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Religion According to Chief Jahtlohi Rogers

By Chief Charles Jahtlohi Rogers, M.D.
Cherokee Nation of Mexico
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Ancient Religious Beliefs Of The Cherokee People
Part 3 - The Great Spirit
Part 4 - Fragments Of The Cherokee Religious Beliefs
Part 5 - Cultural Transformation


Chief Rogers

Since 1 B.C., there has not been a Christian who does not tell of “Jesus” by using that very same name. Since 500 A.D., there has not been a Muslim who does not tell of Mohammed by using that very same name. In 1750, the Cherokees knew Jesus and God by five commonly accepted Old Testament names, yet knew nothing of the New Testament name “Jesus”. Where and how did the Cherokees obtain such ancient knowledge? When asked, upon first contact with Europeans, they replied “directly from God”.

Go Hee Dah
(A Long Time Ago)

“We Cherokee knew long before the Good Apostle John that what ever is true is from Unayklanahi, the one creator of all things, God.” “You need not bow to other human permission to believe in anything you believe to be true; as a Cherokee it is your responsibility to do so without fear, for this is the most traditional way of the Cherokee.”

The one God of the Cherokee was not the vengeful god of a small tribe of war loving people. The one God in whom the Cherokee believe is benevolent and has no specific chosen people. Of all living things, only people have been chosen by God, in that they were created with the ability to choose their path. The path to God is by using their heart, soul, and mind for that which is good to be a “good” or “godly” person a “principled” person, whom the Cherokee called “A ni yun wi yah”. To strive to become A ni yun wi yah is to acknowledge the desire by a Cherokee to become a principled person, but they must first choose God’s white path of peace, which is what the ancient Cherokees sought. They saw themselves as children of God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Cherokees spoke the Old Testament names for Jesus thousands of years before he appeared two thousand years ago. However, this early knowledge does not give privilege, only the responsibility which all of the Creator’s human creations have and share, which is to move toward God and goodness in thought and action. Of course, some individuals, groups or nations may choose the opposite. All histories, written and oral, of all peoples show the drastic cost of human actions based on divine right, skin coloration, religious differences, and the belief that you are chosen and thus released from responsibility of being civilized which is to treat others as you want to be treated, or in the words of the New Testament, to love thy neighbor as thyself.

The great Cherokee educator and social activist Sequoyah urged Cherokees to come & live in freedom and dignity in Coahuila.(Photo - Right)
The great Cherokee educator and social activist Sequoyah urged Cherokees to come & live in freedom and dignity in Coahuila.

Approximately 3500 to 4000 years ago, Cherokee legend says that they were visited by a spiritual being who taught these principle people how to live in peace with animals and humans, and how to have the proper respect for nature. The legend has caused many Cherokee and other people to believe that it was Christ, or a manifestation of someone like him, who chose to appear, giving instructions and prophecies to the Cherokee people. Is this possible? If we compare it to the similarity of the accounts of God appearing or making Himself known unto men in the Old Testament Christian Bible, then we can only agree that the legend of the Cherokee people is possibly accurate and true. Because this instruction is widely believed to have already occurred once in human history, another appearance to other humans is less difficult to understand and believe, as there is supporting evidence of tribal stories exactly like the Old Testament Bible within several Semitic tribes, and globally in many indigenous tribes.

Remember that all things true are not contained within the Bible, which is not to say that what is in the Bible is not true. A map of the United States is not in the Bible; it is not relevant to the core message of the Bible. The historical Bible’s setting only allows the reader to better understand the intended message. Thus, when the ancient Cherokee sang, spoke, and chanted, as was heard and documented by several Europeans as late as 1755, the names “Shiloh”, “Head of All Things”, “Ye ho wah”, “the Sun of Righteousness”, and “the Morning Star”, they were using names or titles which were both Old Testament and Cherokee religious words or phrases for God. These Cherokee words are considered by most modern Bible scholars as also being Old Testament names used for Jesus before his coming and in that time before the New Testament said that the Angel first said his name, “Jesus Christ”, to Mary, the mother of Jesus. In Cherokee, God was called “U nay klah nah hey”, the “Creator of All Things”; the other five names were also used to describe God or the spiritual person the Cherokees believed that he sent to earth to instruct them.

The ancient Cherokees also knew what a swine was before the Europeans imported such, and had a prohibition against eating swine and many other foods considered unclean. Cherokees would keep one day without work for prayer. Cherokee would marry only outside of their clan. A Cherokee woman could divorce her husband without physical violence to her. Other tribes cut off her ears, or burnt her. Cherokees apparently had New Testament compassion. When a man died, his wife could be taken as a second wife, after the passage of time, by a surviving brother of the deceased husband, which was exactly the process documented by several different Semitic tribes in the Old Testament.

Also occurring approximately 3500 to 4000 years ago, the Cherokee language separated from the Iroquois language group and stayed separated, because the vast majority of Cherokee words changed radically with the addition of new words, logically because of integration with some other peoples and their language. This explains why other indigenous groups, for example in the Iroquois family of languages, do not have the same belief system which includes Old Testament words and concepts in their ancient religious practices (from 1750 and before).

Cherokee Medicine Man Swimmer. A noble Cherokee.(Photo - Left)
Cherokee Medicine Man Swimmer. A noble Cherokee.

All people bring language, culture, and religious beliefs with them Where did the Cherokee obtain these early Old Testament names for Jesus, but, most importantly, not use or know the actual New Testament name of “Jesus”? There is no Christian missionary of My Christian church known that did not or does not teach the name of Jesus Christ, yet the Cherokee used five other commonly accepted Old Testament names for Jesus. Some Muslim groups have recently claimed early contact with North American Native people, but what Muslim does not speak of Mohammed? Christians talk about Jesus, Muslims about Mohammed it is the mandatory core of their belief. Thus, logic and common sense would dictate these choices: that the Cherokee received into it’s tribe a people who brought these Old Testament words and concepts with them from outside the Americas, that the Cherokee received such instruction and knowledge directly from U nay klah nah hey, the creator of all things, or that they were received from Jesus (even though they did not use his New Testament name) who brought these names and instruction from God to the Cherokee. The written historical records of the ancient Cherokees claim that all three of the above scenarios are exactly what occurred.

Also consider that the oldest Cherokee migration story reflects that “they traveled over land a great distance, came to the ocean. built rafts, and crossed. They landed and then went west, north, and south.” Please note that a Pacific crossing, upon arriving in the Western Americas, cannot go west, only east, north, and south. Logic, geography, and oral traditional support the opposite: an “Atlantic crossing” of some tribe of people who may have considered themselves a principle people, who knew the One God that was benevolent and taught forgiveness, and who were against human or live animal sacrifices or, cannibalism, as was reflected in actual ancient Cherokee law. Different physical traits existed and were documented within the Cherokee-variations in eye and skin colors, straight and curly hair, facial hair among the men which make them somewhat generally different from most other Native American groups. In 1541, Commandante Alva, under Hernan DeSoto, the first historically documented (but not the actual first) Europeans to see the Cherokee, wrote that many of the Cherokee were as fair skinned and blond as the Spanish soldiers under him. Of course, in North America, the majority were a very handsome reddish bronze cast. Only the Cherokees, Mayans and Incans had a word for the number one thousand; no other Native American groups had this concept. “One thousand” in Cherokee was called “the ancient ones’ one hundred”, meaning that their ancestors had at one time higher mathematic capabilities than the Cherokee of the mid 1700’s when this ancient Cherokee phrase was historically documented. Other differences included the practice ritual of daily bathing going to water regardless of the weather not unlike the Essenes, who also religiously bathed. The Cherokee also had an Ark, a chest containing sacred items, and they built mounds with temples atop. The Cherokees are the only intact surviving Native American group to have been documented as living on a moun at the headwaters of the Ohio River. This is seen by the writings of the Walum Ollum, which is a history of the Delaware people who fought the Cherokee for this land for over a period of 160 years, ending in approximately 700 A.D.

Chief Rogers’ great grandmother, Mary Price, who taught her sons Cherokee ways & incantations for health problems.(Photo - Right)
Chief Rogers’ great grandmother, Mary Price, who taught her sons Cherokee ways & incantations for health problems.

Unlike most of the mound builders, who practiced ritualistic cannibalism, the Cherokee had strict laws concerning such, in that they would put to death (before the sun that day went down) anyone caught practicing it, inside or outside the tribe. The Cherokee word for cannibal in English is “raven mocker”; you will find this in the oldest Cherokee stories, however the above is an ancient law and the old stories are the vehicles for remembrance of the law.

When a Cherokee is asked, even in this present time, whether part blood or full blood, if they strictly consider themselves subjectively a Native American and/or something else, a great many of these Cherokees will reply that being Cherokee is being “something else”, or Native American plus something else. Ancient Cherokees didn’t know Jesus by that name, but they said in 1750 that they knew God was to appear on earth as a man and they called this person by five different Old Testament names for Jesus. Also consider that the Cherokees had three actual cities of refuge, they had the stories of the flood, and many other Old Testament stories, and that they also had the prohibitions found within the Ten Commandments. These ancient Cherokee religious words and teachings, as practiced and followed by the ancient Cherokee, were apparently from a time period of between 500 B.C., when the Jewish tribes (one of several Semitic language groups) first obtained the ability to read and write in Aramaic and started writing down what we call the Old Testament, and 4000 B.C., where the story of Noah (which was known by all of these Semitic language tribes, both Jewish and non Jewish) first appeared in Semitic (non Jewish) writings, the Gilgamesh scrolls. The second oldest known writing of the story of Noah and the flood is in India. Clearly, these early stories are the actual and physical property of mankind, not any specific people, from the beginning of history, which was oral tradition before writing came into being.

The Cherokee language is, in structure, like the Iroquois language; however, almost all of the words are different. Osivo in Cherokee means hello; Casiho in Sanskrit (the oldest mother language of all European, East Indian, Arabic, and Semitic languages) means hello also. In prehistoric times, there were Africans in Central America and southern called the Olmecs who apparently traveled from Africa to Central America. Whether they were lost or simply superb seafarers is not known, but they did have what appears to be a magnetic compass with them, predating the Egyptians by 2700 years. If one group of people can make that journey, why not another? And if another people did so, would they not, due to favorable ocean currents being absolutely necessary for such a journey, be from an area which could be the Mediterranean coast, the Canary Islands, Egypt, or the Middle East, which are close to these black Africans who colonized Central America and southern Mexico? Remember that these are the areas north of Africa where tribal stories say that God is said to have spoken to man, as is believed by Christians, Jews and Muslims. These are the exact same religious stories which are in the first four books of the Old Testament that are, as of today, read and believed by Muslims, Jews, and Christians, almost a billion people.

In the writings, journals and reports of various renowned missionaries to the Cherokee people we learn the Cherokees had religious beliefs that were much more compassionate than the ways of many white men that had come over to the Cherokee country from Europe. Their religious festivals, although different from the ways of the world outside the Cherokee Nation, reflected their love for one another and devotion to the one Author of creation, God.

Mexican Cherokees.(Photo - Left)
Mexican Cherokees.

The Cherokee people, by any standard or measure of civilized values, were not uncivilized savages as portrayed by popular media and even some missionaries who had labored under denomination blindness. The Cherokees occupied a large percentage of this great land of America. America was as much their land as the Promised Land was to the Semitic tribes or earlier peoples as recorded in the Bible. Like all good tribes, the Cherokee people fought with a vengeance to keep their property, whether land or culture, with both the Europeans and long before them with other Native American tribes when they and their religions encroached. Eventually the Cherokee people became once again A People In Exodus; the Trail of Tears from the Eastern U.S. to Indian Territory was exodus number six in Cherokee history. The first exodus was the migration myth; the second exodus was from an island in the south going to the north; the third exodus was from a Cherokee city mound at the headwaters of the Ohio; the fourth was from the Atlantic seaboard south to Georgia and North Carolina; the fifth was when twenty five percent of the tribe left for Mexico in 1720; the sixth was the Trail of Tears (1839) to Indian Territory; the seventh exodus will be (as Sequoyah prophesied) when all Cherokees come back together and form Kituwah, which was told to me by a Cherokee holy man from Tahlequah, Oklahoma who is now in heaven. “Kituwah” is an old sacred pronunciation of the number fourteen, which mans the seventh heaven of the seventh heaven, a cross between Eden and Shangrila, a place of peace and harmony. The ways of other Native Americans and the white man would over the course of time transform their culture and cause them to almost lose the fragments of their noble ancient beliefs. At this writing the Cherokee people are just starting to move back together.

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The Ancient Religious Beliefs of the Cherokee People  

copyright © 2012 Cherokee Nation of Sequoyah
     Must have permission to use or reprint by Chales Jahtlohi Rogers MD.

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