Legend Categories
North America / Southeast Area
Cherokee - Legend Of The Keetoowah



by Ken Martin

The Cherokee sometimes refer to themselves as Ani-Kituhwagi, "The People of Kituhwa". Kituhwa was the name of an ancient city, located near present Bryson City, North Carolina that was the nucleus of the Cherokee Nation. The common English phonetic spelling today is "Keetoowah", a name used by traditionalist Cherokee groups like the Keetoowah Society, who are followers of traditional religion, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, a Federally recognized tribe of predominantly full blood Cherokees.

The Legend of the Keetoowah, as recalled in 1930 by Levi B. Gritts, a prominent member of the traditionalist Keetoowah Society, places them on islands in the Atlantic Ocean east of South America. Anthropologists have discovered that Cherokee basket and pottery styles resemble those of South American and Caribbean tribes, differing from other tribes of the southeast U.S.

Seventy tribes attacked them but, by the guidance of God, they were victorious. The last warrior of their attackers, Ner-du-er-gi, was on top of a mountain overlooking their camp in the deep valley below. This warrior saw a smoke arising from the camp which "extended up beyond Heaven". The smoke was divided into three parts and in that there was an eagle holding arrows. When the warrior and his followers saw this, he ordered them not to attack the Indians for they were God's people and powerful and if they attacked they would be destroyed.

When God created these people he gave them great, mysterious power to be used for the best interests of the people. They lived in large cities with tall buildings. Some wise men began to use their power different than was intended which troubled the people. God instructed them to take their white fire and move away from that place. Some went to Asia, some to India, and others to North America leaving the wise men behind. After they had gone to other countries, these large cities were destroyed when the ground sank and are now under the ocean. God turned to the people that came to America and gave them wisdom and guided them.

There came a time when the people began to violate their teachings - committing crimes against each other, committing murders, and feuding between the seven clans. The people met with their medicine men around their fire to ask God for guidance. The medicine men were inspired to go up to a high mountain, one at a time on each of seven days.

On the seventh day, they heard a noise over them and a light brighter than day appeared and a voice said, "I am a messenger from God. God has heard your prayers and He has great passion for your people and from now on you shall be called Keetoowah. Go back to your fire and worship. There is a white ball from way east, who is your enemy, coming and your grandchildren's feet are directed west. They shall have great trials on the edge of the prairie. They shall be divided into different factions and their blood shall be about only on half. Families shall be divided against each other and they shall disregard their chiefs, leaders, medicine men, and captains. But if these younger generation should endeavor to follow your God's instruction there is a chance to turn back east and if not, the next move shall be west, on to the coast and from there on to the boat and this shall be the last."