Legend of the Keetowahs

Cherokee may refer to themselves as “the people of Kitugwagi”, since anglicized into Keetowah. According to legend, the tribe originated on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Although they were repeatedly attacked, the Keetowah obtained assistance from Spirit Warriors and were ultimately successful.

Ner-du-er-gi was the last warrior to plan an attack on the Keetowah. From his mountain camp, he could see the village in the valley below. As the smoke arose from cooking fires, it reached up into the heavens and divided into three. In the center, an eagle clutched an arrow. Ner-du-er-gi called off the attack, believing that the Keetowah enjoyed divine protection.

The Great Spirit provided the Keetowahs with the great power which could only be used for the good of the people. When that knowledge was used inappropriately, the Great Spirit instructed many to move to India, Asia, and North America. At this time, some of the great cities were swallowed by the ocean, never to be seen again.

The Great Spirit continued to guide and nurture the American tribes. They began to violate his rules, feuding and murdering freely between the seven clans. The medicine men from each clan gathered to seek a solution from the Great Spirit. Each tribe also sent their most honest holy men, willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the tribe.

The medicine men spread out sacred deerskin and began to pray. Using their tobacco, they blew smoke over top of the deerskin. They then watched the trails of smoke, hoping for a sign. As the smoke went, so did they. Each day, one new medicine man would travel up to the top of the mountain.

On the seventh day, the Great Spirit passed a message to the people through a messenger. The Great Spirit understood their predicament, and were willing to help the Cherokee. The messenger also told the man that flight would one day be possible. An enemy white ball was coming from the east.

The messenger warned that bloody battles would occur, with tribes divided and weakened. Leaders and chiefs would be ignored. Schools would teach children, who would return to mock the ignorance of the elders.

If the youth would heed the warning of the Great Spirit, they would be able to return to their eastern home. If the youth fail in this quest, the Cherokee would never return to their homeland. Through this messenger, the Cherokee were renamed Keetowah. He instructed them to seek prophecy among their people, and worship at their fires.

An early 20th Century photo of a traditional Cherokee stickball player. Courtesy Wikipedia.