Culture and History -  A Brief History OfThe Kituwah Mound  (88 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
 
From: ctj20103/8/08 1:40 PM 
To: All  (1 of 3) 
 2395.1 

Manataka American Indian Council


 

Sacred Sites Watch:

 

 

 

Kituwah Mound (NC) (Eastern Cherokee)

 

Introduction

 

 

In 1995 Kituwah Mound was much better known as Ferguson Fields. It had been used for many years as a place to grow corn, graze cattle, and was even used as an air strip. The small rise in the center of the field was plowed over time and again, rendering one of the most significant places to the Cherokee people nearly indistinguishable from the fields around it. In 1996, at the urging of a few, very dedicated activists like Tom Belt—a Cherokee man who recently returned to live in North Carolina— the Eastern Band of the Cherokee decided to purchase the 309 acre field in the interests of preserving the mound, an action that has created a debate both inside and outside the Cherokee community, about how to protect and honor the site.

 

History

Kituwah mound is nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina, near a fork in the Tuckasegee river. All around the field rise the tree-covered mountains, traditional home of many Cherokee people, “you feel as though you’re contained within it, sort of cradled by the whole thing,” Brett Riggs, Cherokee Historic Preservation officer said. The mound itself is now 170 feet in diameter and only 5 feet tall, only a small rise in the center of what looks like a farm field. Once, though, it was a much more impressive size, the foundation of a building which housed the sacred flame of the Cherokee that was kept burning at all times by a specially appointed leader who lived there. This flame was very much symbolic of the life of the Cherokee, and people from villages all around Kituwah came to light ceremonial fires with it. Fire, in fact, was so important to many Cherokee people that it became the word for ‘home.’

 

Now the mound is about nine miles from the Eastern Cherokee reservation (population 12,000) but at one time, it was the center of the earliest, and one of the largest Cherokee settlements.

 

Archeologists speculate that the Kituwah site has been inhabited for nearly 10,000 years and that once there were as many as 200 people living there. It was also a spiritual center of the larger Cherokee population, once as large as 36,000 people, who lived over a range of 140,000 square miles in what is now the Eastern United States. These people gathered in relatively small settlements like Kituwah, but maintained active communication between the communities.

 

In 1540, Cherokee people first encountered explorers from DeSoto’s expedition, which initiated one of the most tragic chapters in their history, marked by devastation by disease, constant fighting, and the eventual ceding of land to European colonizers. In 1823, the Cherokee people were evicted from the land that contains the Kituwah mound, and this sacred place was auctioned away. This cession was a small part of one of the most massive expulsions in United States history, of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole people, from the entire southeastern part of the country.

 

In 1827, in an attempt to resist the advance of European settlers, the Cherokee created a written constitution, formed a democratic government, and even established a newspaper, all in an effort to be declared a sovereign political body with full control over its own lands. However, neither any of the southeastern states, nor the United States Supreme court would recognize them as anything but tenants on government land. In 1831, the Cherokee were more successful in the Supreme Court, and earned a ruling that supported their sovereignty beyond state or federal law in the case Worcester v. Georgia. The court’s decision was, famously, inconsequential, as President Johnson refused to enforce the ruling. His preferred solution to the debate was the Indian Removal Act, which was initiated only a year after he came to office.

 

Initially, the process of removal was supposedly a peaceful and voluntary one, but as soon the Federal government encountered resistance, it quickly shifted their approach. In 1833 the government drafted the Treaty of New Echota ceding all of the Cherokee’s land east of the Mississippi, which was signed by only a few people, completely outside the system of ratification the Cherokee established six years earlier. Over 15,000 Cherokee signed a petition in protest, but to no avail. Shortly thereafter, the United States Army forced the migration of approximately 17,000 people to the Indian Territory, of which about one fourth died en route.

 

This removal fractured the Cherokee community, which dispersed as far away as Mexico. Most of the population, however, settled in Oklahoma, where a many people still identify as Kituwah. The very few people who escaped the expulsion remained in North Carolina, where the Eastern Cherokee reservation, and Kituwah mound, now stand.

 

Sacred Significance

One of the most sacred aspects of the Kituwah site is its proximity to the Tuckasegee river. Early Cherokee people settled there because water has always been a very important part of the Cherokee worldview, “The water is a living breathing thing. It has life, has spirit, and we honor him,” Dan Taylor, a representative of the Cherokee Museum, said. He elaborated: “The Cherokee were baptists before there were any Baptists,” in reference to a ceremonial purification in which every child took part, shortly after birth. The river’s ceremonial significance was also reserved for the end of life, when people would gather there for funeral prayer, and where, according to some accounts, the priest was able to tell whether the death was caused by witchcraft. It is likely that the placement of Kituwah mound was determined by the river, because where it stands the river bends and forks. This forking was crucial for early Cherokee, who used one side of the river for bathing and ceremony, and the other for drinking.

 

Kituwah mound itself is said to be the place where God came to give laws to humans. It is also the mythical the birthplace of the Cherokee people, a place from which smoke from an eternal fire emerged through a hollow cedar trunk. Tom Belt says of Kituwah, “This is the place where the people we call Cherokee began... They were directed by God to come here, and the very first fire was given to the people here... this place wasn't just a town--this was like the Vatican. This was the holiest of holies." The mound was primarily used as a sacred hearth, where a fire was kept burning all the time inside a structure built on top of it. People came from hundreds of miles, each year, to get fire from the hearth and bring it back to their communities. Often these people would also bring earth and ashes from their own hearths to add to the mound.

 

For these reasons, Kituwah is understood as the “mother town” and the place with which many Cherokee most closely identify, calling themselves Ani-kituwah-gi (people of Kituwah). Today, some Cherokee people see the site as a reminder of the unity of the Cherokee before their removal and dispersion. Recently some have reinitiated some of the ceremonial significance of the place, returning there to pray and notably, in 1998, to begin re-building the mound. Now, on top of the mound is a small patch of red dirt, from a ceremony, enacted by a group of Cherokee children under the guidance of Tom Belt, who reflected, “You’re talking about kids who can’t speak Cherokee, who watch TV all the time. All of a sudden they reach back in time and say that’s part of who we are. The very first rebuilding of the mound, it was the children who did it. Our ancestors are buried here. That’s what they needed to see. When we begin to do these things again, who we are begins to mean something again.”

 

Recent Debate

In 1996, when the opportunity arose, the Eastern Cherokee decided to buy back this land after nearly 165 years without it. Under the leadership of Joyce Dugan, the Chief at the time, the tribe used profits from its small-scale casino to purchase the 309 acre plot for 3.5 million dollars. This was a great victory for Cherokee across North America, though it sparked a debate in the community about what to do with the land. Because the land cost so much, many people were frustrated by the prospect of keeping it there “just to look at.” Much of the debate centered on trying to balance this perspective with the idea that the sacred nature of the land needed to be preserved, as many, like Marie Junaluska expressed: "I think we need to preserve Kituhwa because it was the mother town. We're searching to find a way to preserve it without digging it up.

 

To me that's a very sacred place. It's a very peaceful place. If you ever go there, you can feel the peace. The spirit that was there a long time ago is still there.” Still others believe that the land should absolutely remain untouched, that the possibility of development is out of the question.

 

However the opinion which has kept the debate active for so long, and which has attracted the most media attention, is that the site ought to be used to promote economic advancement.

 

Specifically, many argued for developing the land as some kind of tourist attraction. Proposals for Kituwah have included a train depot, culture center, Indian resort, walking trail, tourism project, golf course, and even a NASCAR track.

 

Councilman Larry Blythe is one man in favor of using the space for non-traditional purposes, as he is spear-heading the idea of golf course development. He and others feel that such construction could be designed around the most sacred areas at Kituwah. Dan McCoy, chairman of the Tribal Council, who negotiated the debate spoke in support of this idea, “there never has been any question of the need to protect...and anyone who wants to develop around them is going to have to work around them and prove to our satisfaction that they will be protected.”

 

But, people concerned that any development of the site would damage its spiritual and cultural significance were still dissatisfied. This group asked Brett Riggs, Deputy Historic Preservation Officer and staff member at the at the University of North Carolina, to see what an archeological examination of the mound could add to case for its preservation. One of the greatest motivators of the study, was the speculation that the mound was home to ancient burial sites. Tipped off by a nearby gardener who saw some fractured bones in a groundhog’s hole, the archeologists dug over one thousand, very small test holes. After this first investigation, they found 15 burials, and Briggs speculates that there could be many, perhaps even 1,000 more. This issue has rallied many people who were initially pro-development to think about Kituwah differently, as a visible and tangible connection to their cultural and religious history.

 

Because many people, including Riggs, were concerned that conventional archeological practices would be disruptive to the mound’s spiritual significance, most of the work done on Kituwah mound has been, at least partly, invisible. Riggs’ team employed the use of a gradiometer, a machine that can measure differences in the magnetic plane of the field. Using this instrument to carefully go over the ground at Kituwah, they hoped to map the area by evidence of scorched earth, which would mark the existence of hearths, hundreds of years old. The team’s project was very successful. The study produced grainy, black and white images, which depict the locations of many hearth sites, with one, very clear example at the center of the mound. Around this hearth, the images also depicted rings which marked the reconstructions of the ceremonial hut, which was rebuilt every 20 years. The earliest of the apparent rings dates as far back, Riggs thinks, as the 15th century. The team's imagery also uncovered burial sites in the area of the mound, and Riggs asserts that with further study more, perhaps thousands more, could be found.

 

As the tribe decides what to do with the land, this study with continue, with the gradiometer as its primary instrument because of the security it offers, "There will never be any focused archaeological excavation [at Kituwha]. It has too much immediate cultural and religious importance for us to even broach the issue," Riggs has said. The gradiometer’s images were published in the tribe’s newspaper and became a rallying point for Cherokee people interested in preservation from North Carolina to Oklahoma to Mexico.

 

Decisions

As of July 2004, although the precise fate of the land is still uncertain, this archeological investigation has been tremendously important in the process of identifying, specifically, the remains of the site’s religious and cultural significance. For many, the electronic mapping of the mound and the discovery of grave sites, in particular, made the decision not to undertake a high-impact development quite easy.

 

Since the archeological findings, there has been a resurgence in attention to the place as a cultural center. In 2000, for example, the Eastern Cherokee sponsored another youth retreat, the “Cultural Enrichment Program.” The outing was focused on Kituwah, and highlighted the sacred nature of the place for many young people who had never been exposed to more traditional ways of spiritual expression.

 

The process of re-examining Kituwah mound has been an example of the power of education in the preservation of sacred sites. For, recognition of historical significance has long been an important value for most Americans, and the more cultural and academic communities can discover and publicize this kind of significance, American Indian sacred sites will find another haven of protection. Also, the inclusion of archeologists into the process of the Cherokee’s movement toward preservation is quite significant. Since the passage of NAGPRA in 1990, these two groups have experienced considerable tension because of property debates, and the unwillingness of some museums and collections to return some sacred objects. The fact, thus, that they are working together at Kituwah, is decidedly promising, especially because the preservation of the mound, many feel, can be extremely valuable to both parties.

 

Source:

Prepared by Student Researcer Matt Hooley Updated on August 25, 2004

http://www.nativereligion.org/case_study.php?profile=73334

 

Other Resources:

http://www.cherokeenationmexico.com/kituwahmound.html

http://www.pluralism.org/research/profiles/display.php?profile=73334

http://www.yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/Cherokee/News2002/Aug2002/CNO020801YouthHonorPast.htm

http://www.cast.uark.edu/other/nps/nagpra/DOCS/nic0286.pdf

http://rla.unc.edu/Collections/NAGPRA_Summary.pdf

 

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From: ctj20103/8/08 1:44 PM 
To: All  (2 of 3) 
 2395.2 in reply to 2395.1 

CTJ:

I do hope such intra nations exchanges are continuing as well...

FYI...

''the People's Paths home page!''
Copyright © 2002 NLThomas
All Rights Reserved


Cherokee Youth Honor Their Past, Embrace Future
"CNO Youth Fulfill Hundred Year Prophecy"

Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, News
Cherokee News Path ~ Thursday, August 1, 2002

Copyright © 2002 CNO
All Rights Reserved


Cherokee Nation youth fulfill a one hundred year prophecy and walk on the Etowah Mounds, in Cherokee, NC.
TAHLEQUAH, OK - Sixty-two Cherokee Nation youth recently participated in a "Cultural Enhancement Program," jointly administered by the Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation. The program created opportunities for young Cherokees to discover the sacrifices, wisdom, history, stories, and culture of their ancestors.

"The breeze feels like it's the spirits of my ancestors welcoming us here", said Chase Murphy, participant, as he looks out across the mountains of North Carolina, surrounding the historic Etowah (Kituwah) Mound.

The youth participated in an eight-week activity program, prior to the trip. The program began with researching their native roots using the Dawes Roll books and looking up family land allotments. The youth learned Cherokee tribal history by listening to elders, looking up information on the Internet, visiting museums, and an introduction to the Cherokee language. A cultural camp was also included where the youth learned about the importance of herbs, plants, spiritual cleansing, as well as cultural gathering for crafts and tools. The youth learned how to make marbles, baskets, stickball sticks, pouches, finger weaving, beadwork, shawls and clay pottery. They also watched demonstrations on cornhusk dolls, plants and herbs, snakes, spiders, blowguns, shawl making, and storytelling. In addition to acquiring the skills the youth will in turn be asked to help with other camps to pass on that knowledge.

The gathering of natural materials, making crafts and tools, has turned into a profitable venture for some participants. The youth have been encouraged to sell their wares at the Cherokee Gift Shop.

The first part of the program prepared the youth to journey to where their blood relatives lived and died, including along parts of the Trail of Tears. They traveled to Cherokee, North Carolina on an eleven-day trip to interact with youth from the Eastern Band of the Cherokees. On the trip, the youth visited various sites such as the Vann House and New Echota, in Georgia, and the Junaluska grave site, Unto These Hills drama, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Village and Etowah Mounds in Cherokee, North Carolina. They participated with the Eastern Band youth in various craft and sport activities. There was also a Cherokee Challenge Bowl with the Eastern Band youth going up against the Oklahoma youth. The Oklahoma youth took home the trophy that features a hand-carved wooden eagle.

"I think we accomplished our goal to reach more community youth," Sharon Dry, community work manager, added, "the kids really remarked on what an impact the historic sites had on their life, and how walking on the same mound their ancestors walked on was a great experience."

"Tommy Belt spoke with the kids at the mound and told them we fulfilled a one hundred year prophecy that there would be a very large group come back and want to learn and teach too," said Dry, "he said there had been others come back, but not as many as this group."

"The trip was not only educational, but a lot of the participants made an emotional connection and felt like they were home again," cultural staff, Pam Bakke remarked, "they found relatives that they didn't know before."

"The end result is the area youth now have a better understanding of where they came from, and to respect themselves, elders, and to take pride in whom they are," Dry added, "I want to teach them that through our hardships and what our ancestors did for us that we have a greater purpose to succeed in life."


Related paths:

* Official Site of the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
* Cherokee Nation Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
"Official homepage of the Cherokee Nation Eastern
Band of Cherokee Indians, Western North Carolina."
* Welcome to the Cherokee Indian Reservation!
* The Museum of the Cherokee Indian
* Unto These Hills Outdoor Indian Drama
Oconaluftee Indian Village Cherokee, NC
* The Junaluska Museum and Memorial Site
Located on Junaluska Drive. Robbinsville, NC
* New Echota State Historic Site Calhoun, GA
(Cherokee capital)
* Chief Vann House Historic Site Chatsworth, GA
* Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site Cartersville, GA

Related contact information:

Mike Miller, Cherokee Nation
Director of Communications
Phone: 918-456-0671 (ext.2210)
Fax: 918-458-5580
E-mail: Communications@cherokee.org

Larry Daugherty, Advertising Manager
Cherokee Nation - Public Affairs
Phone 918-456-0671 (Ex.2324)
E-mail: ldaugherty@cherokee.org

Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
Attn: (Department Name)
P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465
Telephone: 918-456-0671
(Toll Free OK) 1-800-256-0671


| Cherokee News Path! |
| 'People's Paths NAIIP Internet BBS!' |
| "People's Paths Site Index!" |
  • Edited 3/8/2008 1:54 pm ET by ctj2010
 

 
From: ctj20103/10/08 10:15 AM 
To: All  (3 of 3) 
 2395.3 in reply to 2395.2 
 

The Mounds and the Constant Fire: The Old Sacred Things

Myths of the Cherokee As Told by Swimmer to James Mooney, 1887-1890.
Cherokee Mounds
Some say that the mounds were built by another people. Others say they were built by the ancestors of the old Ani Kitu’hwagi for townhouse foundations. 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 chie or priest who had lately died - some say seven chief men from the different clans - together with an Ulunsu’ti stone, an uktena scale or horn, a feather from the right wing of an eagle or great Tla nu wa which lived in those days, and heads 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.

Sacred Fire
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 Firekeeper, 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 atsil sun ti (fleabane), "the fire maker" 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 talks 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 galunkw it’yu "the honored or sacred fire." Sometimes when the fire in a house went out, the woman came to the Firekeeper, who made a new fire by rubbing an ihya’ga stalk against the under side of a hard dry fungus that grows along locust trees.

Some sat this everlasting fire was only in the larger mounds at Nikwasi, Kitu’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 Kitu’hwa during the Civil War, they saw smoke still raising from the mound.

Sacred Things
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 upside 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.



Copyright © 1996 The Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston
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