American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center

American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center

Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians [a machine-readable transcription]

Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians.

Compiled from the Collection of Rev. Daniel Sabin Buttrick, Their Missionary from 1817 to 1847; as presented in the Indian Chieftain, Published at Vinita, Ind. Ter., during the year 1884.

Edited by Jeffrey Freeman-Fuller

Table of Contents

Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians.

Compiled from the Collection of Rev. Daniel Sabin Buttrick, Their Missionary from 1817 to 1847; as presented in the Indian Chieftain, Published at Vinita, Ind. Ter., during the year 1884.

Editor's Notes

The source of the following text is Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians. Compiled from the Collection of Rev. Daniel Sabin Buttrick, Their Missionary from 1817 to 1847; as presented in the INDIAN CHIEFTAIN, published at Vinita, Ind. Ter., during the year 1884. Vinita: Indian Chieftain, Publishers, 1884.

I have followed this text faithfully except for silent emendations to correct obvious printing errors and to regularize the form of attributions. No attempt, however, has been made to follow typographical idiosyncrasies or to produce a facsimile edition. All footnotes are the editor's.

The reader should be aware that Buttrick, as well as the often quoted Boudinot, belonged to that group of scholars who were attempting to prove that American Indians were members of the so-called Lost Tribes of Israel. In this thesis, Indians are believed to share with the Hebrews certain linguistic characteristics as well as religious beliefs and a common history. Modern scholars discount these arguments.

Jeffrey Fuller-Freeman

Little Rock, Arkansas 2003


The following letter from Rev. Worcester Willy, who was a missionary for many years among the Cherokees, gives a short but appropriate sketch of the life and services of Rev. Daniel S. Buttrick, whose notes on Cherokee Antiquities have appeared from time to time for several months, in the columns of the Indian Chieftain, published at Vinita [1], Indian Territory. These notes were dedicated by Mr. Buttrick to John Ross [2], who for so many years as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, and for whom he cherished a very high regard, a regard which was the result of an intimate acquaintance and friendship.

The notes published comprise but a small portion of the writings of Mr. Buttrick on the Antiquities and other subjects of Cherokee history, but includes all that has come into our hands. Considering the fact that they were written more than sixty years ago just as they were received by a particularly conscientious minister, who devoted the whole of his mature life to the advancement of what he conceived to be the highest interests, temporal and spiritual, of the Cherokee people, we regard them as highly valuable. It may be that some of the views expressed by the persons from whose lips they were penned, as they flowed, were colored or tinged to some effect by their associations with the whites. But that intercourse had been, even at that late period, comparatively limited, and was doubtless more general than special, in the impressions made on the minds of the Indians as the result.

There can be no doubt that after conceding all reasonable allowance on that account, many, even most of the statements made by the old persons from whom information was naturally sought, had been received by them as the traditions of their ancestors handed down from sire to son, from long periods of time anterior to their knowledge of the Europeans. And in this view of their origin and character we regard the antiquities preserved in the notes of Father Buttrick, meager as they may seem, as of great curiosity and value. But if there are those among us who can eliminate them from them the spurious from the genuine, the modern from the ancient, it will add much to the few grains of golden wheat that remain. The time for obtaining such information on the subjects to which the notes relate, and kindred ones, among the Cherokees, if not already gone, is rapidly passing; and the writer of this brief introduction to those which follow, will welcome the pen that shall come forward and record them:

Andover, Mass, May 16th, 1884.

Hon. Wm. P. Ross [3]: At your request I have obtained the following facts: Rev. Daniel Sabine Buttrick, was born in Windsor, Mass., Aug. 25th 1789; removed to Richmond, New York, where he made a profession of religion in 1803; educated at Cooperstown Academy; ordained at Park street church, Boston, Mass., with Sereno Dwight its Pastor, Levi Parsons, John Nichols, and Allen Graves, missionaries, Sept. 3d, 1817.

The record of the journey of the company with which Mr. Buttrick went to the Cherokee mission is:

Dec. 18, 1817.--Arrived at Athens, Ga. Being now near the Indian country, and finding our spiritual life drooping, we thought it best to spend a day in fasting and prayer. Accordingly, Friday, 19th, was set apart for this purpose, and we found it very refreshing to our souls.

Tuesday, Dec. 23rd.--With great joy and elevation of spirits we entered the territory of the native. Night coming on, we encamped by the roadside. We made a tent of our blankets, and built a fire by a fallen tree. We prepared and took our tea, read a chapter, sung a psalm entitled "The Travelers' Psalm," and with great joy and satisfaction bowed the knee around the family altar.

Arrived at Brainerd Jan. 4, 1818. Mr. Buttrick labored at Brainerd, Carmel, Willstown, Hightown, and elsewhere east of the Mississippi.

Removed to Fairfield, west of the Mississippi, in 1839, then established a station near Beatty's Prairie and called it Mt. Zion. His health failing, he went to Dwight Mission, where he spent some ten years, and died June 8, 1851. He married at Hightown, April 29, 1827, to Miss Elizabeth Proctor, a mission teacher, formerly of Hopkinton, N.H., who arrived at Hightown in February, 1823. Died at Dwight Mission Aug. 3, 1847.

Mr. Buttrick was the most enthusiastic and successful missionary the American Board sent to the Cherokee mission. When he began his work he determined to learn the Cherokee language, if possible. To do this he took his blanket and went among the people, purposing to suffer for the necessaries of life til he could ask for them in Cherokee. In this effort he so far failed that he was never able to preach the Gospel in Cherokee. Yet he did succeed in learning the people, and securing their confidence to an extent that no other man has ever reached. No grown man has ever been able to learn the language so as to be able to preach it.

In his later years the Cherokees were accustomed to call him Father Buttrick. He was remarkably spiritual-minded. It was a great privilege to be associated with him in Christian work. When he became too feeble to sustain the care of a station alone, he came to Dwight Mission and spent the last ten years of his life. During those years, he spent most of his time in writing, with the purpose, as he said, to show that the Indian is somebody. He wrote trunks full of manuscripts on Indian antiquities and Indian languages. He spent much time in comparing these languages with the Hebrew. He became convinced that they are all of Hebrew origin. A large proportion of his writings were lost in the Civil War.

He used to say: "If I ever reach Heaven, it will be a great satisfaction to tell old Father Abraham that I helped to bring some of his children there." When he became too feeble to perform much labor, his friends at the North urged him to come and spend the last of his days with them. But he replied: "I should rather die than hear the great swearing I should be obliged to hear on the great thoroughfares over which I should be obliged to pass in getting there."

Mr. Buttrick gave himself, and all he had, to the Cherokees in the service of Christ. In the great resurrection day Father Buttrick will rise and go home with a great company of Cherokees.

The Buttrick Collection of Cherokee Antiquities

With regard to the religious views of the Cherokees, it seems that, from time immemorial, they have been divided in sentiment. While a great part have been idolatrous, worshipping the sun, moon, stars, &c., &c., a small part have denied that system, and taught the following: There are three beings above, who created all things, are present everywhere, see everything, govern all things, and will judge all men. When these beings call any person out of the world, they must die; and what kind of death these three think anyone should die, that death is certain. The names of these beings are U-ha-li-te-qua, great great, or the head of all power, great beyond expression; A-ta-no-ti--united or the place of uniting; and U-sqa-hu-la. These three beings are always one in sentiment and action, and always will be, and, being the governors and proprietors of all things, they sit on three white seats above, and are the only objects of worship, to whom all prayers are to be addressed. The angels are their messengers, and come down to this earth to attend to the affairs of men.

--Caty Vann.

Thomas Nutsawi

Ye-ho-wa was the name of a king who lived a great while ago. He was a man, and yet a spirit, a god, a very glorious being. His name was never to be spoken in common talk. This great king commanded them to rest every seventh day, and told them that if they should work on that day they should die, or some of their relatives. They were to hold their hands still (the palms up) and their talk must be about God. Ye-ho-wah [sic] was the most sacred name. None must speak it but persons appointed for the purpose, and they only on the Sabbath. God created the world in seven days.


That the Cherokees were acquainted with the Sabbath, and the nature of it, when their present language was formed, is put beyond a doubt by the language itself. The name for Sabbath, Unotataquaska," literally signifies the day, the whole of which is devoted by the people to a rest from all common labor. But this rest is not opposed to weariness, nor has it any reference to it, but simply to labor or action. To rest on account of weariness or fatigue is another word altogether, thus: Uniawesalaha--they are resting from weariness, unotataquaska--they are resting, i.e., ceasing from labor a whole day, keeping Sabbath. So also in Hebrew: "Shabath"--to cease, leave off, or rest from, work. It is opposed not to weariness, but to work or action.

--Parkhurst [4]

The Cherokee names for Saturday and Monday also equally indicate their knowledge of the Sabbath: Renotataquitena (Saturday) literally signifies before the day wholly devoted to rest or cessation from labor; and Unotataquanohi (Monday) signifies beyond or after the day wholly set apart from labor. It is well to mention here that in the names for Sabbath, Saturday, and Monday, the plural form is used. An individual resting from labor a whole day, or keeping Sabbath, says, "aquotataquaska"--I am resting or ceasing from labor during the day; but "unotataquaska" signifies they, all the people rest, and thus points out the day as a common day of rest or cessation from labor, to be generally observed by all.

With regard to other Indian nations having a knowledge of the Sabbath, the Hon. Elias Boudinot [5] says: "The number and regular periods of the Indian public religious feasts, is a good historical proof that they counted time, and observed a weekly Sabbath, long after their arrival on the American Continent, as this is applicable to all the Nations."

--Star in the West, p.164-5.

The world was created at the time of the first new moon in autumn, with the fruits all ripe. The first new moon in autumn is therefore the great new moon, or Nu-ta-te-qua, and with it the year commences, as regards the feasts of new moons, though the first new moon in spring begins the year with regard to the feast of first fruits, &c., because then the fruits begin to come forward. --Yu-wi-yoka.

The great new moon made its appearance in autumn, when the leaves began to fall.


God made man, red, of red clay, and made the woman of one of his ribs.


At first no snakes or weeds were poisonous. Poison was afterwards communicated to them.

--Thomas Nutsawi

Soon after the creation one of the family was bitten by a serpent and died. All possible means were resorted to, to bring back life, but in vain. Being overcome in this first instance, the whole race were doomed to follow, not only to death, but to misery afterwards, as it was supposed that that person went to misery. Another tradition says that soon after the creation a young woman was bitten by a serpent and died, and her spirit went to a certain place, and the people were told that if they would get her spirit back to her body, that the body would live again, and they would prevent the general mortality of the body. Some young men, therefore, started with a box to catch the spirit. They went to a place and saw it dancing about, and at length caught it in the box and shut the lid, so as to confine it, and started back. But the spirit kept pleading with them to open the box, so as to afford a little light, but they hurried on until they arrived near the place where the body was, and then, on account of her particular urgency, they removed the lid a very little, and out flew the spirit and was gone, and with it all their hopes of immortality.

All were Indians, or red people, before the flood. They had also preachers and prophets before the flood. Their preachers would sometimes continue their discourses nearly all the day, teaching the people to obey God. They also taught the children to obey their parents. They warned the people of the approaching flood, if they continued to disobey God, but said the world should not be destroyed by water but once; it would be afterwards destroyed by fire, when God would send first a shower of pitch and then a shower of fire to set everything in a flame. They also taught the people that after death the good and the bad would separate; the good would take a path which would lead them to a place of happiness, where it would be always light; but the bad would be urged along another path, which led to a deep gulf, over which lay a pole with a dog at each end. They would be urged onto this pole, and the dogs, by moving it, would throw them off into the gulf of fire beneath. But if any got over it, they would be transfixed with red-hot bars of iron, and be thus tormented forever.

The priest offered sacrifice with new fire, having a rack two or three feet tall with an altar. A little before the flood men grew worse and worse, and, like some of the Cherokee young men now, worse by reproof and warning. Also, some infants were born with whole sets of teeth.


A venerable old man approached Columbus with great reverence, and presented him with a basket of fruit, and said: "You are come into these countries with a force which, were we inclined to resist, resistance would be folly. We are all, therefore, at your mercy. But if you are men subject to mortality, like ourselves, you cannot be unapprised after this life there is another, wherein a very different portion is allotted to good and bad men. If, therefore, you expect to die, and believe with us that everyone is to be rewarded in a future state, according to his conduct in the present, you will do no hurt to those who do none to you."

-- Edwards' West Indies, Vol. I., p.72.[6]

Star of the West, p. 142.

At length God sent a messenger from above to warn the people of the flood unless they turned from their wickedness.

God then told a man to make a house that would swim, and take his family and some of the different kinds of animals into it.


The rain commenced, and continued forty days and forty nights, while the water at the same time gushed out of the ground so that as much came up as came down from the clouds.


As also the Natcher.

The Natchez Indians also affirm further, that not a log or anything whatever, swam, but everything lay just as it was, so that he people could by no means save themselves from drowning.

--Yuwi Yokh.

The house or boat was raised up on the waters and borne away. At length the man sent out a raven, and, after some time, sent a dove, which came back with a leaf in her mouth. Soon after this, the man found the house (or boat) was resting on dry ground, on the top of a mountain. This being in the spring of the year, the family and all the animals left the boat, and the family descended to the bottom of the mountain and commenced their farming operations.


Some time after the flood the people generally (the Indians excepted) determined to build a wall to reach the clouds, and proceeded till the wall was very high. They built this wall of stone (Nutsawi) or, according to others of wood (Shield Eater.) At length the people became very much alarmed by seeing something black in the air above them; and also God was angry with them, and spoiled their language, so that the people could not understand each other, and got into quarrels, and separated.

--Nutsawi and Shield Eater.

An old man, nearly a hundred years old, by the name of Kotiski, says that, when a small boy, he used to listen to the conversation of two very aged men, who would sometimes sit up and talk nearly the whole night; and among other things they told the following: There was a God, the father and the son; that they were always present, and knew all we said and did, and that the father sent the son to attend and manage the affairs of the world. Prayers were to be directed to these two, and also to Aqua, Abraham, not, however, as to God, but as to their great father, who, though a man like themselves, was greater or wiser than themselves.

When God created the world, he made a heaven or firmament about as high as the tops of the mountains, but this was too warm. He then created a second, which was also too warm. He thus proceeded until He had created seven heavens, and in the seventh fixed His abode.

During some of their prayers they raise their hands to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh heaven, and then express their desires to God, who dwells there. But when they sung that special prayer designed for the morning of every seventh day, they commenced with the third heaven, ascending to the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and then uttered their prayer to the father and the son, in substance as follows: "Oh, God, thou hast created us, and hast the hearts of all in thy hands. We pray for thine aid, and for long life and health. Aqua (Abraham) our father taught us to pray thus." Then they prayed to Abraham to take them into his arms. This prayer was sung every seventh morning, seven times, commencing a little before day, and about daybreak they repaired to a stream of water and plunged entirely four or seven times. The water washed away their heaviness, and God gave them comfort and joy in their hearts. They then prayed to Him to continue this joy in their hearts. On returning to the house they put on their hands the white ashes covering the coals, and rubbed their faces and breasts.

The old men say that God created all things in six days, and rested the seventh; and therefore all must rest every seventh day, and meet at the town houses.

The principle men called the people together at an early hour. No work was done, except by women, who brought forward the food. The old men smoked, and the young men occasionally danced before them.

At usual breakfast time, the victuals were brought by fourteen women previously appointed, seven of whom waited on the men and seven on the women. The priests sat on their appropriate white seats; other old men on seats near the middle of the house; other men and boys on seats to the right, and the women and the girls at the left. The victuals were sat on the ground in dishes, before the several seats, and then the waiting women took their seats with the other females. The priest them arose and told the people that God, the creator, had given them food, and that, by partaking of it, they would be refreshed, and then told them to eat. The repast being ended, the fourteen women took away the dishes. The leader of the dancers was called forward. He arranged the company in single file; the leader followed by his wife, the next principle man and his wife, and so on, a man and his wife; or if a man had no wife, he was followed by a single female who was a near relative, or of the same clan. This arrangement might form a number of circles in the house. Being thus arranged, while standing, the congregation was addressed by four priests successively. They occupied the white middle seat. The eldest arose and spoke, holding a white wing of a fowl by the right side of his face. Together with various other instructions, he charged the people to love and be kind to one another. On concluding, the first took his seat, and handed the white wing to the one next him, and so on, till all four had spoken. The white wing was then hung in a sacred place over their heads. The dance then commenced. Toward evening, all being again seated, the same women who had provided breakfast now brought forward the dinner (or supper) which was served as in the morning; and the night wholly spent in dancing. None must sleep but small children. On Monday morning breakfast was brought, and after eating, all retired to their houses.

The first man and woman were made of red earth, and therefore were red, and God told them when they died they would turn to earth again, When God created the man and the woman, He told them to multiply.


Big Pheasant relates the history of the creation, received from his grandmother and handed down from the old men before they had any knowledge from the whites. Beings from above came down and created the world, and everything connected with it. Then they called a council and created the man, and gave him life. The man then fell into a sleep, and the Lord took a rib from his side and made a woman, and gave her to the man. God instructed them about marriage, and told them to multiply. This woman was the mother of all living people, i.e., of all nations. God directed them, also, not to use vulgar language nor tell a lie, as these would be very wicked.

--Big Pheasant.

Another aged Cherokee, the Otter, gives a brief account of the Creation, as handed down by the old men, in substance as follows: Two great beings, the Father and the Son, created all things. They took clay and fashioned two persons in their image, except that one was a woman. They then gave them life. They also formed a garden in which were all kinds of fruits, but forbade the man and woman taking any fruit from that garden, or seed to plant. The newly created pair settled out in the country and multiplied. At length the Son came down and found they had stolen fruit from the garden, in violation of the command of their creator, and had it growing through the country. He returned and told the Father what great wickedness had been committed. But, notwithstanding this wickedness, it was resolved not to destroy the people, but to give them further instruction and warning. They still, however, increased in wickedness, till the Lord brought a flood upon the Earth, and then left it. Before leaving it, he taught the people how to pray to Him above, every morning about daybreak; so that all must pray to the creator every morning.

The soul of the first man was given by the breath of God. He blew into the man and the woman, and this gave them breath, and soul, and heart, and inwards. The soul of the infant comes with the first breath, which happens they suppose before birth, as soon as the infant manifests life. The soul lives forever.


God gave the red man a book and paper, and told him to write, but he merely made marks on the paper, and as he could not read or write, the Lord gave him a bow and arrow, and gave the book to the white man.

A great while ago a part of the world was burned, though it is not known now how, or by whom, but it is said the other land was formed by washing in from the mountains.


Mr. Boudinot, speaking of the Indians, says: "It is said among their principal or 'beloved' men, that they have it handed down from their ancestors, that the book which the white men have was once theirs; that, while they had it, they prospered exceedingly; but that the white people bought it of them, and learned many things from it; while the Indians lost credit, offended the Great Spirit and suffered exceedingly from the neighboring nations; that the Great Spirit took pity on them, and directed them to this country; that on their way they came to a great river, which they could not pass. Where God dried up the waters, and they passed over dry-shod.

"They also say that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold future, and controlled the common course of nature, and this they transmitted to their offspring, on condition of their obeying the same laws; that they did, by these means, bring down showers of plenty on the beloved people. But this power, for a long time past, has entirely ceased."

-- Star in the West.

Aqua-ha-ye (Abraham) was the greatest among their ancestors, but this is all that can be told of him.

When our scholars, David Brown [7], John Tub, &c., first began to translate the scriptures, they expressed Abraham in Cherokee by Aqua-ha-mi, though the letter "m" is not congenial to the Cherokee language nor found at all in the mountain dialect which is evidently most ancient. But the name Aquahaye, as known only by the antiquarians, flows easily from every Cherokee tongue.

The next man of greatest note among their early ancestors was by the name of Wasi (Moses). He was the greatest prophet, and told them of things past, relative to the creation of the world, the history of mankind, and also told them things to come. He directed them how to consecrate their priests, how and when to celebrate their feasts, and how to attend to all their religious ceremonies, and charged them to observe all he had commanded them forever.


God loved their fathers, and told them that they should be the father of all nations; and He gave them a country, though they had a great distance to travel to get to it. At length they started for their country, but when they started they were fleeing from their enemies. Who these enemies were, or where they lived, is not now known. When they started they soon came to a great water, and because God loved their fathers, He told their leader (his name they do not know) to strike the water with a staff, and it should divide till they passed through, and then come together, so that their enemies could not follow to injure them. Their leader did this. He went forward, striking the water, and it parted so that all went through safely, and then the waters came back and stopped their enemies. They then entered a vast wilderness.

Some time after they entered this wilderness, they came to a high mountain, and God came down upon the mountain, and their leader went up and conversed with God, or, rather, as their fathers said, with the Son of God. They supposed, therefore, that God had a son, as it was said to be the son of God that came down on the mountain, and the top of the mountain was bright like the sun. There God gave their leader a law, written on a smooth stone. The reason of this being written on stone was as follows, viz; God gave our first parents a law, to be handed down verbally to posterity. But when the language was destroyed and men began to quarrel and kill each other, they forgot this law, and therefore God wrote his law now on a stone, a smooth slate stone, that it might not be lost. Their leader also received other instructions from God, which he wrote on skins.

God also directed their leader to erect a certain building, to be covered with a cloth made of deer's hair and turkey feathers. This was to be set up when they rested, and taken down and carried when they journeyed.

God also directed them to repeat or chant certain sentences every morning at or about daylight, and before going to sleep at night.

In the wilderness God gave them their holy fire from heaven. This they ever kept for burning sacrifices, and Holy purposes, and, though, when they came to this continent they left it behind, yet in a miraculous manner they had it brought over the great water, and kept it till, on a certain occasion, their enemies came upon them and destroyed the house in which it was kept. After that they were obliged to make new fire for sacred purposes by rubbing two pieces of dry wood together, with a certain weed called golden rod, dry, between them. After constant rubbing for some time, this took fire, together with the wood, and this fire was used for religious purposes.

[When their enemies destroyed the house in which this holy fire was kept, it was said the fire settled down in the earth, where it still lives, though unknown to the people. The place where they lost this holy fire is somewhere in one of the Carolinas.--Inata (Snake.)]

[This new fire, made by friction, like the original holy fire, must not be used for any common purpose, (except when made especially to supply the nation with new fire.) No torch must be lighted by it, nor a coal taken from it for common use. After the sacrifice was burned and the ceremonies ended for which the fire was made, it was delivered to some one to keep.--Shield Eater or T. Smith.]

Originally they had twelve tribes but on account of disobedience with regard to marriage, it was resolved to have but seven.

In their journeys through this wilderness, the tribes marched separately, and also the clans. The clans were distinguished by having feathers of different colors fastened to their ears. They had two great standards, one white and one red. The white standard was under the control of the priests, and used for civil and religious purposes; but the red standard was under the direction of the war priests, for purposes of war, or alarm. These were carried when they journeyed, and the white standard erected in front of the building above-mentioned, when they rested. The priests had trumpets, also, for their own particular use.

In going through this wilderness they had two waters to cross, between the first and the last river, before getting to their country. These two their leader struck, as he had done the first, and the water stopped, so that the children could wade through. But their whole journey through this wilderness was attended with great distress and danger. At one time they were beset by the most deadly kind of serpents, which destroyed a great many of the people, but at length their leader shot one with an arrow and drove them away.

Again, they were walking along in single file, when the ground cracked open and a number of the people sunk down and were destroyed by the earth closing upon them.

At another time they came nigh perishing for water. Their headmen dug with staves in all the low places, but could find no water. At length their leader found a most beautiful spring coming out of a rock.

They were a great many years in getting through this wilderness, and many of the people died. They never could have got through, the dangers were so great, if God had not helped them.

When they came to the land which God had given to their fathers, they had a large river to cross. This had been told them all along. But when they came to this river, their leader struck it with his stick and the water above stopped, so that all the children could wade through. After they had crossed they camped on the other side and named the place Tahmitoo.

They had then to engage in wars--and on one occasion their leader caused the sun to stand still and thus lengthened the day, that they might destroy their enemies. And at another time the Lord destroyed their enemies by sending a hailstorm upon them, some of the hail stones being as large as hominy mortar.

--Shield Eater.


Shield-Eater once inquired if I had ever heard of houses with flat roofs, saying that his father's great grandfather used to say that once their people had a great town, with a high wall about it. That, on a certain occasion, their enemies broke down a part of this wall--that the houses in this town had flat roofs, though, he used to say; this was so long ago it is not worth talking about now.

A great while ago the Indians were afflicted with certain very awful complaints, which do not prevail now. One especially, which occasioned dreadful sores, though different from the smallpox, or yaws, or any complaint now known. When any one of a family was taken with the disease, the affected person was sent off some distance from any house, and there had a house prepared for him to live in ever after. Then the priest was sent for, to cleanse the house from which the diseased person been removed. The ceremonies were similar to those of cleansing a house defiled by the dead. After this, should any touch the diseased person, he would be unclean, as if he had touched a dead body.

--Corn Tassel.

--Old Will.

The Son of God, after giving the law on the mountain, commanded them to sing the hymn or prayer which they now sing at daybreak in the morning, and at night before going to sleep. This hymn was always to be sung or repeated at those seasons everyday.

--Shield Eater.

When they had the written law the people were better than they are now. They would not lie, nor have any idle, foolish talk. The old people used to tell the boys it would be bad to grow up in sin. In olden times the commandments were kept better than in later times. All sin was forbidden. Those who grew up in sin, they said, would be punished after death, but those who did right would be happy.


Red Bird, an old Cherokee, used to say the Cherokees had a white post set up near the council house and on the top of it was fastened a white skin, or piece of white cloth to remind them to keep their hearts as white as that was, and also to remind them of the commandments which were once given to their fathers, and written on white (something white). This was done when he was a boy, as he told his son Situagi.


Anciently, when women cooked breakfast, the cook put some of whatever she cooked into the fire; if mush, some of that; if meat, some of that; if birds, some or one of them. But the bird she sacrificed must be whole. The feathers were taken off and the entrails taken out, and then the bird laid on the fire.


Whenever a Cherokee killed and brought home a deer, he sacrificed a piece of the tongue and the neck. Also of all other four-footed clean beasts, that is, such as might be eaten. But after this first sacrifice they offered no more of the same animal. But if they obtained, or had given them, other meat, of which they had offered none, then the women put a piece in the fire every time they cooked. When birds were cooked, one was put into the fire. But on cooking any large fowls, as turkeys, geese, etc., they always sacrificed the breast. They never forgot to burn some of every kind of fresh meat.

Hunters also sacrificed a piece of the tongue of every deer they killed during the first four days; after that period they sacrificed the melt [8] of every deer they killed. They did this to obtain success. So, also, of every four footed clean beast, and the breast of every clean fowl. And on starting out in the morning they prayed to the Great White Being above to give them success.


Mr. Boudinot, speaking of other Indians, says: "The women always throw a small piece of the fattest meat into the fire before they begin to eat. At times they view it with pleasing attention, and pretend to draw omens from it. This they will do though they are quite alone, and not seen by any one."

--Star in the West.

Anciently the Cherokees gave thanks even before eating a common meal.

Witches were to be killed. A poisoner, among the Indians, means a witch, or one who, by means of certain ingredients, has power to bewitch or kill persons at a distance.

--Thomas Nutsawi.

In ancient times the Indians always had their places of worship near a river or creek, or on the bank of a lake, or on the seashore.

--Thomas Nutsawi,


God gave them directions with regard to marriage, as also with regard to what animals they might eat.

God commanded them not to say "askini" (mean or cursed) to the deformed, nor laugh at them. He said they must be kind to all people, especially to strangers. And if they had any animals under their care, they must treat them kindly. The old people used to speak the name "Jews," as in the Yowa [9] hymn, (Antisuri), but nothing further is known of them.


The Indians never used to eat a certain sinew in the thigh. The name of this sinew in Cherokee is "u-wa-sta-to." Some say that if they eat of the sinew, they will have cramp in it on attempting to run. It is said that once a woman had a cramp in that sinew, and therefore none must eat it.


Anciently, during a certain portion of the year, all the people used to fast every seventh day. Little children fasted till noon.

--Caty Vann.

Fasting all day was from sunset to sunset.

--Shield Eater,

And Other Antiquarians.

The seven clans are seven families, each from its own original stock, and therefore too nearly related to admit intermarriages. The names of these seven clans are as follows: 1. Ani-wa-ya, or Wolf clan; 2. Ani-ko-ta-ke-wi, or Blind Savannah clan; 3. Ani-wo-ti, or Paint clan; 4. Ani-qui-lo-hi, or Longhair clan; 5. Ani-tsis-qua, or Bird clan; 6. Ani-ka-wi, or Deer clan; 7. Ani-stasti, or Holly clan.

--Shield Eater.

Circumcision.--With regard to this we can learn but little from the Cherokees. Nutsawi says he has seen Indians of another tribe, or strangers to him, who had been circumcised, though he had no conversation with them on the subject. Mr. Boudinot, however, supposes that this rite has been practiced among the Indians. His remarks are as follows: "The Indians to the eastward say that, previous to the white people coming into their country, their ancestors were in the habit of using circumcision, but latterly, not being able to assign any reason for so strange a practice, their young people insisted on its being abolished."

McKenzie [10] says of the Slave and Dogrib Indians, very far to the northwest: "Whether circumcision be practiced among them, I cannot pretend to say, but the appearance of it was general among those I saw."

Dr. Beatty [11] says, in his journal of a visit he paid to the Indians on the Ohio, about 50 years (now 80 or 90) ago, that an old Indian informed him that an old uncle of his who died about the year 1728, related to him several customs and traditions of former times, and among others, that circumcision was practiced among the Indians long ago, but their young men making a mock at it, brought it into disrepute, and so it came to be discontinued.

--Star in the West., p.113.

The Indians have had two great kings, the greatest of these lived before the flood; but the second after they came to the land which God gave to their fathers. This king was also a preacher, and in his days the people were wise--much wiser than they have been since. He taught them the use of all roots and herbs they use in medicine, and also what to say or sing when administering them. He made the little spirits called Anitawehi, which poison people, and he also made another kind to cure the poison these infuse. Persons poisoned or killed by witchcraft first were made crazy. He taught them how to cure such persons, as also how to cure all diseases.

Crazy persons were supposed to be possessed with the devil, or afflicted with the Nanehi.

--Nutsawi (of Pine Log.)

Shield Eater had a lengthy tradition relative to their decline, the substance of which is as follows: God directed the Indians to ascend a certain mountain, that is, the warriors, and He would there send them assistance. They started, and had ascended far up the mountain, when one of the warriors began to talk about women. His companion immediately reproved him, but instantly a voice like thunder issued from the side of the mountain and God spoke and told them to return, as He could not assist them on account of that sin. They put the man to death, yet the man never returned to them afterwards. The antiquarians unite, as far as I have discovered, in saying that they came to this continent from beyond the sea, yet how they crossed the great water, or from what direction their minds appear to be rather in the dark; only they say the Delawares, whom they call grandfather, took the lead.

Some, however, according to Kotiski, say the Cherokees, with all other tribes, came from the northwest, that is, crossed the ocean in that direction. He says that when young he saw a very aged Cherokee woman at Creek Path, who had been many years a prisoner among the Delaware Indians. She said the Delawares gave the following account of the red people, considering all the tribes as originally one people. They said they were in great distress before they came to this continent (island); that they had no land of their own, and the women had to go out to work and wash for others to obtain a support, and the men, also, had to get and chop wood for others to support themselves--but had no wood of their own, and could get none, only as they dug up roots out of the ground. At length, the red people reformed, and became a good people, and were treated much worse than before. The people among whom they lived would take their horses or other creatures, and put them to their own use, and could not help themselves. They therefore concluded they could not stay there and came off and crossed the sea beyond where the Shawnees lived. This would be from the Creek Path north of west. The ancient Cherokees used to say that the Indians would be driven to the west till they came to the ocean, and then be taken over.


The Choctaw tradition is that they, and all the red people, came from a country beyond the western ocean; that they went on this way till they came to the seashore, and then followed the shore north, till they came to a place where the sea was so narrow they could cross it in one day. They all crossed and migrated eastward.

--Col. P. P. Pitchlynn [12].

Though different Cherokees assign different reasons for their decline, yet all, so far as I know, ascribe it ultimately to the displeasure of God towards them. Thus some say the reason why the Indians have not prospered as much as the whites is because the women have sometimes taken measures to destroy their infants before their birth, which God has forbidden; that some women sometimes died themselves in consequence, but that such as did not went to the bad place when they did die. For breaking the commandments of God in doing so, He prohibited their ever coming to Him, and would have nothing to do with them.


Again, it is said that before coming to this continent, while in their own country, they were in great distress from their enemies, and God told them to march to the top of a certain mountain, and He would come down and afford them relief. They ascended far up the mountain, and thought they saw something coming down from above which they supposed was their aid. But just then one of the warriors began to talk about women. His companions reproved him, but instantly a sound like thunder struck the mountain, and God told them to go back, as He would do nothing for them. They killed the offending warrior, but, notwithstanding, God would not forgive, and had not blessed them since, as He had before.

--Shield Eater.

The Cherokees commenced their natural year with the first new moon of autumn. At that period, they said the world was created, with the fruits ripe. The first autumnal new moon, therefore, they called No-ta-te-qua, or the great new moon, from which the other moons were reckoned. Many of the modern Cherokees differ from the ancient in making the great new moon the last instead of the first of autumn; but in this they differ, not only from their best antiquarians , but also from the matter of fact, as the first, and not the third, nor any other, was honored by a great national thanksgiving.

--Yo-Wi-Yo-Ka, Terrapin Head, and Others.

But though the first moon of autumn commenced the year, as related to the beginning of time, and the succession of moons, yet the first vernal new moon began the year as related to their feasts connected with the fruit of the earth, because then the fruits of the earth, or vegetation, begins to spring up. From various writers and authors quoted by Mr. Boudinot, it appears that other tribes, as well as the Cherokees, observed this two-fold commencement of the year, that is at the time of the autumnal and vernal equinoxes.

--Star in the West.

The year, time immemorial, as far as is known, they denominated Sute-ti-yo-ta, and why it should be stated by Mr. Boudinot and others that they had no name for year, we cannot perceive.

The Cherokees divided the year into twelve moons, which, according to all the aged antiquarians I have conversed with were arranged in the following order: No-ta-te-qua, Tulisti, Tuniquati, Uskiyi, Uquatotani, Kakali, Anoyi, Kuwoni, Anaskoti, Tehaluyi, Kuyoquoni, Kaloni. How they supplied the place of Neadar of the Jews cannot, perhaps, now be determined, but as the Choctaws had thirteen moons, and as they and the Cherokees were ever, as far as known, on friendly terms, it is probable that they had, anciently, something like the thirteenth interialiary [13] month of the Jews.

Anoyi, strawberry moon, commenced the year, as respected all their feasts of first fruits. And, as its name indicates, the period of strawberries, or when strawberries began to get ripe. It was doubtless the new moon of the vernal equinox, embracing a few days of March and the month of April. Nota-te-qua, as before observed, commenced the natural year, and made its appearance when the fruits were ripe and the leaves began to decay and fall, which was evidently about the time of the autumnal equinox, embracing the latter part of September and the most of October.

--Shield Eater, Terrapin Head, and Yo-Wi-Yoka [sic].

The year was divided into four seasons of three months each: 1. Ulukohisto, Autumn; 2. Kolah, or Konah, winter; 3. Koge, spring; 4. Kogi, summer.

The year was again divided into six seasons: Ulukohusti, embracing the two moons Notatequa and Tulisti; Kolah or Konah, embracing Tuninoti and Uskiye; Nolatihi, including Unolotani and Nagali; Koge, including Anoyi and Nuwoni, and Kogihi, including Anaskoti and Tehaluyi; Kuyo, embracing Kuyoquoni and Kaloni.

The moons they divided into weeks of seven days each. A week was called Unatotaquahi; and three days of the week had different names, viz.: Unatotaquoski, Sabbath; Unatotaquona, Monday, i.e., the day after Sabbath; and Unatotaquitena, the day before the Sabbath. These three names, however, were not always familiar to all the people. When the observance of the Sabbath was neglected, its appropriate name seems to have been lost among many of the common people, who reckoned their weeks by seven days, calling the seventh Uloquatiika (or Ulumlogwattika) the glorious or excellent day. But that Unatotaquoski was the original name for the Sabbath, appears from this, that the real antiquarians, in speaking of the first appointment of the Sabbath by Yihowah, always expressed it by this name.

The other days (nights) of the week, aside from Saturday, Sabbath, and Monday, they reckoned by the ordinal numbers as third, fourth, &c., from the Sabbath, or three of the week, four of the week, &c. The day, consisting of twenty-four hours, extended from twilight to twilight and was called Susohito. Two such days were called Talitsusohia (48). This day was divided between the light and the darkness; that part including the light was called Unotaquatta, the whole period of light. Two such days were Tutisutotaqutta. The other part, including the whole of the darkness, was called Ulitsotoquotta. Two such nights were called Tutitsulitsutaquotta. The 24 hours again divided into Ika, da, and Sunoyi, night.

These were again subdivided into 1. ----- [sic] sundown; 2.Ikaloke, between sundown and dusk; 3. Alitoska, twilight; 4.Uwohitsita, from the commencement of darkness till 9 or 10 o'clock; 5. Sunoyitlustoti, from 9 or 10 o'clock till midnight; 6. Sunoyi, midnight (the middle syllable strongly accented); 7 ----- [sic]; 8. Ukitsakeyi, cock-crowing and thence till daybreak, i.e., white light springing or rising up; 10. Ikaatiha, dawn; 11----- [sic]; 12. Tikalukga, sunrise; 13. Sunalestoti, the time from sunrise till the middle of the forenoon; 14. Ulutsitiika, near the middle of the day; 15. Ika, (strong accent on the first syllable), noon; 16. Itluistoti, shortly after noon, that is , a period from 12, or noon, till probably about the middle of the afternoon; 17. Usohiyeyi, a period commencing at the close of the above, and extending till near sunset; 18. Tsihnawia, or Tsiunawo, a short period before sunset, when the rays of that planet have lost their force, and the air has become cool.

Mr. Boudinot, speaking of the Indians, says; They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn, or the falling of the leaf, and winter. Kolah is their word for winter with the Cherokee Indians. They subdivide these, and count the year by lunar months or moons. They call the sun and moon by the same word, with the addition of day and night, as the day sun or moon, and the night sun or moon. They count the day by three sensible differences of the sun, as--the sun is coming out, midday, and the sun is dead, or sunset. Midnight is halfway between the sun going in and coming out of the water. Also by midnight and cock crowing.

They begin their ecclesiastical year at the first appearance of the first new moon of the vernal equinox. They pay great regard to the first appearance of every new moon. They name the various seasons of the year from the planting and the ripening of the fruits.

The civil year of the Natchez Indians, according to Charlevoix [14], seems to have commenced about the time of the autumn equinox, as did that of another tribe mentioned by Mr. Bartram [15], that is, when the new crops had arrived at maturity.

--Star in the West.

Monsieur LePage du Pratz [16], in his second volume History of Louisiana; page 120, informs us that, being exceedingly desirous to be informed of the origin of the Indian natives, made every inquiry in his power, especially of the nation of the Natchez, one of the most intelligent among them. All he could learn from them was that they came from between the north and the sun setting. Being no way satisfied with this, he sought for one who bore the character of being one of their wisest men, and was happy to discover one named Moneachtape, among the Yazous [17], a nation about forty leagues from the Natchez. This man was remarkable for his solid understanding and elevation of sentiments, and his name was given to him by his nation as expressive of the man--meaning "the killer of pain and fatigue." "His eager desire to see the country whence his forefathers came," led him to obtain directions, and he set off. He went up the Missouri, where he stayed a long time to learn the different languages of the nations he was to pass through. After long traveling, he came to the nation of the Otters [18], and by them was directed on his way until he reached the southern ocean. After living some time with the nations on the shores of the great sea, he proposed to proceed on his journey, and joined himself to some people who inhabited more westwardly on the coast. They traveled a great way, between the north and the sunsetting, when they arrived at the village of his fellow travelers, where he found the days long and the nights short. He was here advised to give over all thoughts of continuing his journey. They told him that the land continued a long way in the direction aforesaid, after which it ran directly west, and at length was cut by the great water from north to south. One of them added that when he was young he knew a very old man who had seen that distant land before it was cut away by the great water; and when the great water was low many rocks still appeared in those parts. Moncachtape took their advice and returned home after an absence of five years.

--Star in the West.

Mr. Boudinot, in his introduction to the Star in the West, says: This subject has occupied the attention of the writer, at times, for more than forty years. He was led to the consideration of it, in the first instance, by a conversation with a very worthy reverend clergyman of his acquaintance, who, having an independent fortune, undertook a journey (in company with a brother clergyman, who was desirous of attending him) into the wilderness between the Allegheny and Mississippi rivers, sometime in or about the years 1765 or 1766, before the white people had settled beyond the Laurel mountains [19]. His desire was to meet with native Indians who had never seen a white man, that he might satisfy his curiosity by knowing from the best source, what traditions the Indians preserved relative to their own history and origin. This these gentlemen accomplished, with great danger, risk and fatigue. "On their return one of them related to the writer that, far to the northwest of the Ohio, he attended a party of Indians to a treaty with Indians from west of the Mississippi. There he found the people he was in search of. He conversed with their beloved man, who had never seen a white man before, by the assistance of three grades of interpreters. The Indian informed him that one of their most ancient traditions was, that a great while ago they had a common father, who lived towards the rising of the sun, and governed the whole world; that all the white people's heads were under his feet; that he had twelve sons, by whom he administered his government; that his authority was derived from the Great Spirit, by virtue of some special gift from Him; that the twelve sons behaved very bad, and tyrannized over the people, abusing their power to a great degree, so as to offend the Great Spirit exceedingly, that He, being angry with them, suffered the white people to introduce spirituous liquors among them, made them drunk, stole the special gift of the Great Spirit from them, and by this means usurped his power over them, and, ever since, the Indians' heads were under the white people's feet. But that they also had a tradition that the time would come when the Indians would regain the gift of the Great Spirit from the white people, and with it their ancient power, when the white people's heads would be again under the Indians' feet."

Mr. McKenzie [20], in his History of the Fur Trade, says that "the Indians informed him that they had a tradition among them that they originally came from another country, inhabited by a wicked people, and had traversed a great lake, which was narrow, shallow, and full of islands, where they had suffered great hardships and much misery, it being always winter, with ice and deep snows. At a place they call the Copper Mine River, where they made the first land, the ground was covered with copper, over which a body of earth had since been collected to the depth of a man's height.

--Star in the West.

--The End--


[1] Vinita, Oklahoma, county seat of Craig County in N.E. Oklahoma.

[2] John Ross (1790-1866) was Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to his death.

[3] William Potter Ross (1820-1891), first editor of the Cherokee Advocate and editor of the Indian Journal, Indian Arrow, and Indian Chieftain.

[4] Parkhurst, John. A Hebrew and English Lexicon without Points. In which the Hebrew and Chaldee Words of the Old Testament are Explained in their Leading and Derived Senses. 7th ed. London: Printed by T. Davison for F. C. and J. Rivington [etc.], 1813.

[5] Boudinot, Elias, (1740-1821.) A Star in the West, or, A Humble Attempt to Discover the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, Preparatory to Their Return to Their Beloved City, Jerusalem. Trenton, N.J.: D. Fenton, S. Hutchinson, and J. Dunham, 1816.

[6] Edwards, Bryan (1743-1800.) The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies. Vol. 1. London: John Stockdale, 1807.

[7] David Brown was considered one of the bright young men in the Cherokee Nation in the first decades of the nineteenth century. He was educated at Brainerd Mission school and the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall, Connecticut. With his father-in-law George Lowrey, Brown worked on publications in the Cherokee language.

[8] Spleen?

[9] Uncertain. Yowa is the Cherokee word for "Great Spirit."

[10] Mackenzie, Alexander, Sir (1763- 1820). Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North American, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans; in the years 1790 and 1793; with a Preliminary Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Fur Trade of that Country; Illustrated with Maps. London: T. Cadell, Jr., and W. Davies, 1801.

[11] Beatty, Charles (1715?-1772.) The Journal of a Two Month Tour, with a View of Promoting Religion among the Frontier Inhabitants of Pennsylvania and of Introducing Christianity among the Indians to the Westward of the Alegh-geny Mountains. Edinburgh: T Maccliesh and J. Ogle, 1798.

[12] Col. Peter Perkins Pitchlynn, (1806-1881.) Born in the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi on Jan. 20, 1806, the son of John Pitchlynn, a white man, and Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn, a Choctaw. Pitchlynn was educated at the Academy of Columbia, Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee. After Graduation from the university, he returned to the Choctaw Nation, where he married his cousin, Rhoda Folsom. He was elected to the Choctaw National Council in 1825 and, in 1828, led an exploring and peace-making mission to Osage country west of the Mississippi. Pitchlynn was active in Choctaw politics throughout his life. He served as Principle Chief from 1864 through 1866 and, after his term of office, stayed in Washington pressing Choctaw claims against the government. He died in Washington on January 17, 1881.

[13] Between.

[14] de Charlevoix, Pierre-Francois-Xavier, (1682-1761.) A Voyage to North America: Undertaken by Command of the present King of France; Containing the Geographical Description and Natural History of Canada and Louisiana; With the Customs, Manners, Trade and Religion of the Inhabitants; A description of the Lakes and Rivers, With Their Navigation and Manner of Passing the Great Cataracts. Dublin: J. Exshaw and J. Potts, 1766.

[15] Bartram, John, (1699-1777.) Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions; Together with Observations on the Manner of the Indians. Dublin: J. Moore, W. Jones, R. M'Allister, and J. Rice, 1793.

[16] Le Page Du Pratz, Antoine Simone (1695-1775.) The History of Louisiana, or the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina: Containing a Description of the Countries That Lie on Both Sides of the River Mississippi: With an Account of the Settlements, Inhabitants, Soil, Climate, and Products. London: T. Beckett, 1744.

[17] Yazoo, a southeastern tribe, later absorbed by the Choctaws and Chickasaws.

[18] Not identified.

[19] In Pennsylvania.

[20] Mackenzie, Alexander, Sir, (1763- 1820). Voyages from Montreal.

A Cherokee Rebuttal to Buttrick

When the "Antiquities" of Buttrick were being published in 1884, Cherokee intellectual Walter Adair Duncan, contested some of their basic premises. Duncan pokes holes in Buttrick's theory that the opinions expressed by his informants were the same as those of Cherokees before white contact. He touches upon critical issues such as influence, translation, and textual transmission, notions ignored or unnoticed by Buttrick. These issues are, of course, crucial to the argument that pre-contact peoples derived from or had beliefs similar to Judaic or Christian groups.

W. A. Duncan was an influential member of the Cherokee community in the nineteenth century. Born in the Eastern Cherokee Nation in 1823, he removed with his family in 1838 to Flint District. He attended school in nearby Arkansas, was licensed to preach in 1847, and became a circuit rider. He became Principal Chief John Ross's secretary in 1850, later becoming a member of the National Council. From 1872 until 1884, he was superintendent of the Cherokee Orphan Asylum, a major unit in the Nation's educational system at the time. Duncan died in 1907.

CHEROKEE ANTIQUITIES -- "The Buttrick Collections"

Cherokee Advocate, April 25, 1884

I have been reading some of the Buttrick collection of Cherokee antiquities as recently published in the pages of the Indian Chieftain. Ever since the death of Mr. Buttrick, I have been waiting for those manuscripts to be placed before the public. I was but a boy in those days. Mr. Buttrick always seemed to feel an interest in me, and often, when we were thrown together, he would relate a great deal of what he had written about the Cherokees, their manners, customs, religion and traditions. He was decidedly of the opinion that they were descendants of the old Hebrew stock.

The day before he died, I called at his room at old Dwight Mission. He was all alone at that moment, reposing quietly as if sleeping. The circumstances did not admit of many words. The "silver cord" was being unloosed. It was very impressive, and my feelings at that time were very impressible. I spoke only one sentence, and he only one. Holding his shrunken fingers in my had, "How do you feel now, Mr. Buttrick?" Languidly unclosing his eyes, he replied; "I am--persuaded--that he is--able to keep that which--I have committed to his--care--till that day." Quietly leaving, I went on to my appointments.

A few days after his burial, I returned by way of Dwight Mission, Mr. Willey told me that Mr. Buttrick had willed his manuscripts on the Cherokees to John B. Jones, [1] with instruction that they should not be unsealed till twenty years. They were then to be opened and published. So I had been hoping that Mr. Jones might so use them in connection with his own researches, as to bring out a publication which, from intrinsic worth, might be styled the great work on the Indians. But the designs of Providence are inscrutable. Both Mr. Jones and Mr. Buttrick have been called to their reward, and the work on the Cherokees remains unfinished.

But it is evident now from what has been published, that there will be difference of opinion as to the real merited of the "Buttrick Collection." It is quite likely that he himself was aware of their imperfections. This may have been the reason for leaving them under instruction as to their publication. He may have supposed that Mr. Jones, by the aid of his superior attainments in the Cherokee language, would be able to so sift and winnow them as to collect the wheat from among the chaff.

It is a ground of suspicion that, in recounting the history and stating the doctrines and beliefs of the Cherokees, the collections are so minute and circumstantial. They correspond too precisely with the old testament Scriptures to be received by many as containing a representation of the pure notions of the Cherokee people. As the blood of the Whites had become greatly intermixed with that of the Cherokees at the time when Mr. Buttrick lived among them, so their notions of religion, history, and to some extent, philosophy, had found their way among those of the Indians. This presumption is rendered more credible, when it is noticed that the collections represent the Cherokees as having many notions interwoven with their sacred knowledge, which could have been derived from no other source than the New Testament.

The case is very much like the story about the three boxes. It is said to be a tradition among the American Indians that, at the beginning, God made three men, one white, one read, the other black, and placed before them three boxes, one containing books and papers, one, bows and arrows, and the other, mattocks and hoes, and that when the command was given for each man to make choice of a box, the white man took the books and papers, the red man, the bows and arrows, thus leaving the utensils of labor for the black man. As flimsy as this story is, it has been considered, even by men who have presumed upon being sufficiently learned to enlighten the world upon the origin of the races, as purely an Indian tradition. But only think of it. Does it not contain within itself the proofs of its own fallacy? What did the American Indians know about boxes, books, papers, and agricultural implements made of iron and steel, before those articles were introduced from Europe a few centuries ago? Is it not clear from the elements out of which the story has been made that it is wholly an invention of modern times? And yet, as above, intimated, even learned men have taken it to be of genuine Indian origin.

So the internal evidence of the Buttrick collections show very clearly that what he took to be peculiar to the original Cherokees had been greatly intermixed with notions which had been transmitted to them from modern sources. It was impossible when he wrote to separate the exotic from the indigenous, and it was his mistake to write down much that had been borrowed as originally Indian.

But a question here presents itself. How came the Cherokees into the possession of those modern notions, which were so extensively interwoven with their system in 1817, the time when Buttrick came among them? An answer to this question shall close this essay.

Along the Atlantic shore for more than three hundred years, the Indians had been in contact with the Europeans. Impelled by a spirit of traffic and adventure, and, in some cases, a spirit of benevolence, the whites had cultivated an extensive and intimate intercourse with them, which became a fruitful source of information in regard to the religion of the Bible. Indeed a prime motive in establishing some of the colonies was to extend the benefits of religious knowledge to the Indians; and after the puritans came to the continent, about the middle of the seventeenth century, there was special effort made to give the Gospel to the "savages," as they called us in those days. In 1642, the Mayhews, [2] the elder and the younger, at their "small plantation in the Lord," or the island of Martha's Vineyard, entered upon an organized work "for the conversion of the poor savages." The result was that in the course of one hundred and fifty years, thousands embraced Christianity. Under the act passed in 1646 by the "General Court of Massachusetts Colony," for the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians, Mr. Elliot [3] became a missionary among them. For a number of years he labored with remarkable zeal and perseverance. The fruits that followed were immense. The Bible was translated, churches were founded, natives were made preachers. Speaking of this state of things in 1687, Dr. Mather [4] said; "There are six churches of baptized Indians in New England, and eighteen assemblies of catechumens professing the name of Christ. Of the Indians there are four and twenty who are preachers of the word of God, and besides these, there are four English ministers who preach the Gospel in the Indian tongue." For six years, about the middle of the last century, the great President Edwards, [5] himself, was missionary to those Northern Indians. All are familiar with the labors of Brainard [6] and the successes which crowned those labors. Nor should the labors performed by the Moravians be overlooked. With a smaller membership that almost any of the churches, they have covered a wider field with their stations and done more real Christian work for the conversion of the world, in proportion to numbers, than any of the modern sects. Their work among the Indians of the Atlantic soon grew up to such importance as to induce a visit from the great count Zinsendorff [7] himself.

As the result of intertribal communication among the Indians, it is easy to see how notions derived from the Bible would be carried from those parts of the continent which had been visited by the missionaries to the most remote tribes dwelling in the in the interior.

But the Southern tribes, Cherokees, Creeks and others, were not left to the fortuitous opportunities of gaining knowledge of the Christian religion merely from incidental intercourse with the tribes of a higher latitude. In addition to the casual visits among them of Catholic Priests, there were several efforts made for their conversions in those early days by some of the protestant churches, which doubtless resulted in the dissemination among them of no small measure of knowledge in regard to the teachings of the Bible. In 1735, the United Brethren formed a settlement in Georgia, having for its object the Christian instruction of the Indians. The same year Mr. John Wesley and his brother Charles, came from England in company with General Oglethorpe, as missionaries to the Indians, and to some extent, during the two years of his stay in America, John Wesley preached to the Cherokees and some others.

Such are some of the early opportunities which the Cherokees had for the acquisition of Scriptural notions. But still later, and yet prior to the time when Mr. Buttrick came among them the facilities for the acquisition of such notions were greatly increased. In 1803, the General assembly of the Presbyterian Church appointed Mr. Blackburn a missionary to the Cherokees. Entering upon his wok with great fervency of spirit, he soon established two schools, comprising seventy-five pupils; but after a few years labor, he was forced to abandon the field "for want of support." But this lack of service was soon obviated. In 1810 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed, and Mr. Kingsbury had preceded Mr. Buttrick to the Cherokee country, under the auspices of that board.

NOTE: I had just finished the above remarks, when the "Discourse Delivered at Vinita," by Dr. Hill on 16 March, at the dedication of the Presbyterian church, as printed in Cherokee Advocate from St. Louis Evangelist, came to hand. I get my information in regard to Mr. Blackburn's connection with the mission to the Cherokees from an old book with a preface dated, "Andover, Tho. Sem. January 1819." The following is the sentence which I had in mind when I wrote the above "But we are sorry to add, when this active missionary had enlarged his plans to the magnitude of its object, he failed for want of support," italicized as in this quotation.

Park Hill C. N. April 19th, 1884.

W. A. Duncan


[1] Baptist missionary to the Cherokees in the second half of the nineteenth century, son of Evan Jones. Jones and his father were fluent in Cherokee.

[2] Thomas Mayhew (1593-1682) was the first governor of Martha's Vineyard and an early missionary to the Indians of New England. His son Thomas (1621-1657) was likewise a missionary to the Indians.

[3] John Eliot (1604-1690) began preaching to the Indians in 1846. He translated the Bible into Algonquin in 1661, the first Bible published in North America.

[4] Increase Mather (1639-1723), Massachusetts churchman who was Rector of Harvard in 1687.

[5] Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Congregationalist clergyman, author, and theologian. After serving as missionary to the Mohicans, he became President of the College of New Jersey at Princeton.

[6] David Brainerd (1718-1747), missionary to the Indians in present-day New York state. His work was continued by his son, John B. Brainerd (1720-1781).

[7] Zinzendorf, Nicolaus Ludvig, Count von (1700-1760), leader of the Moravian Church, which established a mission and school in the Cherokee Nation in 1801.

Author: Buttrick, Rev. Daniel Sabin.
American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center