Fire in the Mountains
Cherokee Country todayby Donald E. Sheppard & Mr. Jeremiah Wolfe,
Native American, Eastern Band of Cherokee
Illustrated by Cheryl Lucente

CONQUEST in BRIEF      INDIAN PLACE NAMES   Acknowledgements

In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains live a people whose ancestors came to America thousands of years before Columbus. Ancient tribes had followed animals over a land bridge from Asia when the oceans were shallow during the Ice-age. Tribes hunted large animals with stone tipped spears, then roasted meat and fish over fires in coastal caves and rustic abodes. Hides were used for clothing, shoes and blankets.Woman - Press for More Native Images for School Clans moved down the shorelines with the animals and gathered wild fruits and vegetables along the way. Fire was carried from place to place. Sea shells were used for knives, tools and utensils. Colorful feathers and gems were strung with animal hide and worn for identity.

When our climate got warmer the glaciers melted, oceans rose, smaller animals prevailed and people moved inland with the oceans. Tropical currents flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, causing rains which kept the Mississippi River full year round. Fish and migratory animals ate the foods which grew near the river's bottom lands and thousands of people settled the Mississippi River. They fanned up its feeders as the climate got warmer. Various clans gathered to form villages to protect themselves from others and wild animals. Some in the villages fished, others hunted, some made blankets and clothes from plants and animals, and others gathered wild fruits and vegetables. Pottery was made from clay and seeds were planted in fertile places along the rivers. Houses were made with wood and covered to keep them dry. Fire places were built and used to smoke fish and meat for the winter. Crops were gathered and stored in dry places.
Little Tennessee

The Cherokee Indians lived along the Little Tennessee River's streams in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. They thrived in fertile, cultivated valleys. They built their houses with fireplaces, much like Early American settlers did. Houses were made of wood and stone, fields were planted, nuts and berries were gathered, game was hunted, tobacco was smoked and the Cherokee people adhered to high ethical standards. "Fire," their center of life, became the Cherokee word for "home."

Native America's Great River

Dugout canoes were used to trade among nations of people with different customs, languages and gestures. Over centuries nations grew with the exchange of news, foods, hides, clothing, metals, shells and art. The Cherokee Indians, the upper Little Tennessee River people, became one of the nations residing along what Native American's called The Great River - the Mississippi River and all of its big tributaries - including the Tennessee, the Cumberland, the Ohio, the Wabash, Upper Mississippi and the Arkansas Rivers (press image at left). Indian economy focused into the continent, with Southeastern Illinois at the center of trade. Hernando de Soto would cross those rivers and visit that place during his Native American Conquest.

Stecoah Valley,
North CarolinaRivers between the Cherokee mountains, fed by creeks running from all directions, flowed north and west into the Great River, the Cherokees' lifeline to other Indian cultures. A network of roads followed those rivers and streams to connect the Cherokee villages. Steep mountain gaps limited routing choices so Cherokee roads converged at certain gaps, just as roads do today in those mountains. Village chieftains lead and represented the people to the tribe as a whole. The people used the roads to trade and compete with other villages. They continued to grow and flourish well after Columbus discovered America, but when Hernando de Soto followed their roads into their mountains in 1540 many things changed.

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