Feb 122015

CSaturday is Valentines Day, a national holiday in the United States, but what does it mean to Native Americans?

For the Cherokee in ancient times, this time of the year was known as “Kagali”, or the “Bony Moon”.  It has been said that the reason for the name stems from there being less food available so the people were chewing on the bones.  It was also a time for remembering the deceased, celebrated with fasting, a dance, and ritual observance led by the Uku or “Didanawiskawi” (medicine person).

In modern times, for the Cherokee, it is an opportunity to say “Thanks” to veterans.   “The Cherokee Nation will deliver more than 2,500 handmade valentine cards to veterans in northeastern Oklahoma in time for Valentine’s Day.   More than 20 schools and organizations from across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction set aside time to craft uniquely designed cards addressed to “My Hero” and “Our Vets.”

“The valentines for veterans program is a way that many people can get involved in showing support and appreciation for the men and women who served in our country’s military forces,” said Jennifer Kirby, executive assistant for Cherokee Nation Human.”  [Read the complete article]

DOn a side note, the Cherokee observed 13 moons throughout the year.  Thirteen was a significant number, not only because of the number of moons, but because they also observed that the turtle has 13 plates on his shell (this is true for all turtles).  For ceremonial dances, turtle shells were filled with pebbles to make large rattles that the women strapped to their legs.  Often the dances would go on all night and/or all day.  Can you imagine how strong your legs would have to be?

The Cherokee did not have the equivalent of Valentine’s Day that I am aware of, but there are numerous stories of loveF - Cherokee hunter -- by Mails and traditions that relate.  For instance, instead of presenting a card or roses to his girlfriend, the Cherokee suitor would lay a deer on her doorstep as a proposal of marriage.   If she accepted, she would bring the deer in and prepare a meal.  Accepting the present was accepting the proposal.  By the way, if after they were married, she wanted a divorce, she just placed all his stuff outside the door and he got the message.

And, I am reminded of the story of the man whose wife left him after an argument and he won her back by giving her strawberries.  [see my article on “The Origin of Strawberries]

Here is “Happy Valentines Day” spoken in Cherokee:

[To hear the complete lesson]

Ha-li-he-li-ga a-da-ge-yu-di ha-do-da-gwi-sv-i (Be Happy, love all day long)

I hope you have a Happy Valentines Day however you chose to celebrate.

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