The following account is my own opinion, pieced together from a myriad of sources, the first part from my Granny and Aunt Dode, as well as Tommy Bass, and the second from various white history texts.
Long ago, just before White men came to this land, we Real People were a religious people ruled by a class of priests. Our priests knew the old religion, and the methods by which the Great Father was to be worshiped, that He might be pleased with us. One day, while men were away hunting, the priests of one village, some say in Chota itself, the priests abducted a young wife and hid her away. When her husband returned and found her gone he began to inquire, and learning what had happened, he sought her out. When the priests would neither return her, nor show him a body, he incited all the people, all across the nation, to slaughter the priests. One young novice survived this rebellion, and through his limited knowledge, our religion continued along, crippled. But from then on, for lack of a better word, we had a democratised religion. Some say this old way was the worship of many gods and demons, some say it was the true worship of the Great Father of All, what Whites call monotheism and that the worship of many gods and demons came after we killed our priests and forgot the old ways.
Then very shortly after, the first White men came to us, with shiny scales like Armadillo, but which shown like the surface of a lake when it is calm. They were very few, but very cruel. They were the Spaniards. They hid in a cave through winter which Whites call Welch’s Cave or Welsh Cave, and when winter passed, they left away very quickly south along the Great War Path. And soon thereafter, a sickness came upon us and many died. We were being punished for killing the Great father’s priests some say. Others say other things.
Eventually things settled out, and though many had died, those who remained went on with life and soon we were many again. And then another White man came. but this White man was different. He did not have scales like Armadillo, but wore very strange clothes, and when he came into our mountains he shed his strange clothes and dressed as we dress, and ate as we eat, and danced and sang as we do. He learned our language, and when he could speak like a Real Person, he began to tell us of the old ways again, to remind us of our old religion. He taught us that the Great Father was one, and that He made all things, and that He loved us even when we were wicked. But He also taught us that God was really three, and that He became his own son, and that as His own son, He became one of us and walked the Earth and was pleased. But because men are wicked sometimes, men killed God and that all men are guilty of this crime. And when He was dead, He revived and went away, and after a little while He came back, but as a Spirit and not a man. And that He could be heard in the rustling of leaves when there was no wind.
And the Real People loved this white man very much and began to follow him. Not all the Real People, for some were threatened by his talk. In these days Aga’Nstata and Adg’kala were very young. But one day, other white men, English men, found him when he had went down to the White men who lived down near the great sea, Spaniards, and took him from us and we never again saw him. And eventually we Real people began to forget all that he had spoke and to fall into our old ways again. And we did not hear his talk again for many generations, until the time when the Moravians came at the request of Rich Joe Vann and began to talk to us about Christianity.
That man who came to us was Christian Gottlieb Prieber, a German. The Englishmen who seized him, and imprisoned and killed him, said he was a Jesuit aligned with the Spaniards. Modern history says Englishmen called everyone they did not like a Jesuit and that this was a lie and that the truth is he was a scoundrel who planned to build a vast empire of Indians and enslave us all to his own wicked ends.
But I ask my catholic readers, doesn’t he sound like a Jesuit? He came alone among us, he became like us, and when he could talk to us in our own idiom, he began to expound on the Trinity, and God’s love for all his children. When the Moravians came, they recognised how readily we accepted their Gospel, because it coincided with our own understanding so well. One said we were converted with no effort at all and that God surely had made our hearts ready before their arrival.
But the sad thing is that the Englishmen, who we accepted eventually as our brothers, and submitted to their Great Father across the Sea, never once told us of Christ nor made any effort to convert us. And when a few of the Englishmen here became wicked and rebelled against the Great Father across the Sea, many of us eventually submitted to them, and became their friends too. And they gave us spinning wheels and looms and steel ploughs and many other things, to the point that they called us civilised, but they did not tell us of Christ. They thought it grand that many of us acted as they acted, and began to live as they lived. But they never shared with us the Christ.
Today, the National Anthem of the Cherokee People is “Amazing Grace”. The religion of most Cherokee is Baptist. Some have followed the Redbird and his ways he learned from the Nachee, but most are Baptist, as my whole family is. I am the only Catholic Cherokee, to my knowledge, though I have been told that Catholicism is common among the Cherokee in Texas and Mexico. I have never been among them and so I cannot say if this is so or not.
But this is the best reason I have not to trust Americans. Though you worshipped Christ, and said He was all things to all men, you did not give Him to us. You gave us technology instead.
This is damning, if you ask me. And then, when you discovered gold beneath us, you rounded many of us, many of us then Christians ourselves thanks to the Moravians, into several stockades built from chesnut logs, as many as 3,000 in a pit surrounded by chesnut walls no bigger than your local parish hall. We could not leave and lived like this for many months, eating the scraps you threw to us, living in a pit in our own filth, in the first concentration camps before forcing us to endure many hardships to a land you call Oklahoma. Hardships which killed 3 of every 4 who went. And even as you forced us to this thing, it broke your hearts to see us suffer, but still you would not relent. And so we call this forced march The Trail Where Y’all Cried. For we did not cry. We endured hardship as Real People should. Without complaint. But it broke your hearts and yet you forced us onward, westward, to line your pockets.
When I was a boy, my Aunt Gussie’s farm still had an old barn made from those same chesnut logs that had been used to construct the Stockade at Barry Springs, where Sogwili finished simplifying our writing so that everyone could learn it. We tried once to make a cross from one of those logs, to put in the yard at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church on Good Fridays. That chesnut was so hard that it broke 3 Stihl chainsaw blades just cutting it once and notching the two pieces. Wore them down and then broke them. But we Real People are not chainsaw blades. Those stockades wore many of us down but it could not break us. Someday I might share with you how you lie about Sogwili, and how Granny Kimbrell hid on Dirtseller mountain and did not enter the stockade, but for now I have had enough heartbreak.