Tuesday, January 10, 2012


"How many of you live in Tusquittee?" Dan Hollifield asked the Tusquittee Community Association on August 28, 2007, at their covered-dish dinner.

"You're on Cherokee land," he told the club. "I come from the Principal People. All of western North Carolina, north Georgia, eastern Tennessee and West Virginia belonged to the Cherokee.

"They never looked at land ownership until meeting the Europeans. The Cherokee hunted and fished, lived in single-roomed log homes dug out of the ground."

Hollifield explained the Cherokee had one God whom they called Creator. They looked to him for guidance and gave thanks for many blessings during festivals.

When you compare the six festivals of the Cherokee and ancient Israel as found in the Old Testament, you'll find they were similar. Although Hollifield is pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, he finds no conflict with his faith and being a Cherokee.

Of quarter Cherokee heritage, Hollifield belongs to the "bird clan," the messengers. The Cherokee had seven clans: the bird, bear, paint, deer, wild potato, blue and long hair.

Hollifield also belongs to the Georgia tribe of the Eastern Cherokee. He holds the position as vice chief of the Georgia tribe.

He strives to preserve his Cherokee heritage and present the facts. He said the Cherokee never lived in teepees, never wore bonnets, and the only time they donned more than one or two feathers, was during the Eagle Dance.

The men wore trousers and a turban. The ribbon shirt evolved from bark tied to the hair while playing games. The Cherokee women wore dresses.

Besides lecturing about his Cherokee heritage, Hollifield makes Native American flutes. He crafts them the traditional manner. He does everything by hand and the flutes are tuned to themselves.

"The traditional Cherokee flute was never used in ceremonies," he explained. "It was played only in courtship. The flute evolved into a highly expressive instrument used in healing, meditative, and spiritual rituals."

Additionally, he makes functional bows of dogwood, river cane arrows and sheaths, medicine staffs, blowguns and darts. The Cherokee used blowguns to hunt small game such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds. An accomplished hunter was effective up to about 60 feet.

According to Hollifield, the Cherokee were removed from the Southeast in 1838. They were rounded up by soldiers and held in stockades. Ft. Hembree was built near Hayesville. President Andrew Jackson signed the Removal Act. U.S. troops drove the Cherokee to Oklahoma and thousands died on the Trail of Tears.

But not all the Cherokee left. There had been a lot of intermarriage. If the head of the household was listed as white, the Cherokee spouse was exempt from the Removal Act. About 1,000 escaped and remained in the Great Smoky Mountains. The eventually bought land and the government let them stay. These became known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Today the Cherokee are making great stride to resurrect their heritage said Hollifield. The Cherokee language is a required subject in the school at Cherokee, NC. A lot of children are making doctors and lawyers. "The Cherokee have done great things," added Hollifield.

Finally, Dan Hollifield played, "The Place Where They Cried," on his flute. This mournful tune brought forth memories of the Trail of Tears.

By: Brenda Kay Ledford

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