Read about our historic August 2001
the Free and Sovereign State of
Coahuila de Zaragoza
and The Republic of Mexico under The
San Andres Accords HERE
Osiyo - di-da-ni-lv-sdi -
“We welcome you with our Cherokee point of
non-Cherokee refuses to welcome new friends in life, these humans
may have reasons or excuses, for example, due to natural
variations of skin color in others, these humans may be limited in
their ability to positively identify others as humans. They may be
deeply depressed or defeated by life’s darkest circumstances. They
may be lazy due to the immature thinking that energy and even time
itself carries over to the next day if unused, like a savings
account. But in reality, they will not become rich, but
impoverished and lazy.
The Original Official Seal of the Cherokee Nation of Mexico as was
mandated by Sequoyah in 1842. For an explanation of the symbols in
the seal click HERE
a Cherokee to decide to not welcome new friends indicates, to our
traditional thinking, a simple lack of courage for which there is
no reason or excuse acceptable. For a Cherokee to lack courage is
to cease to exist, for we Cherokees know that to lack the fire of
human courage is to cease to exist, for we Cherokees know that the
fire of human courage comes only from faith in the Provider,
yourself, and all good things. All other negative reasons or
excuses will shrink in proportion before this empowerment of
faith-bringing courage, for this is the white path of Aniyunwiya
and is a law of U-nay-kla-nah-hee, the provider of what is needed,
not necessarily what is wished for. Who are we Cherokee to say
that this was not provided for all other humans also?” Chief Jahtlohi Rogers
(Photo - Left)
Chief Tsquayi Herrin honors Barbara Tojuwah Garrett with her name.
Welcome to the official website village homepage
of the Cherokee Nation of Mexico. The Cherokee Nation of Mexico is
officially recognized by the Republic of Mexico, one of three
countries - Canada, the United States and Mexico, which make up
all of North America. The Cherokee Nation of Mexico and the
Spanish Dominion was first recognized in the 1700s and was
spiritually mandated in 1842 by one of the most influential of
Native Americans, the great Cherokee intellect, educator and
freedom activist - Sequoyah.
After Recognition, The Recognition Cherokee diplomats gather in
front of a church in Saltillo that was here when the Cherokee
Nation of Mexico was first recognized in 1839.
It is the purpose of the Cherokee Nation of
Mexico and Chief Charles (Jah-tlo-hi - Kingfisher) Rogers M.D.and
all of its members to help bring all Cherokees together - as was
prophesized by Sequoyah on his deathbed. He said that (quote:) “a
Cherokee child will some day come and find my tomb and then my
spirit will return to my people,” end quote) thus reinforcing the
most traditional values and treasures of honesty, brotherhood and
respect. It is only then that Cherokees will be able to act as
skillful guides in the art of brotherhood and beneficial examples
of service to humanity. In other words, “ga-du-gi” - “unpaid
community effort for community good.” Sequoyah felt this was our
destiny as Cherokees. He felt that just the opportunity to strive
toward this goal was a gift provided by “Unetlvnvhi” - the
(Photo - Left)
Every Cherokee in our tribe is an Ambassador of friendship.
All Cherokees, all Native American tribes, and
any man, woman and child of any ethnic group is more than welcome
to use our information in any self-enriching, educational and
non-commercial manner. We ask only that you come to us with the
spirit of a good heart which we promise to return in full measure.
Gov. Martinez y Martinez declaring that the Cherokee Nation of
Mexico is recognized in their state " that the Mexicans "
Cherokees have long been friends.
We, like your selves, are a kind and gentle
people. We want our friends to always feel better off for knowing
us. But, I must warn you. If you have a dark heart, or are
consumed with hatred, we, and every Cherokee who came before us,
will see you before you get here. Hear me well. Stay away. We are
Cherokee, the Aniyvwiya. You will not like being near us, or our
web-site, much less our Cherokee ways of honesty, brotherhood and
(Photo - Left)
Charles Prophecy Rogers presenting a symbol of friendship to the
Governor of Coahuila, just as Cherokees have done for 200 years.
May those afflicted with these problems overcome
and be released from their bondage. For all others of good heart
we invite you to freely enter our web-site and do so through the
smoke of the cedar prayer: “We pray Unetlvnvhi - the Provider of
all things continue to bless you and your family. May your family
and ancestors be pleased with the progress of your life’s journey
Clay White Bear Garrett representing his Cherokee people as he
offers a handshake of friendship with Gov. Martinez.
And so again, I say
di-da-ni-lv-sdi “Welcome” Gahl-tso-de e-hi-yv-ha “Come in”
(Photo - Left)
This spring is the exact same warm sulfur water in which Sequoyah
Walking with Sequoyah
Imagine if you will what it was like on that
warm spring morning in 1842. It had rained the night before and
the air was heavy and moist. The sky was clearing and showed the
promise of a good day but the heaviness in the air weighed on
Sequoyah in several ways. One, he hadn’t been able to get rid of
the persistent cough and two, he was tired of the seemingly
constant arguing among the people. Ever since John Ross and the
Treaty Party had arrived there had been bickering over who would
be the principal power of the Cherokee, the Old Settlers or the
Treaty Party. It had been only through the efforts of Rev.
Busheyhead and Sequoyah that the Act of Union was ever adopted.
The one agreement was on the name of the new government “The
Cherokee Nation.” It would have been nice if that had settled it,
but it hadn’t. There were still arguments on every level whenever
two or more Cherokees got together. Sequoyah was tired of it and
wanted a rest.
Coahuila governor Enrique Martinez y Martinez doesn’t hesitate to
show his friendship in the peace pipe ceremony
He decided to travel to Mexico, something he had
intended to do for some time. He and his wife Sally had found some
Mexican pottery shards with what looked like Cherokee designs on
them. They were most curious. Where they had come from and how
long had they been there? Maybe in Mexico he could find the source
of the Cherokee knowledge - the Mexican Indians who perhaps had
taught the Cherokee secrets - secrets still kept hidden from the
white men. If he could find that tribe, whose name he didn’t know,
he might find the Indian language that was the root of all Indian
languages. Maybe there had been an ancient written Cherokee
language that had been lost when the Anikutani were overthrown.
Maybe there, in Mexico, with all the other lost and forgotten
pieces of Indian knowledge were the answers. Maybe even, he could
possibly find the end of his life’s work.
(Photo - Left)
Cherokee Diva Amy Brownlow sings the Cherokee Prayer for Peace a
capella by firelight.
And then there were the stories of the lost
Cherokees. After the assault on their village in east Texas in
July of 1839, many Cherokees had fled south to Mexico and were now
living there. Yes, now would be as good a time as any, but he had
to be careful. It could be very dangerous in Texas. It wasn’t that
long ago that there had been many accusations about the
relationship between the Texas Cherokees and the Mexicans, and
there were still many people in Texas who thought the Cherokees
were not to be trusted. However, the only way to Mexico was
through Texas and it was quite possible right now his trip would
be misunderstood. So if he did go, it would have to be for a valid
reason --- perhaps just to visit with the Cherokees who lived
there. Besides, trouble and fighting was what he was anxious to
get away from, So that became the story. He was going to Mexico to
visit with the Cherokees who lived there.
The Cherokee Nation of Mexico believes that children and elders
are the most important part of any gathering.
Sally was reluctant at first, but had learned
that when Sequoyah had made up his mind, there was little she
could do to dissuade him. So she finally agreed. Perhaps the trip
would do him good. Teesey, his son, protested the idea at first
but agreed with his mother not to let his father undertake the
long journey alone, especially now. Besides it looked as though
this could really be an adventure, and he had three friends who
would readily agree to come along.
(Photo - Left)
When Cherokees get together, family spirit prevails: Sheron
Kamama, Chief Jahtlohi, Mary Walela, Ray Wah hee yah (Wolf
Warrior) " Esther Vann.
Sequoyah wanted at least four men in the party
and was pleased when the number increased to six. He visited with
his good friend, the Worm (A-u-ji-ya) and shared with him his
planned trip, swearing him and the other members of the party to
secrecy. The fewer who knew of his mission the better. They spent
a few days at the home of Archibald Campbell and purchased
supplies and equipment from Lewis Ross.
(Photo - Right)
Cherokees are always quick to reach out to children.
Finally, on a bright sunny day in late April
Sequoyah on his white mule, his son Teesey, Aujiya (The Worm),
Uwosoti, Cahtata, Nuwotana, Tallatu (Cricket) and the youngest, a
boy named Coteska, all on horseback, left Park Hill for Texas and
(Photo - Left)
Ann Tojuwah Garrett Smith receives her name from White Chief
They crossed the Arkansas River near Fort
Gibson, passed near Edwards Settlement on Little River and
followed the road laid out by Lt. Levensworth to near Council
Springs, the future site of Oklahoma City. The weather continued
warm and pleasant for this time of year, but they knew it would
soon become hot and dusty as they made their way across Nvdagi
(Texas) the “Place of the Sun.” For now though, the wind continued
soft and warm as they turned and headed south toward the Red
River. They arrived fifteen days later.
(Photo - Right)
Cherokee Nation of Mexico encourages everyone to participate in
their ceremonies. Seven teams of four Cherokees went into the
stands to share the Peace pipe with the people.
Sequoyah noted they were in good hunting country
and camped just north of the Red River, where there was good
water. The journey was taking its toll on Sequoyah was bothered
with a cough and pains in his chest. This would be a good place to
rest. In the meantime, Sequoyah sent Aujiya and two others to
visit among the Indian villages to the west to see if there were
any Cherokees there.
(Photo - Left)
The Cherokee Nation of Mexico’s matriarch, Mary Walela Layton, age
88. At age 86 " with a stiff leg, she insisted on being pulled
into the cave where Sequoyah was buried.
For the next week Aujiya and his two companions
traveled among the Wichitas (the principal inhabitants). There
were also Waco, Caddo, Echasi, and others who were living in
neighboring villages but speaking different languages. They found
no Cherokee but did learn there were some living along the Washita
(Photo - Right)
The Cherokees, Barbara " Glen Hackett are caught in a rare moment
of rest, as they are usually seen in constant motion working for
the Cherokee Nation of Mexico.
When they returned, they found Sequoyah very
sick. Tessey had offered him honey and venison, but Sequoyah was
unable to eat any of it and asked if they could find him some
bread instead. Sequoyah liked honey, and it would have given him
energy, but for some reason, its taste was gone. Aujiya did manage
to find some wild plums, which Sequoyah enjoyed and said made him
feel much better. Although sick, Sequoyah continued writing in his
journal. Aujiya decided to travel back to the Wichita village,
some four days distant, to see if he could purchase some corn.
Then they would be able to make some bread for Sequoyah. In the
meantime, the rest of the group would slowly continue on.
(Photo - Left)
The second Cherokee Nation of Mexico national ceremonial house in
164 years was built in seven days without a screw or nail. It is
30 ft. long, 21 ft. wide " 27 ft. tall. By it’s tenth day in
existence, it had about 8,000 visitors.
After arriving at the Wichita village a second
time, Aujiya purchased three bushels of corn, packed it on their
horses and immediately started back. On the evening of the third
day, Aujiya’s horse grew lame, but they were able to catch up with
Sequoyah and the others near a clear babbling brook. There was
good water and hunting here and Sequoyah was anxious for some hot
bread. They quickly prepared a fire and the food was made ready.
After eating Sequoyah said he felt much better, asked for a pipe
and some tobacco, then laid down. They rested there another day
and then hurried on to the next village where they hoped to be
able to buy some horses. Sequoyah didn’t want to remain among the
Wichitas, but rather wanted to return to the timbered country
along their proposed route where they could hunt.
(Photo - Right)
Clay Spirit Walker Garrett " son Clay White Bear Garrett can
usually be found on horseback. Chief Rogers isn’t sure if they
remember how to walk.
After nearly a three day ride they arrived at
the village of the Echasi people where they were accepted as
friends. Clouds had rolled in and it smelled of rain. Their senses
weren’t wrong and that evening the summer rain rolled in just
before dark. They spent the next day in the village talking with
the elders, who made them presents of tobacco and other small
articles. It was here that Sequoyah decided it would be best for
the young men to return home so they wouldn’t also become sick,
and that he, Aujiya and Teesey would continue on alone. Sequoyah’s
chest was sore and tender from the coughing and fighting the pain
had weakened him. He knew he would need frequent stops to
recuperate which would make the journey longer for them, so six
men returned to Park Hill. The next morning Sequoyah, Aujiya, and
Teesey resumed their journey to Mexico.
(Photo - Left)
Cherokee regalia is more than a tradition for us. It honors our
ancestors & our families.
A week later, they came upon a clear flowing
river where they again rested for several days while they searched
for honey and hunted. It also gave them a chance to bathe and
clean up. The way had been easy so far, relaxing almost, with only
an occasional rain shower which did little more than just get them
wet. Often of an evening, they would go to sleep under their
degahljodv (tents) listening to Ayvdaqualosgi (Thunder) and
watching the fire streaks of Anagalisgi (Lightening) stab across
the night sky. This was the rainy season and to be expected. It
was on such a night five days later that they heard gunshots.
The next day they overtook a band of Shawnees
who had been hunting in the area. Later that night they camped
together. The Shawnees were curious about where they were headed.
Sequoyah told them he felt a great desire to visit the country of
the Mexicans, but that he would soon return. He then asked the
direction to the nearest Mexican town or village and they
indicated the same direction Aujiya had been leading them.
Five days later he asked Aujiya again to be sure
and help him get to Mexico where he felt certain he had to be.
Sequoyah’s chest pains had become more constant and he began to
wonder if he would ever see Sally or his salt works again. Their
journey south took them across a large river, and after crossing a
mountain they came to a very beautiful babbling spring where the
company halted. They again went hunting for honey, which the
presence of wadulisi (honey bees) indicated was nearby.
When they awoke on their third morning there,
they found that some Tawokonee Indians had stolen their horses.
Teesey and the Worm quickly gave chase and could probably have
over taken them but were reluctant to leave Sequoyah alone in his
condition so they returned to camp. The next morning Sequoyah
asked them to take him to a safe hiding place and then to proceed
quickly and directly to the Mexican settlements, hopefully to
obtain some horses.
After traveling several days on foot Teesey and
Aujiya came to a large river called Mauluke. They couldn’t find a
crossing so they camped that night planning to build a raft the
next day, cross the river, and hurry to San Antonio. They soon
arrived and hearing only Spanish being spoken, entered the town
and attempted to find some horses but were met by two Mexican
soldiers. The soldiers were friendly enough but asked them to
follow them to their commanding officer. The commander asked them
what tribe they belonged to and when Aujiya told him Cherokee, the
commander told them he didn’t like Cherokee and asked for their
passports. Aujiya told him they had none and weren’t aware they
needed any. He also told the commander that Tawokonee Indians had
stolen their horses and all they wanted to do was borrow some
horses so they could continue their journey. After awhile the
commander became a little more friendly, telling them that it was
true - wild Indians had been prowling around stealing horses and
they needed to be careful. He then added they had no extra horses
for them. Finally, the commander gave them their papers, some
tobacco and a very good axe and again the warning to be on guard
as there were “many hostile persons among the wild tribes -
A day later, they arrived back at Sequoyah’s
camp and was pleased to find him feeling better after his rest.
Aujiya decided to find an even better hiding place for Sequoyah to
rest while he and Teesey continued on to the Mexican villages.
They located a cave in a bluff high above the stream below and
made Sequoyah as comfortable as they could leaving him with a good
supply of honey and venison sufficient to last him twenty days. On
their third day since leaving Sequoyah, Aujiya and Teesey were
surprised to see several Comanches running quickly toward them.
Taking cover behind some bushes, Aujiya hailed them and asked them
in Comanche if they were friends. They said they were and
immediately relaxed their lances and bows. The Comanches told them
they had at first thought them to be Texans because of the caps
they were wearing, and would have fired on them if they hadn’t
seen their feathers. They told Aujiya and Teesey of the shortest
and safest route to the Mexican villages and agreed to go part of
the distance with them. Aujiya, Teesey and the Comanches traveled
together for three days, then parted - each going their own way.
Fourteen days later, they reached the Rio Grande, although at the
time, they didn’t know its name. They hailed a mounted Mexican on
the opposite bank and were informed that there was a ferry lower
down, and they could cross there. After crossing they were met by
a company of Mexican soldiers who escorted them to the leader of a
town some six miles distant.
The village was small - the houses made of large
bricks and mortar. The houses were low with flat roofs and looked
quite old. After locating an interpreter, they learned that these
Mexicans had been part of a group of soldiers that had defeated
the Texans in battle and taken some three hundred prisoners, a
fact they were quite proud of. Once satisfied that Aujiya and
Teesey were not in his town on any public business, the officer
expressed the pleasure it gave him to see them and invited Aujiya
and Teesey to spend the night in town. The next day was spent
enjoying the hospitality of the village. That evening they visited
the house of the interpreter and to their surprise met a Cherokee
man by the name of Anvya Tsidoga - Standing Rock. The following
morning they were shown directions to the small town of San
Fernando, some thirty miles further south. Three miles further on,
they arrived at the Cherokee village, situated within a grove a
timber half a mile wide and some three miles long, watered by
means of a ditch filled with flowing water from a large spring
some two miles distant.
Aujiya and Teesey told them that Sequoyah was in
their company and waiting for them just north of San Antonio. The
Mexican Cherokees were excited to meet the great Sequoyah and gave
Aujiya a horse from a man in San Fernando and food for their
journey. Aujiya and Teesey quickly returned to where they had left
Sequoyah and guided him to Mexico and the welcoming Cherokees.
Our journey in 2001 to San Fernando, now known
as Zaragosa, was much different, but our desire to go there was
just as real. For two years previous Dr. Charles Rogers had been
searching the Mexican countryside asking people, “What do you know
of the Cherokee?” A Cherokee descendant, Dr. Rogers had taken it
upon himself to find the lost village of the Cherokee and the
elusive grave of Sequoyah. From the Mexican elders came the
stories, of how the Cherokees had come to their village, where
they built their village, and the photographs and stories of their
Cherokee ancestors. The names of their grandfathers and
grandmothers - Cherokee names - names that had been held secret
for almost 160 years. These were the descendants of the Cherokee
who fled Texas in July of 1839. The lost Cherokee village site and
Sequoyah’s grave had been found.
The story unfolded when the Rogers family met
with the Rodriquez family on whose land it turned out, a cave is
located. The Rodriques family was skeptical. Since the early
1900s, many Cherokees had come to this spot, searching for the
grave, but the family had always turned them away, unsure of their
motives, keeping the site secret. None had come with their
families; none had come in traditional clothing as the Mexican
families knew good Cherokees would have done out of respect; and
none came with what they felt was a “good heart.”
The secret of the gravesite was one that Gloria
and her family and Epigmenio and his family had separately kept
for many years. Several generations before the families had
disputed over some land that ended in a feud that resulted in
years of silence between the two families. Then one day young
Gloria and Epigmenio went away to college where they met; began to
date and fell in love. When they discovered that their families
had been silently warring with each other for years, they eloped.
Both family’s were initially outraged, but soon learned to accept
and love the couple.
Early in their marriage, Gloria and Epigmenio,
while sharing family secrets, discovered that both families shared
many of the same family stories - stories about the Cherokee and
Sequoyah. And so, when they met the Rogers family, they were
naturally suspicious, but curious. And when they saw them emerge
from their car, Gloria gasped and whispered to Epigmenio -
reminding him of the dream she had told him about just a few days
earlier - a dream about a man who looked just like Dr. Rogers.
Then the two families sat down for breakfast together and began
talking. Gloria and Epig were taken with young Charles and
grandmother Mary, Dr. Rogers’s mother and they were heartened to
see that the Rogers family were wearing traditional Cherokee
clothing. Gloria was also pleased to see a deep sense of family
among them. Encouraged, Gloria and Epig decided it was time to see
if the story was true and without letting on, invited the Rogers
family to come and visit a special place - a cave not far distant.
They led Charles and his family; Sharon his
wife, young Charles, their son, and his mother Mary to a cave
located in a depression in the high Sonoran desert. The air was
charged with anticipation about where they were going. One by one,
they entered the inconspicuous opening that led to the first of
several small underground rooms, it’s first visitors in
generations. The local people had been told there were spirits
here and they might not like any intrusion. So the site was
protected by the stories.
Young Charles, Saloli - which means squirrel in
Cherokee - was very eager to enter as was 86 year old matriarch
Mary - also known as Walela which means hummingbird. And because
of her stiff leg, had to be dragged into the cave while seated on
her jacket. Inside, everyone spoke in hushed tones about the past
as young Charles explored the cave. After nearly 30 minutes, young
Charles pointed to a mark obviously carved into the wall - a mark
so obvious that it should have been seen at once but it wasn’t.
Young Charles asked, “Dad, what’s that?” As the turned to look at
the mark, Gloria said, “Of course he would find it... just like
the prophecy told.”
Dr. Rogers asked, “What prophecy?”
Gloria then related the story of what Sequoyah
had told her ancestors. Not to reveal the burial site to anyone,
and that one day a child would come and find it and carry forth
his spirit message of brotherhood and unity to all Cherokee.
Shortly after this, young Charles was given the new Cherokee name
of Adelohosgi - “Prophet.”
The sense that destiny had had a hand in this
search was underscored several years later when the Rogers family
was out sightseeing in Brackettvile, Texas. While driving past a
small frame house, they glimpsed the word Tsisqua- Cherokee for
“bird,” written above the door. The sign in the yard said “Native
American Museum.” They backed up, stopped, and found no one home.
They asked around the neighborhood until they located the owner -
a diminutive but dynamic lady named Nakai Breen. Nakai invited
them into her home, the museum and shared with them the
fascinating story of her life. Orphaned by her Cherokee parents,
Nakai was raised by a Kiowa family. At the age of twelve, she in
turn, “adopted” an elderly Kickapoo man and woman who were
homeless at the time and begged her mother to shelter them. The
couple had been living hand to mouth under the bridge between
Mexico and Texas.
Nakai grew to love the Kickapoo. As a young
woman, she single-handly took the tribe to Washington and
eloquently pleaded their case. In a moving speech, she declared
that “every human being had a right to a spot on the face of the
earth” touching the hearts of what had been hardened politicians.
The Kickapoos were granted their own land.
After hearing Nakai’s story, Dr. Rogers told
their story in turn. At it’s end, Nakai said that she had many
things to think about and gave here blessings to young Charles -
Adelohosgi. When next they met, Nakai said that she had prayed and
decided to tell them of events in her distant past. As a young
girl, an elder had told her that the Cherokee would one day be
sent four white buffalo - one would be in the form aof a child.
This child would have as his purpose to unite the Cherokee in
brotherhood and it would be Nakai’s task to teach the child things
he would need to know. She then began to tell young Charles many
stories of her childhood and to recount many stories that had been
passed down among Cherokees for generations. Young Charles -
Adelohosgi - feels very blessed to have been guided to this
special Cherokee elder.
Shortly after Dr. Rogers called and told me of
this discovery, Lari, my wife, and I went to Eagle Pass, Texas
where we met Dr. Rogers and other Cherokees who had come to make
the pilgrimage. We drove down on a Friday, covering in 45 minutes
what would have taken Sequoyah a full day or longer in 1842. Al
and Frankie Herrin of Tahlequah had flown to San Antonio, and we
agreed to pick them up and take them the rest of the way to Eagle
Pass. It was the middle of March and the fields south of San
Antonio were filled with bluebonnets.
After breakfast at the hotel, we climbed aboard
two buses and crossed the international bridge into Mexico,
traveled southwest to Morelos, then turned northwest to Zaragosa.
The high desert air of Coahuila was hazy and chilly. The sun
didn’t show itself that day and the clouds that gathered added to
the expectant yet somber feeling that everyone was feeling. There
was of course excitement - everyone was excited but there was also
a quietness as though words weren’t necessary to express their
feelings. The normal chatter of people travelling somewhere
together was subdued and almost whispered.
When the buses rolled through the towns, they
seemed out of place on the narrow streets among the small concrete
brick and mortar houses that are similar to the ones Sequoyah saw
when he walked the same streets. Once through Zaragosa, the paved
streets became dirt paths lined with mesquite trees that scraped
along the sides of the buses as we passed. Before long the buses
stopped and we had to walk the rest of the way. The road had
We crossed a sulphur scented creek and soon came
to the rubble of what had once been a haciendo - the Haciendo
Patino near the Cherokee village. The creek was formed by a large
artesian well that roared from the earth in an enormous 18 inch
wide stream. The temperature was 98.6° which meant “going to
water” much more enjoyable for the Cherokees. We also discovered
that the sulfur odor wasn’t in the water but actually rode above
it and quickly dissipated. This was where the Cherokee sought
safety from the Texans. This is where the Mexican people welcomed
them with open arms. They understood.
We all gathered and stood in the gray, chilly
afternoon under a threatening, misty sky and listened to Gloria
Rodriques and her grandfather relate to us the stories about the
Cherokee and, most importantly, where Sequoyah was buried. For
almost 160 years the secret had been kept by the people,
protecting the gravesite until the parameters of the legend had
been met and the site could be properly honored. We were led to an
area about a mile away, in what direction I don’t know since the
desert looks the same in all directions.
The valley was flat and what appeared to be an
area covered with rock not thirty yards away, turned out to be a
depression with two small caves opposite each other. The larger of
the two was where the stories said Sequoyah was buried. No one
spoke as the people encircled the entrance to the cave. Dr. Rogers
carefully waved a stick inside the entrance with a small piece of
red cloth attached. This was to arouse any snakes that might
happen to be in the cave. Dr. Rogers asked me to call out to
Ujonati (Rattlesnake) saying in Cherokee “We are Cherokee and have
come to honor Sequoyah.”
No snake emerged or made any sound, so two at a
time people crawled through the small entrance to the cave. When
it was my turn, I crawled in and sat in the first chamber. In the
dim light I could see a mounded hump on the cave floor in the
adjoining chamber, a hump composed of dirt not of the cave floor.
The cave floor was covered with rock shards and chips that had
fallen from the ceiling. This mound was composed of soil, leaves
Imagine, if you will, sitting inside this cave -
this tomb of Sequoyah, the man who had given the Cherokee a way to
remember - a way to write and preserve their language. As I sat
there dressed in a ribbon shirt, leggings and feathered turban, I
thought of the stories I had read and what I had heard about
Sequoyah. True, I had been to Tennessee and visited the memorial
for him near the place of his birth which is now under the waters
of the TVA dam project, but this was different. He was here, less
than 15 feet from where I sat. My thoughts were disturbed when a
large rattlesnake was noticed stretched out on a ledge not three
feet from my head. I felt little fear, and fortunately, the snake
never moved. Was it because the air outside was slightly chilly?
The air inside the cave was not. In fact, it was almost warm. Was
it a spirit snake? Some said it was a guardian of the gravesite. I
don’t know why the snake never moved or threatened us in any way,
but it didn’t. I just know what happened, or in this case, didn’t
happen. I can still see the snake lying there and the mounded
earth in the second chamber today even though the cave has since
been sealed to protect it.
The area surrounding the gravesite and
encompassing a few acres has since been purchased and designated
by the Mexican government as the Nacion Cherokee de Mexico. This
is where we hope to re-constitute the Cherokee Nation as it used
to be - according to the stories and to fulfill Sequoyah’s wish.
According to what has been told to us by the stories, he wanted to
stay in Mexico, where the Cherokee were welcomed and befriended.
If anyone would understand, Sally would. And Teesey would have
explained that Sequoyah wouldn’t have survived the trip back
anyway. Besides Indian Territory wasn’t his home. His home was
where he had been born - in Tasgigi - in what is now northern
Alabama. Indian Territory, where the Cherokee Nation is now
located in Oklahoma, was where the American government had forced
them to go and where the government wanted to keep them.
In 1836, the U.S. Secretary of War refused to
allow Chief John Ross permission to sell the Cherokee lands and
move the entire tribe to Mexico. And before that, in 1720 a group
of Cherokees had immigrated to the mountains of Coahuila and in
1822, the newly independent Republic of Mexico granted the
Cherokees freedom and immigration rights to the eastern part of
the Mexican province of Texas.
Much later, in 1895, the Western Cherokees would
again consider a vote to move to Mexico and again it was denied.
When the anti-Indian Texas government heard of
Sequoyah’s arrival in Mexico, they immediately sent the army to
covertly and illegally enter the country and arrested Sequoyah and
the other Cherokees who had fled Texas. Without due process of law
and under threat of force, they arrested Sequoyah who, even at 73
years of age and suffering from a severe lung infection, managed
to “suddenly disappear,” escaping his captors while crossing the
Rio Grande River at night. Sequoyah, fighting collapse, persevered
and returned to Zaragosa where the kind-hearted Mexican people and
the Patinos-Rodriguez-Salinas families of a nearby hacienda,
bravely and without consideration for their own personal safety
hid him in a secret cave. Sequoyah, who had been very ill for some
time, became exhausted from this struggle and flight from
captivity. It was here, in this now crumbled hacienda, that the
Great Sequoyah died peacefully, a free person, among some of his
Cherokee family and his many Mexican friends. It was here, in this
cave, that he was buried. In the hacienda on his deathbed, he told
of a Cherokee child that would come someday, find his grave, and
bring his spirit of brotherhood back to the Cherokee and all other
people of good heart. That is what we are doing. That is why we
are here. That is the invitation we offer you. It is not a
question of who we are trying to become, it is a question of
becoming who we are.
On the first weekend of each February, the
little town of Zaragosa celebrates their founding. The Cherokees
are now part of that celebration honoring the return of the
Cherokee to Zaragosa. Actually, the descendants of the Cherokee
who escaped the Texas army are still there and upon our visit over
the past three years, they have made themselves known to us. In
one sense of the word, they are otsadatihnai (our family).