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Old 12-26-2003, 08:54 AM   #1
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Origin of the Word "Cherokee"

It is sad commentary, but all too true, that a great many Cherokees have learned their "culture" from books written by white men about Cherokees. (myself included) Perhaps the most common resource for most of us who've learned this way has been James Mooney, however, rarely have any of us observed Mooney's work with the scrutiny that it indeed deserves.

First, while Mooney was a well-meaning white liberal of the day, he sincerely believed, as did nearly all of the ethnologists of the American Bureau of Ethnology, that Indians would be entirely extinct within the next few decades. Not only did they believe it, they didn't particularly care, for they believed it was simply "the way it was". If these Indigenous peoples beliefs and culture had any relevance to the modern world they would've been preserved in greater detail and been far stronger than they were at the time the legends were collected. It was "inevitable" that true "civilization" as the European and Euroderivative States defined it, would replace all that had come before it. The only reason these legends were being recorded for posterity was so that future generations of well meaning white liberals could look upon them and think "Oh, how quaint."

This inherent lack of respect that was masked by the veneer of respect that men like Mooney had for Indigenous culture should most definitely be taken into consideration when one studies Cherokee history and culture through the eyes of this author. (It should also be quite revealing that Mooney was a virulent racist and possessed a total disdain for Black People evident in much of what he wrote.)

It was in Mooney's "Myths of the Cherokee" that we first encounter the belief that the term "Cherokee" as it came to be known in English was a "borrowed term" a term that the Cherokees borrowed from another people, perhaps an adaptation of the Deleware "Talligewi" or an adaptation of a Muskogean word, written variously as "Tcilok ki" "Chiluk ki" "Cholok ki" etc. And supposedly meaning "cave dwellers".

However, one must first take into consideration that Mooney was not a linguist, and modern Iroquoian linguists have pointed out numerous mistakes Mooney did indeed make in his presentation of the Cherokee, as well as the Mohawk and other Iroquoian languages in his work. I personally believe his argument that "Cherokee" is a borrowed term is one of these mistakes.

His argument was that the term "Ayvwiya" and the plural "Aniyvwiya" was the "proper" name by which Cherokees called themselves. However, Cherokee speakers today know full well that this word means anybody who is Indian, of any given Indian Nation. It might interest many of you that it is directly related to other Iroquoian words such as the Mohawk "Ongwe Honwe" and the Tuscarora "Ekwe Hewe" all of the three meaning essentially "Original Beings" indicating the fact that Indian people are the only ones who truly originate from the American continents. However, determining the origin of "Cherokee" and in Cherokee "Tsalagi" becomes extraordinarily problematic.

I spoke once, a long time ago with a man who claimed that he still spoke the "middle dialect" of Cherokee, the only to have retained the "R" sound after the beginning of the fifteenth century, both of the other dialects dropped the sound and replaced it with "L", as did several other Iroquoian languages during the same period, to the north. It was the natural evolution of language. Were one to compare say "Middle English" of the Canterburry Tales to modern American English, it would be impossible for most people to guess that the "Middle English" phrases were English at all.

In any event, the designation "Middle Dialect" becomes increasingly problematic as well. James Adair was the first to classify the Cherokee dialects according to three "regions". His regions were "Upper Cherokee" and "Lower Cherokee" and then "Middle Cherokee" between those two, the Middle Cherokee being the one to retain the "R" sound.

Mooney rejected his idea, (I would have to argue that, because of the ammount of time Adair lived among the Cherokee one could make an argument that his knowledge of the Cherokee language in the period in which he lived with them was far greater than Mooney's knowledge of the Cherokee language who spent nowhere near as much time among them as Adair had in the previous century) Mooney claimed his designation of the three dialects was imperfect.

Mooney classified them as "Western" "Middle" and "Eastern". From this classification stemmed endless confusion and today the arguments over the designation of names describing the regional dialects of the Cherokee language are far too numerous to consider here.

It is generally accepted today that the two "main" dialects are the "Eastern" and "Western". The Eastern is also called the North Caorlina, Qualla, or "Kituhwa" (Giduwa) dialect. Whereas the Western is also called the Oklahoma dialect, I've heard some also say "overhill" and then others argue that this is a misnomer, etc. etc. etc.

The middle dialect however, is thought by many to be extinct and yet by others to be remembered by the most orthodox traditional element of the Cherokee people. That small traditional core of the nation that never truly accepted Christianity and from whom stem the knowledge and protection of pre-Christian Cherokee traditions. It is argued that a few of these still know the middle dialect and argued by others that this ancient tongue is used by some as a "sacred language".

One person to whom I spoke purporting to have knowledge of the Middle Dialect told me that the word Cherokee comes from "Cherriakitarghe" which was his spelling. He claimed that it meant "people of the central fire" and since the word "atsila" is Cherokee for fire, it is "a cher ra " in the Middle Dialect which has "R" in place of "L". However, I showed the word to Linguists specializing in Iroquoian languages, most particularly Prof. Blair Rudes, author of the Tuscarora Language Dictionary and he said that he knew for a fact that it was an Iroquoian word, but had no idea what it meant, and that "cherriakitarghe" did NOT mean "people of the central fire". Then we got to talking about the Mohawk Res. named "Kahnawake"

There is supposed to be a river somewhere in West Virginia I believe, that the Cherokees called "Ganawagi" which is the exact same pronunciation as the Mohawk Reserve in Quebec called "Kahnwake", both Cherokees and Mohawks have legends that they all used to be one people, and the linguistic and historical evidence is clear that at one time all Iroquoian peoples lived together in one place, mostly likely in the Ohio River Valley in the states of Kentucky, West Va, Va, and Ohio of course. Those that moved north eventually became the St. Lawrence Iroquioans, the Haudenosaunee, the Susquehannock or (Connestoga) in Pennsylvania, and the various Iroquoian peoples such as the Huron, and others that were historically allied to the French during the period of European colonization. Those that remained in the South were the Cherokees.

Mooney's argument that, the Cherokees broke away from the Haudenosaunee in 1300 A.D. and did not "arrive" in the American South until around that time, is false, does not fit with the oral tradition nor with the linguistic evidence. According to current linguistic theory the Cherokee language seperated from the main body of Iroquoian languages as early as 2,500 to 3,000 B.C.E. (before common era) Indicating that the Cherokee had both a unique cultural and linguistic identity for at least the last five thousand years.

Tuscarora broke away from the main body of Northern Iroquoian speakers around 150 B.C.E. and they settled a region of Eastern Virginia and North Carolina that was neither occupied by Eastern Siouans, nor Coastal Algonquians, nor their Cherokee cousins who resided on the other side of the mountains.

Cherokee, is the only language in the southern branch of the Iroquoian language family, all the other Iroquoian languages, included Tuscarora, are designated as being "Northern Iroquoian". The place at which the Northern and Southern Iroquoians divided from one another was always said to have been a river. Most say that it was at the Ohio, but there is a Cherokee legend that this river that many of them called "Ganawagi" in West Virginia was the place at which the seperation occured, thus explaining the reason why the Mohawk Reserve retains the name. When asked what it meant, Prof. Rudes told me that it meant something like "place of the currents" and indicated a River, how ironic.

It also made me think of the Cherokee word "uganowa" (it is warm) as well as "ganvnowa" which I believe is the word for a pipe.

I presented the same word "Cherriakitarghe" to Durbin Feeling, a native Cherokee speaker, linguist, and co-author of the Cherokee-English Dictionary. He said he also had no clue what it might mean, but also affirmed that it was Iroquoian. Mr. Feeling told me that he'd always been taught that the word for the Cherokee people originated in the term "Atsilagi" which means "He Took Fire", this is interesting, because hundreds of years ago James Adair was the first to record that the Cherokee of that time period believed that their name had something to do with their word for "fire" (atsila) spelled variously "a ji la" and in North Carolina pronunciation "a dzi la"
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Old 12-26-2003, 08:55 AM   #2
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When I presented the information to Prof. Rudes he believed the story to be legendary, and did not put a whole lot of faith into it. He said that he personally believed that the word Cherokees currently use to identify themselves "Tsalagi" is so old that it "Defies Etymology" that is to say, it is impossible to determine its original meaning, but he and all other modern Iroquoian linguists will adamantly assert that Mooney's theory of it having been a term borrowed form another non-Iroqouian language are entirely false. It is indeed an Iroquoian, and a Cherokee word, whatever it might have originally meant.
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Old 12-26-2003, 11:10 AM   #3
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have Mooney, read it over and over, thanks for pointing it out...:D
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Old 12-26-2003, 11:35 AM   #4
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Celokvlke.

There are a few authors and ethnologists that suggest that the word/term came from the Mvskoke word, "celokvlke" = Cherokee. It also refers to 'people of a different speach'.

Have you read anything by James Adair, John R.Swanton, Bernard Romans, and William Bartram? These men were in the Southeast for a number of years, with the exception of Swanton. Adair lived among the Cherokee and Choctaw for over 35 years. Col. Benjamin Hawkins was the Indian agent for the tribes South of the Ohio River. There are a few books written about his time among us.

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Old 12-26-2003, 07:12 PM   #5
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Also...

according to a Cherokee friend in Tahlequah (Park Hill area) they still use both the "L" and the "R". One one side of town, they use the L, and on the other, the R.

I have also seen it spelled "Chiroqouis".

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Old 12-27-2003, 08:34 AM   #6
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I've read a lot of the books you've suggested, yes I've read Adair, I mentioned Adair a couple of times in my original post pointing out he'd lived among the Cherokees longer than Mooney and had a more perfect knowledge of their language as a result.

It was Adair who had first heard from Cherokees at the time, himself that the word "Tsalagi" comes from the Cherokee word for "fire" and was not a term borrowed from a Muskogean people. It was Mooney who suggested this generations later.

Today Iroquoian linguists, and Cherokee speakers themselves, like Durbin Feeling the author of the Cherokee dictionary and a native Cherokee speaker himself, confirm Adair's original conclusion that the word "Tsalagi" does not come from Muskogee but is a real Iroquoian word. Feeling says it comes from "Atsilagi" which means "He took fire" but Prof. Blair Rudes and several other Iroquoianists (linguists who specialize in the Iroquoian langauges and culture) have said that, though they are absolutely certain that "Tsalagi" is an original Cherokee word, and not a term borrowed from any Muskogean language, they have no idea what its original meaning was, the word is so old that it "defies etymology" according to current linguistic theory.

I am more inclined to belive the oral tradition handed down to native speakers like Durbin Feeling, that the word has something to do with the Cherokee word for fire, and when one considers the significance of fire as a symbol in Cherokee culture, this should not be all too hard to imagine as a possible origin for the name.
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Old 12-28-2003, 04:22 AM   #7
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Iain't trying to crap or whatever but everytime i know someone that says they are cherokee it is made a big joke out of (because they interbreeded with so many people and I know for a fact that alot of websites won't even bother with you if you are cherokee with finding out your heritage)....I would actually like to know more because I don't know alot and I heard you saying something about the six nations and my tribe is part of that, so I was wondering about the cherokee's and what happened with them and their whole story. Alot of people are prejudiced with the cherokee and I think I will be doing some research on them, so I can get over my prejudice.
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Old 12-28-2003, 09:15 AM   #8
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Princess?

There is not a single group of people as disatisfied with their repeated misrepresentation as the Cherokee, with the Lakota likely following because of the extraordinary level "cultural misappropriation" of their most sacred traditions, which, a great many of them feel, are only intended for them.

In any event, I could post on this subject for hours on end, but I'm limited by time and the space allotted for the ammount of words within the post (which is understandable, but extraordinarily frustrating).

As for Cherokees relationship to the Haudenosaunee, it is not necessarily a cultural/political one, but a linguistic/genetic one.

According to current linguistic theory, the Cherokee language, which makes up the soul member of the "Southern Iroquoian language family" seperated from the main body of what would become "Northern Iroquoian" languages around 3000 BCE indicating that Cherokees have had a unique linguistic/cultural identity for at least the last five thousand years.

Those that moved north became the "St Lawrence Iroquoians", the Hurons and other non-Haudenosaunee Iroquoian peoples, and the Susquehannocks (or "Connestogas") of Pennsylvania. Around 150 BCE, again according to present linguistic theory a branch of the Iroquoian (northern Iroquoians) broke away form what would eventually become the "Haudenosaunee" and moved into Eastern North Carolina and Virginia in land that was not occupied by the Eastern Siouans, Coastal Algonquians, Catawbas or Cherokees. These Indians came to be known as "Meherrins", "Nottoways" and "Tuscaroras". They represented the only cultural group of "Northern" Iroquoian speakers in the American South.

It has long been argued that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was not founded until 1470 CE, shortly before European arrival on the continent, but an excellent study was done, and presented online at the "six nations" section of the "Ratical.org" site on the "Dating of the Iroquois" Confederacy pushing the date back of the arrival of the Peacemaker and founding of the Confederacy to around 1142 CE, making the Haudenosaunee truly the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.

Because the Cherokees had been seperated so long they'd developed a cultural identity that was unique to the other Iroquoians, not living in longhouses but single family dwellings shaped like a typical "house" but made of wattle and daub and covered with bark shingles on the roof. The Iroquoians of Eastern Carolina/Virginia retained the longhouse. However, since these Iroquoians were not present when the Peacemaker arrived they were not included in the original agreement that founded the league.

Therefore, that is why when the Tuscaroras were added in 1722 in the aftermath of the Tuscarora War, they were afforded a somewhat subordinate position within the League, not having a voice of their own at Grand Council, but being represented instead by the "Younger Brothers" the Cayuga and Oneida.

The Cherokees as I said, had long since developed a unique socio-political structure with a definitive "capital" at a place first called "Kituhwa" how ironic enit? and later moved it to "Itsoti" recorded in English literature as "Chota". The "head" of the traditional government was the "Amedohi" or Water Traveler whose position was similar to the "Tododaho" or "Tadaha" depending on what Haudenosaunee Language you speak, the guy who's the head of the Onondaga Nation.

At "Kituhwa" the "atsila galuhkw'tiyu" was first kindled (sacred fire) and legend has it that coals from the fire were taken to relight the fire at Itsoti which served as the capital of the traditional govt' until the cultural genocide that was perpetrated against the Cherokee people came into full effect beginning in the 19th century when American missionaries converted a large part of the populace to Christianity (mainly mixed-bloods like myself) this ensured loyaylty to the United States. In any event the Cherokee eventually dissolved their traditional system of governance and created one based on the US bureaucratic model in the 1820s and moved the capital to a western style town they dubbed "Itse Itsoti" or "New Echota" and it was in Northern Georgia, not in Tennessee where the old capital was.

(It should be duly noted that the old capital of Itsoti was destroyed during the American Revolution and its population nearly annihilated by the genocidal maniac dubbed frontier hero called "Nolichucky" Jack).

Both the governments of the current "CNO" (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and the Eastern Band of Cherokees is based more on the "new order" western/american style government of the 1820s than on the traditional government, I can't say much for the organizational structure of the United Keetoowah Band because I dont know all that much about it.

However, despite the repeated criticism of Cherokee people it should also be duly noted that the traditionary element of the people is still quite active in the form of the "Nighthawk Keetoowah Society" in Oklahoma, and in several communities in Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee is still the first language. It should also be noted that Cherokee has the most speakers of any Indian language north of Mexico, last time they counted 25 thousand speakers, and that was back in the '70s. There hasn't been a decline in speakers because both the CNO and Eastern Band have, since the '70s made learning the Cherokee language a requirement at primary and secondary education within their respective territories.

Also, among the more traditional element at both Qualla Boundary in North Carolina and the traditional communities of Northeastern Oklahoma, the Clan System is still quite strong.

Cherokees have seven

AniWahya Wolf Clan

AniKahwi Deer Clan

AniTsisqua Bird Clan

AniSahoni (often mistranslated "blue" clan, but its actually "wildcat or "panther" clan)

AniWodi Red Paint Clan

AniGilohi Long Hair Clan

AniGatogewi Wild Potato Clan

I'm going to add another post on the Cherokee writing system, so look for that as well.

Donada

Mat
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Old 02-12-2007, 03:17 AM   #9
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There is not a single group of people as disatisfied with their repeated misrepresentation as the Cherokee, with the Lakota likely following because of the extraordinary level "cultural misappropriation" of their most sacred traditions, which, a great many of them feel, are only intended for them.

In any event, I could post on this subject for hours on end, but I'm limited by time and the space allotted for the ammount of words within the post (which is understandable, but extraordinarily frustrating).

As for Cherokees relationship to the Haudenosaunee, it is not necessarily a cultural/political one, but a linguistic/genetic one.

According to current linguistic theory, the Cherokee language, which makes up the soul member of the "Southern Iroquoian language family" seperated from the main body of what would become "Northern Iroquoian" languages around 3000 BCE indicating that Cherokees have had a unique linguistic/cultural identity for at least the last five thousand years.

Those that moved north became the "St Lawrence Iroquoians", the Hurons and other non-Haudenosaunee Iroquoian peoples, and the Susquehannocks (or "Connestogas") of Pennsylvania. Around 150 BCE, again according to present linguistic theory a branch of the Iroquoian (northern Iroquoians) broke away form what would eventually become the "Haudenosaunee" and moved into Eastern North Carolina and Virginia in land that was not occupied by the Eastern Siouans, Coastal Algonquians, Catawbas or Cherokees. These Indians came to be known as "Meherrins", "Nottoways" and "Tuscaroras". They represented the only cultural group of "Northern" Iroquoian speakers in the American South.

It has long been argued that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was not founded until 1470 CE, shortly before European arrival on the continent, but an excellent study was done, and presented online at the "six nations" section of the "Ratical.org" site on the "Dating of the Iroquois" Confederacy pushing the date back of the arrival of the Peacemaker and founding of the Confederacy to around 1142 CE, making the Haudenosaunee truly the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.

Because the Cherokees had been seperated so long they'd developed a cultural identity that was unique to the other Iroquoians, not living in longhouses but single family dwellings shaped like a typical "house" but made of wattle and daub and covered with bark shingles on the roof. The Iroquoians of Eastern Carolina/Virginia retained the longhouse. However, since these Iroquoians were not present when the Peacemaker arrived they were not included in the original agreement that founded the league.

Therefore, that is why when the Tuscaroras were added in 1722 in the aftermath of the Tuscarora War, they were afforded a somewhat subordinate position within the League, not having a voice of their own at Grand Council, but being represented instead by the "Younger Brothers" the Cayuga and Oneida.

The Cherokees as I said, had long since developed a unique socio-political structure with a definitive "capital" at a place first called "Kituhwa" how ironic enit? and later moved it to "Itsoti" recorded in English literature as "Chota". The "head" of the traditional government was the "Amedohi" or Water Traveler whose position was similar to the "Tododaho" or "Tadaha" depending on what Haudenosaunee Language you speak, the guy who's the head of the Onondaga Nation.

At "Kituhwa" the "atsila galuhkw'tiyu" was first kindled (sacred fire) and legend has it that coals from the fire were taken to relight the fire at Itsoti which served as the capital of the traditional govt' until the cultural genocide that was perpetrated against the Cherokee people came into full effect beginning in the 19th century when American missionaries converted a large part of the populace to Christianity (mainly mixed-bloods like myself) this ensured loyaylty to the United States. In any event the Cherokee eventually dissolved their traditional system of governance and created one based on the US bureaucratic model in the 1820s and moved the capital to a western style town they dubbed "Itse Itsoti" or "New Echota" and it was in Northern Georgia, not in Tennessee where the old capital was.

(It should be duly noted that the old capital of Itsoti was destroyed during the American Revolution and its population nearly annihilated by the genocidal maniac dubbed frontier hero called "Nolichucky" Jack).

Both the governments of the current "CNO" (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and the Eastern Band of Cherokees is based more on the "new order" western/american style government of the 1820s than on the traditional government, I can't say much for the organizational structure of the United Keetoowah Band because I dont know all that much about it.

However, despite the repeated criticism of Cherokee people it should also be duly noted that the traditionary element of the people is still quite active in the form of the "Nighthawk Keetoowah Society" in Oklahoma, and in several communities in Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee is still the first language. It should also be noted that Cherokee has the most speakers of any Indian language north of Mexico, last time they counted 25 thousand speakers, and that was back in the '70s. There hasn't been a decline in speakers because both the CNO and Eastern Band have, since the '70s made learning the Cherokee language a requirement at primary and secondary education within their respective territories.

Also, among the more traditional element at both Qualla Boundary in North Carolina and the traditional communities of Northeastern Oklahoma, the Clan System is still quite strong.

Cherokees have seven

AniWahya Wolf Clan

AniKahwi Deer Clan

AniTsisqua Bird Clan

AniSahoni (often mistranslated "blue" clan, but its actually "wildcat or "panther" clan)

AniWodi Red Paint Clan

AniGilohi Long Hair Clan

AniGatogewi Wild Potato Clan

I'm going to add another post on the Cherokee writing system, so look for that as well.

Donada

Mat
Fascinating reading
I get so many different stories about our language and the Meaning Of Tsa'La'gi
Wow lots to read about and understand
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Old 03-03-2007, 12:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by <_-~*No_nutts*~-_> View Post
Iain't trying to crap or whatever but everytime i know someone that says they are cherokee it is made a big joke out of (because they interbreeded with so many people and I know for a fact that alot of websites won't even bother with you if you are cherokee with finding out your heritage)....I would actually like to know more because I don't know alot and I heard you saying something about the six nations and my tribe is part of that, so I was wondering about the cherokee's and what happened with them and their whole story. Alot of people are prejudiced with the cherokee and I think I will be doing some research on them, so I can get over my prejudice.
I AM CHEROKEE AND I MARRIED TO A FULL BLOOD CHEROKEE AND MOST OF THE NON-NATIVES WE TALK TO ARE CHEROKEE IN ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. THIS IS CRAZY! ! THEY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE LOOK BAD ! ! I KNOW THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO MAKE JOKES ABOUT BEING CHEROKEE AND I THINK THAT IT IS VERY WRONG! I HAVE VISITED SOME THE CHEROKEE WEBSITES AND SEEN SOME OF THEIR "TRIBAL" MEMBERS - ALL WHITE! IT'S TOO BAD THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO FIND OUT WHO THE CHEROKEE REALLY ARE - I THINK THAT SOME WOULD BE SUPRISED AT WHAT YOU CAN FIND OUT JUST BY ASKNIG THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. JUST FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE ARE HARD TO FIND. ALL I HAVE TO SAY NOW IS TO STOP MAKING JOKES UNTIL YOU KNOW OUR HISTORY. BUT WHAT CAN SAY ABOUT IGNORANCE?
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Old 03-03-2007, 12:56 AM   #11
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To Bad Mooney Can't Confirm Or Deny What He Has Wrote. If You Are Getting All Of Your Info From A Book, I Suggest You Also Look Elsewhere. Try Reseaching The Cherokee Through Timberlake's Memoirs. You May Find Something Mooney Couldn't. Just Try It.
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Old 04-02-2008, 09:54 AM   #12
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Question what does Tadaha mean?

I had a dream a few years back where this word was spoken and have not been able to find the meaning. Could someone help me please? Thank you!
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Old 04-02-2008, 01:49 PM   #13
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The "head" of the traditional government was the "Amedohi" or Water Traveler whose position was similar to the "Tododaho" or "Tadaha" depending on what Haudenosaunee Language you speak, the guy who's the head of the Onondaga Nation.
Its not a Cherokee Word
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Old 04-02-2008, 03:46 PM   #14
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Tadadaho was more than that.. he is the spiritual leader for all the six nations.
http://www.onondaganationschool.org/...y/history.html

The current Tadadaho is Sid Hill.
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Old 04-04-2008, 09:14 AM   #15
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Question Thanks!

I went to the Onondaga Nation site and informed myself. Correct me if I am wrong, but does this mean that Tadaho is his title?
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