Monday, January 4, 2010

Käna'sta, The Lost Settlement

Every new year starts with a list of places I have yet to visit. Pilot Mountain, in Transylvania County, is on the list right now.

In this old Cherokee story, collected by James Mooney...let's just say the cabins on Pilot Mountain turn out to be the ultimate gated community:

Long ago, while people still lived in the old town of Käna'sta, on the French Broad, two strangers, who looked in no way different from other Cherokee, came into the settlement one day and made their way into the chief's house.

After the first greetings were over the chief asked them from what town they had come, thinking them from one of the western settlements, but they said, "We are of your people and our town is close at hand, but you have never seen it. Here you have wars and sickness, with enemies on every side, and after a while a stronger enemy will come to take your country from you, We are always happy, and we have come to invite you to live with us in our town over there," and they pointed toward Tsuwa`tel'da (Pilot knob). "We do not live forever, and do not always find game when we go for it, for the game belongs to Tsul`kälû', who lives in Tsunegûñ'yï, but we have peace always and need not think of danger. We go now, but if your people will live with us let them fast seven days, and we shall come then to take them." Then they went away toward the west.

The chief called his people together into the townhouse and they held a council over the matter and decided at last to go with the strangers. They got all their property ready for moving, and then went again into the townhouse and began their fast. They fasted six days, and on the morning of the seventh, before yet the sun was high, they saw a great company coming along the trail from the west, led by the two men who had stopped with the chief.

They seemed just like Cherokee from another settlement, and after a friendly meeting they took up a part of the goods to be carried, and the two parties started back together for Tsuwa`tel'da. There was one man from another town visiting at Käna'sta, and he went along with the rest.

When they came to the mountain, the two guides led the way into a cave, which opened out like a great door in the side of the rock. Inside they found an open country and a town, with houses ranged in two long rows from east to west. The mountain people lived in the houses on the south side, and they had made ready the other houses for the new comers, but even after all the people of Käna'sta, with their children and belongings, had moved in, there were still a large number of houses waiting ready for the next who might come. The mountain people told them that there was another town, of a different people, above them in the same mountain, and still farther above, at the very top, lived the Ani'-Hyûñ'tïkwälâ'skï (the Thunders).

Now all the people of Käna'sta were settled in their new homes, but the man who had only been visiting with them wanted to go back to his own friends. Some of the mountain people wanted to prevent this, but the chief said, "No; let him go if he will, and when he tells his friends they may want to come, too. There is plenty of room for all." Then he said to the man, "Go back and tell your friends that if they want to come and live with us and be always happy, there is a place here ready and waiting for them. Others of us live in Datsu'nalâsgûñ'yï and in the high mountains all around, and if they would rather go to any of them it is all the same. We see you wherever you go and are with you in all your dances, but you can not see us unless you fast. If you want to see us, fast four days, and we will come and talk with you; and then if you want to live with us, fast again seven days, and we will come and take you."

Then the chief led the man through the cave to the outside of the mountain and left him there, but when the man looked back he saw no cave, but only the solid rock.

* * * * * * *

The people of the lost settlement were never seen again, and they are still living in Tsuwa`tel'da. Strange things happen there, so that the Cherokee know the mountain is haunted and do not like to go near it. Only a few years ago a party of hunters camped there, and as they sat around their fire at supper time they talked of the story and made rough jokes about the people of old Käna'sta. That night they were aroused from sleep by a noise as of stones thrown at them from among the trees, but when they searched they could find nobody, and were so frightened that they gathered up their guns and pouches and left the place.

[Source: MYTHS OF THE CHEROKEE, James Mooney, From Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I, 1900.]

From Mooney's notes:

Tsuwa`tel'da...known to the whites as Pilot knob is a high mountain about eight miles north of Brevard. On account of the pecukliar stratefied appearance of the rocks, the faces of the cliffs are said frequently to present a peculiar appearance under the sun's rays, as of shining walls with doors, windows, and shingles roofs.

Käna' ancient Cherokee town on the French Broad where the trail from Tennessee Creek of the Tuckasegee comes in, near the present Brevard.

Datsu'nalâsgûñ'yï - Shining Rock. The name seems to mean, "at the white place."

Apparently, Pilot Mountain is eminently hikeable. According to one set of directions:

Start from Gloucester Gap, which is 4.5 miles west of the State Fish Hatchery on FS Road 475...the trail climbs to Pilot Mountain, a former fire tower site with a 360-degree view. In mid-May the north side of Pilot Mountain is abloom with pinkshell azalea. There is a shelter and spring at Deep Gap. The trail then climbs to the Blue Ridge Parkway, winding through a mature upland hardwood forest. From the Parkway it is a steep climb to Silvermine Bald where there is a transition from a hardwood forest to a spruce-fir forest. Grass balds and an abundance of catawba rhododendron make this a good spot to hike in late June when these showy shrubs bloom. Near Silvermine Bald the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail splits to the west while the Art Loeb Trail follows the ridge northeast to FS Road 816.

The photos above were taken by James Mooney, and all but one, in 1888.

From top, Tsiskwa-Kaluya or Bird Chopper, Chief Junaluska's son .

Next, Ayunini or Swimmer, Mooney's source for many stories, including this one.


Yanakalegi or Climbing Bear


Betty Cloer Wallace said...

That photo of Walini is one of my all-time most favorite photographs. Even though this is one of many such "arranged" photos by Mooney (much like the Edward Curtis photos out west), the soul of Walini shines through--so elegant and beautiful--everything about her (hair, clothing, hands, scarves, general demeanor).

Other photos of Cherokee women of this period reveal the same cloth fabric--the same patterned bolt of cloth--from which her dress (most likely a separate "skirt" and "waist") is made. I can imagine the women buying or trading for "lengths" of this fabric at a store/trading post, and then going home to cut and sew the fabric into beautiful, functional clothing.

I lived in the Alaskan Arctic for a decade during the 1990s, and the Eskimo women did a "modern" version of this. They would buy entire bolts of cloth for their kuspuks (Yupik word) or atigluks (Inupiat word), and then they would have sewing get-togethers to make their native clothing. Small variations in construction, though, would identify the seamstress/designer--usually obvious only to the Eskimo women themselves, which was a source of pride among them.

By the way, the older Eskimo women did not use paper patterns. The best among them ("skin sewers") would have the person who would wear the clothing stand up (as a model) while the seamstress/designer would cut the fabric or leather while looking at the model. Their sense of space and proportion was truly amazing, and the clothing always fit.

I took a "skin sewing" class (cloth and leather) at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, where the elder women cut out the cloth and skins for us to sew, and they never once used a pattern. They just looked back and forth between the model and the fabric/leather and started cutting.

GULAHIYI said...

It's funny you should mention that. The fabric Walini was holding had caught my eye and I thought about where she might have bought that. Before the Civil War, Nick Woodfin of Asheville called for a return to homespun (to be locally self-sufficient) but even by that time, it had become "unfashionable" when you could buy rolls of fabric. His colleagues, ca. 1858, would snicker at Woodfin in his homespun.

That's very interesting about the Eskimo approach to sewing.

It was pointed out to me that if you go through the Curtis photos you'll find the same shirt worn by a considerable number of his photographic subjects. Impressive work, though, in spite of the staging.

Anonymous said...

maybe it is Heaven?
fasting all those days would make one see things differently.
wonderful reporting...thanks

GULAHIYI said...

It comes up repeatedly in these stories that there are things you won't see until you fast. I will say that the more I fast the more I see.

Betty Cloer Wallace said...

Well, the more I fast the more I see visions of FOOD!

I have wondered, though, if fasting for a matter of days would bring hallucinations of some sort, and I have even tried it a few times, but I never lasted long enough to know. Perhaps a few little mushrooms would have helped, or those insect/plant hybrid thingies that the Cherokee used.

GULAHIYI said...

I'll confess I take the easy route for fasting. I make it a habit to "fast" from whatever it is that the mainstream is trying to sell and just be present here. The view is better.

Abstaining from food long enough to start hallucinating? Hmmm, if I ever get up the courage to try that, you'll read about it here!