Manataka American Indian Council
Where we have been and where we are going
In late 1866, there was an important meeting of the Keetoowah in the Saline District (about forty miles north of Fort Gibson) to decide what the future of the organization would be. John Smith, son of one of the founders of the Ancient Keetoowah, described the meeting: "All the people camped out there. All the old men were seers. They kept themselves clean with medicine. The medicine men investigated the future of the Keetoowahs."(John Smith quoted in Janey Hendrix, Redbird Smith and the Nighthawk Keetoowahs, (Park Hill, OK:
Cross-Cultural Education Center, 1983), 11.) The prophecy of the seers foretold
difficult times to come and of future leaders but it focused on an immediate
necessity, that of healing the Nation by rebuilding the Keetoowah, "When
they get together, they going to make a strong organization. They gonna get
ready to get together." (Comes Flying quoted in Hendrix, 11.)
"Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, as soon as this law is enacted and shall become a law it will be the duty according to law to visit all the lodges in their respective districts and explain the Keetoowah laws."
it further resolved by the Keetoowah convention, that each district captain
shall name a small lodge and make up a roll of names of
the members of that lodge and report same to the head captains at first meeting
held by Keetoowah Convention. The District Captain, or the Secretary, shall call
the names on the roll." (Keetoowah Laws - April 29,
1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA,
University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.)
William P. Ross, however, was less than receptive to the idea of reconciliation with his former enemies. When it came time to appoint a delegation to Washington to negotiate relations and further settlements with the Federal government, he refused to appoint any representatives from the Southern delegation. In addition to his personal contempt for the "Treaty Party," he was suspicious of certain delegates among the Southern delegation whom he believed were in alliance with railroad companies and white interests to undermine Cherokee sovereignty.(In all probability, he was right. Elias Boudinot was a lobbyist for the railroad company and James Bell and James Lynch were eager to promote denationalization and the establishment of a territorial government. [McLoughlin, 439] ).
At a convention held in the southern part of the Canadian District in late December, the Knights of the Golden Circle met to discuss their political disenfranchisement under the auspices of the Ross leadership. Realizing that Ross had no intention of granting their membership any political status, the Knights once again sent their own delegation to Washington to negotiate for political power.(Wardell, 208-209.)
The Keetoowah began to realize that, as long as Ross was in a leadership position within the Cherokee Nation, there would be no real reconciliation and no progress as a nation. He was, after all, a Ross. The Knights of the Golden Circle hated him as much as he hated them for the things they had done to his uncle and, as Ross perceived it, to his nation. To the Keetoowah, Ross lacked the spirit of the "traditional harmony ethic" which was at the core of the traditional belief system.159 His personal hatred upset the balance and order of the community critical to the perpetuation of the "old way":
Balance, harmony, inclusiveness, cooperation -- life regenerating within a parameter of order. The pattern repeats the deepest heart of Mother Nature, where the atom -- with its predictable parameter -- freely makes its rounds to create new life. Continuance in the midsts of change, cardinal dynamics that sustain the universe... The Cherokee have used these poetics for survival.(Marilou Awiatka, Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom [Golden, CO.: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993, 181] )
And so it is to this day... nothing has changed. The Ross
faction is basically still running things in Tahlequah... but Chadwick
Corntassell Smith -- a hereditary member of the Keetoowah Nighthawks -- has
recently been elected as Principal Chief. Chad is already doing his best to
restore the ethics of the Keetoowahs, but progress promises to be slow, unless
Creator intervenes, and "sends the Cherokees back to the Dirt" as one
prophecy promises to do if the Cherokee don't "wake up!" by
In explaining the Keetoowah wampum
belts in the 1984 documentary video, Chief William Smith stated that The Ancient
Keetoowah are told that they are the Chief Indian Tribe in the Americas, and
that if and when the Great Spirit speak to the Indians in the Americas, they
will deliver the message to the Keetoowah first.
PROPHECIES from http://www.eagles-wingsmin.com/senamc1.htm
In the heart of the Smokey Mountains, some 3500 years ago, God revealed Himself to a people. The Creator gave the people a Mother town and a new name - both were named “Keetoowah.” The town was located near present day Bryson City, North Carolina. It was from Keetoowah that the Creator revealed His true name to the people. He said His name was “Yowah” and the people would be “kit-Yowah” or “from God.” Today they are known as the Cherokee.
At the advent of European contact the Cherokee had become the most powerful tribal group in the American southeast, claiming parts of nine states. The Cherokees were known to the colonists as the most civilized tribe because they chose to adapt to many of the newcomer ways. One of those ways was [Christianity].
Mainly influenced by the Baptist and Methodist, churches sprang up all over Cherokee country. One Baptist missionary and his Cherokee co-worker, who were especially sensitive to the Cherokee culture, started over 30 churches and trained several dozen Cherokee preachers.
Upon their forced removal through an illegal scheme, the Cherokees lost all their old homelands. Later, a small amount of land was restored through the benevolence of a man named William Thomas. Today that small group is located in Cherokee, North Carolina, and known as “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.” Their western cousins are predominately located in eastern Oklahoma, but a wide remnant of people with Cherokee ancestry can be found today in every state, particularly in the American south.
What was God’s plan for this unique people group before their tragic
loss? As with all peoples, He had called them to be His people, to become “a
light to the nations.” There is an ancient Cherokee prophecy that states,
“The Cherokees will lead all the other tribes back to the Great Spirit.” To
date, this prophecy has not come to pass.
Keetoowah History and Prophecy
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Before you read the prophecy below, bear in mind that The Hebrew Kaballah teaches that there are usually 5 levels of understanding in spiritual matters. So it is with this Keetoowah prophecy! I believe that this prophecy is actually speaking about our current conditions e.g. lack of respect for elders, and that if we don't return -- ethics-wise -- in the direction we came from, East or the past, we will walk west a nation to the future death of our nation and our genocide will be our own fault. We must reinvent ourselves now as the Phoenix bird always has!
LEGEND OF THE KEETOOWAH - Version A
by Ken Martin
The Cherokee sometimes refer to themselves as Ani-Kituhwagi, "The People of Kituhwa". Kituhwa was the name of an ancient city, located near present Bryson City, North Carolina that was the nucleus of the Cherokee Nation. The common English phonetic spelling today is "Keetoowah", a name used by traditionalist Cherokee groups like the Keetoowah Society, who are followers of traditional religion, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, a Federally recognized tribe of predominantly full blood Cherokees.
The Legend of the Keetoowah, as recalled in 1930 by Levi B. Gritts, a prominent member of the traditionalist Keetoowah Society, places them on islands in the Atlantic Ocean east of South America. Anthropologists have discovered that Cherokee basket and pottery styles resemble those of South American and Caribbean tribes, differing from other tribes of the southeast U.S.
Seventy tribes attacked them but, by the guidance of God, they were victorious. The last warrior of their attackers, Ner-du-er-gi, was on top of a mountain overlooking their camp in the deep valley below. This warrior saw a smoke arising from the camp which "extended up beyond Heaven". The smoke was divided into three parts and in that there was an eagle holding arrows. When the warrior and h is followers saw this, he ordered them not to attack the Indians for they were God's people and powerful and if they attacked they would be destroyed.
When God created these people he gave them great, mysterious power to be used for the best interests of the people. They lived in large cities with tall buildings. Some wise men began to use their power different than was intended which troubled the people. God instructed them to take their white fire and move away from that place. Some went to Asia, some to India, and others to North America leaving the wise men behind. After they had gone to other countries, these large cities were destroyed when the ground sank and are now under the ocean. God turned to the people that came to America and gave them wisdom and guided them.
There came a time when the people began to violate their teachings - committing crimes against each other, committing murders, and feuding between the seven clans. The people met with their medicine men around their fire to ask God for guidance. The medicine men were inspired to go up to a high mountain, one at a time on each of seven days.
On the seventh day, they heard a noise over them and a light brighter than day appeared and a voice said, "I am a messenger from God. God has heard your prayers and He has great passion for your people and from now on you shall be called Keetoowah. Go back to your fire and worship. There is a white ball from way east, who is your enemy, coming and your grandchildren's feet are directed west. They shall have great trials on the edge of the prairie. They shall be divided into different factions and their blood shall be about only on half. Families shall be divided against each other and they shall disregard their chiefs, leaders, medicine men, and captains. But if these younger generation should endeavor to follow your God's instruction there is a chance to turn back east and if not, the next move shall be west, on to the coast and from there on to the boat and this shall be the last."
LEGEND OF THE KEETOOWAH - Version B
Chief John Ross
Thank you, I am pleased to be here today.
On behalf of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, I want to thank the University of Arkansas for allowing this first Annual Native American Symposium. I also want to thank Dr. Frank Scheide who is responsible for organizing this event. I hope this event will become one of the main attractions on the campus in the future. My presentation is about the Keetoowah history, pre-Columbian, the arrival of the Europeans, the western migration, The Legend of the Keetoowahs, The Prophesy and the move back to east. I hope you enjoy my presentation and learn about my people.
The Keetoowah people preferred to live in the mountains and along streams in harmony with nature . The Keetoowah people led simple lives . Searching for food occupied most of their time. They obtained food, shelter, clothing and other needs from nature's bounty by hunting, gathering, and farming. The men were first and foremost warriors and hunters. They provided meat for their families, protected their households and their communities. They made war against their enemy tribes. They also performed tribal, political and religious duties. The women managed household duties, provided meals, gathered food, and tended to the crops and made their family's clothing.
Agriculture matched hunting and gathering in importance to their economy. Economic life was enriched by commerce with other neighboring tribes. They traded deerskins, pots, war implements and copper. At this time the Indian tribes lacked several items compared to the Europeans. They depended on their own physical power. They had no large domesticated animals such as horses or cows. Indian tribes had domesticated dogs to guard their settlements, to hunt and pull sleds to move goods over land. The Keetoowah people believed religion and law were the same; the priest was the legal figure and the people were governed by the laws of the spirits.
The Clan Law or Blood Law was the social structure for the Keetoowahs and practiced in a matrilineal arrangement, passing from the mother to the children. If a tribal member committed a crime such as murder, the Clan of the victim would avenge the death under the supervision of the oldest family member. If the slayer could not be found, a brother of the perpetrator could be substituted as a sacrifice to the law of retaliation. If this was not done, the spirit of the victim would not pass into the spirit world and would haunt the family. The Keetoowahs practiced a mixed system of private and public punishment. The Keetoowahs had different Chiefs during certain times. During times of war their leaders were called Red Chiefs and in times of peace they were called White Chiefs.
The Anglo Contact:
When Hernando DeSoto discovered the Keetoowah people in 1540, there were sixty different and independent villages with each having a separate government and leaders. The whole tribe came together only in times of war and ceremonies. The tribal life was unchanged as late as 1710. When the White man's influence arrived it was slow at first but then spread rapidly. This created major changes with the tribal leadership shifting from priest to warrior. The Whites brought diseases and many Keetoowah people died of mainly smallpox.
Fur trading was the most instrumental in creating change. The warriors became hunters and served as agents for fur trading. The tribal members pursued material possessions and wealth. They began purchasing farm animals, and equipment. Tribal members understandably were quickly drawn to trade goods. They had always relied on stone, wood, and other essentials. European goods of metal, glass and cloth were truly revolutionary innovations to the Keetoowah people. They saw the advantage of European goods and quickly came to value and demand the new materials. With the tribe dependent on the European existence, the economic base greatly changed the structure of the Keetoowah life.
The people became literate in the English language, attended schools in the east, then returned to assume leadership positions in the tribe, and this created additional changes. The U.S. Government began negotiating with only the mixed-bloods, which formulated the United Cherokee Nation in 1777. The westward migration: Opposition to the rapid changes in the tribal governmental structure resulted in the migration of many traditional groups.
Chief Dragging Canoe and one thousand of his fullblood followers migrated to the western part of Tennessee and later to the State of Arkansas. The Keetoowah life was so structured that an opposing political faction was permitted to physically remove themselves from the main tribal government. Such removal occurred several times in the Keetoowah/Cherokee history. The majority of those who voluntarily moved to Arkansas were the conservative hunter element who desired to maintain the old traditional culture. The main tribe back east was rapidly drifting away from the traditional way of life through the influence of schools and the educated tribal leadership.
The Arkansas lands where the Keetoowah's settled belonged to the Osage tribe, whose claims had not yet been extinguished by the United States. The Osage objected to the Keetoowah presence, and the Keetoowahs were compelled to fight to maintain the land. For the first 20 years or more the Keetoowahs were in constant threat by the Osage. The treaty of 1817 with the United States exchanged the lands in Tennessee for the lands in Arkansas. This gained the Keetoowahs a definite title to a territory. The treaty of 1819 established the boundaries. In the Spring of 1819 Thomas Nuttall, a Naturalist, came up the Arkansas River, and gave his account of the Keetoowahs as he found them at that time.
Quoting Nuttall "In going up the stream there were houses and farms on both banks of the River. The houses were decently furnished, and their farms were well fenced and stocked with cattle. They had everything they needed: food, clothes, water and good land."
At this time the Keetoowahs numbered 4 to 5 thousand members. In 1820 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission established Dwight Mission, at the mouth of Illinois Creek, on the bank of the Arkansas River in what is now Pope County Arkansas. The name Dwight Mission was given in remembrance of Timothy Dwight, a Yale President and pioneer Organizer of the American Board.
In 1822 Sequoyah visited the Keetoowah people to teach them the knowledge of his great invention. The invention of the alphabet or (commonly known as the Syllabaries) it had an immediate and wonderful effect on the Keetoowah people's development. Sequoyah is the only man in history to invent a written language single handily. This remarkable man never attended school and in all his life never earned to speak, read, or write the English language. On account of the remarkable adaptation of the Syllabary to the Keetoowah/Cherokee language, it was only necessary to learn the characters to be able to read at once. There were no schoolhouses or teachers, however the whole tribe were able to read and write in their own language. Sequoyah took up permanent residence with the Keetoowah people living somewhere in the area between present-day Scottsville and Russellville.
By the Treaty of 1828 the Keetoowah people were forced to exchange their lands in Arkansas for lands in Oklahoma. The Keetoowahs moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma ten years prior to the forced removal (commonly known as the "Trail of Tears") of the Cherokee Nation.
The Keetoowah people had a great part in shaping this western part of Arkansas. The Keetoowahs went on to adopted a written constitution in 1828. During the Civil War the Keetoowahs sided with the Union. They fought against the mixed blood Cherokees who sided with the confederates.
The word "Keetoowah" is the name which my people have always called themselves. The word "Cherokee" has no meaning in the language of my people. It is derived from a Muscogan Language and its meaning is the "inhabitant of the cave country." The word "Keetoowah" means "Principal People."
The Legend and The Prophesy
The following legend of the Keetoowah people, which dates back to the beginning of time, has been passed orally by each generation.
Upon the creation of the Keetoowah people, the Creator gave them mysterious powers and placed them in large settlement on an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. There were other tribes on the island which attacked the Keetoowah people, and the Keetoowahs were victorious.
Another tribe watched the fierce fighting from a mountain top. The leader of the tribe watched the valley ascend toward the Heaven. The smoke divided into three paths midway in the ascension an eagle was seen holding three arrows in its claws. The leader asked his warriors if the smoke and eagle were visible to them and they replied they were. The tribal leader then told his warriors not to attack the Keetoowah people because they were the Creators people and they were very powerful. The tribe came down from the mountain and made friends with the Keetoowah people.
In later years, some of the medicine men of the tribe became selfish and used their powers to harm their own people. The Creator gave the powers to the medicine men to be used in the best interest of all the people. Other tribal members prayed to the Creator for direction and the Creator heard their prayers. The instruction was to move their fire away from the island and the medicine men. After the departure, the island sank into the ocean.
The people migrated north and settled in the southeastern part of what is now the United States. Many years later, again the medicine men became selfish and committed crimes against their own tribal members. The people gathered to discuss the solution to this problem and it was decided that seven medicine men, one from each of the seven clans, would travel to a mountain top and pray. The seven medicine men went up to the mountain top and prayed. Soon a messenger from the Creator appeared and told them the Creator had heard their prayers and had great sympathy for them.
The messenger told the medicine men their tribe would be called "Keetoowah" from that day forward. The messenger revealed to them that a "white ball" would arrive from the east that would be an enemy to the people. The grandchildren of the Keetoowahs would point their feet to the west and great hardship would be placed upon them at the edge of the prairie. Their blood and families would be divided and the enemy would not respect the Keetoowah people.
The messenger revealed that a young leader would lead the Keetoowah people back to the east. However, if the Keetoowah people chose not to follow the Creator's direction, they would continue further west to a sea of water and disappear forever. The Creator said, "If the Keetoowah people are destroyed or become extinct, then the end of the world will follow." The move back to east:
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees the only landless tribe in this country. This recognition is based on Congressional legislation, Bureau of Indian Affairs policies and the Federal Courts rulings made over the past several years. They have all ruled the Keetoowahs do not have a land base or a jurisdictions area. The only alternative the Keetoowahs had was to move away from Oklahoma. This is what prompted the Keetoowahs to request the BIA to approve the UKB to establish a land base outside of Oklahoma and back to the east in Arkansas.
The BIA central office in Washington DC gave approval on June 23, 1994 to establish a land base outside of Oklahoma into Arkansas. The Keetoowahs now have established a land base and also an office in Waldron, Arkansas. Now, based on what you have heard, is the move back to the east purely by accident, or is this according to the prophecy? That concludes my presentation. I want to thank everyone for being here today and giving me the honor of speaking to you.
Chief John Ross