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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokees' Relationship With Water Always Special
by Lynne Harlan for Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times

Summer is officially here for the kids in Cherokee. The Oconaluftee River, which runs through downtown Cherokee, has been one way to celebrate the summer break. For my boy, there isn’t much better than a cool dip in the river. The kids in Cherokee are enjoying the oldest of Cherokee traditions.

Cherokees have long held water in high esteem. Cherokees would wake in the morning and go to water for prayer. The power of water from special places is also important. Cherokees go to special places to gather water for ceremonies. One place to gather water is the sacred lake.

The Cherokee story of the sacred lake tells of healing water found deep in the mountains. The sacred lake is crystal-clear and when water is brought back to the community it is so pure that it holds the ice-cold temperature even in the heat of summer.

Cherokee stories of bears and their relationship to water are numerous. The Cherokee tell a story about a clan which grew tired of working so hard for food that they decided to leave the village and go into the mountains to live. The head men of the village tried to persuade the clan to stay among the people but the clan had begun the seven-day fast to undertake their journey. The head men decided they would follow but when they caught up to the bear clan the people were growing long hair. Their nature was changing and they were becoming the bear. They bear clan spoke to the head men and assured them that when the people were hungry they could take their flesh and be satisfied, because in their form as bears they would always live. Before their parting the bears taught the head men the songs with which to call them.

The bears have great towns and great leaders but they always remain near the sacred lake. Like the Cherokee the bears hold water in high esteem, and if you are lucky you can see a bear enjoying the river. If we are lucky we can continue to go to the water as long as the bears protect the lake.

For more information visit: Cherokee Bear Project

B. Lynne Harlan, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, works as a freelance writer, curator and tribal historian.

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