Cherokee occasionally refer to themselves as Ani-Kituhwagi, (Keetoowah) ‘the people of Kituhwagi’, after the ancient nucleus city of the Cherokee. The Legend of the Keetoowahs places the tribe on an island in the Atlantic Ocean east of South America. Seventy tribes attempted attack on the Keetoowahs, but the Keetoowah were granted victory through the assistance of spirit-warriors.
As the story tells us, Ner-du-er-gi, the last warrior of the attackers, was overlooking the valley camp below, from upon a mountain top, when he saw smoke arising from the camp that extended up beyond the clouds, divided into three parts, with an arrow-holding eagle in the center. The warrior and his followers witnessed this miraculous event. Ner-du-er-gi then ordered his warriors not to attack the Keetoowahs for they were protected, and if attacked, the warrior knew he would surely be destroyed.
The Great Spirit granted the Keetoowahs a grand mysterious power to only be utilized in the best interest of their people. However, some of the wise people began to use their wisdom for unfruitful purposes. The Great Spirit instructed them to take their white fire and move away, heading to Asia, India and North America. Some of the large cities the new travelers claimed sank into the ocean and were no more.
Legend has it The Great Spirit turned to the peoples of America and guided them. They too began to violate their teachings by committing murders and feuding with the seven clans. The seven clans with their medicine men met around a fire to request guidance from The Great Spirit. The most truthful seven holy men selflessly gave of themselves for the tribe.
They carried medicine deerskin and medicine tobacco. The medicine men spread out the deerskin and prayed. They blew smoke over the deerskin, and watched the smoke trails for a sign from The Great Spirit. Inspiration led the medicine men to travel up to the top of a mountain, each day one new medicine man for seven days.
On day seven, a messenger came down from The Great Spirit, appeared in a bright light, and stated that The Great Spirit heard the prayers of the medicine men and held passion for their people. First, the men were told that they would someday fly in the air. The messenger warned of an enemy white ball from the east traveling their way, but that their grandchildren¹s feet were facing toward Tsusginai – west – the ‘ghost land’.
The messenger warned of trials on the edge of the prairie, with tribes dividing into different factions and their blood evolving into only half of their heritage. The messenger forewarned that families would divide and disregard chiefs, leaders and medicine men. The schools would teach important knowledge to all the people and the young people would return to point rudely at the elders.
However, if the younger generation would heed The Great Spirit’s instruction, a chance would exist for the people to turn back east, otherwise they would go to Tsusginai then to the coast, then leave by boat, never to return. They were given the ‘Keetoowah’ namesake and were instructed to return to their fire for worship, and prophesy to their people.