Calhoun Times

The hunter’s moon

- Fulton Arrington is a past president and current board member of the Friends of the New Echota State Historic Site. He can be reached by email at fultonlarr­ington@

They call it the Hunter’s Moon. In the old days it was the time of hunting and preparing meat for the winter.

In most of the Cherokee country, the corn was gathered, and the festivals of thanksgivi­ng completed, by the later part of what we call October.

By November the men were rested and restless. It was time to hunt. Being a good hunter was one of the ways in which a young Cherokee man could earn respect. In fact, a man’s prowess as a hunter even plays a part in the ancient Cherokee wedding ceremony.

Being a great hunter, in the Cherokee tradition involved a lot more than just a fancy bow and a nice hunting shirt. Cherokee hunters knew and respected the game they hunted. It was part of the tradition to respect and honor the game, as both hunter and game were part of the same creation. Cherokee theology held that all beings were part of the Great Spirit’s balance of creation and that maintainin­g the Creator’s balance was a sacred duty of man. Therefore, no self-respecting Cherokee hunter would go off on a hunt without saying a prayer first. Oftentimes they would go to the Priest for a blessing before walking the Hunter’s Path.

There are, no doubt a vast number of hunter’s prayers lost to history over time. Given the beauty and poetic nature of the Cherokee language, I’m sure that at least some of these hunting charms were soaring pieces of poetry that would have inspired admiration from Milton or Longfellow. One of the simplest I’ve heard of, roughly translates thus “I’m sorry to hurt you, but the people are hungry.” This belief in the balance of Creation insured that Cherokee hunters, and Cherokee society in general, practiced responsibl­e stewardshi­p of the resources on which the community depended.

A Cherokee hunter might be gone for a couple of days, or a couple of months, depending on how successful his hunting charm was. Cherokee men were trained from the cradle to ignore pain, fatigue, hunger, or any other physical discomfort in pursuit of their goal. Consequent­ly, it was not unusual for a Cherokee to leave home with nothing but his weapons and a pouch of parched corn and be gone for a month or two in pursuit of game, or enemies, and reappear no worse for wear.

Venison was a staple meat in the

Cherokee diet and as such occupied a special place in Cherokee mythology. There were stories and legends that articulate­d the deer’s place in the Cherokee Creation story and insured that every Cherokee hunter respected the Deer and his contributi­on to the survival of the Cherokee people. So integral in fact was the deer to Cherokee society that Kanati, First Man in the Cherokee Creation story, is often referred to as “The Lucky Hunter.”

One has only to enjoy a hearty venison roast even once to appreciate the reverence that the Cherokee held for the deer. There are few meats with which it compares. Whether roasted, braised, or barbecued, there are few equal to it and fewer still which can rightly claim to be superior. But more importantl­y the deer, and the Cherokee stories, both teach us a lesson about stewardshi­p. It may be difficult to remember now, but there was a time when the deer was very nearly extinct on the eastern seaboard.

Thanks to reckless hunting and wanton destructio­n of habitat. The same environmen­tal destructio­n that harmed the deer also harmed humans. One of the reasons that humans are living longer today is because the water is cleaner, and the air is cleaner, because of sensible environmen­tal regulation­s. I for one still don’t understand why wanting clean water to drink, and clean air to breathe, makes a child a bad person in the minds of some white men. We all belong to the same creation, whether we choose to believe in it or not. This belief in the interconne­ctedness of creation helped the Cherokee to thrive for many thousands of years without destroying the environmen­t that sustained them.

There is an old story that was told to me as a young man, a story of a Cherokee elder’s response to a college student’s question on Cherokee environmen­tal stewardshi­p. The student is said to have asked how the Cherokee managed to live for so long in one place, and yet when the white men came here, the water was the purest they had ever seen.

The old Cherokee’s eyes fairly danced with amusement, “pretty simple” he said, “we don’t piss in the water we drink.”

 ?? ?? Arrington

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