Create a Family Storytime That Is Uniquely Cherokee

— Written By
Cherokee story

Photo Credit: EBCI Destination Marketing (visitcherokeenc.com)

While we are under ‘stay-at-home’ orders during this COVID-19 crisis, time with our families is something we are grateful to have an abundance of right now. How can you best utilize this family time to incorporate Cherokee culture? One simple way is to turn your family storytimes into something that is ‘Uniquely Cherokee.’

Cherokee stories have been used for thousands of years to explain significant events and the daily order of nature through an oral tradition. Below are three Cherokee stories that have been re-written by Chi Shipman, an EBCI 4-H volunteer, in modern English from the book ‘Myths of the Cherokee’ by James Mooney, published in 1902. This text can be accessed FREE of charge from Project Gutenberg.

Try out these activities with your kids to make your family’s Cherokee cultural time even better!

  1. Have a campfire in your backyard to tell stories around
  2. Have different members of your family ‘act out’ the stories while someone narrates them
  3. Create interpretative drawings about what happened in the stories
  4. Create picture books for different stories so your family can enjoy reading them for years to come
  5. Always remember to have a time to reflect on the story told where your family can say what they liked about the story and the personal meaning it has to them.

If you would like more opportunities to enjoy Cherokee storytelling, please join us for our 4-H Family Cultural Circle, Tuesdays at 1 p.m. on Zoom. Contact Sally Dixon at srdixon@ncsu.edu or 828-359-6936 for more information!

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THE MILKY WAY

People in the south had a corn mill in which they pounded it into meal. A couple of mornings past and they noticed that some of the meal had been stolen during the night. They examined the ground and found dog tracks. So the next night they watched, and when the dog came from the north and started to eat the meal out the bowl the people jumped out and whipped him. As the dog ran back to the North, the meal fell from his mouth and left a trail of white where you now see the Milky Way.

SNAKE BOY

There once was a boy that went bird hunting every day, he brought the birds home and gave them to his grandmother. She was very fond of him and it made the rest of the family jealous. Because of this the boy decided he no longer wanted to be a part of his family so told his grandmother he was going to leave, but she must not grieve.

The next morning he did not eat breakfast and went off hungry into the woods. He was gone all day and returned in the evening with a pair of deer horns and went into the hothouse. His Grandmother was waiting for him and he told her that he needed to be alone. She returned to the house with the family and left her Grandson. The next morning she came to the hothouse at daybreak and there she saw Uktena that filled the hothouse with horns on its head and two human legs. That was all that was left of the boy. He spoke to his Grandmother and told her to leave him.

By noon Uktena crawled out of the hothouse, it made a horrible hissing noise and scared everyone in the village. It traveled thru the village and left a trail in the ground behind it. It came to a deep bend in the river and plunged itself in.

The Grandmother grieved so much for her Grandson that the family told her she should just go stay with him. So she followed the trail left by Uktena and went to the river and walked in and disappeared. Once after that a fisherman saw her close to where she had disappeared. She was sitting on a large rock, once she saw him she jumped back into the water and was never seen again.

THE ORIGIN OF STRAWBERRIES

When man was first created and a mate was given to him, they lived together happily. After some time had passed, they started to quarrel. The women finally had enough and left her Husband. The women decided to head to the Sun land in the East and went on her way. The Man followed her alone and grieving, the women kept a steady pace and did not look back at the man. The Sun watched and took pity on the man and asked, “Are you still angry with your wife?” The man said he was not mad anymore and the Sun asked him if he wanted her back. The man eagerly answered “YES!”

The Sun caused a patch of the finest rip huckleberries to spring up along the path of the Women, but she passed them by without paying any attention to them. A little further up the path the Sun placed blackberries, she did not even notice. The Sun kept placing fruits in front of her and she just walked on by. The Sun tried trees with beautiful red berries to tempt her and she refused to notice. Suddenly the Women stopped noticing a large patch of beautiful ripe strawberries. She gathered a few eat and then stared to gather some to take with her. As she did this she turned and faced the west where her Husband stood waiting. She was flooded with the memories and she could not go on. She sat down but the longer she sat there the more she wanted to be with her Husband. So the Women gathered a bunch of the finest strawberries and went back along the path to her Husband. He met her kindly and with love and they went home together.