Manataka American Indian Council

Sounds of Manataka

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Ghost Trails to Manataka



Playing music was never a question for Hot Springs, Arkansas native, Del Lillard.  Born in a household where both parents and all siblings played musical instruments, he was a self-taught guitarist/singer by age ten. 

His early influence was Hank Williams, Sr., but along with his early teens came the fever of rock ‘n roll and the spellbinding influence of Elvis Presley. By age sixteen he was appearing in Hot Springs night spots with country bands that wanted to add spice to their acts, and later branched into other popular musical genres. 

Pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, and later working as a licensed professional counselor for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, he continued to perform steadily throughout a long career.

In the early nineties Del became interested in researching his Cherokee roots. Most of the genealogical evidence points to his grandmother several generations removed, being the daughter of Corn Tassel, an eighteenth century peace chief in the east. Two of his generational uncles, Taklonteeskee and John Jolly later moved to Arkansas near Dardanelle and were successive chiefs of the western branch.

His genealogy is on file with the First Families of The Cherokee Nation and he is a member of the Cherokee National Historical Society in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

With a strong desire to contribute toward keeping the Cherokee culture alive, he fell naturally to his musical background and began writing songs based on colorful legends surrounding his beloved hometown of Hot Springs, the valley his ancestors called Manataka, or Nowasalon and its history of healing waters and rising vapors.

Now retired, his efforts have come to fruition in a first CD, Ghost Trails to Manataka, and a live show including narrative storytelling.

Ghost Trails to Manataka is powerful, stirring music by a seasoned performer.  Del Lillard’s lyrical style is professional and intense. Spirit Wind’s dynamic accompaniment of guitar, keyboard, bass and drums, with rich droppings of piano, fiddle and flute creates a colorful backdrop for his explosions of emotions that captures listeners from beginning to end.  His brilliantly colored storytelling makes magical the revelations of legend and history surrounding the romance of Hot Springs in its early days.

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Manataka Songs


Ghost Trails to Manataka - From the beginning of Father Time, native people from the four corners of North America have told ancient stories about a legendary valley filled with hot pools of healing water.  The hot pools were said to create great clouds of mystical vapors which ever rose to the sun.  Many tribes made regular visits to this sacred place of healing known as Manataka, the "Valley of Peace" which one day came to be known as Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.  Even today, visible signs of the "Ghost Trails" leading into the valley still remain.


Nowasalon - Many of the early Native Americans who came to bathe in the waters of Manataka were said to have called the sacred area Nowasalon, the "place of healing waters".  The mystical vapors rising from the valley floor were said to be the Great Spirits' "sacred breath of healing".  Word of the wondrous waters spread far and wide and the valley became a Mecca for the sick and afflicted.


Spirit Mountain - By the late 1700's, the Cherokee had begun moving in mass to what was then Spanish territory.  Initially, they settled between the White and St. Francis Rivers, but after the New Madrid Earthquake they relocated along the Arkansas River, close to Dardanelle, Arkansas.  My great, great uncles, Chiefs Tahlongeeskee and John Jolly, lived at a village called the Horsehead.  On their treks to Manataka, they would have taken a path leading into the Valley from the north which today is called the Sunset Trail.  The song, "Spirit Mountain" celebrates the trail's beauty and the giving of the "healing waters" to the people by the Great Spirit.


Rainbow Woman - The native people inhabiting the valley were grateful to the Great Spirit for His mysterious gift of healing waters.  In return, they allowed all tribes to come in peace.  In order to insure this, legend says that the Great Peace Council was created.  The council was chaired by the legendary and beautiful Rainbow Woman.  She and her coalition of Rainbow Warriors were responsible for maintaining law and order within the boundaries of Manataka.  She was said to have mystical powers which were used in times of crisis.


The Seven Keys to Crystal Cave - After the white man covered the once open pools of healing waters, it is said that Rainbow Woman retreated into the Crystal Cave, deep beneath Spirit Mountain were she now sleeps.  It is believed that soon she will awaken from her rest and unlock the seven magical keys of Crystal Cave.  She and her Rainbow Warriors, using the power of Crystal Cave, will show people how to make the earth beautiful again.  They will teach all people the way of the Great Spirit and the world will be at peace. 


  Cherokee Songs

The Festival of Green Corn - The people of Manataka celebrated harvest with this ceremony. A holy man tended a sacred fire during this time of forgiveness and thanksgiving. 

Cherokee Rose - A tragic love story is told of a young Cherokee couple and the sudden death of the beautiful “Cherokee Rose”.

Cherokee by Blood - By 1835, the fraudulent New Echota Treaty led to the removal of the eastern Cherokees, who were taken on “the trail where they cried." My people were removed, but they could not take away our Cherokee Blood.


Through Cherokee Eyes - The ancient Cherokee town of Hiawassee lies within the boundaries of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. My Cherokee ancestors lived in this scenic area and the beauty of the land as seen through Cherokee eyes is still unsurpassed.


The Talking Leaves - A child called Sequoia was born into the Paint Clan. He became infatuated with the white man’s written language and developed one for his people. They called his syllabary “the talking leaves”.


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