OCTOBER: Harvest Moon Duninudi Time of traditional “Harvest Festival” Nowatequa when the people give thanks to all the living things of the fields and earth that helped them live, and to the “Apportioner” Unethlana. Cheno i-equa or “Great Moon” Festival is customarily held at this time.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, the Native American tribes known as the Five Civilized Tribes were living peacefully on their native lands. The process of acculturation proposed by George Washington and his administration was well underway especially among the Cherokee and Choctaw. The Cherokee had established schools and, thanks to the syllabary developed by Sequoyah, were teaching their children in both Cherokee and English. They had a written a constitution similar to the U.S. Constitution, were successful farmers using Euro-American techniques, and the woman were employing Euro-American domestic skills. Many Cherokee farmers owned large cotton plantations and even owned slaves like their U. S. counterparts.
The writing was on the wall! By the early 1800’s, even Thomas Jefferson, who often cited the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy as the
model for the U.S. Constitution, supported Indian Removal as early as 1802. Many Cherokees, unsettled by white encroachment, decided to move west on their own. In 1817, a group that came to be known as the “Old Settlers” voluntarily moved to land given them in Arkansas where they established a new government and a lived in peace for a while. It was not to last. They were eventually forced to move again to Indian Territory.
To get a good feel for Cherokee culture and history, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is a great place to visit. It is located in the heart of “Green Country” and “Lake Country” in northeastern Oklahoma and is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and the Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee. There are a number of historical museums and the Cherokee Heritage Center where a visitor can learn about the historical and pre-historical Cherokee.
We began our tour in downtown Tahlequah with the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum built in 1844. It is the oldest government building still standing in Oklahoma. The museum features in addition to exhibits on the Cherokee judicial system and the Cherokee language, exhibits on the first Cherokee newspapers–The Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Advocate.