Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clans of the Cherokee, part 7 -- The Blue Holly Clan

7 clan chiefs
accompanied Sir Alexander Cumming to England in 1730
 representing every region in which the Cherokee then lived
So where did the notion of “clans” come from?  Here is an interesting explanation from Deputy  Principal Chief Hastings Shade of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma:
“… there was of a time when there were 14 Cherokee clans. Over the centuries, the Cherokee combined clans and opened them to captives and non-Indians. The tribe settled on the number seven to honor the seven directions: north, south, east, west, up, down, and center.  Before European contact, the clan was the most important affiliation of Cherokees which gave them their place in the tribe and in their world. Clan was passed from a Cherokee mother to her children. In the matrilineal kinship system, a Cherokee woman decided when and whom to marry. She could not marry a member of her mother's clan, who were considered blood relations, no matter how distant. After marriage, a man took his wife's clan.”
Some say that at one time there were over 80 clans.  Other accounts hold that there were less.  But, most accounts admit that there were once more than seven clans and the Chicamauga set up an extra bench at their dances to honor the missing clans that they consolidate under the “Lost Bear” clan. 
This account also comes from the Chicamauga website:
“One of the clans did not form into one of the tribes, but vanished completely. This was the Ani-Tsaguhi (People who-disappeared), which many believe were some of our people who went into the forest and willingly became bears in order to feed the people during a time of famine.
"It is taught among the Chickamauga that ALL Clans are part of the Bear Clan.
"Two other groups of relatives, the Susquehanna and Tuscarora, joined the Iroquois. The Iroquois moved north into the cold country and to the great lakes of the north.
The seven clans that remained became known as Ugaya (Seven clan Society.)”
Each of the seven remaining clans of the Cherokee has unique responsibilities in the tribe.   The Anisahoni , or the Blue Clan or Blue Holly Clan,  represented the Sky.   They taught the ways of the panther and wild cats and were sometimes also called the Panther or Wild Cat Clan.  Or, in some cases, the Panther, Wild Cat, and Bear were thought of as subdivisions of the Anisahoni. 
They taught  the importance of the ability to balance power,  truth, intention, physical strength, and grace in  pursuit of the seven levels of life achievement and fulfillment.  Their color is blue, their wood is ash and their flag is blue with white stars.
They were known for a children’s medicine that they produced from a bluish colored plant called the Blue Holly – hence the name.  They took care of medicinal gardens and specialized in children’s medicines.
According to “”, these are notable Surnames: A: Ableman, Alberty B: Baker, Ballard, Ballew, Bannon, Bear, Bearfield, Bearstriker, Beartracker, Bent Leg, Berrymann, Big Fellow, Blood, Blue, Blue Horse, Boling, Bradberry, Brown (Mary), Burns, Burns (Aky), Bushy, Buzzark C: Canaughkutt, Cane (Mary), Casteel, Chembers, Chiltoskie, Cornseen, Cowin Crouch D: Daniels, Dardiene, Dare, Deehee, Dog, Drowing Bear, Duck, Dull Knife F: Fawling (Nellie), Foreman G: Gains, Gates, Geegah Nundah, Gilideehee, GoForth, GoodPasture, Gray Horse, Green, Griss, Grundy H: Hair, Hamby, Hare (Jas), Heard, Highfield, Hobbs I: Inlow K: Kenoteta, Kickupp, Kinder, Kitchen, Kofft L: Lame Arm, Lewis, Lock, Long, Loudermilk, Lowery (Geo) M: Mackintyre, Mankiller of Settico, Marlin, McCoy, McKenney, McKinnley, Miller N: Niven O: Oconastota, Ooloostah, Oolutsa P: Peters, Pohatan Oolashela, Poor, Proper Q: Quatisis R: Rains, Raven (Collanagh), Ray, Red Hand, Revels, Roap (Sallie), Rogers, Rose, Ross, Roy S: Sagoni, Shallelock, Silver, Skallelock, Sriver-Walker (Elizabeth), Starr T: Tacitie, Talontaskee (Jenny), Thunduski Guneega, Toon, Turner W: Wadichacha, White Beaver Y: Yansa Gatoga, Yates, Young Z: ZillioƱ, Zion


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Truth in Politics

Every day during this political season, we are bombarded by political ads.  Most of them blasting the opposing candidate and most of them telling out-right lies about that person!   Isn’t it tiring?  Why wouldn’t telling the truth work?  Do they believe that we are so ignorant that we do not know or that they will not be vetted in the news media?
Charles Alexander Eastman
1858 -- 1939
For the Cherokee, to lie was unthinkable.   In fact, lying was punishable by death!  Charles Alexander Eastman (1858-1939), a Native American Physician and writer,  wrote,  “Such is the importance of our honor and our word, that in the early days, lying was a capital offense...The deliberate liar is capable of committing any crime behind the screen of cowardly untruth and double dealing….[He was] summarily put to death that the evil may go no further.” 
Well, that would change things, wouldn’t it?  The ancient Cherokee believed that you told the truth or you remained silent.  Sort of like Mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”  For the ancient Cherokee, silence was valued also.  Speaking was a privilege not to be abused.   It was sometimes confounding for the white man who tried to “deal” with Native Americans.  Benjamin Franklin put it this way:

Benjamin Franklin
1706 -- 1790

“The politeness of these savages in conversation is indeed carried to excess, since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid disputes, but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries who have attempted to convert them to Christianity, all complain of this as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the Gospel explained to them and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation; you would think they were convinced. No such matter. It is mere civility.”
So, what if political ads had to follow the same restrictions put on drug ads and had to state the facts and repercussions at the end of the ad?   At least then, we could get a big laugh out of it like we do the drug ads!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Inconvenient Arrogance, part 3 -- Moche

Around twelve-hundred years ago, in the northern part of Peru along the coastline between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountains, there lived a very highly developed civilization that we call the “Moche” or “Mochica” today.  They are famous for their ceramic art which include life-sized portrait heads of people, 3-D reliefs of people and animals on walls and their incredible platform-style pyramid temples that towered hundreds of feet above the valley floor built with adobe bricks.
According to climate research, from the time of Christ until around 500 a.d. the climate of the world was moderately warmer than normal, similar to now.  Winds would push moisture from the ocean over the Andes mountains where snow melt and rain storms would fill the rivers flowing down through the valleys back to the ocean.   This time coincides with the Middle Moche period, (ca AD 300-400) when the Moche culture began to flourish.   In the spring, rivers would overflow depositing fertile silt for planting.  They built an extensive network of canals which greatly increased their production of corn, beans, squash, avocado, guavas, and chili peppers. Llamas, guinea pigs and ducks were domesticated.   Great cities were built to store and manage the surpluses.   They became expert weavers, potters, and metallurgists and traded for precious stones and shells with cultures far away. 

Moche Sacrificial Ceremony
The Drinking of Blood
A large, powerful aristocracy developed to manage the ever increasing abundance and wealth of the culture.  The priesthood, largely responsible for determining when to plant and when to harvest, also grew ever more powerful.  Times were good and we see the evidence of how masterfully the aristocracy planned and managed their culture in the meticulously planned cities.  Two large pyramid-temples sat on either side of the well-organized cities complete with residential zones, cemeteries, storage facilities, and craftsmen’s workshops.  The pyramid-temples served as palaces, administrative centers, ritual meeting places topped by platforms with large patios, chambers and hallways, and the throne(s) of the ruler(s).

Then it happened!  The climate changed dramatically starting in 536 A.D.!   An event so catastrophic that it was recorded around the world by many different cultures!  Procopius, a Byzantine historian, wrote, “during this year a most dread portent took place.  For the sun gave forth its light without brightness … and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.”  The event is also borne out in tree rings from Sweden, Finland, Chile, and in the U.S. Sierra Nevadas.  And also ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show evidence of extensive acidic dust.  Theorists propose that perhaps a massive volcanic eruption or a meteorite collision with earth could have deposited the acidic dust into the atmosphere causing a sudden and worldwide cool-down that would last for another two-hundred years and coincided with the Dark Ages in Europe.
The Moche people were reaching their peak.  They were living in a time when the climate was mild, rainfall was plentiful, and times were good.  The priests and the kings took the credit for the good times and they rose to unprecedented power and wealth.  The Moche built enormous temples rivaling the Temple of Hepshetsut in Egypt.  Hundreds of these massive pyramid/mound temples are now being unearthed in Peru.  But when the climate suddenly and dramatically changed, the Moche were devastated by massive flooding.  According to Lonnie Thompson, “Nothing in the last 500 years compares to the size of that El Nino”!  It lasted for forty years and was followed by years of drought!
After that, the Moche culture turned ever more violent!   The brutality reached incredible and shocking proportions including sacrificing captured warriors, slicing the jugular of the defeated warriors and draining their blood.  The priests even tried drinking the blood.  But the more severe their sacrifices the more severe the weather!  It was relentless.  Eventually, the people lost confidence in their leaders and priests and destroyed them.  They moved out of the great cities and temples and left them to ruin.  The Moche have never tried to rebuild their great empire.
(Detailed descriptions of the Moche blood ritual are found on pottery and in murials known as the “Warrior Narrative”)
The Moche people and their leaders had fallen into the belief that their actions could somehow influence the climate.  That inconvenient arrogance drove them to extraordinary lengths and eventually, I believe, brought down their culture!

Continue to Part 4
Courtney Miller

Also read my article  in "Inside Peru"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Inconvenient Arrogance -- Part 2

When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.
-- David Hume

The Power of the Astronomer

Mayan Observatory
Today, astronomy is just one of the sciences and most people are, at best, fascinated by the night sky and the advancing sun and moon.  But throughout ancient times, the astronomer was critical to agricultural societies.  Someone had to watch the sunrises and sunsets, or the changing star patterns, or the moon cycles to determine the seasons for planting and harvesting.

Different cultures developed very sophisticated methods for tracking these phenomena.  And it appears that as the astronomers got better at their craft, they also acquired more and more importance, and, therefore, more and more power in the society. 
Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, NM
Anasazi Observatory

Sun Dagger marking the summer solstice
Atop Fajada Butte

There was a pattern.  At first, the astronomer(s) earned their keep in the community and they basically provided calendric information.  Initially, it was the planting seasons, then the timing for ritual celebrations.  Over time, their function branched out and they began to study weather patterns and gained skills in prediction.  And, finally, the step that man seeks in all of his activities – control.  The ability to not only predict the weather but determine the weather – cause it to rain, etc.  Most societies recognized a greater force controlling climate – God or gods, spirits.  The astronomy class gained great power by being able to connect and communicate with the higher forces and eventually, influence the gods.  It elevated the astronomer/priests, in some cases, to the level of gods.
Over time, with the climate stable and year-after-year of the same weather cycles, the credit for the stability shifted to the astronomer/priests.  And the leaders were credited for the successful crops and the bountiful harvests and the glorious way of life created.

But, of course, climate invariably changes.  And when the astronomer/priests were unable to stop the change or correct the droughts or bring on rain, they faced a huge dilemma and the threat of losing their place in the society.  So, when they failed to influence the gods, they blamed the society itself for offending the gods by their offensive actions.  Society had offended the gods and must make amends.  Greater and greater penances had to be paid to “right the wrong” and gain back the favor of the gods.

In many societies, it was even human sacrifices.  In some cases, captured enemies were sacrificed to appease the gods.  In some cases, the most precious of all assets in the community, the virgins were sacrificed.  When, in the end and over time, it was proven that, alas, the priests did not have control of the elements, or influence over the gods, often the entire society failed.  The grand cities and temples built by the arrogant leaders and priests were abandoned or destroyed and the leaders and priests vanquished.

Continue to Part 3

-- Courtney Miller