March, The "Windy Month"

Beautiful Lenten Rose in bloom in the Virginia Tidewater, March 2017.  Thanks to my mother, a talented Master Gardener, for helping me identify this lovely flower.

Beautiful Lenten Rose in bloom in the Virginia Tidewater, March 2017.  Thanks to my mother, a talented Master Gardener, for helping me identify this lovely flower.

Dear Readers,

The Cherokee call the month of March Unu `la hee*, or "Windy Month."  As I've begun to study Cherokee culture, I'm fascinated by just how closely they co-existed with nature.  In contrast with our modern lifestyle, sheltered from the elements and changing seasons in our climate-controlled, artificially-lit homes and offices, the Cherokee lived their whole lives uniquely attuned to nature and its rhythms. 

Among the Native American tribes of the Southeast, the Cherokee tribe was the largest, and was originally called the Tsalaki (today spelled Tsalagi), or "people of the cave country," in reference to the beautiful limestone caves found throughout the Southeast region and Appalachia.

According to James Mooney's fabulous History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (a two-volume 1891/1900 publication which is basically the "Bible" of Cherokee history), the Spanish conquistadores under the command of Hernando de Soto first came upon the Cherokee in Georgia and the Carolinas in 1540.  The Spaniards found a people living in simple villages sprinkled across the landscape, in a country described as:

...the poorest country for corn that they had yet seen, the inhabitants subsisting on wild roots and herbs and on game which they killed with bows and arrows. They were naked, lean and unwarlike. The country abounded in wild turkeys (“gallinas”), which the people gave very freely to the strangers, one town presenting them with seven hundred.
— Mooney p. 24

In another village, the Spaniards were also warmly greeted by the Cherokee:

As they neared the town they were met by the Indians, bearing baskets of ‘mulberries,’ more probably the delicious service-berry of the southern mountains, which ripens in early summer, while the mulberry matures later.
— Mooney p. 26

To live freely in nature, to have the abundance of the land, with its wild game and harvest at your fingertips, to feel the wind of Unu `la hee on your skin...the Cherokee of that era lived a uniquely privileged lifestyle, with an abiding sense of belonging to the land, and to their people.  

Yours Truly,

Sarah

* According to A Cherokee Feast of Days by Joyce Sequichie Hifler. Of course, now I discover that most of my other Cherokee language resources concur that March is actually "Anayilisv" (or ᎠᎾᏱᎵᏒ in Cherokee syllabary), which evidently refers to strawberries (ani, ᎠᏂ) and not wind at all!  Now I have to re-write the entire blog post. I DID mention that I'm only just beginning to learn this insanely complicated language, right??

It's been an extraordinarily windy month here, if that counts for anything...

S.E.