The People | Cherokee, NC

How will Cherokee affect you?

The Cherokee people are strong, resilient, and creative. This description rings true today as much as it did yesterday.

Much has changed in today’s Cherokee from that of times past, yet many things have stayed the same, especially when it comes to the strength of character of the people, fishing the rivers, living as a tight community, supporting the good of the tribe, educating the young, and loving the land. In other words, the really important things are still here. The native tribal members living in Cherokee today are descendants of the Cherokees who were able to hold on to the land, hide in the mountains, or eventually return to Western North Carolina.

Get to know the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation with over 15,000 enrolled members. The remarkable legacy of the Cherokee nation is one that reflects a people who remain strong, even in the face of great conflict. Cherokees have always held true to their robust values and deeply rooted principles. Revolving around a deep reverence for the natural world and our connection with it, ancient Cherokee values teach us to continually respect our earth and one another. The Cherokee people hold sacred these ancient truths while they continue to espouse the reinvention of what it means to be Cherokee in our modern world. 

Clans of the Cherokee.

The Cherokee Seven Clans are a traditional social organization of Cherokee society. Customs of the Cherokee Clans have evolved since ancient times; however, traditionalists still observe clan customs regarding marriage and certain social events. The Cherokee society is historically matrilineal, meaning clanship is passed through the mother. Among the Cherokees, women were considered the head of household, with the home and children belonging to her should she separate from her husband. The knowledge of a person’s clan is important for many reasons; one of those reasons is that among Cherokee traditionalists today, it is forbidden to marry within one's clan as clan members are considered brothers and sisters. Knowledge of a person’s clan is also important when seeking spiritual guidance and in traditional medicine ceremonies, as it is necessary to name the clan.

The Cherokee Seven Clans.

Blue (A NI SA HO NI) - Historically, this clan made medicine from a blue-colored plant to keep the children well. They are also known as the Panther or Wild Cat Clan.

Long Hair (A NI GI LO HI) - Also known as the Twister, Hair Hanging Down or Wind Clan. They wore elaborate hairdos and walked with a proud, twisting gait. Clan members are regarded as peacemakers; and Peace Chiefs were often from this clan. Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus a common interpretation of the name ‘Strangers.’

Bird (A NI TSI S KWA) - historically known as messengers. The belief that birds are messengers between earth and heaven, or the People and Creator, gave the members of this clan the responsibility of caring for the birds.

Paint (A NI WO DI) - historically known as prominent healers. Medicine was often ‘painted’ on a patient after harvesting, mixing and performing other aspects of the ceremony. Clan members made red paint and prepared teas for vapor therapy specific to each ailment.

Deer (A NI KA WI) - historically known as fast runners and hunters. Even though they hunted game for subsistence, they respected and cared for the animals while they were living among them. They were also known as messengers on an earthly level, delivering messages from village to village, or person to person.

Wild Potato (A NI GA TO GE WI) - historically, members of this clan were known to be ‘keepers of the land’ and gatherers of the wild potato in swamps along streams. They are also known as the Bear, Raccoon, or Blind Savannah Clan.

Wolf (A NI WA YAH) - the largest and most prominent clan throughout time. During the time of the Peace Chief and War Chief government setting, the War Chief came from this clan. Wolves are known as protectors.

Bibliography Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1995: 507-548. Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center Cherokee, Graphic Arts Center Publishing

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