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The earth,' they say, 'is a great island floating in a sea, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again.' Originally the animals were crowded into the sky world; everything was flood below. The Water-Beetle was sent on an exploration, and after darting about on the surface of the waters and finding no rest, it dived to the depths, where it brought up a bit of mud, from which the Earth developed by accretion."
Carmody, and Carmody 23)
The simple idea that the water-beetle created the earth was certainly not in line with the Christian creation story and has to some degree been completely lost, in the same sense that many pagan ideas in Europe are thought of as quant antiquated folk beliefs. It must also be mentioned that many of the English schools that Cherokees and other Nation's peoples were sent to as children, were either religiously based (though state sponsored) or at the very least run by parochial teaching styles, which were the dominant styles of teaching in the day.
The movement toward English-only education, as Hampton and Carlisle made clear, was not designed to put an end to the Christianizing of Native people. Christianity was the dominant religion of the United States, and missionaries, government officials, and philanthropists all encouraged Christian teaching in American Indian schools because they believed in "its power as a practical element of civilization,...Allowing the continuation of Native spiritual practices was unimaginable to these Christian Americans, historian David Wallace Adams has argued, for indigenous traditions encouraged and strengthened the very values the schools were attempting to erase. Booker T. Washington, a graduate of Hampton who was "house father" to the Hampton boys in the Indian Department from 1880 to 1881, later explained this civilizing project in a nutshell: "No white American ever thinks that any other race is wholly civilized until he wears the white man's clothes, eats the white man's food, speaks the white man's language, and professes the white man's religion."
The circumstances of indoctrination of the Cherokee from their own belief systems to those of the whites was done through a series of boarding schools, where children were taken from their homes and subjected to English only learning environments, where they were barred from speaking in their native languages and barred for the most part from participating in Native American cultural expressions.
Spack 23) There was no allowable expression of culture and there was active suppression of native religion, especially as a whole generation of children where separated from their parents and taught how to live in the white world.
Wright, Hirlinger, and England 24) This movement was in fact so effective that the resurgence of Native American religion today is a revival attempting to make sure that the traditions do not die and that the oldest of the generations has the opportunity to build and spread the faith and language of the elders.
Carmody, John Tully, and Denise Lardner Carmody. Native American Religions an Introduction. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.
Cherokee" Wikipedia Online encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee.
Cherokee Society" Wikipedia Online encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_society.
Duncan, Barbara R., ed. Living Stories of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Finger, John R. The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
Leone, Massimo. Religious Conversion and Identity: The Semiotic Analysis of Texts. New York: Routledge, 2003.
McLoughlin, William G. After the Trail of Tears the Cherokees' Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
Spack, Ruth. America's Second Tongue: American Indian Education and the Ownership of English, 1860-1900. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
Wright, David E., Michael W. Hirlinger, and Robert E. England. The Politics of Second Generation Discrimination in American Indian Education: Incidence, Explanation, and Mitigating Strategies. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1998.
Wyss, Hilary E. "Captivity and Conversion William Apess, Mary Jemison, and Narratives of…[continue]
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