoñdoñ told his men to halt where they were while he went ahead to see what was in front. The enemy discovered and chased him, and he ran into a canebrake, where the canes were in two great patches with a narrow strip of open ground between. They saw him go into the canes, so they set fire to the patch and watched at the open place for him to come out, but before they got around to it he had run across into the second patch and escaped. When the canes had burned down the Cherokee looked for his body in the ashes, but could not find any trace of it, so they went home.

When Hatcinoñdoñ got into the second canebrake he was tired out, so he lay down and fell asleep. At night while he was asleep two men came and took him by the arm, saying: “We have come for you. Somebody has sent for you.” They took him a long way, above the sky vault, until they came to a house. Then they said: “This is where the man lives who sent for you.” He looked, but could see no door. Then a voice from the inside said “Come in,” and something like a door opened of itself. He went in and there sat Hawĕñni′o, the Thunder-god.

Hawĕñni′o said, “I have sent for you and you are here. Are you hungry?” Hatcinoñdoñ thought: “That’s a strange way to talk; that’s not the way I do—I give food.” The Thunder knew his thoughts, so he laughed and said, “I said that only in fun.” He rose and brought half a cake of bread, half of a wild apple, and half a pigeon. Hatcinoñdoñ said, “This is very little to fill me,” but the Thunder replied, “If you eat that, there is more.” He began eating, but, as he ate, everything became whole again, so that he was not able to finish it.

While he was sitting he heard some one running outside, and directly the door was thrown open and the Sun came in, so bright that Hatcinoñdoñ had to hold his head down. The two beings talked together, but the Seneca could not understand a word, and soon the visitor went out again. Then the Thunder said: “That is the one you call the Sun, who watches in the world below. It is night down there now, and he is hurrying to the east. He says there has just been a battle. I love both the Seneca and the Cherokee, and when you get back to your warriors you must tell them to stop fighting and go home.” Again he brought food, half of each kind, and when Hatcinoñdoñ had eaten, the Thunder said, “Now my messengers will take you to your place.”

The door opened again of itself, and Hatcinoñdoñ followed the two Sky People until they brought him to the place where he had slept, and there left him. He found his party and told the warriors what he had seen. They held a council over it and decided to strike the enemy once before going home. Hatcinoñdoñ led them. They met the Cherokee and went home with scalps.

He led another party against the Cherokee, but this time he was taken and carried to the Cherokee town. It was the custom among the Cherokee to let two women say what should be done with captives. They decided that he should be tortured with fire, so he was tied to a tree, and the wood was piled around him. Hatcinoñdoñ gave himself up for lost, when a rain storm came up and the people concluded to wait until it was over. They went away and left him tied to the tree.

Pretty soon an old woman came up to him, and said, “My grandson, you think you are going to die, but you are not. Try to stir your limbs.” He struggled and finally got his limbs free. Then she said, “Now you are free. I have come to repay your kindness. You remember that you once found a frog in the middle of a circle of fire and that you picked it up and put it into the water. I was that frog, and now I help you. I sent the rain storm, and now you must go down to the creek and follow the current.”

When the rain was over the people came back, but Hatcinoñdoñ was gone. They trailed him down to the creek, but he had found a hollow tree lying in the water, with a hole on the upper side through which he could breathe, so he crawled into it and they could not find him. Once two of the Cherokee came and sat on the log and he could hear them talking about him, but they did not know that he was inside. When they were all gone, he came out and kept on down the stream. After dark he came to a place where three hunters had made a fire and gone to sleep for the night. Their hatchets and arms were hung up on a tree. Hatcinoñdoñ was naked. He listened until he was sure the men were asleep, then he took one of their hatchets and killed all three, one after another. He dressed himself in the clothes of one, and put on his belt, with the knife and hatchet. Then he washed himself at the creek and sat down by the fire and cooked his supper. After that he stretched and painted the three scalps and lay down by the fire to sleep. In the morning he took what provision he could carry and traveled in a great circle until he found the road by which he and his warriors had come. He found fresh tracks and followed them until he saw smoke ahead. He listened until he heard men speaking Seneca, and knew that it was his party. Then he gave the Seneca shout—Gowe′!—three times and his friends ran out to meet him. They had been afraid that he was killed, but were glad now that they had waited for him. They went home together. This is their story.—Arranged from Curtin, Seneca manuscript.


On the southern slope of the ridge, along the trail from Robbinsville to Valley river, in Cherokee county, North Carolina, are the remains of a number of stone cairns. The piles are leveled now, but thirty years ago the stones were still heaped up into pyramids, to which every Cherokee who passed added a stone. According to the tradition these piles marked the graves of a number of women and children of the tribe who were surprised and killed on the spot by a raiding party of the Iroquois shortly before the final peace between the two Nations. As soon as the news was brought to the settlements on Hiwassee and Cheowa a party was made under Tâle′danigi′skĭ, “Hemp-carrier,” to follow and take vengeance on the enemy. Among others of the party was the father of the noted chief Tsunu′lăhûñ′skĭ, or Junaluska, who (Junaluska) died on Cheowa about 1855.

For days they followed the trail of the Iroquois across the Great Smoky mountains, through forests and over rivers, until they finally tracked them to their very town in the far northern Seneca country. On the way they met another war party headed for the south, and the Cherokee killed them all and took their scalps. When they came near the Seneca town it was almost night, and they heard shouts in the townhouse, where the women were dancing over the fresh Cherokee scalps. The avengers hid themselves near the spring, and as the dancers came down to drink the Cherokee silently killed one and another until they had counted as many scalps as had been taken on Cheowa, and still the dancers in the townhouse never thought that enemies were near. Then said the Cherokee leader, “We have covered the scalps of our women and children. Shall we go home now like cowards, or shall we raise the war whoop and let the Seneca know that we are men?” “Let them come, if they will,” said his men; and they raised the scalp yell of the Cherokee. At once there was an answering shout from the townhouse, and the dance came to a sudden stop. The Seneca warriors swarmed out with ready gun and hatchet, but the nimble Cherokee were off and away. There was a hot pursuit in the darkness, but the Cherokee knew the trails and were light and active runners, and managed to get away with the loss of only a single man. The rest got home safely, and the people were so well pleased with Hemp-carrier’s bravery and success that they gave him seven wives.


In the course of the long war with the Cherokee it happened once that eight Seneca determined to undertake a journey to the south to see if they could make a peace with their enemies. On coming near the border of the Cherokee country they met some hunters of that tribe to whom they told their purpose. The latter at once hurried ahead with the news, and when the peacemakers arrived they found themselves well received by the Cherokee chiefs, who called a council to consider the proposition. All but one of the chiefs favored the peace, but he demanded that the eight delegates should first join them in a war party which was just preparing to go against a tribe farther south, probably the Creeks. The Seneca agreed, and set out with the war party for the south; but in the fight which resulted, the Seneca leader, The Owl, was captured. The other seven escaped with the Cherokee.

A council was held in the enemy’s camp, and it was decided that The Owl should be burned at the stake. The wood was gathered and everything made ready, but as they were about to tie him he claimed the warrior’s privilege to sing his death song and strike the post as he recited his warlike deeds. The request pleased his enemies, who put a tomahawk into his hands and told him to begin.

He told first his exploits in the north, and then in the west, giving times and places and the number of scalps taken, until his enemies were so pleased and interested that they forgot the prisoner in the warrior. It was a long story, but at last he came to the battle in which he was taken. He told how many relatives he had killed of the very men around him, and then, striking the post with his tomahawk, “So many of your people have I killed, and so many will I yet kill;” and with that he struck down two men, sprang through the circle of warriors, and was away. It was all so sudden that it was some moments before his enemies could recover from their surprise. Then they seized their weapons and were after him through the woods, but he had had a good start and was running for his life, so that he outran the chase and finally reached the Cherokee camp in safety and rejoined his seven companions.


Two Seneca women who were sisters, with the baby boy of the older one, were in a sugar grove near their home when a war party of Cherokee came upon them and carried them off. When the people of the town learned what had happened, they decided not to go after the enemy for fear they would kill the women, so their made no pursuit.

The Cherokee carried the women with them until they were within one day of the Cherokee towns. The elder sister learned this and made up her mind to try to escape. She had a knife without a handle hidden under her belt, and that night when all lay down to sleep by the fire she kept awake. When they were sleeping soundly, she looked around. She and her sister were tied together, and on each side of them was a Cherokee with the end of the rope under his body on the ground. Taking out her knife, she cut the rope without waking the men, and then rousing her sister quietly she whispered to her to come. They were going to leave the little boy, but he started to cry, so she said, “Let us die together,” and took him up on her back, and the two women hurried away. In a little while they heard an alarm behind them, and knew that their escape was discovered, and then they saw the blazing pine knots waving through the trees where the Cherokee were coming on looking for them. The women knew the Cherokee would hunt for them toward the north, along the trail to the Seneca country, so they made a circuit and went around to the south until they came in sight of a fire and saw a man sitting by a tree, shaking a rattle and singing in a low voice. They found they had come directly back to the enemy’s camp, so the older sister said, “This will never do; we must try again. Let us go straight ahead to that big tree in front, and from that straight on to the next, and the next.” In this way they kept on a straight course until morning. When the sun came up, they took another direction toward home, and at night they rested in the woods.

They traveled all the next day, and at night rested again. In the night a voice spoke to the younger woman, “Is that where you are resting?” and she answered, “Yes.” The voice said again, “Keep on, and you will come out at the spot where you were captured. No harm will come to you. To-morrow you will find food.” She roused her sister and told her what the voice had said.

In the morning they went on and at noon found a buck freshly killed. Near by they found a log on fire, so they roasted some of the meat, had a good meal, and carried away afterwards as much of the meat as they could. They kept on, camping every night, and when the meat was nearly gone they saved the rest for the little boy.

At last one night the voice spoke again to the younger sister and said, “You are on the right road, and to-morrow you will be on the border of the Seneca country. You will find food. That is all.”

In the morning she told her older sister. They started on again and walked until about noon, when they came to a patch of wild potatoes. They dug and found plenty, and as they looked around they saw smoke where there had been a camp fire. They gathered wood, made up the fire, and roasted the potatoes. Then they ate as many as they wanted and carried the rest with them.

They traveled on until the potatoes were almost gone. Then at night the voice came again to the younger woman, saying: “At noon tomorrow you will reach your home, and the first person you will meet will be your uncle. When you get to the town, you must call the people together and tell them all that has happened. You must go to the long house and take off your skirt and carry it on your shoulder. Then you must go inside and go around once, singing, ‘We have come home; we are here.’ This is the Yontoñwisas song, and it shall be for women only. Know now that we are the Hadionyageonoñ, the Sky People, who have watched over you all this time.”

When the girl awoke, she told her sister, and they said, “We must do all this,” and they began to sing as they went along. About noon they heard the sound of chopping, and when they went to the place they found it was their uncle cutting blocks to make spoons. He did not see them until they spoke, and at first could hardly believe that they were living women, because he knew that they had been taken by the Cherokee. He was very glad to see them, and as they walked on to the town they told him all they had been commanded to do by the Sky People. When they arrived at the town, he called all the people together, and they went to the long house. There the two women sang their song and did everything exactly as they had been told to do, and when it was over they said, “This is all,” and sat down. This is the same Yontoñwisas song that is still sung by the women.—Arranged from Curtin, Seneca manuscript.


Gaʼnaʼ was a Seneca war chief. He called a council and said, “We must go to the Cherokee and see if we can’t agree to be friendly together and live in peace hereafter.” The people consented, and the chief said, “We must go to water first before we start.” So they went, a great party of warriors, far away into the deep forest by the river side. There were no women with them. For ten days they drank medicine every morning to make them vomit and washed and bathed in the river each day.

Then the chief said, “Now we must get the eagle feathers.” They went to the top of a high hill and dug a trench there the length of a man’s body, and put a man into it, with boughs over the top so that he could not be seen, and above that they put the whole body of a deer. Then the people went off out of sight, and said the words to invite Shadaʼge′a, the great eagle that lives in the clouds, to come down.

The man under the brushwood heard a noise, and a common eagle came and ate a little and flew away again. Soon it came back, ate a little more, and flew off in another direction. It told the other birds and they came, but the man scared them away, because he did not want common birds to eat the meat. After a while he heard a great noise coming through the air, and he knew it was Shadaʼge′a, the bird he wanted. Shadaʼge′a is very cautious, and looked around in every direction for some time before he began to eat the meat. As soon as he was eating the man put his hand up cautiously and caught hold of the bird’s tail and held on to it. Shadaʼge′a rose up and flew away, and the man had pulled out one feather. They had to trap a good many eagles in this way, and it was two years before they could get enough feathers to make a full tail, and were ready to start for the Cherokee country.

They were many days on the road, and when they got to the first Cherokee town they found there was a stockade around it so that no enemy could enter. They waited until the gate was open, and then two Seneca dancers went forward, carrying the eagle feathers and shouting the signal yell. When the Cherokee heard the noise they came out and saw the two men singing and dancing, and the chief said, “These men must have come upon some errand.” The Seneca messengers came up and said, “Call a council; we have come to talk on important business.” All turned and went toward the townhouse, the rest of the Seneca following the two who were dancing. The townhouse was crowded, and the Seneca sang and danced until they were tired before they stopped. The Cherokee did not dance.

After the dance the Seneca chief said, “Now I will tell you why we have come so far through the forest to see you. We have thought among ourselves that it is time to stop fighting. Your people and ours are always on the lookout to kill each other, and we think it is time for this to stop. Here is a belt of wampum to show that I speak the truth. If your people are willing to be friendly, take it,” and he held up the belt. The Cherokee chief stepped forward and said, “I will hold it in my hand, and to-morrow we will tell you what we decide.” He then turned and said to the people, “Go home and bring food.” They went and brought so much food that it made a great pile across the house, and all of both tribes ate together, but could not finish it.

Next day they ate together again, and when all were done the Cherokee chief said to the Seneca, “We have decided to be friendly and to bury our weapons, these knives and hatchets, so that no man may take them up again.” The Seneca chief replied, “We are glad you have accepted our offer, and now we have all thrown our weapons in a pile together, and the white wampum hangs between us, and the belt shall be as long as a man and hang down to the ground.”

Then the Cherokee chief said to his people, “Now is the time for any of you that wishes to adopt a relative from among the Seneca to do so.” So some Cherokee women went and picked out one man and said, “You shall be our uncle,” and some more took another for their brother, and so on until only Gaʼnaʼ, the chief, was left, but the Cherokee chief said, “No one must take Gaʼnaʼ, for a young man is here to claim him as his father.” Then the young man came up to Gaʼnaʼ and said, “Father, I am glad to see you. Father, we will go home,” and he led Gaʼnaʼ to his own mother’s house, the house where Gaʼnaʼ had spent the first night. The young man was really his son, and when Gaʼnaʼ came to the house he recognized the woman as his wife who had been carried off long ago by the Cherokee.

While they were there a messenger came from the Seoqgwageono tribe, that lived near the great salt water in the east, to challenge the Cherokee to a ball play. He was dressed in skins which were so long that they touched the ground. He said that his people were already on the way and would arrive in a certain number of days. They came on the appointed day and the next morning began to make the bets with the Cherokee. The Seneca were still there. The strangers bet two very heavy and costly robes, besides other things. They began to play, and the Cherokee lost the game. Then the Seneca said, “We will try this time.” Both sides bet heavily again, and the game began, but after a little running the Seneca carried the ball to their goal and made a point. Before long they made all the points and won the game. Then the bets were doubled, and the Seneca won again. When they won a third game also the Seoqgwageono said, “Let us try a race,” and the Seneca agreed.

The course was level, and the open space was very wide. The Cherokee selected the Seneca runner, and it was agreed that they would run the first race without betting and then make their bets on the second race. They ran the first race, and when they reached the post the Seneca runner was just the measure of his body behind the other. His people asked him if he had done his best, but he said, “No; I have not,” so they made their bets, and the second race—the real race—began. When they got to the middle the Seneca runner said to the other, “Do your best now, for I am going to do mine,” and as he said it he pulled out and left the other far behind and won the race. Then the Seoqgwageono said, “There is one more race yet—the long race,” and they got ready for it, but the Cherokee chief said to his own men, “We have won everything from these people. I think it will be best to let them have one race, for if they lose all, they may make trouble.” They selected a Cherokee to run, and he was beaten, and the Seoqgwageono went home.

In a few days they sent a messenger to challenge the Cherokee to meet them halfway for a battle. When the Cherokee heard this they said to the Seneca, “There are so few of you here that we don’t want to have you killed. It is better for you to go home.” So the Seneca went back to their own country.

Three years later they came again to visit the Cherokee, who told them that the Seoqgwageono had won the battle, and that the chief of the enemy had said afterward, “I should like to fight the Seneca, for I am a double man.” Before long the enemy heard that the Seneca were there and sent them a challenge to come and fight. The Seneca said, “We must try to satisfy them,” so with Cherokee guides they set out for the country of the Seoqgwageono. They went on until they came to an opening in the woods within one day’s journey of the first village. Then they stopped and got ready to send two messengers to notify the enemy, but the Cherokee said, “You must send them so as to arrive about sundown.” They did this, and when the messengers arrived near the town they saw all the people out playing ball.

The two Seneca went around on the other side, and began throwing sumac darts as they approached, so that the others would think they were some of their own men at play. In this way they got near enough to kill a man who was standing alone. They scalped him, and then raising the scalp yell they rushed off through the woods, saying to each other as they ran, “Be strong—Be strong.” Soon they saw the Seoqgwageono coming on horses, but managed to reach a dry creek and to hide under the bank, so that the enemy passed on without seeing them.

The next morning they came out and started on, but the enemy was still on the watch, and before long the two men saw the dust of the horses behind them. The others came up until they were almost upon them and began to shoot arrows at them, but by this time the two Seneca were near the opening where their own friends were hiding, drawn up on each side of the pass. As the pursuers dashed in the two lines of the Seneca closed in and every man of the Seoqgwageono was either killed or taken.

The Seneca went back to the Cherokee country and after about a month they returned to their own homes. Afterward the Cherokee told them, “We hear the Seoqgwageono think you dangerous people. They themselves are conjurers and can tell what other people are going to do, but they cannot tell what the Seneca are going to do. The Seneca medicine is stronger.”—Arranged from Curtin, Seneca manuscript.


Among the most inveterate foes of the Cherokee were the Shawano, known to the Cherokee as Ani′-Sawănu′gĭ, who in ancient times, probably as early as 1680, removed from Savannah (i. e., Shawano) river, in South Carolina, and occupied the Cumberland river region in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, from which they were afterward driven by the superior force of the southern tribes and compelled to take refuge north of the Ohio. On all old maps we find the Cumberland marked as the “river of the Shawano.” Although the two tribes were frequently, and perhaps for long periods, on friendly terms, the ordinary condition was one of chronic warfare, from an early traditional period until the close of the Revolution. This hostile feeling was intensified by the fact that the Shawano were usually the steady allies of the Creeks, the hereditary southern enemies of the Cherokee. In 1749, however, we find a party of Shawano from the north, accompanied by several Cherokee, making an inroad into the Creek country, and afterward taking refuge among the Cherokee, thus involving the latter in a new war with their southern neighbors (Adair, Am. Inds., 276, 1775). The Shawano made themselves respected for their fighting qualities, gaining a reputation for valor which they maintained in their later wars with the whites, while from their sudden attack and fertility of stratagem they came to be regarded as a tribe of magicians. By capture or intermarriage in the old days there is quite an admixture of Shawano blood among the Cherokee.

According to Haywood, an aged Cherokee chief, named the Little Cornplanter (Little Carpenter?), stated in 1772 that the Shawano had removed from the Savannah river a long time before in consequence of a disastrous war with several neighboring tribes, and had settled upon the Cumberland, by permission of his people. A quarrel having afterward arisen between the two tribes, a strong body of Cherokee invaded the territory of the Shawano, and, treacherously attacking them, killed a great number. The Shawano fortified themselves and a long war ensued, which continued until the Chickasaw came to the aid of the Cherokee, when the Shawano were gradually forced to withdraw north of the Ohio.

At the time of their final expulsion, about the year 1710, the boy Charleville was employed at a French post, established for the Shawano trade, which occupied a mound on the south side of Cumberland river, where now is the city of Nashville. For a long time the Shawano had been so hard pressed by their enemies that they had been withdrawing to the north in small parties for several years, until only a few remained behind, and these also now determined to leave the country entirely. In March the trader sent Charleville ahead with several loads of skins, intending himself to follow with the Shawano a few months later. In the meantime the Chickasaw, learning of the intended move, posted themselves on both sides of Cumberland river, above the mouth of Harpeth, with canoes to cut off escape by water, and suddenly attacked the retreating Shawano, killing a large part of them, together with the trader, and taking all their skins, trading goods, and other property. Charleville lived to tell the story nearly seventy years later. As the war was never terminated by any formal treaty of peace, the hostile warriors continued to attack each other whenever they chanced to meet on the rich hunting grounds of Kentucky, until finally, from mutual dread, the region was abandoned by both parties, and continued thus unoccupied until its settlement by the whites.

According to Cherokee tradition, a body of Creeks was already established near the mouth of Hiwassee while the Cherokee still had their main settlements upon the Little Tennessee. The Creeks, being near neighbors, pretended friendship, while at the same time secretly aiding the Shawano. Having discovered the treachery, the Cherokee took advantage of the presence of the Creeks at a great dance at Itsâ′tĭ, or Echota, the ancient Cherokee capital, to fall suddenly upon them and kill nearly the whole party. The consequence was a war, with the final result that the Creeks were defeated and forced to abandon all their settlements on the waters of the Tennessee river.

Haywood says that “Little Cornplanter” had seen Shawano scalps brought into the Cherokee towns. When he was a boy, his father, who was also a chief, had told him how he had once led a party against the Shawano and was returning with several scalps, when, as they were coming through a pass in the mountains, they ran into another party of Cherokee warriors, who, mistaking them for enemies, fired into them and killed several before they discovered their mistake.

Schoolcraft also gives the Cherokee tradition of the war with the Shawano, as obtained indirectly from white informants, but incorrectly makes it occur while the latter tribe still lived upon the Savannah. “The Cherokees prevailed after a long and sanguinary contest and drove the Shawnees north. This event they cherish as one of their proudest achievements. ‘What!’ said an aged Cherokee chief to Mr Barnwell, who had suggested the final preservation of the race by intermarriage with the whites. ‘What! Shall the Cherokees perish! Shall the conquerors of the Shawnees perish! Never!’”

Tribal warfare as a rule consisted of a desultory succession of petty raids, seldom approaching the dignity of a respectable skirmish and hardly worthy of serious consideration except in the final result. The traditions necessarily partake of the same trivial character, being rather anecdotes than narratives of historical events which had dates and names. Lapse of time renders them also constantly more vague.

On the Carolina side the Shawano approach was usually made up the Pigeon river valley, so as to come upon the Cherokee settlements from behind, and small parties were almost constantly lurking about waiting the favorable opportunity to pick up a stray scalp. On one occasion some Cherokee hunters were stretched around the camp fire at night when they heard the cry of a flying squirrel in the woods—tsu-u! tsu-u! tsu-u! Always on the alert for danger, they suspected it might be the enemy’s signal, and all but one hastily left the fire and concealed themselves. That one, however, laughed at their fears and, defiantly throwing some heavy logs on the fire, stretched himself out on his blanket and began to sing. Soon he heard a stealthy step coming through the bushes and gradually approaching the fire, until suddenly an enemy sprang out upon him from the darkness and bore him to the earth. But the Cherokee was watchful, and putting up his hands he seized the other by the arms, and with a mighty effort threw him backward into the fire. The dazed Shawano lay there a moment squirming upon the coals, then bounded to his feet and ran into the woods, howling with pain. There was an answering laugh from his comrades hidden in the bush, but although the Cherokee kept watch for some time the enemy made no further attack, probably led by the very boldness of the hunter to suspect some ambush.

On another occasion a small hunting party in the Smoky mountains heard the gobble of a turkey (in telling the story Swimmer gives a good imitation). Some eager young hunters were for going at once toward the game, but others, more cautious, suspected a ruse and advised a reconnaissance. Accordingly a hunter went around to the back of the ridge, and on coming up from the other side found a man posted in a large tree, making the gobble call to decoy the hunters within reach of a Shawano war party concealed behind some bushes midway between the tree and the camp. Keeping close to the ground, the Cherokee crept up without being discovered until within gunshot, then springing to his feet he shot the man in the tree, and shouting “Kill them all,” rushed upon the enemy, who, thinking that a strong force of Cherokee was upon them, fled down the mountain without attempting to make a stand.

Another tradition of these wars is that concerning Tunâ′ĭ, a great warrior and medicine-man of old Itsâ′tĭ, on the Tennessee. In one hard fight with the Shawano, near the town, he overpowered his man and stabbed him through both arms. Running cords through the holes he tied his prisoner’s arms and brought him thus into Itsâ′tĭ, where he was put to death by the women with such tortures that his courage broke and he begged them to kill him at once.

After retiring to the upper Ohio the Shawano were received into the protection of the Delawares and their allies, and being thus strengthened felt encouraged to renew the war against the Cherokee with increased vigor. The latter, however, proved themselves more than a match for their enemies, pursuing them even to their towns in western Pennsylvania, and accidentally killing there some Delawares who occupied the country jointly with the Shawano. This involved the Cherokee in a war with the powerful Delawares, which continued until brought to an end in 1768 at the request of the Cherokee, who made terms of friendship at the same time with the Iroquois. The Shawano being thus left alone, and being, moreover, roundly condemned by their friends, the Delawares, as the cause of the whole trouble, had no heart to continue the war and were obliged to make final peace.


The last noted leader of the Shawano raiding parties was a chief known to the Cherokee as Tawa′lĭ-ukwanûñ′tĭ, “Punk-plugged-in,” on account of a red spot on his cheek which looked as though a piece of punk (tawa′lĭ) had been driven into the flesh.

The people of Tĭkwăli′tsĭ town, on Tuckasegee, heard rumors that a war party under this leader had come in from the north and was lurking somewhere in the neighborhood. The Cherokee conjurer, whose name was Ĕtăwa′hă-tsistatla′skĭ, “Dead-wood-lighter,” resorted to his magic arts and found that the Shawano were in ambush along the trail on the north side of the river a short distance above the town. By his advice a party was fitted out to go up on the south side and come in upon the enemy’s rear. A few foolhardy fellows, however, despised his words and boldly went up the trail on the north side until they came to Deep Creek, where the Shawano in hiding at the ford took them “like fish in a trap” and killed nearly all of them.

Their friends on the other side of the river heard the firing, and crossing the river above Deep creek they came in behind the Shawano and attacked them, killing a number and forcing the others to retreat toward the Smoky mountains, with the Cherokee in pursuit. The invaders had with them two Cherokee prisoners who were not able to keep up with the rapid flight, so their captors took them, bound as they were, and threw them over a cliff. An old conjurer of their own party finding himself unable to keep up deliberately sat down against a tree near the same spot to wait for death. The pursuers coming up split his head with a hatchet and threw his body over the same cliff, which takes its name from this circumstance. The Shawano continued to retreat, with the Cherokee close behind them, until they crossed the main ridge at the gap just below Clingman’s dome. Here the Cherokee gave up the pursuit and returned to their homes.


Perhaps a year after the raid upon Tĭkwăli′tsĭ, the Shawano again, under the same leader, came down upon the exposed settlement of Kanuga, on Pigeon river, and carried off a woman and two children whom they found gathering berries near the town. Without waiting to make an attack they hastily retreated with their prisoners. The people of Kanuga sent for aid to the other settlements farther south, and a strong party was quickly raised to pursue the enemy and recover the captives. By this time, however, the Shawano had had several days’ start and it was necessary for the Cherokee to take a shorter course across the mountains to overtake them. A noted conjurer named Kâ′lanû, “The Raven,” of Hiwassee town, was called upon to discover by his magic arts what direction the Shawano had taken and how far they had already gone. Calling the chiefs together he told them to fill the pipe and smoke and he would return with the information before the pipe was smoked out. They sat down in a circle around the fire and lighted the pipe, while he went out into the woods. Soon they heard the cry of an owl, and after some interval they heard it again, and the next moment the conjurer walked out from the trees before yet the first smoke was finished.

He reported that he had trailed the Shawano to their camp and that they were seven days ahead. The Cherokee at once followed as The Raven guided, and reached the place in seven days and found all the marks of a camp, but the enemy was already gone. Again and once again the conjurer went ahead in his own mysterious fashion to spy out the country, and they followed as he pointed the way. On returning the third time he reported that their enemies had halted beside the great river (the Ohio), and soon afterward he came in with the news that they were crossing it. The Cherokee hurried on to the river, but by this time the Shawano were on the other side. The pursuers hunted up and down until they found a favorable spot in the stream, and then waiting until it was dark they prepared to cross, using logs as rafts and tacking with the current, and managed it so well that they were over long before daylight without alarming the enemy.

The trail was now fresh, and following it they soon came upon the camp, which was asleep and all unguarded, the Shawano, thinking themselves now safe in their own country, having neglected to post sentinels. Rushing in with their knives and tomahawks, the Cherokee fell upon their sleeping foe and killed a number of them before the others could wake and seize their arms to defend themselves. Then there was a short, desperate encounter, but the Shawano were taken at a disadvantage, their leader himself being among the first killed, and in a few moments they broke and ran, every man for himself, to escape as best he could. The Cherokee released the captives, whom they found tied to trees, and after taking the scalps from the dead Shawano, with their guns and other equipments, returned to their own country.


Some warriors of Chilhowee town, on Little Tennessee, organized a war party, as they said, to go against the Shawano. They started off north along the great war trail, but when they came to Pigeon river they changed their course, and instead of going on toward the Shawano country they went up the river and came in at the back of Cowee, one of the Middle settlements of their own tribe. Here they concealed themselves near the path until a party of three or four unsuspecting townspeople came by, when they rushed out and killed them, took their scalps and a gun belonging to a man named Gûñskăli′skĭ, and then hurriedly made their way home by the same roundabout route to Chilhowee, where they showed the fresh scalps and the gun, and told how they had met the Shawano in the north and defeated them without losing a man.

According to custom, preparations were made at once for a great scalp dance to celebrate the victory over the Shawano. The dance was held in the townhouse and all the people of the settlement were there and looked on, while the women danced with the scalps and the gun, and the returned warriors boasted of their deeds. As it happened, among those looking on was a visitor from Cowee, a gunstocker, who took particular notice of the gun and knew it at once as one he had repaired at home for Gûñskăli′skĭ. He said nothing, but wondered much how it had come into possession of the Shawano.

The scalp dance ended, and according to custom a second dance was appointed to be held seven days later, to give the other warriors also a chance to boast of their own war deeds. The gunstocker, whose, name was Gûlsadihĭ′, returned home to Cowee, and there heard for the first time how a Shawano war party had surprised some of the town people, killed several, and taken their scalps and a gun. He understood it all then, and told the chief that the mischief had been done, not by a hostile tribe, but by the false men of Chilhowee. It seemed too much to believe, and the chief said it could not be possible, until the gunstocker declared that he had recognized the gun as one he had himself repaired for the man who had been killed. At last they were convinced that his story was true, and all Cowee was eager for revenge.

It was decided to send ten of their bravest warriors, under the leadership of the gunstocker, to the next dance at Chilhowee, there to take their own method of reprisal. Volunteers offered at once for the service. They set out at the proper time and arrived at Chilhowee on the night the dance was to begin. As they crossed the stream below the town they met a woman coming for water and took their first revenge by killing her. Men, women, and children were gathered in the townhouse, but the Cowee men concealed themselves outside and waited.

In this dance it was customary for each warrior in turn to tell the story of some deed against the enemy, putting his words into a song which he first whispered to the drummer, who then sang with him, drumming all the while. Usually it is serious business, but occasionally, for a joke, a man will act the clown or sing of some extravagant performance that is so clearly impossible that all the people laugh. One man after another stepped into the ring and sang of what he had done against the enemies of his tribe. At last one of the late war party rose from his seat, and after a whisper to the drummer began to sing of how they had gone to Cowee and taken scalps and the gun, which he carried as he danced. The chief and the people, who knew nothing of the treacherous act, laughed heartily at what they thought was a great joke.

But now the gunstocker, who had been waiting outside with the Cowee men, stripped off his breechcloth and rushed naked into the townhouse. Bending down to the drummer—who was one of the traitors, but failed to recognize Gûlsadihĭ′—he gave him the words, and then straightening up he began to sing, “Hi! Ask who has done this!” while he danced around the circle, making insulting gestures toward everyone there. The song was quick and the drummer beat very fast.

He made one round and bent down again to the drummer, then straightened up and sang, “Yu! I have killed a pregnant woman at the ford and thrown her body into the river!” Several men started with surprise, but the chief said, “He is only joking; go on with the dance,” and the drummer beat rapidly.

Another round and he bent down again to the drummer and then began to sing, “We thought our enemies were from the north, but we have followed them and they are here!” Now the drummer knew at last what it all meant and he drummed very slowly, and the people grew uneasy. Then, without waiting on the drummer, Gûlsadihĭ′ sang, “Cowee will have a ball play with you!”—and everyone knew this was a challenge to battle—and then fiercely: “But if you want to fight now my men are ready to die here!”

With that he waved his hand and left the townhouse. The dancers looked at each other uneasily and some of them rose to go. The chief, who could not understand it, urged them to go on with the dance, but it was of no avail. They left the townhouse, and as they went out they met the Cowee men standing with their guns ready and their hatchets in their belts. Neither party said anything, because they were still on friendly ground, but everyone knew that trouble was ahead.

The Cowee men returned home and organized a strong party of warriors from their own and all the neighboring Middle settlements to go and take vengeance on Chilhowee and on Kuwâ′hĭ, just below, which had also been concerned in the raid. They went down the Tennessee and crossed over the mountains, but when they came on the other side they found that their enemies had abandoned their homes and fled for refuge to the remoter settlements or to the hostile Shawano in the north.


Cowee′, properly Kawi′yĭ, abbreviated Kawi′, was the name of two Cherokee settlements, one of which existed in 1755 on a branch of Keowee river, in upper South Carolina, while the other and more important was on Little Tennessee river, at the mouth of Cowee creek, about 10 miles below the present Franklin, in North Carolina. It was destroyed by the Americans in 1876, when it contained about a hundred houses, but was rebuilt and continued to be occupied until the cession of 1819. The name can not be translated, but may possibly mean “the place of the Deer clan” (Ani′-Kawĭ′). It was one of the oldest and largest of the Cherokee towns, and when Wafford visited it as a boy he found the trail leading to it worn so deep in places that, although on horseback, he could touch the ground with his feet on each side.

There is a story, told by Wafford as a fact, of a Shawano who had been a prisoner there, but had escaped to his people in the north, and after the peace between the two tribes wandered back into the neighborhood on a hunting trip. While standing on a hill overlooking the valley he saw several Cherokee on an opposite hill, and called out to them, “Do you still own Cowee?” They shouted in reply, “Yes; we own it yet.” Back came the answer from the Shawano, who wanted to encourage them not to sell any more of their lands, “Well, it’s the best town of the Cherokee. It’s a good country; hold on to it.”


Besides the Iroquois and Shawano, the Cherokee remember also the Delawares, Tuscarora, Catawba, and Cheraw as tribes to the east or north with which they formerly had relations.

The Cherokee call the Delawares Anakwan′ʻkĭ, in the singular Akwan′ʻkĭ, a derivative formed according to usual Cherokee phonetic modification from Wapanaq′kĭ, “Easterners,” the generic name by which the Delawares and their nearest kindred call themselves.

In the most ancient tradition of the Delawares the Cherokee are called Talega, Tallige, Tallige-wi, etc.9 In later Delaware tradition they are called Kĭtu′hwa, and again we find the two tribes at war, for which their neighbors are held responsible. According to the Delaware account, the Iroquois, in one of their forays to the south, killed a Cherokee in the woods and purposely left a Delaware war club near the body to make it appear that the work had been done by men of that tribe. The Cherokee found the body and the club, and naturally supposing that the murder had been committed by the Delawares, they suddenly attacked the latter, the result being a long and bloody war between the two tribes.10 At this time, i. e., about the end of the seventeenth century, it appears that a part at least of the Cherokee lived on the waters of the Upper Ohio, where the Delawares made continual inroads upon them, finally driving them from the region and seizing it for themselves about the year 1708.11 A century ago the Delawares used to tell how their warriors would sometimes mingle in disguise with the Cherokee at their night dances until the opportunity came to strike a sudden blow and be off before their enemies recovered from the surprise.

Later there seems to have been peace until war was again brought on by the action of the Shawano, who had taken refuge with the Delawares, after having been driven from their old home on Cumberland river by the Cherokee. Feeling secure in their new alliance, the Shawano renewed their raids upon the Cherokee, who retaliated by pursuing them into the Delaware country, where they killed several Delawares by mistake. This inflamed the latter people, already excited by the sight of Cherokee scalps and prisoners brought back through their country by the Iroquois, and another war was the result, which lasted until the Cherokee, tired of fighting so many enemies, voluntarily made overtures for peace in 1768, saluting the Delawares as Grandfather, an honorary title accorded them by all the Algonquian tribes. The Delawares then reprimanded the Shawano, as the cause of the trouble, and advised them to keep quiet, which, as they were now left to fight their battles alone, they were glad enough to do. At the same time the Cherokee made peace with the Iroquois, and the long war with the northern tribes came to an end. The friendly feeling thus established was emphasized in 1779, when the Cherokee sent a message of condolence upon the death of the Delaware chief White-eyes.12

The Tuscarora, formerly the ruling tribe of eastern North Carolina, are still remembered under the name Ani′-Skălâ′lĭ, and are thus mentioned in the Feather dance of the Cherokee, in which some of the actors are supposed to be visiting strangers from other tribes.

As the majority of the Tuscarora fled from Carolina to the Iroquois country about 1713, in consequence of their disastrous war with the whites, their memory has nearly faded from the recollection of the southern Indians. From the scanty light which history throws upon their mutual relations, the two tribes seem to have been almost constantly at war with each other. When at one time the Cherokee, having already made peace with some other of their neighbors, were urged by the whites to make peace also with the Tuscarora, they refused, on the ground that, as they could not live without war, it was better to let matters stand as they were than to make peace with the Tuscarora and be obliged immediately to look about for new enemies with whom to fight. For some years before the outbreak of the Tuscarora war in 1711 the Cherokee had ceased their inroads upon this tribe, and it was therefore supposed that they were more busily engaged with some other people west of the mountains, these being probably the Shawano, whom they drove out of Tennessee about this time.13 In the war of 1711–1713 the Cherokee assisted the whites against the Tuscarora. In 1731 the Cherokee again threatened to make war upon the remnant of that tribe still residing in North Carolina and the colonial government was compelled to interfere.14

The Cheraw or Sara, ranging at different periods from upper South Carolina to the southern frontier of Virginia, are also remembered under the name of Ani′-Suwa′lĭ, or Ani′-Suwa′la, which agrees with the Spanish form Xuala of De Soto’s chronicle, and Suala, or Sualy, of Lederer. The Cherokee remember them as having lived east of the Blue ridge, the trail to their country leading across the gap at the head of Swannanoa river, east from Asheville. The name of the stream and gap is a corruption of the Cherokee Suwa′lĭ-Nûñnâ′hĭ, “Suwa′li trail.” Being a very warlike tribe, they were finally so reduced by conflicts with the colonial governments and the Iroquois that they were obliged to incorporate with the Catawba, among whom they still maintained their distinct language as late as 1743.15

The Catawba are known to the Cherokee as Ani′ta′gwa, singular Ata′gwa, or Ta′gwa, the Cherokee attempt at the name by which they are most commonly known. They were the immediate neighbors of the Cherokee on the east and southeast, having their principal settlements on the river of their name, just within the limits of South Carolina, and holding the leading place among all the tribes east of the Cherokee country with the exception of the Tuscarora. On the first settlement of South Carolina there were estimated to be about 7,000 persons in the tribe, but their decline was rapid, and by war and disease their number had been reduced in 1775 to barely 500, including the incorporated remnants of the Cheraw and several smaller tribes. There are now, perhaps, 100 still remaining on a small reservation near the site of their ancient towns. Some local names in the old Cherokee territory seem to indicate the former presence of Catawba, although there is no tradition of any Catawba settlement within those limits. Among such names may be mentioned Toccoa creek, in northeastern Georgia, and Toccoa river, in north-central Georgia, both names being derived from the Cherokee Tagwâ′hĭ, “Catawba place.” An old Cherokee personal name is Ta′gwădihĭ′, “Catawba-killer.”

The two tribes were hereditary enemies, and the feeling between them is nearly as bitter to-day as it was a hundred years ago. Perhaps the only case on record of their acting together was in the war of 1711–13, when they cooperated with the colonists against the Tuscarora. The Cherokee, according to the late Colonel Thomas, claim to have formerly occupied all the country about the head of the Catawba river, to below the present Morganton, until the game became scarce, when they retired to the west of the Blue ridge, and afterward “loaned” the eastern territory to the Catawba. This agrees pretty well with a Catawba tradition recorded in Schoolcraft, according to which the Catawba—who are incorrectly represented as comparatively recent immigrants from the north—on arriving at Catawba river found their progress disputed by the Cherokee, who claimed original ownership of the country. A battle was fought, with incredible loss on both sides, but with no decisive result, although the advantage was with the Catawba, on account of their having guns, while their opponents had only Indian weapons. Preparations were under way to renew the fight when the Cherokee offered to recognize the river as the boundary, allowing the Catawba to settle anywhere to the east. The overture was accepted and an agreement was finally made by which the Catawba were to occupy the country east of that river and the Cherokee the country west of Broad river, with the region between the two streams to remain as neutral territory. Stone piles were heaped up on the battlefield to commemorate the treaty, and the Broad river was henceforth called Eswau Huppeday (Line river), by the Catawba, the country eastward to Catawba river being left unoccupied.16 The fact that one party had guns would bring this event within the early historic period.

The Catawba assisted the whites against the Cherokee in the war of 1760 and in the later Revolutionary struggle. About 100 warriors, nearly the whole fighting strength of the tribe, took part in the first-mentioned war, several being killed, and a smaller number accompanied Williamson’s force in 1776.17 At the battle fought under Williamson near the present site of Franklin, North Carolina, the Cherokee, according to the tradition related by Wafford, mistook the Catawba allies of the troops for some of their own warriors, and were fighting for some time under this impression before they noticed that the Catawba wore deer tails in their hair so that the whites might not make the same mistake. In this engagement, which was one of the bloodiest Indian encounters of the Revolution, the Cherokee claim that they had actually defeated the troops and their Catawba allies, when their own ammunition gave out and they were consequently forced to retire. The Cherokee leader was a noted war chief named Tsanĭ (John).

About 1840 nearly the whole Catawba tribe moved up from South Carolina and joined the eastern band of Cherokee, but in consequence of tribal jealousies they remained but a short time, and afterward returned to their former home, as is related elsewhere.

Other tribal names (of doubtful authority) are Ani′-Sa′nĭ and Ani′-Sawahâ′nĭ, belonging to people said to have lived toward the north; both names are perhaps intended for the Shawano or Shawnee, properly Ani′-Sawănu′gĭ. The Ani′-Gilĭ′ are said to have been neighbors of the Anin′tsĭ or Natchez; the name may possibly be a Cherokee form for Congaree.


The nearest neighbors of the Cherokee to the south were the Creeks or Muscogee, who found mixed confederacy holding central and southern Georgia and Alabama. They were known to the Cherokee as Ani′-Ku′sa or Ani′-Gu′sa. from Kusa, the principal town of the Upper Creeks, which was situated on Coosa river, southwest from the present Talladega, Alabama. The Lower Creeks, residing chiefly on Chattahoochee river, were formerly always distinguished as Ani-Kawi′ta, from Kawita or Coweta, their ancient capital, on the west side of the river, in Alabama, nearly opposite the present Columbus, Georgia. In number the Creeks were nearly equal to the Cherokee, but differed in being a confederacy of cognate or incorporated tribes, of which the Muscogee proper was the principal. The Cherokee were called by them Tsal-gal′gi or Tsûlgûl′gi, a plural derivative from Tsa′lăgĭ′, the proper name of the tribe.

The ordinary condition between the two tribes was one of hostility, with occasional intervals of good will. History, tradition, and linguistic evidence combine to show that the Creeks at one time occupied almost the whole of northern Georgia and Alabama, extending a considerable distance into Tennessee and perhaps North Carolina, and were dispossessed by the Cherokee pressing upon them from the north and northeast. This conquest was accomplished chiefly during the first half of the eighteenth century, and culminated with the decisive engagement of Tali′wă about 1755. In most of their early negotiations with the Government the Creeks demanded that the lands of the various tribes be regarded as common property, and that only the boundary between the Indians and the whites be considered. Failing in that, they claimed as theirs the whole region of the Chattahoochee and Coosa, north to the dividing ridge between those streams and the Tennessee, or even beyond to the Tennessee itself, and asserted that any Cherokee settlements within those limits were only by their own permission. In 1783 they claimed the Savannah river as the eastern boundary between themselves and the Cherokee, and asserted their own exclusive right of sale over all the territory between that river and the Oconee. On the other hand the Cherokee as stoutly claimed all to a point some 70 miles south of the present city of Atlanta, on the ground of having driven the Creeks out of it in three successive wars, and asserted that their right had been admitted by the Creeks themselves in a council held to decide the question between the two tribes before the Revolution. By mutual agreement, about 1816, members of either tribe were allowed to settle within the territory claimed by the other. The line as finally established through the mediation of the colonial and Federal governments ran from the mouth of Broad river on Savannah nearly due west across Georgia, passing about 10 miles north of Atlanta, to Coosa river in Alabama, and thence northwest to strike the west line of Alabama about 20 miles south of the Tennessee.

Among the names which remain to show the former presence of Creeks north of this boundary are the following: Coweeta, a small creek entering the Little Tennessee above Franklin. North Carolina; Tomatola (Cherokee. Tama′ʻlĭ), a former town site on Valley river, near Murphy, North Carolina, the name being that of a former Creek town on Chattahoochee: Tomotley (Cherokee, Tama′ʻlĭ), a ford at another town site on Little Tennessee, above Tellico mouth, in Tennessee: Coosa (Cherokee, Kusă′), an upper creek of Nottely river, in Union county, Georgia: Chattooga (Cherokee, Tsatu′gĭ), a river in northwest Georgia: Chattooga (Cherokee, Tsatu′gĭ), another river, a head-stream of Savannah: Chattahoochee river (Creek, Chatu-huchi, “pictured rocks”); Coosawatee (Cherokee, Ku′să-weti′yĭ, “Old Creek place”), a river in northwestern Georgia; Tali′wă, the Cherokee form of a Creek name for a place on an upper branch of Etowah river in Georgia, probably from the Creek ta′lua or ita′lua, “town”; Euharlee (Cherokee, Yuha′lĭ, said by the Cherokee to be from Yufala or Eufaula, the name of several Creek towns), a creek flowing into lower Etowah river; Suwanee (Cherokee, Suwaʻnĭ) a small creek on upper Chattahoochee, the site of a former Cherokee town with a name which the Cherokee say is Creek. Several other names within the same territory are said by the Cherokee to be of foreign origin, although perhaps not Creek, and may be from the Taskigi language.

According to Cherokee tradition as given to Haywood nearly eighty years ago the country about the mouth of Hiwassee river, in Tennessee, was held by the Creeks, while the Cherokee still had their main settlements farther to the north, on the Little Tennessee. In the Shawano war, about the year 1700, the Creeks pretended friendship for the Cherokee while secretly helping their enemies, the Shawano. The Cherokee discovered the treachery, and took occasion, when a party of Creeks was visiting a dance at Itsâ′tĭ (Echota), the Cherokee capital, to fall upon them and massacre nearly every man. The consequence was a war between the two tribes, with the final result that the Creeks were forced to abandon all their settlements upon the waters of the Tennessee, and to withdraw south to the Coosa and the neighborhood of the “Creek path,” an old trading trail from South Carolina, which crossed at the junction of the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers, where now is the city of Rome, Georgia, and struck the Tennessee at the present Guntersville, Alabama.

As an incident of this war the same tradition relates how the Cherokee once approached a large Creek settlement “at the island on the Creek path,” in Tennessee river, opposite Guntersville, and, concealing their main force, sent a small party ahead to decoy the Creeks to an engagement. The Creek warriors at once crossed over in their canoes to the attack, when the Cherokee suddenly rose up from their ambush, and surrounded the Creeks and defeated them after a desperate battle. Then, taking the captured canoes, they went over to the island and destroyed all that was there. The great leader of the Cherokee in this war was a chief named Bullhead, renowned in tradition for his bravery and skill in strategy. At about the same time, according to Wafford, the Cherokee claim to have driven the Creeks and Shawano from a settlement which they occupied jointly near Savannah, Georgia.

There was a tradition among the few old traders still living in upper Georgia in 1890 that a large tract in that part of the State had been won by the Cherokee from the Creeks in a ballplay. There are no Indians now living in that region to substantiate the story. As originally told it may have had a veiled meaning, as among the Cherokee the expression “to play a ball game” is frequently used figuratively to denote fighting a battle. There seems to be no good ground for Bartram’s statement that the Cherokee had been dispossessed by the Creeks of the region between the Savannah and the Ocmulgee, in southwestern Georgia, within the historic period. The territory is south of any traditional Cherokee claim, and the statement is at variance with what we know through history. He probably had in mind the Uchee, who did actually occupy that country until incorporated with the Creeks.

The victory was not always on one side, however, for Adair states that toward the end of the last war between the two tribes the Creeks, having easily defeated the Cherokee in an engagement, contemptuously sent against them a number of women and boys. According to this writer, the “true and sole cause” of this last war was the killing of some adopted relatives of the Creeks in 1749 by a party of northern Shawano, who had been guided and afterward sheltered by the Cherokee. The war, which he represents as a losing game for the Cherokee, was finally brought to an end through the efforts of the governor of South Carolina, with the unfortunate result to the English that the Creeks encouraged the Cherokee in the war of 1760 and rendered them very essential help in the way of men and ammunition.

The battle of Tali′wă, which decided in favor of the Cherokee the long war between themselves and the Creeks, was fought about 1755 or a few years later at a spot on Mountain creek or Long-swamp creek, which enters Etowah river above Canton, Georgia, near where the old trail crossed the river about Long-swamp town. All our information concerning it is traditional, obtained from James Wafford, who heard the story when a boy, about the year 1815, from an old trader named Brian Ward, who had witnessed the battle sixty years before. According to his account, it was probably the hardest battle ever fought between the two tribes, about five hundred Cherokee and twice that number of Creek warriors being engaged. The Cherokee were at first overmatched and fell back, but rallied again and returned to the attack, driving the Creeks from cover so that they broke and ran. The victory was complete and decisive, and the defeated tribe immediately afterward abandoned the whole upper portion of Georgia and the adjacent part of Alabama to the conquerors. Before this battle the Creeks had been accustomed to shift about a good deal from place to place, but thereafter they confined themselves more closely to fixed home locations. It was in consequence of this defeat that they abandoned their town on Nottely river, below Coosa creek, near the present Blairsville, Georgia, their old fields being at once occupied by Cherokee, who moved over from their settlements on the head of Savannah river. As has been already stated, a peace was made about 1759, just in time to enable the Creeks to assist the Cherokee in their war with South Carolina. We hear little more concerning the relations of the two tribes until the Creek war of 1813–14, described in detail elsewhere; after this their histories drift apart.

The Yuchi or Uchee, called Ani′-Yu′tsĭ by the Cherokee, were a tribe of distinct linguistic stock and of considerable importance in early days; their territory bordered Savannah river on both sides immediately below the Cherokee country, and extended some distance westward into Georgia, where it adjoined that of the Creeks. They were gradually dispossessed by the whites, and were incorporated with the Creeks about the year 1740, but retain their separate identity and language to this day, their town being now the largest in the Creek Nation in Indian Territory.

According to the testimony of a Cherokee mixed-blood named Gansĕ′ʻtĭ or Rattling-gourd, who was born on Hiwassee river in 1820 and came west with his people in 1838, a number of Yuchi lived, before the Removal, scattered among the Cherokee near the present Cleveland, Tennessee, and on Chickamauga, Cohutta, and Pinelog creeks in the adjacent section of Georgia. They had no separate settlements, but spoke their own language, which he described as “hard and grunting.” Some of them spoke also Cherokee and Creek. They had probably drifted north from the Creek country before a boundary had been fixed between the tribes. When Tahlequah was established as the capital of the Cherokee Nation in the West in 1839 a few Yuchi were found already settled at the spot, being supposed to have removed from the East with some Creeks after the chief McIntosh was killed in 1825. They perished in the smallpox epidemic which ravaged the frontier in 1840, and their graves were still pointed out at Tahlequah in 1891. Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil war there was a large and prosperous Yuchi settlement on Cimarron river, in what was afterward the Cherokee strip.

Ramsey states that “a small tribe of Uchees” once occupied the country near the mouth of the Hiwassee, and was nearly exterminated in a desperate battle with the Cherokee at the Uchee Old Fields, in Rhea (now Meigs) county, Tennessee, the few survivors retreating to Florida, where they joined the Seminoles.23 There seems to be no other authority for the statement.

Another broken tribe incorporated in part with the Creeks and in part with the Cherokee was that of the Na′ʻtsĭ, or Natchez, who originally occupied the territory around the site of the present town of Natchez in southern Mississippi, and exercised a leading influence over all the tribes of the region. In consequence of a disastrous war with the French in 1729–31 the tribe was disrupted, some taking refuge with the Chickasaw, others with the Creeks, either then or later, while others, in 1736, applied to the government of South Carolina for permission to settle on the Savannah river. The request was evidently granted, and we find the “Nachee” mentioned as one of the tribes living with the Catawba in 1743, but retaining their distinct language. In consequence of having killed some of the Catawba in a drunken quarrel they were forced to leave this region, and seem to have soon afterward joined the Cherokee, as we find them twice mentioned in connection with that tribe in 1755. This appears to be the last reference to them in the South Carolina records.

Just here the Cherokee tradition takes them up, under the name of Anin′tsĭ, abbreviated from Ani′-Na′ʻtsĭ, the plural of Na′ʻtsĭ. From a chance coincidence with the word for pine tree, naʻtsĭ′, some English speaking Indians have rendered this name as “Pine Indians.” The Cherokee generally agree that the Natchez came to them from South Carolina, though some say that they came from the Creek country. It is probable that the first refugees were from Carolina and were joined later by others from the Creeks and the Chickasaw. Bienville states, in 1742, that some of them had gone to the Cherokee directly from the Chickasaw when they found the latter too hard pressed by the French to be able to care for them.25 They seem to have been regarded by the Cherokee as a race of wizards and conjurers, a view which was probably due in part to their peculiar religious rites and in part to the interest which belonged to them as the remnant of an extirpated tribe. Although we have no direct knowledge on the subject, there is every reason to suppose that the two tribes had had communication with each other long before the period of the Natchez war.

According to the statement of James Wafford, who was born in 1806 near the site of Clarkesville, Ga., when this region was still Indian country, the “Notchees” had their town on the north bank of Hiwassee, just above Peachtree creek, on the spot where a Baptist mission was established by the Rev. Evan Jones in 1821, a few miles above the present Murphy, Cherokee county, North Carolina. On his mother’s side he had himself a strain of Natchez blood. His grandmother had told him that when she was a young woman, perhaps about 1755, she once had occasion to go to this town on some business, which she was obliged to transact through an interpreter, as the Natchez had been there so short a time that only one or two spoke any Cherokee. They were all in the one town, which the Cherokee called Gwalʻgâ′hĭ, “Frog place,” but he was unable to say whether or not it had a townhouse. In 1824, as one of the census takers for the Cherokee Nation, he went over the same section and found the Natchez then living jointly with the Cherokee in a town called Gûʻlăni′yĭ at the junction of Brasstown and Gumlog creeks, tributary to Hiwassee, some 6 miles southeast of their former location and close to the Georgia line. The removal may have been due to the recent establishment of the mission at the old place. It was a large settlement, made up about equally from the two tribes, but by this time the Natchez were not distinguishable in dress or general appearance from the others, and nearly all spoke broken Cherokee, while still retaining their own language. As most of the Indians had come under Christian influences so far as to have quit dancing, there was no townhouse. Harry Smith, who was born about 1820, father of the late chief of the East Cherokee, also remembers them as living on Hiwassee and calling themselves Na′ʻtsĭ.

Gansĕ′ʻtĭ, already mentioned, states that when he was a boy the Natchez were scattered among the Cherokee settlements along the upper part of Hiwassee, extending down into Tennessee. They had then no separate townhouses. Some of them, at least, had come up from the Creeks, and spoke Creek and Cherokee, as well as their own language, which he could not understand, although familiar with both of the others. They were great dance leaders, which agrees with their traditional reputation for ceremonial and secret knowledge. They went west with the Cherokee at the final removal of the tribe to Indian Territory in 1838. In 1890 there was a small settlement on Illinois river a few miles south of Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, several persons in which still spoke their own language. Some of these may have come with the Creeks, as by an agreement between Creeks and Cherokee about the time of the Removal it had been arranged that citizens of either tribe living within the boundaries claimed by the other might remain without question if they so elected. There are still several persons claiming Natchez descent among the East Cherokee, but the last one said to have been of full Natchez blood, an old woman named Alkĭnĭ′, died about 1895. She was noted for her peculiarities, especially for a drawling tone, said to have been characteristic of her people, as old men remembered them years ago.

Haywood, the historian of Tennessee, says that a remnant of the Natchez lived within the present limits of the State as late as 1750, and were even then numerous. He refers to those with the Cherokee, and tells a curious story, which seems somehow to have escaped the notice of other writers. According to his statement, a portion of the Natchez, who had been parceled out as slaves among the French in the vicinity of their old homes after the downfall of their tribe, took advantage of the withdrawal of the troops to the north, in 1758, to rise and massacre their masters and make their escape to the neighboring tribes. On the return of the troops after the fall of Fort Du Quesne they found the settlement at Natchez destroyed and their Indian slaves fled. Some time afterward a French deserter seeking an asylum among the Cherokee, having made his way to the Great Island town, on the Tennessee, just below the mouth of Tellico river, was surprised to find there some of the same Natchez whom he had formerly driven as slaves. He lost no time in getting away from the place to find safer quarters among the mountain towns. Notchy creek, a lower affluent of Tellico, in Monroe county, Tennessee, probably takes its name from these refugees. Haywood states also that, although incorporated with the Cherokee, they continued for a long time a separate people, not marrying or mixing with other tribes, and having their own chiefs and holding their own councils; but in 1823 hardly anything was left of them but the name.

Another refugee tribe incorporated partly with the Cherokee and partly with the Creeks was that of the Taskigi, who at an early period had a large town of the same name on the south side of the Little Tennessee, just above the mouth of Tellico, in Monroe county, Tennessee. Sequoya, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, lived here in his boyhood, about the time of the Revolution. The land was sold in 1819. There was another settlement of the name, and perhaps once occupied by the same people, on the north bank of Tennessee river, in a bend just below Chattanooga, Tennessee, on land sold also in 1819. Still another may have existed at one time on Tuskegee creek, on the south bank of Little Tennessee river, north of Robbinsville, in Graham county, North Carolina, on land which was occupied until the Removal in 1838. Taskigi town of the Creek country was on Coosa river, near the junction with the Tallapoosa, some distance above the present Montgomery, Alabama. We find Tasquiqui mentioned as a town in the Creek country visited by the Spanish captain, Juan Pardo, in 1567. The name is evidently the same, though we can not be sure that the location was identical with that of the later town.

Who or what the Taskigi were is uncertain and can probably never be known, but they were neither Cherokee nor Muscogee proper. It would seem most probable that they were of Muskhogean affinity, but they may have been an immigrant tribe from another section, or may even have constituted a distinct linguistic stock, representing all that was left of an ancient people whose occupation of the country antedated the coming of the Cherokee and the Creeks. The name may be derived from taska or tasha′ya, meaning “warrior” in several of the Muskhogean dialects. It is not a Cherokee word, and Cherokee informants state positively that the Taskigi were a foreign people, with distinct language and customs. They were not Creeks, Natchez, Uchee, or Shawano, with all of whom the Cherokee were well acquainted under other names. In the townhouse of their settlement at the mouth of Tellico they had an upright pole, from the top of which hung their protecting “medicine,” the image of a human figure cut from a cedar log. For this reason the Cherokee in derision sometimes called the place Atsĭnă′-kʻtaûñ, “Hanging-cedar place.” Before the sale of the land in 1819 they were so nearly extinct that the Cherokee had moved in and occupied the ground.

Adair, in 1775, mentions the Tae-keo-ge (sic—a double misprint) as one of several broken tribes which the Creeks had “artfully decoyed” to incorporate with them in order to strengthen themselves against hostile attempts. Milfort, about 1780, states that the Taskigi on Coosa river were a foreign people who had been driven by wars to seek an asylum among the Creeks, being encouraged thereto by the kind reception accorded to another fugitive tribe. Their request was granted by the confederacy, and they were given lands upon which they built their town. He puts this event shortly before the incorporation of the Yuchi, which would make it early in the eighteenth century. In 1799, according to Hawkins, the town had but 35 warriors, “had lost its ancient language,” and spoke Creek. There is still a “white” or peace town named Taskigi in the Creek Nation in Indian Territory.

The nearest neighbors of the Cherokee on the west, after the expulsion of the Shawano, were the Chickasaw, known to the Cherokee as Ani′-Tsĭ′ksû, whose territory lay chiefly between the Mississippi and the Tennessee, in what is now western Kentucky and Tennessee and the extreme northern portion of Mississippi. By virtue, however, of conquest from the Shawano or of ancient occupancy they claimed a large additional territory to the east of this, including all upon the waters of Duck river and Elk creek. This claim was disputed by the Cherokee. According to Haywood, the two tribes had been friends and allies in the expulsion of the Shawano, but afterward, shortly before the year 1769, the Cherokee, apparently for no sufficient reason, picked a quarrel with the Chickasaw and attacked them in their town at the place afterward known as the Chickasaw Old Fields, on the north side of Tennessee river, some twenty miles below the present Guntersville, Alabama. The Chickasaw defended themselves so well that the assailants were signally defeated and compelled to retreat to their own country. It appears, however, that the Chickasaw, deeming this settlement too remote from their principal towns, abandoned it after the battle. Although peace was afterward made between the two tribes their rival claim continued to be a subject of dispute throughout the treaty period.

The Choctaw, a loose confederacy of tribes formerly occupying southern Mississippi and the adjacent coast region, are called Ani′-Tsa′ʻta by the Cherokee, who appear to have had but little communication with them, probably because the intermediate territory was held by the Creeks, who were generally at war with one or the other. In 1708 we find mention of a powerful expedition by the Cherokee, Creeks, and Catawba against the Choctaw living about Mobile bay.

Of the Indians west of the Mississippi those best known to the Cherokee were the Ani′-Wasa′sĭ, or Osage, a powerful predatory tribe formerly holding most of the country between the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, and extending from the Mississippi far out into the plains. The Cherokee name is a derivative from Wasash′, the name by which the Osage call themselves.30 The relations of the two tribes seem to have been almost constantly hostile from the time when the Osage refused to join in the general Indian peace concluded in 1768 (see “The Iroquois Wars”) up to 1822, when the Government interfered to compel an end of the bloodshed. The bitterness was largely due to the fact that ever since the first Cherokee treaty with the United States, made at Hopewell, South Carolina, in 1785, small bodies of Cherokee, resenting the constant encroachments of the whites, had been removing beyond the Mississippi to form new settlements within the territory claimed by the Osage, where in 1817 they already numbered between two and three thousand persons. As showing how new is our growth as a nation, it is interesting to note that Wafford, when a boy, attended near the site of the present Clarkesville, Georgia, almost on Savannah river, a Cherokee scalp dance, at which the women danced over some Osage scalps sent by their relatives in the west as trophies of a recent victory.

Other old Cherokee names for western tribes which can not be identified are Tayûñ′ksĭ, the untranslatable name of a tribe described simply as living in the West; Tsuniya′tigă, “Naked people,” described as living in the far West; Gûn′-tsuskwa′ʻlĭ, “Short-arrows,” who lived in the far West, and were small, but great fighters; Yûñ′wini′giskĭ, “Man-eaters,” a hostile tribe west or north, possibly the cannibal Atakapa or Tonkawa, of Louisiana or Texas. Their relations with the tribes with which they have become acquainted since the removal to Indian Territory do not come within the scope of this paper.


James Wafford, of the western Cherokee, who was born in Georgia in 1806, says that his grandmother, who must have been born about the middle of the last century, told him that she had heard from the old people that long before her time a party of giants had come once to visit the Cherokee. They were nearly twice as tall as common men, and had their eyes set slanting in their heads, so that the Cherokee called them Tsunil′ kălû′, “The Slant-eyed people,” because they looked like the giant hunter Tsulʻkălû′ (see the story). They said that these giants lived very far away in the direction in which the sun goes down. The Cherokee received them as friends, and they stayed some time, and then returned to their home in the west. The story may be a distorted historical tradition.


When the first lands were sold by the Cherokee, in 1721, a part of the tribe bitterly opposed the sale, saying that if the Indians once consented to give up any of their territory the whites would never be satisfied, but would soon want a little more, and a little again, until at last there would be none left for the Indians. Finding all they could say not enough to prevent the treaty, they determined to leave their old homes forever and go far into the West, beyond the Great river, where the white men could never follow them. They gave no heed to the entreaties of their friends, but began preparations for the long march, until the others, finding that they could not prevent their going, set to work and did their best to fit them out with pack horses loaded with bread, dried venison, and other supplies.

When all was ready they started, under the direction of their chief. A company of picked men was sent with them to help them in crossing the Great river, and every night until they reached it runners were sent back to the tribe, and out from the tribe to the marching band, to carry messages and keep each party posted as to how the other was getting along. At last they came to the Mississippi, and crossed it by the help of those warriors who had been sent with them. These then returned to the tribe, while the others kept on to the west. All communication was now at an end. No more was heard of the wanderers, and in time the story of the lost Cherokee was forgotten or remembered only as an old tale.

Still the white man pressed upon the Cherokee and one piece of land after another was sold, until as years went on the dispossessed people began to turn their faces toward the west as their final resting place, and small bands of hunters crossed the Mississippi to learn what might be beyond. One of these parties pushed on across the plains and there at the foot of the great mountains—the Rockies—they found a tribe speaking the old Cherokee language and living still as the Cherokee had lived before they had ever known the white man or his ways.


Among other perishing traditions is that relating to the Ani′-Kuta′nĭ or Ani′-Kwăta′nĭ, concerning whom the modern Cherokee know so little that their very identity is now a matter of dispute, a few holding that they were an ancient people who preceded the Cherokee and built the mounds, while others, with more authority, claim that they were a clan or society in the tribe and were destroyed long ago by pestilence or other calamity. Fortunately, we are not left to depend entirely upon surmise in the matter, as the tradition was noted by Haywood some seventy years ago, and by another writer some forty years later, while the connected story could still be obtained from competent authorities. From the various statements it would seem that the Ani′-Kuta′nĭ were a priestly clan, having hereditary supervision of all religious ceremonies among the Cherokee, until, in consequence of having abused their sacred privileges, they were attacked and completely exterminated by the rest of the tribe, leaving the priestly functions to be assumed thereafter by individual doctors and conjurers.

Haywood says, without giving name or details, “The Cherokees are addicted to conjuration to ascertain whether a sick person will recover. This custom arose after the destruction of their priests. Tradition states that such persons lived among their ancestors and were deemed superior to others, and were extirpated long ago, in consequence of the misconduct of one of the priests, who attempted to take the wife of a man who was the brother of the leading chief of the nation.”

A more detailed statement, on the authority of Chief John Ross and Dr J. B. Evans, is given in 1866 by a writer who speaks of the massacre as having occurred about a century before, although from the dimness of the tradition it is evident that it must have been much earlier:

“The facts, though few, are interesting. The order was hereditary; in this respect peculiar, for among Indians seldom, and among the Cherokees never, does power pertain to any family as a matter of right. Yet the family of the Nicotani—for it seems to have been a family or clan—enjoyed this privilege. The power that they exercised was not, however, political, nor does it appear that chiefs were elected from among them.

“The Nicotani were a mystical, religious body, of whom the people stood in great awe, and seem to have been somewhat like the Brahmins of India. By what means they attained their ascendancy, or how long it was maintained, can never be ascertained. Their extinction by massacre is nearly all that can be discovered concerning them. They became haughty, insolent, overbearing, and licentious to an intolerable degree. Relying on their hereditary privileges and the strange awe which they inspired, they did not hesitate by fraud or violence to rend asunder the tender relations of husband and wife when a beautiful woman excited their passions. The people long brooded in silence over the oppressions and outrages of this high caste, whom they deeply hated but greatly feared. At length a daring young man, a member of an influential family, organized a conspiracy among the people for the massacre of the priesthood. The immediate provocation was the abduction of the wife of the young leader of the conspiracy. His wife was remarkable for her beauty, and was forcibly abducted and violated by one of the Nicotani while he was absent on the chase. On his return he found no difficulty in exciting in others the resentment which he himself experienced. So many had suffered in the same way, so many feared that they might be made to suffer, that nothing was wanted but a leader. A leader appearing in the person of the young brave whom we have named, the people rose under his direction and killed every Nicotani, young and old. Thus perished a hereditary secret society, since which time no hereditary privileges have been tolerated among the Cherokees.”


Some warriors had medicine to change their shape as they pleased, so that they could escape from their enemies. Once one of these medicine warriors who had been away from home came back and found a strong party of the enemy attacking the settlement while nearly all the men were off on a hunt. The town was on the other side of the river, but his grandmother was there, so he made up his mind to save her. Going down the stream a little way, he hunted until he found a mussel shell. With his medicine he changed this to a canoe, in which he crossed over to his grandmother’s house, and found her sitting there, waiting for the enemy to come and kill her. Again he made medicine and put her into a small gourd which he fastened to his belt. Then climbing a tree he changed himself to a swamp woodcock, and with one cry he spread his wings and flew across to the other side of the river, where both took their natural shape again and made their way through the woods to another settlement.

There was another great Cherokee warrior, named Dasiʻgiya′gĭ, or Shoe-boots, as the whites called him, who lived on Hightower creek, in Georgia. He was so strong that it was said he could throw a corn mortar over a house, and with his magic power could clear a river at one jump. His war medicine was an uktena scale and a very large turtle shell which he got from the Shawano. In the Creek war he put this scale into water and bathed his body with the water, and also burned a piece of the turtle shell and drew a black line around his men with the coal, and he was never wounded and never had a man killed.

Some great warriors had a medicine by the aid of which they could dive under the ground as under water, come up among the enemy to kill and scalp one, then dive under the ground again and come up among their friends.

Some war captains knew how to put their lives up in the tree tops during a fight, so that even if they were struck by the enemy they could not be killed. Once, in a battle with the Shawano, the Cherokee leader stood directly in front of the enemy and let the whole party shoot at him, but was not hurt until the Shawano captain, who knew this war medicine himself, ordered his men to shoot into the branches above the head of the other. They did this and the Cherokee leader fell dead.


In the Cherokee war of 1760 when small bodies of the enemy, according to Haywood, were pushing their inroads eastward almost to Salisbury, a party of six or eight warriors was discovered, watched, and followed until they were seen to enter a deserted cabin to pass the night. The alarm was given, and shortly before daylight the whites surrounded the house, posting themselves behind the fodder stack and some outbuildings so as to command both the door and the wide chimney top. They then began to throw fire upon the roof to drive out the Indians, when, as the blaze caught the dry shingles, and death either by fire or bullet seemed certain, one of the besieged warriors called to his companions that it was better that one should be a sacrifice than that all should die, and that if they would follow his directions he would save them, but die himself. He proposed to sally out alone to draw the fire of the besiegers, while his friends stood ready to make for the woods as soon as the guns of the whites were empty. They agreed, and the door was opened, when he suddenly rushed forth, dodging and running in a zigzag course, so that every gun was emptied at him before he fell dead, covered with wounds. While the whites were reloading, the other warriors ran out and succeeded in reaching the woods before the besiegers could recover from their surprise. The historian adds, “How greatly it is to be regretted that the name of this hero is not known to the writer, that it might be recorded with this specimen of Cherokee bravery and patriotism, firmness and presence of mind in the hour of danger.”

More than once women seem to have shown the courage of warriors when the occasion demanded. At the beginning of the last century there was still living among the Cherokee a woman who had killed her husband’s slayer in one of the Revolutionary engagements. For this deed she was treated with so much consideration that she was permitted to join the warriors in the war dance, carrying her gun and tomahawk. The Wahnenauhi manuscript has a tradition of an attack upon a Cherokee town and the killing of the chief by a hostile war party. His wife, whose name was Cuhtahlatah (Gatûñ′lătĭ, “Wild-hemp”?), on seeing her husband fall, snatched up his tomahawk, shouting, “Kill! Kill!” and rushed upon the enemy with such fury that the retreating Cherokee rallied and renewed the battle with so great courage as to gain a complete victory. This may be a different statement of the same incident.

In Rutherford’s expedition against the Cherokee, in 1776, the Indians made a stand near Waya gap, in the Nantahala mountains, and a hard-fought engagement took place, with a loss to the Americans of nineteen men, although the enemy was finally driven from the ground. After the main body had retreated, an Indian was seen looking out from behind a tree, and was at once shot and killed by the soldiers, who, on going to the spot, found that it was a woman, painted and striped like a warrior and armed with bow and arrows. She had already been shot through the thigh, and had therefore been unable to flee with the rest.


Some say that the mounds were built by another people. Others say they were built by the ancestors of the old Ani′-Kĭtu′hwagĭ for townhouse foundations, so that the townhouses would be safe when freshets came. The townhouse was always built on the level bottom lands by the river in order that the people might have smooth ground for their dances and ballplays and might be able to go down to water during the dance.

When they were ready to build the mound they began by laying a circle of stones on the surface of the ground. Next they made a fire in the center of the circle and put near it the body of some prominent chief or priest who had lately died—some say seven chief men from the different clans—together with an Ulûñsû′tĭ stone, an uktena scale or horn, a feather from the right wing of an eagle or great tlă′nuwă, which lived in those days, and beads of seven colors, red, white, black, blue, purple, yellow, and gray-blue. The priest then conjured all these with disease, so that, if ever an enemy invaded the country, even though he should burn and destroy the town and the townhouse, he would never live to return home.

The mound was then built up with earth, which the women brought in baskets, and as they piled it above the stones, the bodies of their great men, and the sacred things, they left an open place at the fire in the center and let down a hollow cedar trunk, with the bark on, which fitted around the fire and protected it from the earth. This cedar log was cut long enough to reach nearly to the surface inside the townhouse when everything was done. The earth was piled up around it, and the whole mound was finished off smoothly, and then the townhouse was built upon it. One man, called the fire keeper, stayed always in the townhouse to feed and tend the fire. When there was to be a dance or a council he pushed long stalks of the ihyâ′ga weed, which some call atsil′-sûñ′tĭ, “the fire maker” (Erigeron canadense or fleabane), down through the opening in the cedar log to the fire at the bottom. He left the ends of the stalks sticking out and piled lichens and punk around, after which he prayed, and as he prayed the fire climbed up along the stalks until it caught the punk. Then he put on wood, and by the time the dancers were ready there was a large fire blazing in the townhouse. After the dance he covered the hole over again with ashes, but the fire was always smoldering below. Just before the Green-corn dance, in the old times, every fire in the settlement was extinguished and all the people came and got new fire from the townhouse. This was called atsi′la gălûñkwʼti′yu, “the honored or sacred fire.” Sometimes when the fire in a house went out, the woman came to the fire keeper, who made a new fire by rubbing an ihyâ′ga stalk against the under side of a hard dry fungus that grows upon locust trees.

Some say this everlasting fire was only in the larger mounds at Nĭkwăsĭ′, Kĭtu′hwa, and a few other towns, and that when the new fire was thus drawn up for the Green-corn dance it was distributed from them to the other settlements. The fire burns yet at the bottom of these great mounds, and when the Cherokee soldiers were camped near Kĭtu′hwa during the civil war they saw smoke still rising from the mound.

The Cherokee once had a wooden box, nearly square and wrapped up in buckskin, in which they kept the most sacred things of their old religion. Upon every important expedition two priests carried it in turn and watched over it in camp so that nothing could come near to disturb it. The Delawares captured it more than a hundred years ago, and after that the old religion was neglected and trouble came to the Nation. They had also a great peace pipe, carved from white stone, with seven stem-holes, so that seven men could sit around and smoke from it at once at their peace councils. In the old town of Keowee they had a drum of stone, cut in the shape of a turtle, which was hung up inside the townhouse and used at all the town dances. The other towns of the Lower Cherokee used to borrow it, too, for their own dances.

All the old things are gone now and the Indians are different.

Miscellaneous Myths and Legends


An old man whose wife had died lived alone with his son. One day he said to the young man, “We need a cook here, so you would better get married.” So the young man got a wife and brought her home. Then his father said, “Now we must work together and do all we can to help her. You go hunting and bring in the meat and I’ll look after the corn and beans, and then she can cook.” The young man went into the woods to look for a deer and his father went out into the field to attend to the corn. When they came home at night they were hungry, and the young woman set out a bowl of walnut hominy (kanâ′talu′hĭ) before them. It looked queer, somehow, and when the old man examined it he found that the walnuts had been put in whole. “Why didn’t you shell the walnuts and then beat up the kernels,” said he to the young woman. “I didn’t know they had to be shelled,” she replied. Then the old man said, “You think about marrying and you don’t know how to cook,” and he sent her away.


A man who had a field of growing corn went out one day to see how it was ripening and climbed a tall stump to get a better view. The stump was hollow and a bear had a nest of cubs in the bottom. The man slipped and fell down upon the cubs, which set up such a squealing that the old she-bear heard them and came climbing down into the stump tail first, in bear fashion, to see what was the matter. The man caught hold of her by the hind legs and the old bear was so frightened that she at once climbed out again, dragging the man, who thus got out of the stump, when the bear ran away.


A party of warriors once started out for a long hunting trip in the mountains. They went on until they came to a good game region, when they set up their bark hut in a convenient place near the river side. Every morning after breakfast they scattered out, each man for himself, to be gone all day, until they returned at night with whatever game they had taken. There was one lazy fellow who went out alone every morning like the others, but only until he found a sunny slope, when he would stretch out by the side of a rock to sleep until evening, returning then to camp empty-handed, but with his moccasins torn and a long story of how he had tramped all day and found nothing. This went on until one of the others began to suspect that something was wrong, and made it his business to find it out. The next morning he followed him secretly through the woods until he saw him come out into a sunny opening, where he sat down upon a large rock, took off his moccasins, and began rubbing them against the rocks until he had worn holes in them. Then the lazy fellow loosened his belt, lay down beside the rock, and went to sleep. The spy set fire to the dry leaves and watched until the flame crept close up to the sleeping man, who never opened his eyes.

The spy went back to camp and told what he had seen. About supper time the lazy fellow came in with the same old story of a long day’s hunt and no game started. When he had finished the others all laughed and called him a sleepyhead. He insisted that he had been climbing the ridges all day, and put out his moccasins to show how worn they were, not knowing that they were scorched from the fire, as he had slept on until sundown. When they saw the blackened moccasins they laughed again, and he was too much astonished to say a word in his defense; so the captain said that such a liar was not fit to stay with them, and he was driven from the camp.

There was another lazy fellow who courted a pretty girl, but she would have nothing to do with him, telling him that her husband must be a good hunter or she would remain single all her life. One morning he went into the woods, and by a lucky accident managed to kill a deer. Lifting it upon his back, he carried it into the settlement, passing right by the door of the house where the girl and her mother lived. As soon as he was out of sight of the house he went by a roundabout course into the woods again and waited until evening, when he appeared with the deer on his shoulder and came down the trail past the girl’s house as he had in the morning. He did this the next day, and the next, until the girl began to think he must be killing all the deer in the woods. So her mother—the old women are usually the matchmakers—got ready and went to the young man’s mother to talk it over.

When she arrived and the greetings were done she said, “Your son must be a good hunter.” “No,” replied the old woman, “he seldom kills anything.” “But he has been killing a great many deer lately.” “I haven’t seen any,” said his mother. “Why, he has been carrying deer past our house twice a day for the last three days.” “I don’t know what he did with them,” said the young man’s mother; “he never brought them here.” Then the girl’s mother was sure there was something wrong, so she went home and told her husband, who followed up the young man’s trail into the woods until it brought him to where the body of the deer was hidden, now so far decayed that it had to be thrown away.


Two old men went hunting. One had an eye drawn down and was called Uk-kwûnăgi′ta, “Eye-drawn-down.” The other had an arm twisted out of shape and was called Uk-ku′sûñtsûtĭ, “Bent-bow-shape.” They killed a deer and cooked the meat in a pot. The second old man dipped a piece of bread into the soup and smacked his lips as he ate it. “Is it good?” said the first old man. Said the other, “Hayû′! uk-kwûnăgi′stĭ—Yes, sir! It will draw down one’s eye.”

Thought the first old man to himself, “He means me.” So he dipped a piece of bread into the pot, and smacked his lips as he tasted it. “Do you find it good?” said the other old man. Said his comrade, “Hayû′! uk-ku′sûñtsûtĕtĭ′—Yes, sir! It will twist up one’s arm.” Thought the second old man, “He means me”; so he got very angry and struck the first old man, and then they fought until each killed the other.


A long time ago a warrior of roving disposition went down into the white settlements toward the east, where for the first time he saw a peacock. The beautiful long feathers surprised and delighted him, and by trading some valuable Indian possession of his own he managed to buy a few of them, which he took with him to the mountains and hid, until he was ready to use them, in an old beaver lodge under the river bank. To get into the beaver lodge he had to dive under the water.

Then he set to work secretly and made himself a headdress, with the long peacock feathers in the front and trailing out behind and the shorter ones at the sides. At the next dance he wore the new headdress, and asserted that he had been up to the sky and that these were star feathers (see number 9, “What the stars are like”). He made a long speech also, which he pretended was a message he had received from the star spirits to deliver to the people.

Everyone wondered at the beautiful feathers, so different from any they had ever seen before. They made no doubt that he had been up to the sky and talked with spirits. He became a great prophet, and used to keep himself hidden all day in the beaver hole, and whenever there was a night gathering for a dance or a council he would suddenly appear among them wearing his feather headdress and give the people a new message from the sky. Then he would leave them again, pretending that he went up to heaven.

He grew famous and powerful among all the medicine men, until at last it happened that another Cherokee went down among the white settlements and saw there another peacock, and knew at once that the prophet was a fraud. On his return he quietly told some of his friends, and they decided to investigate. When the next night dance came around the prophet was on hand as usual with a new message fresh from the stars. The people listened reverently, and promised to do all that he commanded. Then he left them, saying that he must return at once to the sky, but as he went out from the circle the spies followed him in the darkness, and saw him go down to the river and dive under the water. They waited, but he did not come up again, and they went back and told the people. The next morning a party went to the spot and discovered the beaver lodge under the bank. One man dived and came up inside, and there he found the prophet sitting with the peacock feathers by his side.


A hunter in the woods one day heard singing in a cave. He came near and peeped in, and it was a mother bear singing to her cubs and telling them what to do when the hunters came after them.

Said the mother bear to the cubs, “When you hear the hunters coming down the creek, then—

Tsâ′gĭ, tsâ′gĭ, hwĭ′lahĭ′;

Tsâ′gĭ, tsâ′gĭ, hwĭ′lahĭ′.

Upstream, upstream, you (must) go;

Upstream, upstream, you (must) go.

“But if you hear them coming up the creek, children, then—

Ge′ĭ, ge′ĭ, hwĭ′lahĭ′;

Ge′ĭ, ge′ĭ, hwĭ′lahĭ′.

Downstream, downstream, you (must) go;

Downstream, downstream, you (must) go.”

Another hunter out in the woods one day thought he heard a woman singing to a baby. He followed the sound up to the head of the branch until he came to a cave under the bushes, and inside was a mother bear rocking her cub in her paws and singing to it this baby song, which the Ani′-Tsâ′gûhĭ used to know before they were turned into bears:

Ha′-mama′, ha′-mama′, ha′-mama′, ha′-mama′;

Udâ′hale′yĭ hi′lûñnû, hi′lûñnû;

Udâ′hale′yĭ hi′lûñnû, hi′lûñnû.

Let me carry you on my back (four times);

On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep;

On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep.


Ha′wiye′-hyuwe′, Ha′wiye′-hyuwe′,

Yu′wĕ-yuwĕhe′, Ha′wiyĕhyu′-uwe′—

Yâ′nû une′guhi′ tsana′sehâ′;

Eʼtĭ une′guhi′ tsana′sehâ′;

Yâ′nû nudûñnelû′ tsa′nadiskâ′.

Ha′wiye′-hyuwe′, Ha′wiye′-hyuwe′,

Yu′wĕ-yuwĕhe′, Ha′wiyĕhyu′-uwe′—

The Bear is very bad, so they say;

Long time ago he was very bad, so they say;

The Bear did so and so, they say.


The little Wren is the messenger of the birds, and pries into everything. She gets up early in the morning and goes round to every house in the settlement to get news for the bird council. When a new baby is born she finds out whether it is a boy or girl and reports to the council. If it is a boy the birds sing in mournful chorus: “Alas! the whistle of the arrow! my shins will burn,” because the birds know that when the boy grows older he will hunt them with his blowgun and arrows and roast them on a stick.

But if the baby is a girl, they are glad and sing: “Thanks! the sound of the pestle! At her home I shall surely be able to scratch where she sweeps,” because they know that after a while they will be able to pick up stray grains where she beats the corn into meal.

When the Cricket hears that a girl is born, it also is glad, and says, “Thanks, I shall sing in the house where she lives.” But if it is a boy the Cricket laments: “Gwe-he! He will shoot me! He will shoot me! He will shoot me!” because boys make little bows to shoot crickets and grasshoppers.

When inquiring as to the sex of the new arrival the Cherokee asks, “Is it a bow or a (meal) sifter?” or, “Is it ballsticks or bread?”


Of all the Cherokee wizards or witches the most dreaded is the Raven Mocker (Kâ′lanû Ahyeli′skĭ), the one that robs the dying man of life. They are of either sex and there is no sure way to know one, though they usually look withered and old, because they have added so many lives to their own.

At night, when some one is sick or dying in the settlement, the Raven Mocker goes to the place to take the life. He flies through the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong wind. Every little while as he flies he makes a cry like the cry of a raven when it “dives” in the air—not like the common raven cry—and those who hear are afraid, because they know that some man’s life will soon go out. When the Raven Mocker comes to the house he finds others of his kind waiting there, and unless there is a doctor on guard who knows how to drive them away they go inside, all invisible, and frighten and torment the sick man until they kill him. Sometimes to do this they even lift him from the bed and throw him on the floor, but his friends who are with him think he is only struggling for breath.

After the witches kill him they take out his heart and eat it, and so add to their own lives as many days or years as they have taken from his. No one in the room can see them, and there is no scar where they take out the heart, but yet there is no heart left in the body. Only one who has the right medicine can recognize a Raven Mocker, and if such a man stays in the room with the sick person these witches are afraid to come in, and retreat as soon as they see him, because when one of them is recognized in his right shape he must die within seven days. There was once a man named Gûñskăli′skĭ, who had this medicine and used to hunt for Raven Mockers, and killed several. When the friends of a dying person know that there is no more hope they always try to have one of these medicine men stay in the house and watch the body until it is buried, because after burial the witches do not steal the heart.

The other witches are jealous of the Raven Mockers and afraid to come into the same house with one. Once a man who had the witch medicine was watching by a sick man and saw these other witches outside trying to get in. All at once they heard a Raven Mocker cry overhead and the others scattered “like a flock of pigeons when the hawk swoops.” When at last a Raven Mocker dies these other witches sometimes take revenge by digging up the body and abusing it.

The following is told on the reservation as an actual happening:

A young man had been out on a hunting trip and was on his way home when night came on while he was still a long distance from the settlement. He knew of a house not far off the trail where an old man and his wife lived, so he turned in that direction to look for a place to sleep until morning. When he got to the house there was nobody in it. He looked into the âsĭ and found no one there either. He thought maybe they had gone after water, and so stretched himself out in the farther corner to sleep. Very soon he heard a raven cry outside, and in a little while afterwards the old man came into the âsĭ and sat down by the fire without noticing the young man, who kept still in the dark corner. Soon there was another raven cry outside, and the old man said to himself, “Now my wife is coming,” and sure enough in a little while the old woman came in and sat down by her husband. Then the young man knew they were Raven Mockers and he was frightened and kept very quiet.

Said the old man to his wife, “Well, what luck did you have?” “None,” said the old woman, “there were too many doctors watching. What luck did you have?” “I got what I went for,” said the old man, “there is no reason to fail, but you never have luck. Take this and cook it and let’s have something to eat.” She fixed the fire and then the young man smelled meat roasting and thought it smelled sweeter than any meat he had ever tasted. He peeped out from one eye, and it looked like a man’s heart roasting on a stick.

Suddenly the old woman said to her husband, “Who is over in the corner?” “Nobody,” said the old man. “Yes, there is,” said the old woman, “I hear him snoring,” and she stirred the fire until it blazed and lighted up the whole place, and there was the young man lying in the corner. He kept quiet and pretended to be asleep. The old man made a noise at the fire to wake him, but still he pretended to sleep. Then the old man came over and shook him, and he sat up and rubbed his eyes as if he had been asleep all the time.

Now it was near daylight and the old woman was out in the other house getting breakfast ready, but the hunter could hear her crying to herself. “Why is your wife crying?” he asked the old man. “Oh, she has lost some of her friends lately and feels lonesome,” said her husband; but the young man knew that she was crying because he had heard them talking.

When they came out to breakfast the old man put a bowl of corn mush before him and said, “This is all we have—we have had no meat for a long time.” After breakfast the young man started on again, but when he had gone a little way the old man ran after him with a fine piece of beadwork and gave it to him, saying, “Take this, and don’t tell anybody what you heard last night, because my wife and I are always quarreling that way.” The young man took the piece, but when he came to the first creek he threw it into the water and then went on to the settlement. There he told the whole story, and a party of warriors started back with him to kill the Raven Mockers. When they reached the place it was seven days after the first night. They found the old man and his wife lying dead in the house, so they set fire to it and burned it and the witches together.


“From the head of the southern branch of Savannah river it does not exceed half a mile to a head spring of the Missisippi water that runs through the middle and upper parts of the Cheerake nation about a northwest course, and, joining other rivers, they empty themselves into the great Missisippi. The above fountain is called ‘Herbert’s spring,’ so named from an early commissioner of Indian affairs, and it was natural for strangers to drink thereof, to quench thirst, gratify their curiosity, and have it to say they had drank of the French waters. Some of our people, who went only with the view of staying a short time, but by some allurement or other exceeded the time appointed, at their return reported, either through merriment or superstition, that the spring had such a natural bewitching quality that whosoever drank of it could not possibly quit the nation during the tedious space of seven years. All the debauchees readily fell in with this superstitious notion as an excuse for their bad method of living, when they had no proper call to stay in that country; and in process of time it became as received a truth as any ever believed to have been spoken by the Delphic oracle. One cursed, because its enchantment had marred his good fortune; another condemned his weakness for drinking down witchcraft, against his own secret suspicions; one swore he would never taste another such dangerous poison, even though he should be forced to go down to the Missisippi for water; and another comforted himself that so many years out of the seven were already passed, and wished that if ever he tasted it again, though under the greatest necessity, he might be confined to the Stygian waters. Those who had their minds more enlarged diverted themselves much at their cost, for it was a noted favorite place, on account of the name it went by; and, being a well situated and good spring, there all travelers commonly drank a bottle of choice. But now most of the pack-horse men, though they be dry, and also matchless sons of Bacchus, on the most pressing invitations to drink there, would swear to forfeit sacred liquor the better part of their lives rather than basely renew or confirm the loss of their liberty, which that execrable fountain occasions.”—Adair, American Indians, p. 231, 1775.


Owing chiefly to the fact that the Cherokee still occupy western North Carolina, the existing local legends for that section are more numerous than for all the rest of their ancient territory. For the more important legends see the stories: Agân-unitsi’s Search for the Uktena, Atagâ′hĭ, Hemp-carrier, Herbert’s Spring, Kăna′sta, The Great Leech of Tlanusi′yĭ, The Great Yellow-jacket, The Nûñnĕ′hĭ, The Raid on Tĭkwali′tsĭ, The Removed Townhouses, The Spirit Defenders of Nĭkwăsĭ′, The Uwʼtsûñ′ta, Tsulʻkălû′, Tsuwe′năhĭ, The Uʻtlûñ′ta.

Akwĕʻti′yĭ: A spot on Tuckasegee river, in Jackson county, between Dick’s creek and the upper end of Cowee tunnel. According to tradition there was a dangerous water monster in the river there. The meaning of the name is lost.

Atsi′la-wa′ĭ: “Fire’s relative,” a peak, sometimes spoken of as Rattlesnake knob, east of Oconaluftee river and about 2 miles northeast of Cherokee or Yellow Hill, in Swain county. So called from a tradition that a ball of fire was once seen to fly through the air from the direction of Highlands, in Macon county, and alight upon this mountain. The Indians believe it to have been an ulûñsûtĭ (see number 50), which its owner had kept in a hiding place upon the summit, from which, after his death, it issued nightly to search for him.

Black rock: A very high bald peak toward the head of Scott’s creek, northeast of Webster, on the line of Jackson and Haywood counties. Either this peak or the adjacent Jones knob, of equal height, is known to the Cherokee as Ûñ′wădâ-tsuʻgilasûñ′, “Where the storehouse was taken off,” from a large flat rock, supported by four other rocks, so as to resemble a storehouse (ûñwădâ′lĭ) raised on poles, which was formerly in prominent view upon the summit until thrown down by lightning some fifty years ago.

Buffalo creek, West: A tributary of Cheowa river, in Graham county. The Cherokee name is Yûnsâi′ĭ, “Buffalo place,” from a tradition that a buffalo formerly lived under the water at its mouth (see Tsuta′tsinasûñ′yĭ).

Cheowa Maximum: A bald mountain at the head of Cheowa river, on the line between Graham and Macon counties. This and the adjoining peak, Swim bald, are together called Sehwate′yĭ, “Hornet place,” from a monster hornet, which, according to tradition, formerly had its nest there, and could be seen flying about the tree tops or sunning itself on the bald spots, and which was so fierce that it drove away every one who came near the mountain. It finally disappeared.

Dăkwâ′ĭ: “Dăkwă′ place,” in French Broad river, about 6 miles above Warm Springs, in Madison county, and 30 miles below Asheville. A dăkwă′ or monster fish is said to have lived in the stream at that point.

Da′ʻnawa-(a) Sa′ʻtsûñyĭ: “War crossing,” a ford in Cheowa river about 3 miles below Robbinsville, in Graham county. A hostile war party from the North, probably Shawano or Iroquois, after having killed a man on Cheowa, was pursued and crossed the river at this place.

Datle′yăsta′ĭ: “Where they fell down,” on Tuckasegee river, at the bend above Webster, in Jackson county, where was formerly the old town of Gănsâ′gĭ (Conasauga). Two large uktenas, twined about each other as though in combat, were once seen to lift themselves from a deep hole in the river there and fall back into the water.

Dâtsi′yĭ: “Dâtsĭ place,” just above Eagle creek, on Little Tennessee river, between Graham and Swain counties. So called from a traditional water monster of that name, said to have lived in a deep hole in the stream.

Degalʻgûñ′yĭ: “Where they are piled up,” a series of cairns on both sides of the trail down the south side of Cheowa river, in Graham county. They extend along the trail for several miles, from below Santeetla creek nearly to Slick Rock creek, on the Tennessee line (the first being just above Disgâ′gisti′yĭ, q. v.), and probably mark the site of an ancient battle. One at least, nearly off Yellow creek, is reputed to be the grave of a Cherokee killed by the enemy. Every passing Indian throws an additional stone upon each heap, believing that some misfortune will befall him should he neglect this duty. Other cairns are on the west side of Slick Rock creek about a mile from Little Tennessee river, and others south of Robbinsville, near where the trail crosses the ridge to Valleytown, in Cherokee county.

Dida′skasti′yĭ: “Where they were afraid of each other,” a spot on the east side of Little Tennessee river, near the mouth of Alarka creek, in Swain county. A ball game once arranged to take place there, before the Removal, between rival teams from Qualla and Valleytown, was abandoned on account of the mutual fear of the two parties.

Disgâ′gisti′yĭ: “Where they gnaw,” a spot where the trail down the south side of Cheowa river crosses a small branch about half way between Cockram creek and Yellow creek, in Graham county. Indians passing gnaw the twigs from the laurel bushes here, in the belief that if they should fail to do so they will encounter some misfortune before crossing the next ridge. Near by is a cairn to which each also adds a stone (see Degalʻgûñ′yĭ).

Duduñ′lĕksûñ′yĭ: “Where its legs were broken off,” a spot on the east side of Tuckasegee river, opposite the mouth of Cullowhee river, a few miles above Webster, in Jackson county. The name suggests a tradition, which appears to be lost.

Dulastûñ′yĭ: “Potsherd place,” a former settlement on Nottely river, in Cherokee county, near the Georgia line. A half-breed Cherokee ball captain who formerly lived there, John Butler or Tsan-uga′sĭtă (Sour John), having been defeated in a ball game, said, in contempt of his men, that they were of no more use than broken pots.

Dunidû′lalûñyĭ: “Where they made arrows,” on Straight creek, a head-stream of Oconaluftee river, near Cataluchee peak, in Swain county. A Shawano war party coming against the Cherokee, after having crossed the Smoky mountains, halted there to prepare arrows.

French Broad river: A magazine writer states that the Indians called this stream “the racing river.” This is only partially correct. The Cherokee have no name for the river as a whole, but the district through which it flows about Asheville is called by them Un-ta′kiyasti′yĭ, “Where they race.” The name of the city they translate as Kâsdu′yĭ, “Ashes place.”

Gakati′yĭ: “Place of setting free,” a south bend in Tuckasegee river about 3 miles above Bryson City, in Swain county. It is sometimes put in the plural form, Diga′katiyĭ, “Place of setting them free.” In one of their old wars the Cherokee generously released some prisoners there.

Gatuti′yĭ: “Town-building place,” near the head of Santeetla creek, southwest from Robbinsville, in Graham county. High up on the slopes of the neighboring mountain, Stratton bald, is a wide “bench,” where the people once started to build a settlement, but were frightened off by a strange noise, which they thought was made by an uktena.

Giʻlĭ′-Dinĕhûñ′yĭ: “Where the dogs live,” a deep place in Oconaluftee river, Swain county, a short distance above Yellow Hill (Cherokee) and just below the mound. It is so named from a tradition that two “red dogs” were once seen there playing on the bank. They were supposed to live under the water.

Gisehûñ′yĭ: “Where the Female lives,” on Tuckasegee river, about 2 miles above Bryson City, Swain county. There is a tradition that some supernatural “white people” were seen there washing clothes in the river and hanging them out upon the bank to dry. They were probably supposed to be the family of the Agis′-e′gwa, or “Great Female,” a spirit invoked by the conjurers.

Gregory bald: A high peak of the Great Smoky mountains on the western border of Swain county, adjoining Tennessee. The Cherokee call it Tsistu′yĭ, “Rabbit place.” Here the rabbits had their townhouse and here lived their chief, the Great Rabbit, and in the old times the people could see him. He was as large as a deer, and all the little rabbits were subject to him.

Joanna bald: A bald mountain near the head of Valley river, on the line between Graham and Cherokee counties. Called Diyâ′hăli′yĭ, “Lizard place,” from a traditional great lizard, with glistening throat, which used to haunt the place and was frequently seen sunning itself on the rocky slopes.

Jutaculla old fields: A bald spot of perhaps a hundred acres on the slope of Tennessee bald (Tsulʻkălû′ Tsunegûñ′yĭ), at the extreme head of Tuckasegee river, in Jackson county, on the ridge from which the lines of Haywood, Jackson, and Transylvania counties diverge. The giant Tsulʻkălû′, or Jutaculla, as the name is corrupted by the whites, had his residence in the mountain (see story), and according to local legend among the whites, said to be derived from the Indians, this bald spot was a clearing which he made for a farm. Some distance farther to the west, on the north bank of Cany fork, about 1 mile above Moses creek and perhaps 10 miles above Webster, in the same county, is the Jutaculla rock, a large soapstone slab covered with rude carvings, which, according to the same tradition, are scratches made by the giant in jumping from his farm on the mountain to the creek below.

Jutaculla rock: See Jutaculla old fields.

Kâl-Detsi′yûñyĭ: “Where the bones are,” a ravine on the north side of Cheowa river, just above the mouth of East Buffalo creek, in Graham county. In the old time two Cherokee were killed here by the enemy, and their fate was unknown until, long afterward, their friends found their bones scattered about in the ravine.

Nantahala: A river and ridge of very steep mountains in Macon county, the name being a corruption of Nûñ′dăye′ʻlĭ, applied to a former settlement about the mouth of Briertown creek, the townhouse being on the west side of the river, about the present Jarretts. The word means “middle sun,” i. e., “midday sun,” from nûñdă′, “sun,” and aye′ʻlĭ, “middle,” and refers to the fact that in places along the stream the high cliffs shut out the direct light of the sun until nearly noon. From a false idea that it is derived from unûñtĭ, “milk,” it has been fancifully rendered, “Center of a woman’s breast,” “Maiden’s bosom,” etc. The valley was the legendary haunt of the Uwʼtsûñ′ta (see number 45). As illustrating the steepness of the cliffs along the stream it was said of a noted hunter, Tsasta′wĭ, who lived in the old town, that he used to stand on the top of the bluff overlooking the settlement and throw down upon the roof of his house the liver of the freshly killed deer, so that his wife would have it cooked and waiting for him by the time he got down the mountain.

Nugătsa′nĭ: A ridge below Yellow Hill (Cherokee), on Oconaluftee river, in Swain county, said to be a resort of the Nûñnĕ′hĭ fairies. The word is an archaic form denoting a high ridge with a long, gradual slope.

Qualla: A post-office and former trading station in Jackson county, on the border of the present East Cherokee reservation, hence sometimes called the Qualla reservation. The Cherokee form is Kwalĭ, or Kwalûñyĭ in the locative. According to Captain Terrell, the former trader at that place, it was named from Kwalĭ, i. e., Polly, an old Indian woman who lived there some sixty years ago.

Săligu′gĭ: “Turtle place,” a deep hole in Oconaluftee river, about half a mile below Adams creek, near Whittier, in Swain county, said to be the resort of a monster turtle.

Skwan′-digûʻgûñ′yĭ: For Askwan′-digûʻgûñ′yĭ, “Where the Spaniard is in the water,” on Soco creek, just above the entrance of Wright’s creek, in Jackson county. According to tradition a party of Spaniards advancing into the mountains was attacked here by the Cherokee, who threw one of them (dead?) into the stream.

Soco gap: Ăhălu′na, Ă′hălunûñ′yĭ, or Uni′hălu′na, “Ambush,” or “Where they ambushed”; at the head of Soco creek, on the line between Swain and Haywood counties. The trail from Pigeon river crosses this gap, and in the old times the Cherokee were accustomed to keep a lookout here for the approach of enemies from the north. On the occasion which gave it the name, they ambushed here, just below the gap, on the Haywood side, a large party of invading Shawano, and killed all but one, whose ears they cut off, after which, according to a common custom, they released him to carry the news back to his people.

Standing Indian: A high bald peak at the extreme head of Nantahala river, in Macon county. The name is a rendering of the Cherokee name, Yûñ′wĭ-tsulenûñ′yĭ, “Where the man stood” (originally Yû′ñwĭ-dĭkatâgûñ′yĭ, “Where the man stands”), given to it on account of a peculiarly shaped rock formerly jutting out from the bald summit, but now broken off. As the old memory faded, a tradition grew up of a mysterious being once seen standing upon the mountain top.

Stekoa: A spot on Tuckasegee river, just above Whittier, in Swain county, better known as the Thomas farm, from its being the former residence of Colonel W. H. Thomas, for a long time the agent of the East Cherokee. The correct form is Stikâ′yĭ, the name of an ancient settlement at the place, as also of another on a creek of the same name in Rabun county, Georgia. The word has been incorrectly rendered “little grease,” from usdi′ga or usdi′, “little,” and ka′ĭ, “grease” or “oil,” but the true meaning is lost.

Swannanoa: A river joining the French Broad at Asheville, and the gap in the Blue ridge at its head. A magazine writer has translated this name “the beautiful.” The word, however, is a corruption of Suwa′li-nûñnâ′(-hĭ), “Suwali trail,” the Cherokee name, not of the stream, but of the trail crossing the gap toward the country of the Ani′-Suwa′lĭ or Cheraw (see number 104, “The Eastern Tribes”).

Swim bald or Wolf Creek bald. See Cheowa Maximum.

Tsi′skwunsdi′-adsisti′yĭ: “Where they killed Little-bird,” a place near the head of West Buffalo creek, southwest of Robbinsville, in Graham county. A trail crosses the ridge near this place, which takes its name from a man who was killed here by a hostile war party in the old fighting days.

Tsu′dinûñti′yĭ: “Throwing down place,” the site of a former settlement in a bend on the west side of Nantahala river, just within the limits of Macon county. So called from a tradition that a Cherokee pursued by the enemy threw away his equipment there.

Tsukilûñnûñ′yĭ: “Where he alighted,” two small bald spots on the side of the mountain at the head of Little Snowbird creek, southwest of Robbinsville, in Graham county. A mysterious being, having the form of a giant, with head blazing like the sun, was once seen to fly through the air, alight at this place, and stand for some time looking out over the landscape. It then flew away, and when the people came afterward to look, they found the herbage burned from the ground where it had stood. They do not know who it was, but some think it may have been the Sun.

Tsulâ′sinûñ′yĭ: “Where the footprint is,” on Tuckasegee river, about a mile above Deep creek, in Swain county. From a rock now blasted out to make way for the railroad, on which were impressions said to have been the footprints of the giant Tsulʻkălû′ (see story) and a deer.

Tsundaʻnilti′yĭ: “Where they demanded the debt from him,” a fine camping ground, on the north side of Little Santeetla creek, about halfway up, west from Robbinsville, Graham county. Here a hunter once killed a deer, which the others of the party demanded in payment of a debt due them. The Cherokee commonly give the creek the same name.

Tsûta′ga Uweyûñ′ĭ: “Chicken creek,” an extreme eastern head-stream of Nantahala river, entering about 4 miles above Clear branch, in Macon county. So called from a story that some hunters camping there for the night once heard a noise as of chickens constantly crowing upon a high rock farther up the stream.

Tsuta′tsinâsûñ′yĭ: “Where it eddies,” a deep hole at the mouth of Cockram creek of Cheowa river, in Graham county, where is an eddy said to be caused by a buffalo which lives under the water at this spot, and which anciently lived at the mouth of West Buffalo creek, farther up the river.

Tusquittee bald: A bald mountain at the head of Tusquittee creek, eastward from Hayesville, in Clay county. The Cherokee name is Tsuwă′-uniyetsûñ′yĭ, “Where, the water-dogs laughed,” the water-dog of the southern Alleghenies, sometimes also called mud-puppy or hell-bender, being a large amphibious lizard or salamander of the genus Menopoma, frequenting muddy waters. According to the story, a hunter once crossing over the mountain in a very dry season, heard voices, and creeping silently toward the place from which the sound proceeded, peeped over a rock and saw two water-dogs walking together on their hind legs along the trail and talking as they went. Their pond had dried up and they were on the way over to Nantahala river. As he listened one said to the other, “Where’s the water? I’m so thirsty that my apron (gills) hangs down,” and then both water-dogs laughed.

Ukte′na-tsuganûñ′tatsûñ′yĭ: “Where the uktena fastened,” a spot on Tuckasegee river, about 2 miles above Deep creek, near Bryson City, in Swain county. There is a tradition that an uktena, trying to make his way upstream, became fastened here, and in his struggles pried up some large rocks now lying in the bed of the river, and left deep scratches upon other rocks along the bank.

Ukte′na-utansi′nastûñ′yĭ: “Where the uktena crawled,” a large rock on the Hyatt farm, on the north bank of Tuckasegee river, about four miles above Bryson City, in Swain county. In the rock bed of the stream and along the rocks on the side are wavy depressions said to have been made by an uktena in going up the river.

Untlasgâsti′yĭ: “Where they scratched,” at the head of Hyatt creek, of Valley river, in Cherokee county. According to hunting tradition, every animal on arriving at this spot was accustomed to scratch the ground like a turkey.

Vengeance creek: A south tributary of Valley river, in Cherokee county. So called by the first settlers from an old Indian woman who lived there and whom they nicknamed “Vengeance,” on account of her cross looks. The Cherokee call the district Gănsaʻti′yĭ, “Robbing place,” from their having robbed a trader there in the Revolution.

Waya gap: A gap in the Nantahala mountains, in Macon county, where the trail crosses from Laurel creek of Nantahala river to Cartoogaja creek of the Little Tennessee. The Cherokee call it Aʻtâhi′ta, “Shouting place.” For the tradition see number 13. It was the scene of a stubborn encounter in the Revolution (see page 49). The name Waya appears to be from the Cherokee wă′ʻya, “wolf.”

Webster: The county seat of Jackson county, on Tuckasegee river. Known to the Cherokee as Unadanti′yĭ, “Where they conjured.” The name properly belongs to a gap 3 miles east of Webster, on the trail going up Scotts creek. According to tradition, a war party of Shawano, coming from the direction of Pigeon river, halted here to “make medicine” against the Cherokee, but while thus engaged were surprised by the latter, who came up from behind and killed several, including the conjurer.

Yâ′nû-dinĕhûñ′yĭ: “Where the bears live,” on Oconaluftee river, about a mile above its junction with Tuckasegee, in Swain county. A family of “water bears” is said to live at the bottom of the river in a deep hole at this point.

Yâ′nû-u′nătawasti′yĭ: “Where the bears wash,” a small pond of very cold, purple water, which has no outlet and is now nearly dried up, in a gap of the Great Smoky mountains, at the extreme head of Raven fork of Oconaluftee, in Swain county. It was said to be a favorite bear wallow, and according to some accounts its waters had the same virtues ascribed to those of Atagâ′hĭ (see number 69).

Yawâ′ĭ: “Yawa place,” a spot on the south side of Yellow creek of Cheowa river, in Graham county, about a mile above the trail crossing near the mouth of the creek. The legend is that a mysterious personage, apparently a human being, formerly haunted a round knob near there, and was sometimes seen walking about the top of the knob and crying, Yawă′! Yawă′! while the sound of invisible guns came from the hill, so that the people were afraid to go near it.


As the Cherokee withdrew from all of South Carolina except a small strip in the extreme west as early as 1777, the memory of the old legends localized within the state has completely faded from the tribe. There remain, however, some local names upon which the whites who succeeded to the inheritance have built traditions of more or less doubtful authenticity.

In Pickens and Anderson counties, in the northwest corner of the state, is a series of creeks joining Keowee river and named, respectively in order, from above downward, Mile, Six-mile, Twelve-mile, Eighteen-mile, Twenty-three-mile, and Twenty-six-mile. According to the local story, they were thus christened by a young woman, in one of the early Indian wars, as she crossed each ford on a rapid horseback flight to the lower settlements to secure help for the beleaguered garrison of Fort Prince George. The names really date back almost to the first establishment of the colony, and were intended to indicate roughly the distances along the old trading path from Fort Ninety-six, on Henleys creek of Saluda river, to Keowee, at that time the frontier town of the Cherokee Nation, the two points being considered 96 miles apart as the trail ran. Fort Prince George was on the east bank of Keowee river, near the entrance of Crow creek, and directly opposite the Indian town.

Conneross: The name of a creek which enters Keowee (or Seneca) river from the west, in Anderson county; it is a corruption of the Lower Cherokee dialectic form, Kăwân′-urâ′sûñyĭ or Kăwân′-tsurâ′-sûñyĭ, “Where the duck fell off.” According to the still surviving Cherokee tradition, a duck once had her nest upon a cliff overlooking the stream in a cave with the mouth so placed that in leaving the nest she appeared to fall from the cliff into the water. There was probably an Indian settlement of the same name:

Toxaway: The name of a creek and former Cherokee settlement at the extreme head of Keowee river; it has been incorrectly rendered “Place of shedding tears,” from daksăwa′ihû, “he is shedding tears.” The correct Cherokee form of the name is Dûksa′ĭ or Dûkwʼsa′ĭ, a word which can not be analyzed and of which the meaning is now lost.


For the more important legends localized in Tennessee see the stories The Hunter in the Dăkwă′, The Nest of the Tlă′nuwă, The Removed Townhouses, The Haunted Whirlpool, Ûñtsaiyĭ′, and Uʻtlûñ′ta.

Buffalo Track rock: This rock, of which the Indian name is now lost, is indefinitely mentioned as located southwest from Cumberland gap, on the northern border of the state. According to Wafford, it was well known some eighty years ago to the old Cherokee hunters, who described it as covered with deep impressions made by buffalo running along the rock and then butting their heads, as though in mad fury, against a rock wall, leaving the prints of their heads and horns in the stone.

Chattanooga: This city, upon Tennessee river, near the entrance of the creek of the same name in Hamilton county, was incorporated in 1848. So far as is known there was no Cherokee settlement at the place, although some prominent men of the tribe lived in the vicinity. The name originally belonged to some location upon the creek. The Cherokee pronounce it Tsatănu′gĭ, but say that it is not a Cherokee word and has no meaning in their language. The best informants express the opinion that it was from the Chickasaw (Choctaw) language, which seems possible, as the Chickasaw country anciently extended a considerable distance up the Tennessee, the nearest settlement being within 80 miles of the present city. The Cherokee sometimes call the city Aʻtlă′nuwă′, “Tlă′nuwă (Hawk) hole,” that being their old name for a bluff on the south side of the river at the foot of the present Market street. From this circumstance probably originated the statement by a magazine writer that the name Chattanooga signifies “The crow’s nest.”

Chickamauga: The name of two creeks in Hamilton county, entering Tennessee river from opposite sides a few miles above Chattanooga. A creek of the same name is one of the head-streams of Chattahoochee river, in White county, Georgia. The Cherokee pronounce it Tsĭkăma′gĭ, applying the name in Tennessee to the territory about the mouth of the southern, or principal, stream, where they formerly had a town, from which they removed in 1782. They state, however, that it is not a Cherokee word and has no meaning in their language. Filson, in 1793, erroneously states that it is from the Cherokee language and signifies “Boiling pot,” referring to a dangerous whirlpool in the river near by, and later writers have improved upon this by translating it to mean “Whirlpool.” The error arises from confounding this place with The Suck, a whirlpool in Tennessee river 15 miles farther down and known to the Cherokee as Ûñtiguhĭ′, “Pot in the water” (see number 63, “Ûñtsaiyĭ′, the Gambler”). On account of the hard fighting in the neighborhood during the Civil war, the stream was sometimes called, poetically, “The River of Death,” the term being frequently given as a translation of the Indian word. It has been suggested that the name is derived from an Algonquian word referring to a fishing or fish-spearing place, in which case it may have originated with the Shawano, who formerly occupied middle Tennessee, and some of whom at a later period resided jointly with the Cherokee in the settlements along this part of the river. If not Shawano it is probably from the Creek or Chickasaw.

Concerning “Chickamauga gulch,” a canyon on the northern stream of that name, a newspaper writer gives the following so-called legend, which it is hardly necessary to say is not genuine:

The Cherokees were a tribe singularly rich in tradition, and of course so wild, gloomy, and remarkable a spot was not without its legend. The descendants of the expatriated semi-barbarians believe to this day that in ages gone a great serpent made its den in the gulch, and that yearly he demanded of the red men ten of their most beautiful maidens as a sacrificial offering. Fearful of extermination, the demand was always complied with by the tribe, amid weeping and wailing by the women. On the day before the tribute was due the serpent announced its presence by a demoniacal hiss, and the next morning the fair ones who had been chosen to save the tribe were taken to the summit of a cliff and left to be swallowed by the scaly Moloch.

Chilhowee: A mountain and station on the north side of Little Tennessee river, in Blount county. The correct Cherokee form is Tsûʻlûñwe′ĭ, applied to the lower part of Abrams creek, which enters the river from the north just above. The meaning of the word is lost, although it may possibly have a connection with tsûʻlû, “kingfisher.” It has been incorrectly rendered “fire deer,” an interpretation founded on the false assumption that the name is compounded from atsi′la, “fire,” and aʻwĭ′, “deer,” whence, Chil-howee. For legends localized in this vicinity, see the stories noted above. Chilhowee occurs also as the name of a stream in the mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Lenoir: On the north bank of the main Tennessee, at the junction of the Little Tennessee, in Loudon county. The Cherokee name is Wa′gĭnsĭ′, of which the meaning is lost, and was applied originally to an eddy in the stream, where, it was said, there dwelt a large serpent, to see which was an omen of evil. On one occasion a man crossing the river at this point saw the snake in the water and soon afterward lost one of his children.

Morganton: On a rocky hill on the old Indian trail on the west side of Little Tennessee river, above and nearly opposite Morganton, in Loudon county, are, or were a few years ago, four trees blazed in a peculiar manner, concerning which the Indians had several unsatisfactory stories, the most common opinion being that the marks were very old and had been made by Indians to indicate the position of hidden mines.

Nashville: The state capital, in Davidson county. The Cherokee name is Dăgû′năwelă′hĭ, “Mussel-liver place,” which would seem to have originated in some now forgotten legend.

Nickajack: A creek entering Tennessee river from the south about 15 miles below Chattanooga. Near its mouth is a noted cave of the same name. The Cherokee form is Nĭkutse′gĭ, the name of a former settlement of that tribe at the mouth of the creek; but the word has no meaning in that language, and is probably of foreign, perhaps Chickasaw, origin. The derivation from a certain “Nigger Jack,” said to have made the cave his headquarters is purely fanciful.

Savannah: A farm on the north bank of Hiwassee river at a ford of the same name, about 5 miles above Conasauga creek and Columbus, in Polk county. Here are extensive remains of an ancient settlement, including mounds, cemetery, and also, some seventy years ago, a small square inclosure or “fort” of undressed stone. According to a tradition given to Wafford, the Cherokee once prepared an ambush here for a hostile war party which they were expecting to come up the river, but were themselves defeated by the enemy, who made a detour around the Black mountain and came in upon their rear.

Tennessee: The Cherokee form is Tănăsĭ′, and was applied to several localities within the old territory of the tribe. The most important town of this name was on the south bank of Little Tennessee river, halfway between Citico and Toco creeks, in Monroe county, Tennessee. Another was on the south side of Hiwassee, just above the junction of Ocoee, in Polk county, Tennessee. A third district of the same name was on Tennessee creek, the extreme easterly head of Tuckasegee river, in Jackson county, North Carolina. The meaning of the name is lost. It was not the Indian name of the river, and does not mean “Big spoon,” as has been incorrectly asserted.


For more important legends localized in Georgia see the stories Yahula, The Nûñnĕhĭ, The Ustû′tlĭ, Âgan-uni′tsĭ’s Search for the Uktena, and The Man who Married the Thunder’s Sister. White’s Historical Collections of Georgia is responsible for a number of pseudo-myths.

Chopped oak: A noted tree, scarred with hundreds of hatchet marks, formerly in Habersham county, 6 miles east of Clarkesville, on the summit of Chattahoochee ridge, and on the north side of the road from Clarkesville to Toccoa creek. The Cherokee name is Digălu′yătûñ′yĭ, “Where it is gashed with hatchets.” It was a favorite assembly place for the Indians, as well as for the early settlers, according to whom the gashes were tally marks by means of which the Indians kept the record of scalps taken in their forays. The tradition is thus given by White (Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 489, 1855) on some earlier authority:

Among the curiosities of this country was the Chopped Oak, a tree famous in Indian history and in the traditions of the early settlers. This tree stood about 6 miles southeast of Clarkesville, and was noted as being the Law Ground, or place of holding company musters and magistrates’ courts. According to tradition, the Chopped Oak was a celebrated rendezvous of the Indians in their predatory excursions, it being at a joint where a number of trails met. Here their plans of warfare were laid; here the several parties separated; and here, on their return, they awaited each other; and then, in their brief language, the result of their enterprise was stated, and for every scalp taken a gash cut in the tree. If tradition tells the truth, and every scar on the blasted oak counts for a scalp, the success of their scouting parties must have been great. This tree was alive a few years since when a young man, possessing all the prejudices of his countrymen, and caring less for the traditions of the Indians than his own revenge, killed the tree by girdling it, that it might be no longer a living monument of the cruelties of the savages. The stump is still standing.

Dead Man’s gap: One mile below Tallulah falls, on the west side of the railroad, in Habersham county. So called from a former reputed Indian grave, now almost obliterated. According to the story, it was the grave of an Indian who was killed here while eloping with a white woman, whom he had stolen from her husband.

Frogtown: A creek at the head of Chestatee river, north of Dahlonega, in Lumpkin county. The Cherokee name is Walâsi′yĭ, “Frog place.” The name was originally applied to a mountain to the northeast (Rock mountain?), from a tradition that a hunter had once seen there a frog as large as a house. The Indian settlement along the creek bore the same name.

Hiwassee: A river having its source in Towns county, of northern Georgia, and flowing northwestward to join the Tennessee. The correct Cherokee form, applied to two former settlements on the stream, is Ayuhwa′sĭ (meaning “A savanna”). Although there is no especial Cherokee story connected with the name, White (Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 660) makes it the subject of a long pseudo-myth, in which Hiwassee, rendered “The Pretty Fawn,” is the beautiful daughter of a Catawba chief, and is wooed, and at last won, by a young Cherokee warrior named Notley, “The Daring Horseman,” who finally becomes the head chief of the Cherokee and succeeds in making perpetual peace between the two tribes. The story sounds very pretty, but is a pure invention.

Nacoochee: A village on the site of a former Cherokee settlement, in a beautiful and fertile valley of the same name at the head of Chattahoochee river, in White county. The Cherokee form is Naguʻtsĭ′, but the word has no meaning in that language and seems to be of foreign, perhaps Creek, origin. About 2 miles above the village, on the east bank of the river, is a large mound. White (Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 486) quotes a fictitious legend, according to which Nacoochee, “The Evening Star,” was a beautiful Indian princess, who unfortunately fell in love with a chieftain of a hostile tribe and was killed, together with her lover, while fleeing from the vengeance of an angry father. The two were buried in the same grave and the mound was raised over the spot. The only grain of truth in the story is that the name has a slight resemblance to năkwĭsĭ′, the Cherokee word for “star.”

Nottely: A river rising in Union county and flowing northwestward into Hiwassee. The Cherokee form is Na′dûʻlĭ′, applied to a former settlement on the west side of the river, in Cherokee county, North Carolina, about a mile from the Georgia line. Although suggestive of naʻtûʻlĭ, “spicewood,” it is a different word and has no meaning in the Cherokee language, being apparently of foreign, perhaps Creek, origin. For a pseudo-myth connected with the name, see the preceding note on Hiwassee.

Talking Rock: A creek in upper Georgia flowing northward to join Coosawatee river. The Indian settlements upon it were considered as belonging to Sanderstown, on the lower part of the creek, the townhouse being located about a mile above the present Talking Rock station on the west side of the railroad. The name is a translation of the Cherokee Nûñyû′-gûñwani′skĭ, “Rock that talks,” and refers, according to one informant, to an echo rock somewhere upon the stream below the present railroad station. An old-time trader among the Cherokee in Georgia says that the name was applied to a rock at which the Indians formerly held their councils, but the etymology of the word is against this derivation.

Tallulah: A river in Rabun county, northeastern Georgia, which flows into the Tugaloo, and has a beautiful fall about 2 miles above its mouth. The Cherokee form is Tălulŭ′ (Tărurĭ′ in the lower Cherokee dialect), the name of an ancient settlement some distance above the falls, as also of a creek and district at the head of Cheowa river, in Graham county, North Carolina. The name can not be translated. A magazine writer has rendered it “The Terrible,” for which there is no authority. Schoolcraft, on the authority of a Cherokee lady, renders it “There lies your child,” derived from a story of a child having been carried over the falls. The name, however, was not applied to the falls, but to a district on the stream above, as well as to another in North Carolina. The error arises from the fact that a word of somewhat similar sound denotes “having children” or “being pregnant,” used in speaking of a woman. One informant derives it from tălulŭ′, the cry of a certain species of frog known as dulusĭ, which is found in that neighborhood, but not upon the reservation, and which was formerly eaten as food. A possible derivation is from a′tălulû′, “unfinished, premature, unsuccessful.” The fall was called Ugûñ′yĭ, a name of which the meaning is lost, and which was applied also to a locality on Little Tennessee river near Franklin, North Carolina. For a myth localized at Tallulah falls, see number 84, “The Man who Married the Thunder’s Sister.”

In this connection Lanman gives the following story, which, notwithstanding its white man’s dress, appears to be based upon a genuine Cherokee tradition of the Nûñnĕ′hĭ:

During my stay at the Falls of Tallulah I made every effort to obtain an Indian legend or two connected with them, and it was my good fortune to hear one which has never yet been printed. It was originally obtained by the white man who first discovered the falls from the Cherokees, who lived in the region at the time. It is in substance as follows: Many generations ago it so happened that several famous hunters, who had wandered from the West toward what is now the Savannah river, in search of game, never returned to their camping grounds. In process of time the curiosity as well as the fears of the nation were excited, and an effort was made to ascertain the cause of their singular disappearance, whereupon a party of medicine men were deputed to make a pilgrimage toward the great river. They were absent a whole moon, and, on returning to their friends, they reported that they had discovered a dreadful fissure in an unknown part of the country, through which a mountain torrent took its way with a deafening noise. They said that it was an exceedingly wild place, and that its inhabitants were a species of little men and women, who dwelt in the crevices of the rocks and in grottoes under the waterfalls. They had attempted by every artifice in their power to hold a council with the little people, but all in vain; and, from the shrieks they frequently uttered, the medicine men knew that they were the enemies of the Indian race, and, therefore, it was concluded in the nation at large that the long-lost hunters had been decoyed to their death in the dreadful gorge, which they called Tallulah. In view of this little legend, it is worthy of remark that the Cherokee nation, previous to their departure for the distant West, always avoided the Falls of Tallulah, and were seldom found hunting or fishing in their vicinity.34

Toccoa: (1) A creek flowing into Tugaloo river, in Habersham county, with a fall upon its upper course, near the village of the same name. (2) A river in upper Georgia, flowing northwestward into Hiwassee. The correct Cherokee form applied to the former settlement on both streams is Tagwâ′hĭ, “Catawba place,” implying the former presence of Indians of that tribe. The lands about Toccoa falls were sold by the Cherokee in 1783 and were owned at one time by Wafford’s grandfather. According to Wafford, there was a tradition that when the whites first visited the place they saw, as they thought, an Indian woman walking beneath the surface of the water under the falls, and on looking again a moment after they saw her sitting upon an overhanging rock 200 feet in the air, with her feet dangling over. Said Wafford, “She must have been one of the Nûñnĕ′hĭ.”

Track Rock gap: A gap about 5 miles east of Blairsville, in Union county, on the ridge separating Brasstown creek from the waters of Nottely river. The micaceous soapstone rocks on both sides of the trail are covered with petroglyphs, from which the gap takes its name. The Cherokee call the place Datsu′nalâsgûñ′yĭ, “Where there are tracks,” or Degayelûñ′hă, “Printed (Branded) place.” The carvings are of many and various patterns, some of them resembling human or animal footprints, while others are squares, crosses, circles, “bird tracks,” etc., disposed without any apparent order. On the authority of a Doctor Stevenson, writing in 1834, White (Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 658, 1855), and after him Jones (Antiquities of the Southern Indians, 1873), give a misleading and greatly exaggerated account of these carvings, without having taken the trouble to investigate for themselves, although the spot is easily accessible. No effort, either state or local, is made to preserve the pictographs from destruction, and many of the finest have been cut out from the rock and carried off by vandals, Stevenson himself being among the number, by his own confession. The illustration (plate XX) is from a rough sketch made by the author in 1890.

The Cherokee have various theories to account for the origin of the carvings, the more sensible Indians saying that they were made by hunters for their own amusement while resting in the gap. Another tradition is that they were made while the surface of the newly created earth was still soft by a great army of birds and animals fleeing through the gap to escape some pursuing danger from the west—some say a great “drive hunt” of the Indians. Haywood confounds them with other petroglyphs in North Carolina connected with the story of the giant Tsulʻkălû′ (see number 81).

The following florid account of the carvings and ostensible Indian tradition of their origin is from White, on the authority of Stevenson:

The number visible or defined is 136, some of them quite natural and perfect, and others rather rude imitations, and most of them from the effects of time have become more or less obliterated. They comprise human feet from those 4 inches in length to those of great warriors which measure 17½ inches in length and 7¾ in breadth across the toes. What is a little curious, all the human feet are natural except this, which has 6 toes, proving him to have been a descendant of Titan. There are 26 of these impressions, all bare except one, which has the appearance of having worn moccasins. A fine turned hand, rather delicate, occupied a place near the great warrior, and probably the impression of his wife’s hand, who no doubt accompanied her husband in all his excursions, sharing his toils and soothing his cares away. Many horse tracks are to be seen. One seems to have been shod, some are very small, and one measures 12½ inches by 9½ inches. This the Cherokee say was the footprint of the great war horse which their chieftain rode. The tracks of a great many turkeys, turtles, terrapins, a large bear’s paw, a snake’s trail, and the footprints of two deer are to be seen. The tradition respecting these impressions varies. One asserts that the world was once deluged with water, and men with all animated beings were destroyed, except one family, together with various animals necessary to replenish the earth; that the Great Spirit before the floods came commanded them to embark in a big canoe, which after long sailing was drawn to this spot by a bevy of swans and rested there, and here the whole troop of animals was disembarked, leaving the impressions as they passed over the rock, which being softened by reason of long submersion kindly received and preserved them.

War Woman’s creek: Enters Chattooga river in Rabun county, northeastern Georgia, in the heart of the old Lower Cherokee country. The name seems to be of Indian origin, although the Cherokee name is lost and the story has perished. A writer quoted by White (Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 444) attempts to show its origin from the exploit of a certain Revolutionary amazon, in capturing a party of Tories, but the name occurs in Adair (note, p. 185) as early as 1775. There is some reason for believing that it refers to a former female dignitary among the Cherokee, described by Haywood under the title of the “Pretty Woman” as having authority to decide the fate of prisoners of war. Wafford once knew an old woman whose name was Daʻnă-gâ′stă, an abbreviated form for Daʻnăwă-gâsta′yă, “Sharp war,” understood to mean “Sharp (i. e., Fierce) warrior.” Several cases of women acting the part of warriors are on record among the Cherokee.


The Cherokee have always been an agricultural people, and their old country is a region of luxuriant flora, with tall trees and tangled undergrowth on the slopes and ridges, and myriad bright-tinted blossoms and sweet wild fruits along the running streams. The vegetable kingdom consequently holds a far more important place in the mythology and ceremonial of the tribe than it does among the Indians of the treeless plains and arid sage deserts of the West, most of the beliefs and customs in this connection centering around the practice of medicine, as expounded by the priests and doctors in every settlement. In general it is held that the plant world is friendly to the human species, and constantly at the willing service of the doctors to counteract the jealous hostility of the animals. The sacred formulas contain many curious instructions for the gathering and preparation of the medicinal roots and barks, which are selected chiefly in accordance with the theory of correspondences.

The Indians are close observers, and some of their plant names are peculiarly apt. Thus the mistletoe, which never grows alone, but is found always with its roots fixed in the bark of some supporting tree or shrub from which it draws its sustenance, is called by a name which signifies “it is married” (uda′ʻlĭ). The violet is still called by a plural name, dinda′skwate′skĭ, “they pull each other’s heads off,” showing that the Cherokee children have discovered a game not unknown among our own. The bear-grass (Eryngium), with its long, slender leaves like diminutive blades of corn, is called sălikwâ′yĭ, “greensnake,” and the larger grass known as Job’s tears, on account of its glossy, rounded grains, which the Indian children use for necklaces, is called sel-utsĭ′, “the mother of corn.” The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) of our children is the “deer-eye” (aʻwĭ′-aktă′) of the Cherokee, and our lady-slipper (Cypripedium) is their “partridge moccasin” (gŭgwĕ′-ulasu′la). The May-apple (Podophyllum), with its umbrella-shaped top, is called u′niskwetu′ʻgĭ, meaning “it wears a hat,” while the white puffball fungus is năkwĭsĭ′-usdi′, “the little star,” and the common rock lichen bears the musical, if rather unpoetic, name of utsăle′ta, “pot scrapings.” Some plants are named from their real or supposed place in the animal economy, as the wild rose, tsist-uni′gistĭ, “the rabbits eat it”—referring to the seed berries—and the shield fern (Aspidium), yân-utse′stû, “the bear lies on it.” Others, again, are named from their domestic or ceremonial uses, as the fleabane (Erigeron canadense), called atsil′-sûñʻtĭ, “fire maker,” because its dried stalk was anciently employed in producing fire by friction, and the bugle weed (Lycopus virginicus), known as aniwani′skĭ, “talkers,” because the chewed root, given to children to swallow, or rubbed upon their lips, is supposed to endow them with the gift of eloquence. Some few, in addition to the ordinary term in use among the common people, have a sacred or symbolic name, used only by the priests and doctors in the prayer formulas. Thus ginseng, or “sang,” as it is more often called by the white mountaineers, is known to the laity as â′talĭ-gûlĭ′, “the mountain climber,” but is addressed in the formulas as Yûñwĭ Usdi′, “Little Man,” while selu (corn) is invoked under the name of Agawe′la in myths, as, for instance, that of Prosartes lanuginosa, which bears the curious name of walâs′-unûl′stĭ, “frogs fight with it,” from a story that in the long ago—hĭlahi′yu—two quarrelsome frogs once fought a duel, using its stalks as lances. In the locative form this was the name of a former Cherokee settlement in Georgia, called by the whites Fighting-town, from a misapprehension of the meaning of the word. Of the white clover, the Cherokee say that “it follows the white man.”

The division of trees into evergreen and deciduous is accounted for by a myth, related elsewhere, according to which the loss of their leaves in winter time is a punishment visited upon the latter for their failure to endure an ordeal to the end. With the Cherokee, as with nearly all other tribes east and west, the cedar is held sacred above other trees. The reasons for this reverence are easily found in its ever-living green, its balsamic fragrance, and the beautiful color of its fine-grained wood, unwarping and practically undecaying. The small green twigs are thrown upon the fire as incense in certain ceremonies, particularly to counteract the effect of asgina dreams, as it is believed that the anisgi′na or malevolent ghosts can not endure the smell; but the wood itself is considered too sacred to be used as fuel. In the war dance, the scalp trophies, stretched on small hoops, were hung upon a cedar sapling trimmed and decorated for the occasion. According to a myth the red color comes originally from the blood of a wicked magician, whose severed head was hung at the top of a tall cedar. The story is now almost forgotten, but it was probably nearly identical with one still existing among the Yuchi, former neighbors of the Cherokee. According to the Yuchi myth, a malevolent magician disturbed the daily course of the sun until at last two brave warriors sought him out and killed him in his cave. They cut off his head and brought it home with them to show to the people, but it continued still alive. To make it die they were advised to tie it in the topmost branches of a tree. This they did, trying one tree after another, but each morning the head was found at the foot of the tree and still alive. At last they tied it in a cedar, and there the head remained until it was dead, while the blood slowly trickling down along the trunk gave the wood its red color, and henceforth the cedar was a “medicine” tree.35

The linn or basswood (Tilia) is believed never to be struck by lightning, and the hunter caught in one of the frequent thunderstorms of the southern mountains always seeks its shelter. From its stringy bark are twisted the hunting belts worn about the waist. Sourwood (Oxydendrum) is used by the hunters for barbecue sticks to roast meat before the fire, on account of the acid flavor of the wood, which they believe to be thus communicated to the meat. Spoons and combs are also carved from the wood, but it is never burned, from an idea that lye made from the ashes will bring sickness to those who use it in preparing their food. It is said also that if one should sleep beside a fire containing sourwood sticks the sourwood “will barbecue him,” which may possibly mean that he will have hot or feverish pains thereafter.

The laurel, in its two varieties, large and small (Rhododendron and Kalmia, or “ivy”), is much used for spoons and combs, on account of its close grain, as also in medicine, but is never burned, as it is believed that this would bring on cold weather, and would furthermore destroy the medicinal virtues of the whole species. The reason given is that the leaves, when burning, make a hissing sound suggestive of winter winds and falling snow. When the doctor is making up a compound in which any part of the laurel is an ingredient, great precautions are taken to prevent any of the leaves or twigs being swept into the fire, as this would render the decoction worthless. Sassafras is tabued as fuel among the Cherokee, as also among their white neighbors, perhaps for the practical reason that it is apt to pop out of the fire when heated and might thus set the house on fire.

Pounded walnut bark is thrown into small streams to stupefy the fish, so that they may be easily dipped out in baskets as they float on the surface of the water. Should a pregnant woman wade into the stream at the time, its effect is nullified, unless she has first taken the precaution to tie a strip of the bark about her toe. A fire of post-oak and the wood of the telûñ′lătĭ or summer grape (Vitis æstivalis) is believed to bring a spell of warm weather even in the coldest winter season.

Mysterious properties attach to the wood of a tree which has been struck by lightning, especially when the tree itself still lives, and such wood enters largely into the secret compounds of the conjurers. An ordinary person of the laity will not touch it, for fear of having cracks come upon his hands and feet, nor is it burned for fuel, for fear that lye made from the ashes will cause consumption. In preparing ballplayers for the contest, the medicine-man sometimes burns splinters of it to coal, which he gives to the players to paint themselves with in order that they may be able to strike their opponents with all the force of a thunderbolt. Bark or wood from a tree struck by lightning, but still green, is beaten up and put into the water in which seeds are soaked before planting, to insure a good crop, but, on the other hand, any lightning-struck wood thrown into the field will cause the crop to wither, and it is believed to have a bad effect even to go into the field immediately after having been near such a tree.

Among all vegetables the one which holds first place in the household economy and ceremonial observance of the tribe is selu, “corn,” invoked in the sacred formulas under the name of Agawe′la, “The Old Woman,” in allusion to its mythic origin from the blood of an old woman killed by her disobedient sons (see number 3, “Kana′tĭ and Selu”). In former times the annual thanksgiving ceremony of the Green-corn dance, preliminary to eating the first new corn, was the most solemn tribal function, a propitiation and expiation for the sins of the past year, an amnesty for public criminals, and a prayer for happiness and prosperity for the year to come. Only those who had properly prepared themselves by prayer, fasting, and purification were allowed to take part in this ceremony, and no one dared to taste the new corn until then. Seven ears from the last year’s crop were always put carefully aside, in order to attract the corn until the new crop was ripened and it was time for the dance, when they were eaten with the rest. In eating the first new corn after the Green Corn dance, care was observed not to blow upon it to cool it, for fear of causing a wind storm to beat down the standing crop in the field.

Much ceremony accompanied the planting and tending of the crop. Seven grains, the sacred number, were put into each hill, and these were not afterward thinned out. After the last working of the crop, the priest and an assistant—generally the owner of the field—went into the field and built a small inclosure (detsănûñ′lĭ) in the center. Then entering it, they seated themselves upon the ground, with heads bent down, and while the assistant kept perfect silence the priest, with rattle in hand, sang songs of invocation to the spirit of the corn. Soon, according to the orthodox belief, a loud rustling would be heard outside, which they would know was caused by the “Old Woman” bringing the corn into the field, but neither must look up until the song was finished. This ceremony was repeated on four successive nights, after which no one entered the field for seven other nights, when the priest himself went in, and, if all the sacred regulations had been properly observed, was rewarded by finding young ears upon the stalks. The corn ceremonies could be performed by the owner of the field himself, provided he was willing to pay a sufficient fee to the priest in order to learn the songs and ritual. Care was always taken to keep a clean trail from the field to the house, so that the corn might be encouraged to stay at home and not go wandering elsewhere. Most of these customs have now fallen into disuse excepting among the old people, by many of whom they are still religiously observed.

Another curious ceremony, of which even the memory is now almost forgotten, was enacted after the first working of the corn, when the owner or priest stood in succession at each of the four corners of the field and wept and wailed loudly. Even the priests are now unable to give a reason for this performance, which may have been a lament for the bloody death of Selu, as the women of Byblos were wont to weep for Adonis.

Next to corn, the bean (tuya) is the most important food plant of the Cherokee and other southern Indians, with whom it is probably native, but there does not appear to be much special ceremony or folklore in connection with it. Beans which crack open in cooking are sometimes rubbed by mothers on the lips of their children in order to make them look smiling and good-tempered. The association of ideas seems to be the same as that which in Ireland causes a fat mealy potato, which cracks open in boiling, to be called a “laughing” potato. Melons and squashes must not be counted or examined too closely, while still growing upon the vine, or they will cease to thrive; neither must one step over the vine, or it will wither before the fruit ripens. One who has eaten a May-apple must not come near the vines under any circumstances, as this plant withers and dries up very quickly, and its presence would make the melons wither in the same way.

Tobacco was used as a sacred incense or as the guarantee of a solemn oath in nearly every important function—in binding the warrior to take up the hatchet against the enemy, in ratifying the treaty of peace, in confirming sales or other engagements, in seeking omens for the hunter, in driving away witches or evil spirits, and in regular medical practice. It was either smoked in the pipe or sprinkled upon the fire, never rolled into cigarettes, as among the tribes of the Southwest, neither was it ever smoked for the mere pleasure of the sensation. Of late years white neighbors have taught the Indians to chew it, but the habit is not aboriginal. It is called tsâlû, a name which has lost its meaning in the Cherokee language, but is explained from the cognate Tuscarora, in which charhû′, “tobacco,” can still be analyzed as “fire to hold in the mouth,” showing that the use is as old as the knowledge of the plant. The tobacco originally in use among the Cherokee, Iroquois, and other eastern tribes was not the common tobacco of commerce (Nicotiana tabacum), which has been introduced from the West Indies, but the Nicotiana rustica, or wild tobacco, now distinguished by the Cherokee as tsâl-agăyûñ′li, “old tobacco,” and by the Iroquois as “real tobacco.” Its various uses in ritual and medicine are better described under other headings. For the myth of its loss and recovery see number 6, “How They Brought Back the Tobacco.” The cardinal flower (Lobelia), mullein (Verbascum), and one or two related species are called tsâliyu′stĭ, “like tobacco,” on account of their general resemblance to it in appearance, but they were never used in the same way.

The poisonous wild parsnip (Peucedanum?) bears an unpleasant reputation on account of its frequent use in evil spells, especially those intended to destroy the life of the victim. In one of these conjurations seven pieces of the root are laid upon one hand and rubbed gently with the other, the omen being taken from the position of the pieces when the hand is removed. It is said also that poisoners mix it secretly with the food of their intended victim, when, if he eats, he soon becomes drowsy, and, unless kept in motion until the effect wears off, falls asleep, never to wake again. Suicides are said to eat it to procure death. Before starting on a journey a small piece of the root is sometimes chewed and blown upon the body to prevent sickness, but the remedy is almost as bad as the disease, for the snakes are said to resent the offensive smell by biting the one who carries it. In spite of its poisonous qualities, a decoction of the root is much used for steaming patients in the sweat bath, the idea seeming to be that the smell drives away the disease spirits.

The poison oak or poison ivy (Rhus radicans), so abundant in the damp eastern forests, is feared as much by Indians as by whites. When obliged to approach it or work in its vicinity, the Cherokee strives to conciliate it by addressing it as “My friend” (hi′gĭnaliĭ). If poisoned by it, he rubs upon the affected part the beaten flesh of a crawfish.

One variety of brier (Smilax) is called diʻnû′skĭ, “the breeder,” from a belief that a thorn of it, if allowed to remain in the flesh, will breed others in a day or two.

Ginseng, which is sold in large quantities to the local traders, as well as used in the native medical practice, is called âtalĭ-gûlĭ′, “the mountain climber,” but is addressed by the priests as Yûñwĭ Usdi′, “Little Man,” or Yûñwi Usdi′ga Ada′wehi′yu, “Little Man, Most Powerful Magician,” the Cherokee sacred term, like the Chinese name, having its origin from the frequent resemblance of the root in shape to the body of a man. The beliefs and ceremonies in connection with its gathering and preparation are very numerous. The doctor speaks constantly of it as of a sentient being, and it is believed to be able to make itself invisible to those unworthy to gather it. In hunting it, the first three plants found are passed by. The fourth is taken, after a preliminary prayer, in which the doctor addresses it as the “Great Ada′wehĭ,” and humbly asks permission to take a small piece of its flesh. On digging it from the ground, he drops into the hole a bead and covers it over, leaving it there, by way of payment to the plant spirit. After that he takes them as they come without further ceremony.

The catgut or devil’s shoestring (Tephrosia) is called distai′yĭ, “they are tough,” in allusion to its stringy roots, from which Cherokee women prepare a decoction with which to wash their hair in order to impart to it the strength and toughness of the plant, while a preparation of the leaves is used by ballplayers to wash themselves in order to toughen their limbs. To enable them to spring quickly to their feet if thrown to the ground, the players bathe their limbs also with a decoction of the small rush (Juncus tenuis), which, they say, always recovers its erect position, no matter how often trampled down. The white seeds of the viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) were formerly used in many important ceremonies of which the purpose was to look into the future, but have now been superseded by the ordinary glass beads of the traders. The culver root (Leptandra) is used in love conjurations, the omen being taken from the motion of the root when held in the hand. The campion (Silene stellata), locally known as “rattlesnake’s master,” is called ganidawâ′skĭ, “it disjoints itself,” because the dried stalk is said to break off by joints, beginning at the top. As among the white mountaineers, the juice is held to be a sovereign remedy for snake bites, and it is even believed that the deadliest snake will flee from one who carries a small portion of the root in his mouth.

Almost all varieties of burs, from the Spanish needle up to the cocklebur and Jimsonweed, are classed together under the generic name of u′nistilûn′istĭ, which may be freely rendered as “stickers.” From their habit of holding fast to whatever object they may happen to touch, they are believed to have an occult power for improving the memory and inducing stability of character. Very soon after a child is born, one of the smaller species, preferably the Lespedeza repens, is beaten up and a portion is put into a bowl of water taken from a fall or cataract, where the stream makes a constant noise. This is given to the child to drink on four successive days, with the intention of making him quick to learn and retain in memory anything once heard. The noise of the cataract from which the water is taken is believed to be the voice of Yûñwĭ Gûnahi′ta, the “Long Man,” or river god, teaching lessons which the child may understand, while the stream itself is revered for its power to seize and hold anything cast upon its surface. A somewhat similar ceremony is sometimes used for adults, but in this case the matter is altogether more difficult, as there are tabus for four or seven days, and the mind must be kept fixed upon the purpose of the rite throughout the whole period, while if the subject so far forgets himself as to lose his temper in that time he will remain of a quarrelsome disposition forever after.

A flowering vine, known as nuniyu′stĭ, “potato-like,” which grows in cultivated fields, and has a tuberous root somewhat resembling a potato, is used in hunting conjurations. The bruised root, from which a milky juice oozes, is rubbed upon the deer bleat, aʻwĭ′-ahyeli′skĭ, with which the hunter imitates the bleating of the fawn, under the idea that the doe, hearing it, will think that her offspring desires to suck, and will therefore come the sooner. The putty-root (Adam-and-Eve, Aplectrum hiemale), which is of an oily, mucilaginous nature, is carried by the deer hunter, who, on shooting a deer, puts a small piece of the chewed root into the wound, expecting as a necessary result to find the animal unusually fat when skinned. Infants which seem to pine and grow thin are bathed with a decoction of the same root in order to fatten them. The root of the rare plant known as Venus’ flytrap (Dionæa), which has the remarkable property of catching and digesting insects which alight upon it, is chewed by the fisherman and spit upon the bait that no fish may escape him, and the plant is tied upon the fish trap for the same purpose.

The root of a plant called unatlûñwe′hitû, “having spirals,” is used in conjurations designed to predispose strangers in favor of the subject. The priest “takes it to water”—i. e., says certain prayers over it while standing close to the running stream, then chews a small piece and rubs and blows it upon the body and arms of the patient, who is supposed to be about to start upon a journey, or to take part in a council, with the result that all who meet him or listen to his words are at once pleased with his manner and appearance, and disposed to give every assistance to his projects.