Cherokee Stories

‘Cherokee Stories’
by Watt Spade and Willard Walker
English Tranlations
reprinted in the Cherokee Observer
Vol.3, No.2 — February 1995

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English Translation

          In the old days the Cherokees all used to have just one name; but back when everybody had to get enrolled, they had to give two names before they were given a roll number. That was so there would be no confusion about people with the same name. Well when people went down to enroll they would pick out just anything for a second name, because they thought it was all just some sort of whiteman’s joke anyway. I guess that’s how the Drywaters and Rattlinggourds and Roastingears and Nakedheads and Dreadfulwaters all got their names.
One time there was a whiteman that came and hired a crew from around here to work on a government project. We all went down to work the first morning and that whiteman had a list of roll numbers and we were all supposed to give him our names, so he could write them down in his book. Well, he read out the first number and Crabgrass Gritts gave him his name. Then he read the second number and Chickadee Augerhole gave his name. Then he read the third number and Groundhog Rooster told him his name. That was when that whiteman quit writing and said, “Now come on, you fellows, this is a serious business. I’ve got to have your real names to put down here; and I don’t want you fooling around and stringing me along like that.
Well, after a long time we got him quietened down so he believed that all those names were real names, sure enough. So then he called out the fourth roll number, and I don’t remember now if it was Hawkshooter Pigeon or Birdtail Nofire that answered. Come to think of it, it might have been that old man Peacheater Peacheater.

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English Translation

One time there were four boys who were out in the woods playing. All of a sudden they saw an enormous turtle go by. The boys thought it would be fun to get on that turtle and go for a ride, so they all jumped on and went riding.
After a while they came to an old man and he told them to get off, that they shouldn’t be riding that turtle like that. They didn’t get off though. They said they were having a lot of fun and that they were having a lot of fun and that they wanted to ride that turtle some more. The old man begged and pleaded with them to get off. He said that the turtle was headed for the sea and that they should get off right away; but the boys, said everything would be all right, that if the turtle went into the sea, they would jump off in plenty of time. So they rode along to the west and the old man followed along behind.
When the turtle came to the sea the boys decided to jump off, but they couldn’t. Their feet had got stuck to the turtle..and they were carried down into the seas. When he saw that the old man hurried down to the seashore and made some medicine. That medicine dried up the sea, so the boys were saved.

2[o qwd’ #*e

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English Translation
          A long time ago, before the whiteman came and when the people were all full Cherokees, they had power, because they weren’t all mixed with whites like they are now. One time there was a sickness around and a lot of people were dying. They didn’t know what to do. But they looked around and they could see beautiful mountains everywhere and beautiful birds flying; and in the water there were beautiful fish that were good to eat, but if you took them out of the water they could die. The people thought there must be something wrong, because they were dying and yet there were good things everywhere.
After a while the people decided that there had to be someone who made all this, and they thought that they should send someone to look for HIM and find out what to do about the sickness that was killing everyone. So they picked out seven wise men who had everyone’s respect, honest men who wouldn’t lie to them. Those men went off to the east, not knowing exactly where they were going, but looking for the ONE who made everything, to find out what to do about the sickness.
After a while they went over a little gap in the mountains and came to a beautiful valley with mountains all around. They went down to the center of that valley and spread out a deer hide they had that was all fixed with designs that told the story of the Cherokee People. Then they took out a pipe and smoked and they all blew smoke on the deer hide about four times.
Then pretty soon they heard the thunder rolling through the mountains all around them. It went around like that about four times. They could see the lighting flash as the thunder went around them.
Then there was a roaring up in the mountains that sounded like lions. Then the lions went all around them through the mountains about four times. They could hear the lion’s feet pounding in the mountains as they went around.
Then there was another roaring in the mountains and they heard a voice say, “Who are you looking for?” And the wisemen said they were looking for the ONE that made everything. The voice spoke again and said, “Why are you looking for him?” They said, “There is a lot of sickness and the people are dying. We want to know what to do for the people.”
Then the voice spoke again and said, “I am the ONE you are looking for. I created everything. And the medicine for the sickness is everywhere you look, all around you. There is medicine in the bark of the trees, and in the weeds that have leaves and roots, and in the berries.”
Then the seven wisemen went back to the people. They could see medicine everywhere. They looked, all along the way.




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wf8, ^hkAZ  vn6o, 1966
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English Translation
          Before they made the Cherokee Nation a part of the state of Oklahoma, back in 1907, the Cherokees ran everything themselves. They had their own courts, their own school system, and their own legislature. The Cherokee legislature did everything in two languages, Cherokee and English; and there used to be interpreters to translate everything from one language to the other. These interpreters were much respected by the people, because what they said was true. One of the interpreters was a man called Ned Christy. He was a good and honest man; but he got into a lot of trouble because he never walked away from a fair fight.

          My mother told me about him. She was Ned’s own sister. My mother was ten years in 1889. That was when Ned got into trouble. He met a U.S. Marshal at that little branch that runs between the college and Tahlequah. There wasn’t any bridge then, just a plank for people to across on. Ned was going into Tahlequah, where he lived when the legislature was in session. He met the Marshal coming out of town. He told my mother that the Marshal came down to the branch where Ned was getting a drink, and cussed him and then drew and fired at him. He didn’t hit him though; and so Ned fired back and killed that Marshal.

          Ned figured the laws at Fort Smith [Arkansas] would come after him, so he went back in the hills near his father’s place over near Bidding Springs. The laws came after him all right; Ned had to stay on the scout all the rest of his life. They arrested another man, Ned Gritts, and tried him for the killing; but they let him go, because Ned Christy told everybody that he had shot that law in self-defense.

          About that time Ned’s aunt, Nanny Dick, testified in a whiskey trial against a man named Booger Sanders. Booger went over and shot Nanny Dick, although she was carrying a baby at the time. She died of the wound about a year later. Ned told my mother that someday they would get even. A little while after that there was a big dance at a house near Bidding Springs.
Booger Sanders went over there and shot the place up and ran everybody except for Ned. Ned went in there with Booger and they went for their guns; and Booger Sanders was killed.

          A while after that the laws came up on Ned’s house and they had a gun fight. They shot Ned through the head and he wounded one of them. Then the laws set his house afire; but the neighbors carried him out and took care of him. The people around there liked Ned and always tried to tell him when the laws came around.

          Then one time Ned was camped near a big pigeon roost near Vian where people used to go shoot pigeons. A man named Wilson Plone was camped near there, too. He was part Cherokee and part Mexican and was a gunfighter who had heard all about Ned and wanted to shoot it out with him. When he heard Ned was down there, he got his Winchester and said he was going out to kill Ned Christy but Columbus Crittenden heard him and went over to Ned’s camp and told him about it. So when Plone rode up with his Winchester Ned levelled down and shot him out of the saddle with his pistol.

          There was another gunfighter in Fort Smith that wanted to shoot it out with Ned, but Ned kept away from him until they happened to meet on the road one day. That man asked Ned if he was Ned Christy? Ned said, “Yes, I’m Ned Christy.” Then the man cussed at Ned and went for his gun. They were both on horseback and shooting wild, but finally Ned broke that outlaw’s shooting arm and made him turn and run. Ned kept right on shooting though, and killed him before he got away.

          After Ned had been scouting for two or three years, a big bunch of laws and soldiers came out from Fort Smith and got up around his house in the night. They had a cannon that would shoot right through that log house. The fighting started at daybreak and didn’t end til the next morning. The laws went up to the house pushing a wagon full of rails in front of them, and threw some dynamite inside and set the house afire. There wasn’t any wind, and the smoke drifted down along the ground around the house. Ned was out of ammunition, so he ran out through the smoke, trying to get away. There was a little old law hiding behind a tree out there. He let Ned run right by him and then shot him in the back of the head.

          My mother was only thirteen then. She said that Ned was a good man and never went looking for a fight. But he had killed four men who were fixing to kill him; so they kept after him until they got him.

2sh]”3  #4vkALm
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Gu 24w’@jY3 cmg #j8sc%JW3 h7 #je #S 2h7pje wYY{s q4v58je3 Yg4Ujx3 3shGf 2d 3Ygs(Ue3. 

English Translation
          It is told that, in the early days of the Old Nation, seven wise and holy men went together to a certain valley in the mountains to seek knowledge of the future. Of all the seven Clans of the Nation these seven men were the most truthful, most selfless, and most heedful of the needs and well-being of all the Tribe. They carried the medicine deerskin and medicine tobacco, and did all the holy things along the way. And when they came to this certain valley, they spread out the deerskin in the center and prayed, saying they came with humility, to seek truth and share it with the people. Then they blew smoke over the deerskin, each in turn, and they watched the smoke trails for a sign from God. And when this was finished, they went and prophesied to the people the marvels that had been seen; and one was that men would someday fly in the air; and another was that the tracks of the Cherokee would someday lead west to the valley of the Mississippi, never to return; and another was that there would be schools to knowledge to all the people. But a fourth prophecy said that in aftertimes young people would return from the schools, and point rudely to the old men of the Tribe, and say they were of no account because they knew nothing.

          The people considered this a long time, and wondered what great wisdom might be taught in these schools that the children should point to the old people and talk in this way.

shw rkg 2s*sjg YL 4jg m2 c(f 2UJ qs0je.
(It is free to all speakers of Cherokee)