stories of the ancestors

There are two Cherokee Tribes. One is represented by the Cherokee Nation, east & west, and other groups, recognized and unrecognized. This tribe is overwhelmingly made up of mixed-bloods; many, like me, are part of the Cherokee diaspora, tied only by blood, and some family stories. But even most of those who grew up in The Nation are more connected to the white, mainstream culture, than they are to their Tsalagi roots. We Cherokees, like our all-white counterparts, are mechanics and clerks and college professors, drive the same Chevrolets or Toyotas, go to the same churches, drink the same brands of coffee, and so on.

Then, there is the second Cherokee Tribe. That is the tribe of some mostly-forgotten past, which still offers its hand to the present. It is the tribe of our ancestors. The ancestors speak to us in the language of the dead. But in America today, few know this language. That is because the mainstream culture fills every moment of our lives with the chatter of the living —the young, the hip, the consumerist desire.

Many of us try to understand the ancestors by retelling the stories of the old times. While these stories are important, they aren’t enough. Unless the stories instruct us in our contemporary world, then they are only children’s fairy tales. Learning the “sacred formulas,” or the use of herbs, or grandma’s recipes will not embue us with truth.

As much as we (mostly mixed-bloods) may want to belong to that second tribe, we cannot escape the fact that we are the product of two (or more) cultures. By definition, the white, European Uber Kulture will always try to dominate. And it will be difficult to tell our (Tsalagi) stories from their (European) stories, because we are they.

Still, our ancestors have important knowledge to offer us. In order to understand them, I think we must first learn to listen.

I have some suggestions to get started.

Turn off the T.V. Go out side. Run your fingers through some soil of that place where you are living now. Listen to the wind.

Ask yourself some questions. What kind of world do I want? What is wrong with the one I have? What is the best path to get from one to the other? What am I doing with my life right now that is not in harmony? Listen to the voice that answers.

What advice would my grandmother give me? My grandfather? What lessons do their stories have to teach us today? Listen to the answers.

What are the stories, all of the stories, that have led up to the person that I am? Listen to the storytellers.

It is your ancestors speaking. It doesn’t matter if they are Cherokee or French or Chinese, or African-American, listen. They have something important to say.

by duane poncy

the next ice age — an excerpt

The transit, the chain, the compass. Those were the instruments of the land surveyor, before geo-positioning and such electronic wizardry. My Cherokee ancestors had a word for compass, duyuda kahonvsgi. It meant “land stealer.” That’s what land ownership is really. It is about taking something that belongs to everyone, and saying, “This is mine. I paid for it. It’s been measured. I got a piece of paper and I own it son-of-a-bitch, so keep your filthy mocassins off of it!”

But who did they pay for it? God?

In my part of the country, we have these so-called Property Rights people. They think they’re blessed with the absolute God-given right to real estate. They purchase some hot piece of property, looking to make a killing, and when the zoning doesn’t go their way, they expect the rest of us to pony-up. Loss of Potential Income. Pain and Suffering. Boo-hoo.

I got news for you, pal. You’ve got no right. You have a piece of bleached dead tree, marked with invisible ink. The people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They have a right to protect Mother Earth. They have a right to a place to sleep, piss and eat the fruit of their labor. You have the right to take your thieving piece of paper and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

When the next Ice Age comes, and the snow starts piling up for 100,000 years, your borders and boundaries and property lines won’t mean a damned thing. Your surveyors stakes will be buried beneath a mile of ice. A fool might invent some electronic gadget to attach to the bedrock, which will withstand gazillions of pounds of pressure. But so what? You think the Queen of the Polar Bears is gonna recognize your so-called Property Rights?

Another Ice Age is a lot closer than most of us realize. The Gulf Stream spills over from the South Pacific, into the salty Atlantic Ocean to keep Europe and North America toasty. When Ma Earth gets hot enough from your global warming, and the polar ice begins to thaw —which it already has, by the way— the change in salinity will shut off the Gulf Stream like a switch. Click. An Ice Age.

Another theory I have is that the Ice Age has already started. The coldness emanates from the hearts of callous human beings. The Cherokee word for cold is the same word we use for Republican. No lie!

by duane poncy

crossing borders

What border, what contrivance of culture is it that prevents us from standing in the middle of the street, all of us, and saying stop? Stop! We have to change this world. If we don’t change this world, there will be no world. And if we don’t believe that, can’t we see what is happening to the people of the world? Can’t we see that it is wrong that we sit behing our tables in restaurants and homes and eat all the cheap food raised by people dying in the rows from the slavery we impose? Can’t we see how we take the food from them and their children lift their too large hands to a too large face to shoo away a fly from the corners of their eyes, protuberant orbs in faces that hover over distended bellies? And their mothers and fathers dying of AIDS and them dying of AIDS and we can’t allow them to buy the drugs, or we can’t give them the drugs that will ease them or save them. And the School of the Americas graduates that have killed and raped in Central America and Columbia in the name of democracy and, oh yes, let us not forget Henry Kissinger who told the Argentinian death machine, “we want you to succeed.” Have I crossed any borders yet?