The Cherokees represented the largest Southeastern tribe when the white invaded their land. At that moment, the Cherokees had a population size of about 20,000. Besides, the Cherokees had occupied nearly 40, 000 square miles of land, as they neighbored the Creeks as well as the Chickasaw. It was Desoto, a Spanish explorer who discovered the Cherokee territory at around 1540. Desoto and his group were in search of new settlements, and they decided to seek some there, which happens to be the present-day highlands of North Carolina and Georgia. The title of "Cherokee" can be interpreted as the "cave people" and that term has survived to the present even though it bears no meaning in the Cherokees' language.
Cherokee Culture and Traditional Beliefs
The Cherokee tribe had a unique traditional culture and belief system that constituted a wide range of rituals and ceremonies, which they made sure to uphold dear. The Cherokees considered themselves to be the "principal people", and that can be attributed by the fact that they represented the largest Southeastern Indian tribe at that time of white contact. Such a self-image upheld by the Cherokee was significant in their original belief system. Early Cherokees never worshipped personages; instead, they had a conventional belief system that was quite different from Christianity. For instance, according to the Cherokees, believed the earth to be a compact green island which floats in a sea of water. They also thought that the sky was like a vault made of solid rock. As per this belief, the earth was held to the sky with the help of four cords, attached to all the corners of the earth. In their vast land, the Cherokees considered themselves as the principal people, and their beliefs were quite interesting when compared to the Christian beliefs.
The Christian concept regarding heaven and earth faced severe opposition from the Cherokees themselves in the early 1500s. Even before the enlightenment and exploration era, the Catholic Church also believed the earth to be flat, surrounded by water. According to the Catholics, they found heaven to be immediately above the earth, meaning that they interpreted the entire system to be a concrete structure. Therefore, it can be seen that the belief upheld by the Cherokees and the Catholics bore some commonalities. The most significant difference between the two faiths was regarding the objects of worship. The Cherokees believed in nature, whereas the Catholics believed in Christ. Like other Indian groups, the Cherokees developed absolute respect for nature for it played a significant role in their survival. Most creatures, ranging from the bee, wolf, bear, crow, plants, fish, and even the terrain such as rivers, valleys, and mountains were essential to the Cherokees' belief system as well as social structures. According to the Cherokees' beliefs, they accredited the nature plus its inhabitants for making the earth. They believed these creatures to be supernatural, like the white man's God. From this, it can be deduced that the Cherokees considered nature to be a potent entity.
Discussion of Cherokee Rituals
According to James Mooney (1900), since the beginning of knowledge, fire and water happen to be the most considerable measure of a man's religious thought. Water and fire were indeed the gods of every existence, therefore forming a foundation of most rituals among the Cherokees. The Cherokee river cult happens to be one of the most exceptional rituals as per the American folk-lore. Furthermore, in the Cherokee ritual, the river is the Long Man, which symbolises a giant with his head located at the top of the mountain while the feet located at the foothill of the mountain, and areas around the lowlands. The river flowed throughout, and non-stop, with some Cherokees believing that the river murmured in languages only the priest could interpret. During sacred occasions, such as during the birth of an infant, in health and sickness, in war and love, in hunting and fishing, to ward off evil spells, the priest initiated prayers and fasting.
Purification was done in the river, and it was a part of almost every tribal activity. Since the river was an essential element in the Cherokees' culture, most of the town-houses during the ancient days were established closer to the river banks. Kalptrick (1901) speaks of ceremonial rituals about the water from the river. Water was in some cases, used by traditional doctors within the community, and it had to be dipped out from a waterfall. The standard form of using the water during the ritual involved "plunging into the water", which resembles the sprinkling of water in the modern-day baptism process. During the ceremony, the priest locates a bend in the river in which he can face the eastern direction and look upstream when performing the service. Besides, the ritual takes place at sunrise with the priest as well as the petitioner being in the act of fasting.
Furthermore, when a child is born, four days later, the mother hands over the child to the priest, who holds the child in his arms down to the river. Upon reaching the river, the priest stands next to the edge of the river and faces the direction of sunrise, bends towards the water seven times as though wanting to plunge the infant into the water. However, the priest is always cautious to ensure that the child does not touch the water as it usually is frigid. During the process, the priest recites a silent prayer while holding his breath. The prayer recited involves praying for the child to be granted a healthy, long life as well as future prosperity. Upon completion of the prayer, the child is handed over to the mother, who rubs the face and breast of the child with water from the stream. In scenarios where the ceremony cannot be initiated on the fourth day, the ceremony is postponed to the seventh day because as per the Cherokees' culture, the number four and seven are sacred.
According to James Mooney (1900), the Cherokees who were religiously attached had a high accord for the emergence of a new moon. It meant that all family members would head down to the river at daybreak. Upon reaching the river, they would be fasting, so they stand bare feet in the river touching the water. The priest, or the father of the family if properly instructed, recites a prayer while standing behind the family members. The prayer is recited in turn for each member, after which they get into the water and bathe their whole bodies. This was considered a necessary ritual to bless the family and protect people from evil spells bestowed upon them.
In another research, Herndon (1973), it is realized how majority of the games played by the Cherokee outlasted different functions related to them. At present, with the out of date quality of the local conviction framework and its regular cycles, some customary games have vanished. A couple, similar to lacrosse, have turned out to be secularised. In uncommon cases, the connection of game to service was reliable to such an extent that the game was transferred into another religious setting when the Cherokee changed over to Christianity. For instance, traditionally the bushel bones-game was played on the last night of a noteworthy calendric interim (winter solstice), on the night before the Eagle Dance. At the point when every single other hint of the old custom cycle had been surrendered, the crate game was as yet played on New Year's Eve in Christian family units. It has now and again been proposed that all games started as custom, and were then secularised into gambling and entertainments. The Cherokee gives an uncommon case, where the first idea of the games is still evident, and the change from religion to the game can be followed and comprehended.
All these rituals were essential to the Cherokee community, although the invasion of the whites into the native lands of the Cherokee brought numerous changes to their rituals. Cherokee games were also a crucial part of the ritual sequences until recently. Such games have failed to survive and are poorly documented, except for two significant games which can still be studied; these are basket dice and ball games. Most of the rituals practised by the Cherokee community were altered because of the modernisation and white invasion, even though some of the rituals still resemble the previous ones. Modern-day baptism adopted by the Cherokee Christians can be traced to the river cult rituals they used to practice long ago.
Cultural Revitalization Movements Across the Continent
Revitalization movement incorporates a coordinated, deliberate as well as a conscious effort by the members of any society for construction of a more satisfying culture (Wallace, 1956). Therefore, from the cultural standpoint, revitalisation entails a special kind of culture change phenomenon were those involved in its process are to perceive their culture or part of it as a system. According to Wallace (1956), there must be a critical feeling that the cultural feeling is unsatisfactory and hence there ought to be means of innovating not merely discrete items but new cultural systems giving specifications of the new relationships as well as unique traits.
The classic culture change process, i.e. evolution, diffusion, historical change and acculturalization all produces differences in cultures as systems (Wallace, 1956). However, there is no dependence on the members of the society's deliberate intent but rather on a gradual chain effect. The process is a continuous one where it continues for years, centuries, millenniums, generations and also its pervasiveness has resulted in many cultural theorists regarding the change in culture as a slow, chain-like as well as self-contained procession involving the superorganic inevitabilities (Willow, 2010). In cultural revitalisation, the human society is regarded as particular kind of an organism, and also its creature is conceived as those patterns of a learned behaviour whereby certain parts of the system or social organism (groups of persons or individual persons) characteristically display. A result of the organismic similarity is the standard of homeostasis: that a general public will work, by methods for facilitated activities (counting "social" activities) by all or a portion of its parts, to safeguard its respectability by keeping up an insignificantly fluctuating, life-supporting lattice for its individuals, furthermore, will, under pressure, take crisis measures to protect the consistency of this lattice (Willow, 2010). Stress is characterised as a condition wherein some part, or the entirety, of the social creature, is compromised with pretty much genuine harm.
It is important to note that in cultural revitalizations across the continent, there exists a critical difference between the social organisation principles as well as that of a person: the parts of any society are very widely interchangeable while the person's parts are slightly so. It is accordingly practically fundamental for each individual in the public arena to keep up a mental picture of the general public and its way of life, just as of his own body what is more, its conduct regularities, to act in manners which lessen worry at all degrees of the framework (Willow, 2010). The individual does, indeed, keep up such a picture. This mental picture I have called "the maze way," since as a model of the phone body personality-nature-culture-society framework or field, sorted out by the person's very own involvement, it incorporates view of both the labyrinth of physical objects of the earth (interior and outer, human and nonhuman) and furthermore of the manners by which this labyrinth can be controlled by oneself and others so as to limit pressure.
The term cultural revitalisation movement hence den...
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