Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Puppies and the Kind Cherokee Indians

Lazy days on the Roan are most spectacular when I have our three grandchildren, Savannah, age six, Ryleigh, seven, and Emmett, now eight, up here with me at Bear Cabin. The only thing that would make it better would be if Chandler, our oldest at age 18, could be here having fun with us but he says he now prefers college life. Then there is our beautiful Baby Bowie Bruce, but he is much too small at age seven months to romp and play. He says he still prefers to be very near Mommy.
Chandler no longer has no interest in our Indian play because he still remembers when he was seven years old and Grandfather Don and I (Don and I were married during this time) spent every Friday night and a half day on Saturday's for six weeks with him on a thorough study of the Cherokee Indians, culminating with a trip to the Cherokee Nation in the Smokey Mountains. We had also studied the Trail of Tears so when we took the little fella to see this live drama on the last night we were there, it was not at all surprising to Don or me to see our tender hearted grandson’s tears flowing freely.

 So I at least did have three of my puppies with me on this beautiful sunny day... all with different personalities, temperaments and a willingness to throw themselves full-throttle into whatever hair brained idea Nana came up with.

The kids all woke up this particular day and it was decided we would play act being Cherokee Indians; After all, Nana did live in the Cherokee Mountains. So we first started with our best friend, Mr. Google, and then had a home school time of learning all we could regarding the Cherokee Indians. Next, we gathered everything I had (and there was a bunch of stuff) regarding all-things-Indian from around the cabin and out on the porches and we carried it all out into the back near the big river rock fire pit. Laying down three huge Indian blankets on the ground, we built our Cherokee home.

This was followed by all sitting Indian style on the blankets and each of my puppy’s chose an authentic Cherokee name and learned the significance of that name. Each child then was given a job, equivalent to the task they would have had as a Cherokee back in the 1800’s. The two girls were delighted to hear that the women held positions of great importance within the Cherokee tribes, equal to the men; some of the women were even warriors!

Once the duties were meted out, I then made the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. We would be sojourning over to the next mountain range and we were going to visit with the Indian tribe where I had noted smoke the morning before.  We needed to see if they were friend or foe. ***Now the smoke I had seen was coming out of the chimneys of two sets of new neighbors who had built cabins over the way; one couple was from Chicago, the other from Florida. I had met all but the wife of the fellow from Florida…all lovely people.  I had no idea how they would react to my approaching them with the children and I all dressed up like Indians with faces painted. But you never know until you try.***
I told the kids we were going to put on our painted faces, no, not with war paint, but the paint we would use to show we were coming in peace. Total chaos broke out and the excitement was overwhelming!  I told all to get in line and I painted each little face with bright colors of Indian symbols.
Finally we were ready. Each little Indian and I picked up a walking stick and off we went up the hill, past Trig's barn-with him staring at us like we were from outer space- and past the woods, crossing over Stanley Hollow and down Ruth’s Road into the little valley that would take us up the mountain to where the other ‘Indian Tribe’ was. I told them the Cherokee greeting for hello was Siyo (pronounced see-yoh) and as we approached we would greet with that word.

I guess the thing that surprised me most was how serious the kids were taking this whole thing. When curious Savannah would stop to inspect a pretty leaf or rolly bug along the route, her older cousin Emmett would bark at her. “Savannah! Stop it! This is not a trip to hunt bugs! We are going to check out the Indians who live over this way!” “Yeah”, Ryleigh would chime in, “This is important Savannah! We can hunt for nature later!” Surely these kids remembered we were play acting.

As we approached the first cabin where the couple from Florida lived, I was a little apprehensive to see Jim standing out on his front porch with a cup of coffee ? in his hand. The kids all shyly fell in behind me as I walked into his front yard and held up my hand and said, “Siyo! We are from the Cherokee Tribe across the mountain. We come in peace!”
God bless Jim’s heart. He immediately fell into the perfect role and reaction as he held up his right hand and said, “Siyo! I am peaceful as well. I am from the Cherokee tribe, too. My wife and I left our tribe in Florida and came to this mountain range to build us a new cabin to live in during the summer. We are your friends. My wife is not here. She is out gathering food.”
Flashing Jim a huge grin of appreciation, I introduced each of my grandbabies by their Indian names and then wished him well and told him we would travel on as we hoped to meet some of the others that lived up on this mountain. (I, on my end, was hoping to get the same wonderful response from the other couple. Plus, to be honest with you, I was glad that Jim’s wife was apparently at the grocery store as I did not relish meeting her looking this goofy. I had been told she was a school teacher and, as a former school board member, I was hoping that when we did meet, we could have a nice, adult conversation without me looking like an idiot with black, green, red, yellow and white Indian symbols all over my face.)
After bidding this 'friendly fellow Cherokee' farewell, my tribe ventured on up the trail toward the next cabin. As we started walking we saw this gorgeous woman coming toward us with a well-groomed little dog on a leash. Oh good grief! Surely this was not Jim’s wife! But…I was in too deep to dig out now. When she was abreast of us, I raised my right hand in traditional Cherokee greeting and in a very serious face asked if she was friend or foe. The children had gathered shyly around me again in a tight circle, staring intently to hear her answer.
This magnificent creature opened her gaping mouth further and with a very heavy Italian accent asked me what I meant. In shock, I told her we were from the Cherokee Tribe and was she Cherokee?
“I am not a Cherokee person! I am Italian! I am from Italy”, came her response filled with laughter. No one had mentioned that Jim's wife was from Italy for heaven's sake!

I simply could no longer go on with the ridiculous charade. Beet red under my heavily painted face, I extended my hand and introduced myself as her neighbor from Misty Hollow and the three little Indians with me were three of my five grandchildren. I told her I was a bit embarrassed to meet her under these circumstances.
She was so gracious, said she loved the play acting as she taught kids and hoped we were having a great time; in fact, running into us had made her day. She and I promised to get together soon and and I took my little tribe and wandered on up the road, thrilled my new friend has such a delightful sense of humor.
As we were headed toward the next cabin where the couple from Chicago lived, my little Savannah was unusually quiet; she looked sad. Since this is my grandbaby who wears her feelings on her sleeve, I wanted to get to the root of her problem. 

“Savannah, is something wrong sweetheart? Are you okay?” Now keep in mind here little Savannah always pronounced her letter 'C' with the 'S' sound.
“Yea, Nana. But I was just thinkin’ and wonderin’ why that woman is not Sherokee like her husband. That's sad."

Post Script:  Just as I was preparing to shoot this video prior to leaving on our trek across the mountain, all three of the children were grinning like 'possums.  I then told them in the olden days many Native Americans were wary of having their pictures taken and would not because they believed doing that could steal their soul and disrespect the spiritual world. I nearly became hysterical watching those grins disappear in a nanosecond and the serious looks cross their faces. 

Posted by Linda Blevins on Thursday, June 18, 2015


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