Religion According to Chief Jahtlohi Rogers
A PEOPLE IN EXODUS
By Chief Charles Jahtlohi Rogers, M.D.
Cherokee Nation of Mexico
THE ANCIENT RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF THE CHEROKEE PEOPLE
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Nakai Breen, a famous Cherokee elder and wife of Bud Breen, the artist of this painting, is shown giving instruction in the old Cherokee ways to Charles Ahdoelayhoeski (Prophecy) Rogers. Read about Nakai in the Prophecy section.
The name for Cherokee People is “A ni yun wi yah”, which in English means “The Principle People” or akin to “The People of God.” The devotion of the Cherokee people was to the Supreme Holy Spirit who could not be looked upon and whose energy was the fire of all creation and the fire of all life and who resided in the heavens and on earth through purified people. They were rigidly non idolaters and neither would they observe any religious images among them or keep idolatrous religious ceremonies. Instead the Cherokee people adored the one Great Spirit, God, who they described as “the only Giver and Taker of life.” They were devoted to a higher principled way of living according to their ancient religious beliefs of the one benevolent God.
The Cherokees believed this sole Author of creation was with them and they with God by His blessing of mankind with animals and all plant and vegetable life. Their religious worship very closely paralleled the Mosiac institution in the Old Testament of the Bible. They were not pagans and were warned each year by their priests, just as the Old Testament warned about “...giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1,2).
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An 1839 painting showing Mexican Cherokees. The clothing is not stereotypical Native American.
Paganism is when people worship processes instead of the Creator, God Himself. Pagan means someone who is ignorant of God. The Cherokees never gave special adoration or worship to any images, dead men, evil spirits, extraterrestrial luminaries or any human-created being or personage. A body would be buried before the sun went down, time permitting.
First, detractors from other Native American tribes, then the European Westerners, tended to believe the myth that the religion of the Cherokee Indians was no more than primitive emotion and pagan tradition. Conflict came because time and time again the Cherokee people believed completely in protecting their land, their people and their mono deity beliefs. These ancient Cherokee religious beliefs were at the very heart of the Cherokee Nation. They bowed to no man nor kissed no idol, for they believed this was God’s direct instruction.
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A bearded man in a cloth cap distinguishes this Mayan carving.
In the 1700s (according to James Adair, who lived and studied among them and spoke their language), the Cherokees did not even believe the sun was any bigger than it appeared to the naked eye, and neither did they, or could they be made to, lay prostrate or bow to the sun or to one another or any other object whatsoever. They only bowed when they were making a mutual peace or renewing peace with outsiders or in their religious dances honoring God. In the 1700s there was no evidence that the Cherokee tribes or people were involved in the pagan religion Animism, the religion of based on fear that was most common among ancient primitive peoples. Animism causes people to fear vengeful spirits that live in rocks, mountains, trees, wind, rain, fire, and other elements of the earth. This fear causes them to offer live sacrifices and bow down to the sun as a god in order to set themselves free from these lurking evil spirits. Cherokees, however, prayed to the one God of creation in all four principle directions, not as was done by some other Native Americans, by praying to the four directions. To the Cherokee, a “direction” was for geographical use, not to be prayed to!
In the Old Testament, Ezekiel witnessed Animism. He found twenty five men on the porch of the Temple in Jerusalem bowing to worship the sun. God said to Ezekiel, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations, which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger.” (Ezekiel 8:17, NKJV) The Romans and most other Native American tribes had gods that numbered in the thousands.
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Three generations of Cherokees. On the left is Mary Layton, the matriarch of the Cherokee Nation of Mexico. In the center is her grandmother, Mary Price, who died in 1892. On the right is her grandson, Charles Rogers. Bud’s painting brings this family together on canvas in the same way that it exists in our hearts.
When we look as far back as the 1600s, there still existed one minority sect of the Cherokee people who declared there existed three entities above, who were always joined together in action and spirit, and were of the same mind. It was said that these three entities were always one in sentiment, in thought and action. They created all things and governed all things. The three entities sat on white seats above and all prayers were to be directed toward them. They had helpers and messengers known as angels who came to earth to help attend to the affairs of men. The Cherokees believed that in the beginning this trinity of entities created all creatures and creation to be harmless, as in Eden.
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A Mayan carving of people who had come from the East and who had but one God.
In the Bible we learn that God is triune, three entities in one supreme being the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When comparing the account of the beginning of time with the account the Cherokees gave, we discover that when God created the heavens and the earth, He was not alone.
Let’s read Genesis 1:26 28 (NKJV):
Then God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
ANCIENT CHEROKEE MORTALITY STORY
The human brain is of course divided into two major physical components; however, the human spirit is intangible yet powerful enough to change reality on this world. We are in three parts within one being also. According to the Cherokee beliefs, in the beginning the Three Faces of the One God Above employed seven days in the work of creation. The world was created at the first appearance of the autumn new moon, when the fruits were ripe. They believed the moon began a lunar year and was called the Great Moon from which the all of the feasts of the new moon would come. The Creator made man from red earth and blew into his mouth causing him to be a living soul. The first man was red. The ancient Cherokees believed that infants became living souls from the moment they breathed in their first air. The Creator then perceived that man was lonely, so he took one of the man’s ribs and made woman. The first woman, like the first man, was red. Thus the red people were the first real people, as their name Yu wi ya indicated.
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Charles Prophecy Rogers and his father the chief have great respect for Ray Wolf Warrior Vann and his wonderful wife, Esther. They are good people.
Cherokees believed that at first, serpents were not poisonous and neither were any roots or plants. Man would have lived forever, as man was to eat plants only, but in time he began to eat animals. Animals would kill humans by giving them disease and violence. Plants came to help men with medicine. Soon the earth was not large enough to support forever all who would be born. After this, the whole race was doomed to the physical death of the body.
Not long after creation, Ya ho waah (Jehovah), ordered men to build high mounds on which to erect structures of worship to offer gifts or sacrifices of food, to assemble for religious instruction, and to perform their religious dances. He commanded them not to despise the lame, the blind and the deformed. They were forbidden to laugh at the misfortunate, but to be kind to them and strangers. And if they owned any kind of creatures, they must be kind and treat them well.
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Mayan carving showing man in a turban & beard with a non-Mayan nose.
BIBLICAL PARALLEL ACCOUNT RESEMBLES CHEROKEE MORTALITY STORY
The oldest parts of the Old Testament first four books existed within various people or tribes thousands of years before their adoption, interpretation, and rewriting by the priests of Israel in 500 B.C. These early stories belong not only to all Semitic people, including the Jewish people, but also to anyone else who wrote or spoke such stories. For example, the story of the deluge or flood of Noah is found worldwide in native peoples, including the Americas, as told by hundreds of tribes to their first European visitors.. To say that this is not their legacy is thievery by those thinking it is their divine right of being a chosen people to rewrite and claim all other indigenous tribal peoples’ cultural property. All people have a right to their god given property, life, land, and faith and thus the cultural property of their stories of faith concerning their relationship with God. Among Cherokees it is civilized to be our brothers keeper, certainly not the keeper of our brother’s cultural and religious inheritance. In the Bible we see a parallel to the account of the beginning of time by the Cherokee people, as can be seen in Genesis chapters 1-6:
Genesis 1:1 5 says,“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. ” NKJV
Genesis 1:26 31 says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ‘So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” “And God said ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
Genesis 2:1 3 says, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” NKJV
Genesis 2:18 22 says, “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’. Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call there. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” NKJV
Genesis 3:1 7 says, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said ’You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ’You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ‘Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.“ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” NKJV
Genesis 3:8 14 says, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’So he said, ‘1 heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’NKJV. Deception and/or ignorance abound. Judge this and all such thoughts with both your heart and mind.”
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Cherokee Chief John Jolly as depicted by George Catlin.
THE COMMANDS OF YE HO WAAH
The Cherokee people were obedient to Ye ho waah (Jehovah God) and assembled for worship at the structures they were commanded to erect. They met early in the morning. When the people were all seated and silent, the priest known as U ku wi a hi (Uku), would commence his speech. The Uku would command the Cherokees to obey Ye ho waah in every respect, telling people they must do all that He directed them to do and to never disobey Him secretly because they were never alone because Ye ho waah was with them. They were never to indulge in idle or vain conversation, or call anyone wicked names. They were to abstain from all lewdness and polygamy. Children were to be hardworking and obedient to their parents.
Among the Cherokee people there were seven clans or seven families that did not intermingle with one another. The clans were distinguished by the different color feathers fastened to the rims of their ears. Each clan was a descendant of one family and one bloodline, and was forbidden to intermarry. One myth says there were originally twelve tribes of Indians, but after awhile one of the tribes violated the law of Ye ho waah by intermarrying. Therefore the tribes were reduced to seven and were scattered north, south and west (once again, they were as far east on land as physically possible, showing that they came from the east into the Americas).
Exodus 20:2 21 says,
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar of Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” NKJV
ETERNITY HEAVEN OR HELL
The Uku taught that if the Cherokees were obedient, when they died, they would experience eternal life and dwell with Ye ho waah forever. However, if they were disobedient, they would be eternally miserable in a lake of fire. It is evident from the ancient teachings of the priests, the Cherokee people believed in a Heaven and a Hell.
Revelations 21:5 8 in the Bible says, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Iwill give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” NKJV
ANCIENT END TIME BELIEFS
Payne reported of an old Cherokee named Raven who was 100 years old who told him that when he was a small boy, he use to hear the old men predict the destruction of the world after four generations. The Supreme Being would cause a storm to arise out of the east, which would rain itch until everything was covered with it. Showers of fire would follow, everything would be set ablaze and the whole world would be consumed.
The Apostle Peter in the Christian Bible also gives us a description of the end of time in (3:10 18),
Brit the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. NKJV
The Great Spirit