the book reviews
Hu! Behind my apartment, two old houses were recently demolished. Some ancient cherry trees and many good blackberry vines were destroyed. The land is on a hilltop and it has the highest elevation in my city. This is important. One morning as the sun rose, I walked around the big scar made by the machines and I put an offering of tobacco in a large coyote track. The trees were dead and the soil was angry. Countless small animals had been deprived of shelter. Many had fallen prey. When I arrived home that evening, I found a delicate skull fragment on my porch. It was highly polished. It was snow-white and beautiful as a seashell. It was symmetrically shaped and thin as a card. The eye socket was precisely centered. I accepted the gift. Do you wonder what am I talking about? You will find a clue in the following review. There is a book listed in the bibliographies of any serious book about the Cherokees. It is James Mooney's book, Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulae of the Cherokees. Mooney was an American ethnologist who lived two hundred years ago. He is less well-known than Franz Boas, but they were the same kind of men. Mooney has been invaluable to the Cherokee Nation. From 1887 to 1890, Mooney made notes and collected original Cherokee manuscripts. These were written by medicine men, in their own language. A syllabary that was invented by Sequoyah in 1821. He collected almost six hundred items. In Mooney's time, these writings were the largest collection of native American literature. Most of the myths and formulae were collected from members of the Kitu'hwa Society. Eastern Cherokees, who lived in the forests and mountains of two regions known as Nantahala and Oconaluftee. They were mountaineers. They had chosen to hide when the tribe was exiled to Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears. They preserved their tribal knowledge. Mooney's book contains over four hundred pages of myths, twenty-eight sacred formulae, and an history of the tribe. In this book I encountered the story of my grandmother's ancestors, the Texas Cherokees. It is on page 143 of Mooney's book. In July 1839, the cavalry of the Republic of Texas attacked them. Many were killed and the survivors were chased into Mexico. Some women survived and became the wives of the conquerors. In the past, a person in Texas, could not admit to being a native American. When Mooney was writing his notes, many of these events were in living memory. My grandmother seldom spoke of her Cherokee culture. She lived by its wisdom and example. I will always remember the special tea she brewed from dried roots. Time turns in a circle. Although conquerors trample other civilizations, and put them to ruin; scholars, bards, and griots exist. Those who remember the past. If not for these men and women of knowledge, each dark age, would have lasted much longer. I give my thanks to James Mooney, a man I never knew, who preserved part of my heritage, while other men attempted to destroy it. Hu!
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.