“Tsquayi ( White Hereon) is a good person; if he is in
your presence and you are Cherokee, you will perceive that what I claim
here is true. If you are not Cherokee and you admire honesty,
compassion, and respect for humanity and nature, then both you and
Tsquayi have wisdom in common.”
Chief Charles “Jathohi” Rogers
“You don’t want to take Al Herrin, Tsquayi, to any kind
of political meeting, as he can’t help himself... he will compulsively
say things that are true and wise, thus ruining the event.”
Chief Charles “Jathohi” Rogers
THE WAY OF THE CHEROKEE
I, Tsquayi (Tsquah yee; White
Heron) have been called, not by my self or any other person, but by the
to bring a message to the Cherokees. It is not my message or the
message of any person, but it is the message of the Spirits. I will
speak the truth as it has been revealed to me and you can judge whether
my words are of any use to you.
(Photo - Right)
Chief Herrin and his wife Frankie (right), who we call “Woman Who Walks
Too Far”. Here she demonstrates just that, showing her pre-operation
stride while befriending hundreds and hundreds of Mexican well-wishers
as Cherokees paraded 6 miles through Zaragosa that day.
I am Cherokee and my Cherokee
people are the children of tragedy. We were once a great nation, living
in health, freedom and happiness. We lived in balance with Nature, the
Spirit World, and one another, but, the Aniyonega (Ahnee yoe nay gah;
White people) came and took it all away.
They killed many of our people
and drove us from our homes. They took the land, they cut the forests,
they killed the wild animals, they polluted the waters and the air, and
they even polluted the blood that flows through our bodies with their
diseases and with their blood.
But, even worse than all those
things, is that the Aniyonega took away the Spirits that made us
Cherokees. They said that we were savages and they had to “save” us, so
they took away the ways of our ancestors. But, they were liars. Instead
of saving us, they destroyed us. They preached love and trust but
practiced malice and deceit. They took our land and “gave” us other
land and then they took that also. They took away our homeland and our
freedom and put us in a prison called “Indian Territory”. They sent our
children away to boarding schools so that they could not learn from the
Elders and forbade them to speak our language. They “relocated”
families from the Cherokee Nation to far away cities so they would
forget how to be Cherokee. They tried to take away our Cherokee
identity and recreate us in their own image.
I was born in 1936 and reared in
the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. It was during the time when it was
still considered a bad thing to be Cherokee. The stated policy of the
U.S. Government, for generations, had been to erase the Cherokee
culture and that policy was very effective and reached into most
Cherokee homes. Most of the Cherokee children I grew up with were
deprived of their Cherokee heritage and culture as had been their
parents and grandparents before them.
Do Cherokees stand out in a crowd of 6000 people?
But, I was different. All my
life, I have felt a calling toward things Cherokee. Although Cherokee
was not spoken in our home, I sought out Cherokee speakers in order to
learn as much of our language as I could. I sought out Elders who were
willing to tell me the stories of the old days and teach me the skills
of hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants for food and medicine. I
learned how to make and shoot the traditional Cherokee bows and arrows.
Looking back now, I can see that all those experiences and many
subsequent experiences during my life were preparing me for what I am
doing now and what I have yet to do.
Like most Cherokee children, I
attended a protestant church with my parents. But, I grew to feel that
my Spiritual life was incomplete. When I was about thirteen years old,
I had a vision of Yona Unega (Yoe nah Oo nay gah; White Bear) who
became my guide to my Cherokee Spirit Path. I have followed that path
through my life. It has been a path of beauty, enlightenment,
fulfillment and peace. I lived a life filled with amazing coincidences
which, I believe, were not coincidences but the Spirits acting in my
life. I spent most of my adult life as a teacher and writer, telling
others about the wonders of Nature, the Spirits and the Cherokee Way.
I often got inquiries from
people who wanted to know how to perform some Cherokee ritual or they
asked what was proper behavior in different situations. Often, my
response was that I didn’t know what was “proper”. The rituals and
rules of behavior of the pre Columbian Cherokees have, largely, been
lost in 450 years of contact with the Aniyonega.
But, perhaps, the Spirits are
wiser than we know. If we had all the rituals and rules for behavior of
the ancient Cherokees intact today, perhaps we would find ourselves
frozen in time and unable to function in our world of today. We must be
adaptable if we are to survive. Perhaps we need new rituals and rules
of behavior for Cherokees of today.
The same Spirits that spoke to
our ancient ancestors still speak to us today, if we will listen. We
must learn to listen, and then, listen to learn. The Spirits will teach
us how to be Cherokee. We will receive new rituals and new rules for
behavior that are suited to us in the world we live in today. We will
each be shown our own path to a good life. We will also be shown the
path which the Cherokee people need to take in the world of today so
that we can realize our full potential. All we need are pure hearts, a
desire for peace and brotherhood, and the desire to learn.
The Cherokee Nation of Mexico is fortunate to have such a spiritual
counselor and teacher of things Cherokee
A few years ago, after many
years of teaching and writing, I reached the age of retirement. I
believed that, if I should die that day, I had no regrets. There was
nothing that I would have done differently. I was content to rest.
But, the Spirits had other
things for me to do. In the autumn of 2000, I received a call from Dr.
Charles Rogers and thus began a remarkable journey, during which I
assisted him in the discovery of the burial place of Sequoyah and the
establishment of the Cherokee Nation of Mexico. Dr. Rogers was called
to be their Principal Chief and I was asked by Dr. Rogers and the
Mexican Cherokees to serve as their Peace Chief. I was honored to
I am humbled and grateful to
play a small role in what, I believe, is a great Spiritual awakening of
the Cherokees and other People of the Spirit throughout the world. This
awakening is not coming from me or any other person; it is coming from
the Spirit World. I am only one of the messengers. But, I dream that
this Spiritual awakening will spread to others and, eventually, bring
tolerance, unification and the peace that mankind has sought for so
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRITS
In the Judeo Christian Bible,
the Apostle Paul listed the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians, Chapter
5, as love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness and temperance and states that ”against such there is no law”.
I say that the Spirits do not
condemn any Cherokee who, with a pure heart, seeks the seven fruits of
the Cherokee Spirits: truth, goodness, beauty, love, enlightenment,
fulfillment, and peace. The seekers of those fruits are the people that
the ancient Cherokees called “Aniyvwi” (Ah nee yuh wee; Human Beings).
I tell you that the Spirits and Nature protect and nurture the Aniyvwi.
I tell you further that there are people with pure hearts, who seek of
the fruits of the Spirits, found in every race and every creed
throughout the world. I call them Aniyvwi, my brothers and sisters, and
tell them that the Spirits will protect and nurture them. My brother,
Black Elk, of the Ogallala Sioux said, “The power of a pure and good
soul is planted as a seed, and will grow in man’s heart as he walks in
a holy manner. The Spirit is anxious to aid all who seek him with a
White Chief “Tsquayi” Herrin in one of his typical spellbinding
But, I say to you that the
Spirits do condemn those persons, found in every race and every creed,
that twist the word of the Spirits to serve their own selfish goals.
Those persons lead lives that are out of balance and the Spirits and
Nature do not know them. Their institutions of worship have failed to
bring the promised “peace on earth and good will toward men” because
they believed that their narrow, twisted “truth” was the real truth and
that the Spirit had chosen them above others; they sought goodness for
their members rather than for all mankind; they caused division between
nations and creeds rather than promoting tolerance and brotherhood;
they promoted blind ignorance and opposed the search for knowledge;
they promoted the subjugation of women, Nature and any people different
from themselves rather than honoring all life and all Spirit. The fruit
they have produced has been “wars and rumors of war”, rather then peace
on earth. I offer the history of the world for the past five thousand
years as proof of the truth of my words.
I say that the time of the
Aniyvwi has come. Let the Aniyvwi in every nation, race and creed speak
out and let each one believe that his or her words can make a
difference in the world. Let us believe that the people of the world
will recognize our words of truth and follow. Let us believe that,
through the power of the Spirits, peace on earth is possible.
In the following sections, I
will write on a variety of subjects related to the Cherokee Spirit
LEARNING TO SEE
Through my life, I have been
blessed to know a few remarkable people who taught me to see. Of
course, being born with normal vision, I could see soon after birth,
but, these people taught me that I could see things beyond what most
people see. Two of these teachers were Cherokee men, one named Richard
McLemore and the other named Kawaya.
When I was a young boy, growing
up in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, I spent a lot of time with
Richard McLemore. Richard had a wife and son but he was not kin to my
family. Among traditional Cherokees, a boy’s uncles, on his mother’s
side, taught him the skills of the hunter and other things a boy should
know. My mother had no brothers to teach me the Cherokee ways, so,
Richard became like an uncle to me. He made my first bow and arrows
when I was about six years old. A couple of years later, when my bow
broke, he told me I was old enough to make my own bow and he helped me
make my first bow. He showed me how to see the grain layers in the
Osage orange bow wood and follow the grain layers with his draw knife.
He taught me that the draw knife sounds differently in the different
layers of wood. I remember his telling me, “Listen to the wood. It will
talk to you.”
White Chief Herrin “Tsquayi” and the fire like each other.
In the winter, Richard and I
gigged fish in Barren Fork Creek and through the late spring, summer
and fall, we hunted squirrels in the woods. Sometimes we hunted with a
dog that would tree the squirrels and sometimes we still hunted,
silently slipping through the woods looking for the squirrels. Or,
sometimes, we sat still near a tree where the squirrels were coming to
feed on something, like mulberries or hickory nuts, and wait for the
squirrels to come. Richard and I both enjoyed hunting, but we didn’t
hunt just for fun; we hunted for meat to supplement the diets of our
families. So, we usually hunted with a shotgun or rifle because a gun
is more efficient than a bow. Richard usually carried a .22 rifle and I
carried my little.410 shotgun. If we could see the squirrel sitting
still, we usually shot it with the .22, since .22 shells cost less than
shotgun shells. But, if it ran, I shot it with the shotgun. Sometimes,
if we didn’t have ammunition for our guns, we hunted with our bows.
When I first started hunting
squirrels with Richard, I was amazed by how he could spot the
squirrels. Maybe the dog would tree up a big red oak tree, sixty feet
high, with huge limbs covered with leaves and a thousand places for a
squirrel to hide. Richard and I would get back away from the tree, on
opposite sides, and begin to circle the tree, searching the branches
above with our eyes while the dog jumped and barked at the base of the
tree. Richard would always spot the squirrel first. Then, he would
patiently try to show me the squirrel.
“See,” he might say, “there in
the very top. See that dark spot in that bunch of leaves. That is the
squirrel.” I would see the dark spot but it looked no different from
twenty other dark spots I could see in bunches of leaves. But, when I
would shoot the spot with my little shotgun, out would fall the
squirrel. Or, often, the squirrel would be hugging the trunk or a big
limb of the tree and would move around to the other side as I circled
the tree. By the two of us circling on opposite sides of the tree,
sometimes one of us could see the squirrel that was hidden from the
other. Or, sometimes, Richard would tell me to shake a small tree close
to where I was circling. The commotion would cause the squirrel to move
around to Richard’s side where he could see it and get a shot.
Gradually, over the years, I learned to find the squirrels as well as
Richard could. In fact, I became so successful at hunting squirrels
that Richard gave me the Cherokee name of Saloli (Squirrel).
Another person with whom I spent
a lot of time, during my boyhood years, was an elderly Cherokee man
named Kawaya. Kawaya lived alone in a cabin up Barren Fork Creek from
our farm. Kawaya became like a grandfather to me. Kawaya didn’t make
bows or hunt but he liked to fish, hunt for wild bee trees and gather
edible or medicinal plants from the woods and fields.
There was a lesson to be learned
in almost everything Kawaya did. Sometimes I didn’t pay attention as
well as I should have and often I didn’t realize the significance of
what was happening until later, sometimes years later, but Kawaya
understood my mind and was patient with me.
In the wilds of Mexico, White Chief Al “Tsquayi” Herron bestows a
Cherokee name Chief Rogers has given to another member of the tribe -
Allison “Bright Star Blue Moon” Layton.
I remember the summer night I
went with Kawaya for the first time to catch crayfish to use as bait
for fishing the next day. That night, I was to learn a lesson in
seeing. The night was warm as we waded into the spring branch, each
carrying a kerosene lantern and an empty lard pail. The water was so
cold it almost took away my breath and it was as clear as crystal.
Kawaya told me to keep only the soft shelled crayfish. The soft shells
were those that had recently shed their shell or exoskeleton and whose
new shell had not yet hardened. He said we would also keep the
“peelers”, those with hard shells almost ready to shed. The hard shell
could easily be peeled off before the crayfish was put on the fishhook
and the fish liked them just as well as the soft shells.
Crayfish stay hidden under rocks
during daylight but come out after dark. The light of the lantern
showed the rocky bottom of the spring branch was infested with
crayfish. Every rock on the bottom sheltered a half dozen or more and
crayfish were darting and crawling everywhere in the pools. It was
great fun grabbing them and Kawaya and I looked like two bears in the
midst of a salmon run as we laughed and splashed.
I would catch a crayfish and
feel to see if its shell was soft. Usually it wasn’t so I threw it down
the branch out of the pool so I wouldn’t catch it again. If it was
soft, I put it in the pail. I was catching ten or more hard shells for
every soft shell. Then I noticed that Kawaya was putting every crayfish
he caught into his pail.
“Edudu (Aye doo doo;
Grandfather),” I said, “I thought you said we were keeping only the
“That is true, Saloli (Sah loe
lee; Squirrel),” he replied.
“But you are putting every one
you catch into the pail.”
“That is true,” he said and then
he smiled as he anticipated my next question. “I only catch the soft
shells and the peelers.”
“But how can you tell them from
the hard shells without feeling them?” I asked.
“I would tell you how, if I
could, but I don’t know how to say it,” he answered.
I looked and looked but I could
see no difference in the crayfish and I told Kawaya I could see no
“Saloli,” he said, “You look but
you do not see. My eyes are no better than yours but I see things you
do not see. But you can learn to use your eyes to see things that other
people do not see.”
White Chief Herrin & Chief Rogers address some of the many
friends the Cherokees have in Mexico, here at the arena in Zaragosa.
Finally, after many crayfish
catching trips, I learned to distinguish softshells, peelers and hard
shells by subtle differences in their appearance and actions under the
water, but like Kawaya, I can’t tell you how to recognize the
Over the years, I learned that
Kawaya and Richard were teaching me not only perception with all my
senses, but seeing that goes beyond the senses. I learned that, as one
lives in harmony with Nature, he or she grows in awareness and there
are many things that are perceived in ways that cannot be explained.
The normal five senses become more attuned to the signals coming from
Nature, but in addition, there are other perceptions that seem to be
received by senses outside the normal senses. Those perceptions
stimulate vague feelings or intuitions in the conscious mind and
visions or dreams in the unconscious. Those are perceptions of the
I use the word “Spirits” instead of the word “God” or “Allah” or some
other name because I wish to avoid the stereotypes connected with those
names. But, if you prefer one of those other names, use it, and rest
assured we are talking about the same thing. The word “Spirits”, in the
Cherokee language, translates to Didanvto (Dee dah nuh toe).
Knowing The Spirits