The excursion on Kate’s last day here was a trip to Cherokee. We drove through the town full of motels, tourist shops, eateries, and the huge casino. Our destination was the Oconaluftee Indian Village, where we arrived just in time for the demonstration of Cherokee dance. They had dances for bears, corn gathering, bulls, and several others. A man outside the circle chanted and beat a drum or shook a gourd as the Indians circled about. At the end, the audience was invited to participate in a dance that snaked about the inner square and stands were we sat. Nate and $ represented us. A guide took us around the craft areas where we saw people making belts, pottery, baskets, blow guns, arrow heads, and a canoe. We were on our own to look into log/clay houses and the council house.
I never thought about what Cherokee Indians sound like, and I found out they sound like me! They have Southern accents. The reason behind it is sad, though. Until recently children were punished in public school if they spoke Cherokee. Now that the language is almost extinct, Americans are urging them to preserve it.
As we were leaving, we walked past where the dancing had been and heard an older man’s lecture. He was fantastic. I wish I could remember all he spoke about. I always associated feathers with Indians, and he said that eagle feathers were used in sacred dances. They trapped eagles, removed a few feathers, and set them free again. Elements of dance included thanking the creator of the birds and the birds themselves. I knew white settlers brought the common cold which killed many Indians, but he listed others such as smallpox and influenza. Medicine men had been able to cure diseases before, but they tried all kinds of things against the new illnesses without success. The man spoke of body painting, saying the amount of black paint indicated the degree of anger involved. I was surprised at the drum he showed. It was made of pottery with animal skins stretched over both ends. Gourds were filled with seeds to make the rattle. He spoke of burial customs and housing, explaining carefully that now they live like normal Americans and are buried like us.
On the way home Nate picked up my hat as he got in the car and clapped it on top of his. We stopped by Jonathan Creek so that Kate could see the destination of my morning walk. She has been fighting a cold or allergies all week and didn’t feel well enough to go out early in the morning. Next year she may come later in the season.