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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


Many Mayan carvings suggest racial mixtures. (Photo - Left)
Many Mayan carvings suggest racial mixtures.

In John Payne’s writing of the Cherokee beliefs, he also included extensive duplications of the first five books of the Bible, which caused readers to conclude that early in the historic period the Cherokees began to weave the newly learned Biblical materials into the origins of their legends. Nevertheless, the ancient beliefs and stories vary slightly, perhaps because they were not rewritten so much, to some instances in the Christian Bible. Regardless of Payne’s study, the Cherokee people attributed their existence to the Creator. They built their religious belief upon foundations and pillars built by the express creations of God and not of men, and they were reserved as such.

The Cherokee people did hold on to the fragments of their beliefs for many centuries. The Chief Supreme Being believed in by the Cherokees of the eighteenth century was the same “Mysterious Being” or “Being Beyond Human Comprehension” (which would always be a mystery to man), (Ye ho waah), whom the more ancient Cherokees had said was both God and King, appearing sometimes on earth as a man.

Ye ho waah taught the first hymn called Yo wa to the first Cherokee priests or ministers, known as the office of the Uku. Over time the song was described as being part of the old language and was no longer understood. Some of the old language words were still employed in the song in the nineteenth century. Only those chosen by the Uku could perform the song after undergoing rigorous testing, which included abstinence from food and sex and the fulfilling of special observances of prayer, purification and vigils.

The Christian Bible warns, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so nothing is lost.” (John 6:12, NKJV)

Fragments represent the evidence of the awesome miracles that our Creator has performed on behalf of His people. They are the glorious things God has performed in our lives.

The Cherokees had a Sacred Ark that carried the sacred fires and other Holy things, which were the fragments of their religious beliefs - fragments that represented the everlasting bond between the creator and the Cherokee people.

During the time of Moses, it is recorded that ancient Israel had poor memory and often forgot about the great works of God and would not wait for His counsel. (Psalm 106:813, Psalm 78:38 42)

Like ancient Israel, over a period of time the Cherokees slowly began to forget the fragments of their ancient religious beliefs. There were many accounts and revisions to the Mortality Story. One could only speculate that, through time, the Cherokees’ memory became poor and much of their ancient beliefs were lost. Modifications to the stories over the years have lead to doubt and confusion. The Christian Bible says that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

The Creator made it clear to the Cherokee people that changes or modifications of the ancient beliefs were only profitable if they were progressing and continuing in their beliefs. However, if the modifications were attempts to conform to popular belief, they would experience disastrous results in their religion and government.

Over time the Religious Festivals of the Cherokee people became obsolete. The festivals showed their devotion to the Creator and the keeping of His commandments. It was a time where they fasted, prayed, and gave thanksgiving offerings of the first fruits to the “Maker of all things”; a time of cleansing and purification from the old so Ye ho waah could bring in the new. The old fires were put out and new sacred fires were placed in every home. The new fires represented cleansing, rebuilding and lighting.

Ancient tradition also says that Ye ho waah commanded the people to rest from all work on the seventh day and to show their adoration for him by holding their hands entirely still while they rested with their palms open and upward on their knees. The people were to confine themselves to talk about the Supreme Being that dwells on high on the seventh day.

Next page

Cultural Transformation  

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

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