We can still see the townhouse, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal

Posted by | July 9, 2013

Long ago, long before the Cherokee were driven from their homes in 1838, the people on Valley river and Hiwassee heard voices of invisible spirits in the air calling and warning them of wars and misfortunes which the future held in store, and inviting them to come and live with the Nûñnë’hï, the Immortals, in their homes under the mountains and under the waters. For days the voices hung in the air, and the people listened until they heard the spirits, say “If you would live with us, gather everyone in your townhouses and fast there for seven days and no one must raise a shout or a warwhoop in all that time. Do this and we shall come and you will see us and we shall take you to live with us.”

The people were afraid of the evils that were to come, and they knew that the Immortals of the mountains and the waters were happy forever, so they counciled in their townhouses and decided to go with them. Those of Anisgayâ’yï town came all together into their townhouse and prayed and fasted for six days.

Reduced scale reconstruction of the Cherokee council house (or townhouse) at the Red Clay site, Red Clay State Park in Bradley County, TN. Benches would have circled the building as those pictured, to seat the delegates from the eight districts. The original council house would have been much larger in order to accommodate the nearly 5000 people who would have gathered there.

On the seventh day there was a sound from the distant mountains, and it came nearer and grew louder until a roar of thunder was all about the townhouse and they felt the ground shake under them. Now they were frightened, and despite the warning some of them screamed out. The Nûñnë’hï, who had already lifted up the townhouse with its mound to carry it away, were startled by the cry and let a part of it fall to the earth, where now we see the mound of Së`tsï. They steadied themselves again and bore the rest of the townhouse, with all the people in it, to the top of Tsuda’ye`lûñ’yï (Lone Peak), near the head of Cheowa, where we can still see it, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal.

The people of another town, on Hiwassee, at the place which we call now Du’stiya`lûñ’yï, where Shooting creek comes in, also prayed and fasted, and at the end of seven days the Nûñnë’hï came and took them away down under the water. They are there now, and on a warm summer day, when the wind ripples the surface, those who listen well can hear them talking below. When the Cherokee drag the river for fish the fish-drag always stops and catches there, although the water is deep, and the people know it is being held by their lost kinsmen, who do not want to be forgotten.

When the Cherokee were forcibly removed to the West one of the greatest regrets of those along Hiwassee and Valley Rivers was that they were compelled to leave behind forever their relatives who had gone to the Nûñnë’hï.

In the Tennessee river, near Kingston, 18 miles below Loudon, Tennessee, is a place which the Cherokee call Gustï’, where there once was a settlement long ago, but one night while the people were gathered in the townhouse for a dance the bank caved in and carried them all down into the river. Boatmen passing the spot in their canoes see the round dome of the townhouse–now turned to stone–in the water below them and sometimes hear the sound of the drum and dance coming up, and they never fail to throw food into the water in return for being allowed to cross in safety.

Source: “Myths of the Cherokee,” by James Mooney, Bureau of American Ethnology, 19th Annual Report to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Congressional Serial Set, publ. by US Government Printing Office, 1900

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