September is upon us! Welcome to fall in our neck of the mountains. Leaf season is right around the corner and with cooler weather predicted, fall will be upon us!
Let me begin by sharing with you a short story. Last month we talked about a book “Our Heritage” written in 1955 by Margaret Walker Freel that was available in our local museum. I went to purchase a book for my wife, and as I entered the museum Teresa, the curator, was on the phone with a client of mine who was ordering the book! She told me she had had many calls about the book and had sold 8 copies so far! She was thrilled and so was I to hear that my clients were helping support a small business in Murphy! Teresa was gracious enough to offer a free guided tour for me and my wife, of the museum when the restrictions are lifted. I can’t thank you all enough for your interest in and support of this wonderful museum located right in our downtown! I hope when you visit or if you live here, when you have visitors, that you take the time to explore this lovely place.
I’m going to us the same book to talk a bit about the Cherokee that inhabited this area for centuries before the white settlers arrived. Margaret Walker Freel described the Cherokee as “sons of the forest and the rightful lords of the soil.” Her theory and actually several others also, is that the Cherokee are thought to be of Hebrew origin because they were very religious and share in the worship of one God, The Great Spirit” and share some similar rituals. Others claim the Cherokee came across the land bridge at the Bering Straits and are of Chinese ancestry. They also shared similarities of the Asian language and legends. It is interesting to note that many tribes inhabited the North Carolina but the Cherokee were primary in western North Carolina. They covered an area south to Atlanta and as far north as southern Pennsylvania.
Desoto was here in the 1540s and found the Cherokee to be hospitable and friendly. Desoto spoke of being lodged on a mound near the Peachtree area. Those mounds have not been fully studied but what has been found dates back to the Archaic period, 8000 to 1000 B.C.!
The Cherokee Nation have had their own system of government for centuries. Back in the day it was located in Echota, in east Tennessee. Even today The Eastern Band of Cherokee still elects their own Principal Chief. In 1821 Sequoyah invented the Cherokee alphabet. Today in town of Cherokee, efforts are underway to continue the spoken language of the Cherokee. Preschoolers are immersed in the language all day and this continues thru the upper grade levels. This will keep the old ways alive and the language a living and spoken word.
We can’t ignore the treaty of 1835 that called for the removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands. This treaty was signed by a small fraction of Indians as over 16,000 signed a petition opposing removal. The Trail of Tears is “indeed a tale of shame.” At the time of the removal, the Cherokee were living in harmony with their neighbors. They were rounded up and forced off their land. Read the story of Junaluska. You can visit his grave in the town of Robbinsville. I urge you to read about this time in our history as the trail began here in the Murphy area. The Cherokee are still an important part of this community and will be for generations to come. Many local families claim Cherokee ancestry and rightfully so.
Maybe next time we will talk about fairly crosses, water dogs and the giant leech!
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