Always the first FULL weekend of August
in Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee



Photos and stories by Al Swilling





Replicated Log Cabin at Red Clay, Cleveland, Tennessee




Tsalagi Vendors Setting Up for "Cherokee Days Of Recognition" at Red Clay






Native American Dancers



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Intertribal Friendship Dances



Fred Bradley, Native American Storyteller



No Respectable Tsalagi Gathering is Complete Without It


Men's Competition


Women's Competition

Youth Competition








by Al Swilling

Last year, storyteller Fred Bradley, dressed in ribbon shirt, deerskin pants and Cherokee moccasins, a hawk feather in his long, greying black hair, cradled a ceremonial pipe in his arms as he held his audience spellbound with Native American stories "from the long-ago time, when the animal brothers could talk."

On the 2nd and 3rd of August, as he has done each year since the first celebration 16 years ago, Bradley will again enthrall those who gather to hear him at the annual Cherokee Days of Recognition celebration at Red Clay State Park.

Fred Bradley, originally from Oklahoma, now calls Cosby, Tennessee, home with his wife Dovey and their son Henry.  Retired from 26 years with the National Park Service, he now travels the Southeast on the powwow circuit, enchanting old and young, far and wide.

"I did 26 years of government work," smiles Bradley.  "Now I'm doing something honest."

For 26 years Bradley has mesmerized audiences with Native American stories from all across North America. "The stories that I tell," said Bradley, "are Native American stories.  I try to tell a variety of stories; to spread them out to include all the people, and to keep the stories alive in the Native American oral tradition."

Fred Bradley has preserved many of his stories on audiotapes, which he sells wherever he appears to offset the expense of traveling to events such as Cherokee Days, which are free and open to the public.




In Fond Memory

by Al Swilling

It was Cherokee Elder Richard Crowe, who gave the inspiring invocation that officially began the 15th Annual, weekend long Cherokee Days of Recognition.

Mr. Crowe and his family also demonstrated traditional Cherokee dances and spoke of the history of Red Clay.  The Crowe family has long been dedicated to preserving the traditions of the Cherokee people.  As a part of that effort, they perform the Cherokee traditional dances and help educate the public about Cherokee culture and history.

Mr. Crowe and his lovely wife Birdie have three children,  Chick, Alva, and Linda, who have given them four grandchildren.  Crowe grew up in Cherokee, N.C.  A farmer's son, he has always worked hard for his living, and is esteemed in his community. "I've always believed in working," said Richard, "I encourage anyone to work.  I would do whatever anybody would pay me to do.  If there was a cow to be milked, I milked a cow."

Those who remember Tex Ritter may remember a Cherokee who appeared with him in his movies and made personal appearances with him.  The Cherokee had a mule named Dusty, and when he patted the mule, dust would fly everywhere.  The Cherokee was Richard Crowe.

Richard, a diabetic, and his wife Birdie are recognizable these days for their appearance on a poster for the American Diabetes Association.  They agreed to appear on the poster, said Richard, because diabetes is a growing concern among Native Americans.





by Al Swilling

Last August, during Red Clay State Park's 15th annual Cherokee Days of Recognition, the 11th annual blowgun tournament was held; and for the 11th consecutive year, the Overall Champion was 49 year-old Driver Pheasant, from Cherokee, North Carolina. Driver's wife, Hope, earned 2nd place in the overall shoot and 1st place in the Women's division.

Throughout the weekend, Driver entertained audiences with stories, blowgun demonstrations, the history of the blowgun in Cherokee culture, and information about how blowguns and the locust wood darts are made.  This August 2nd and 3rd, Driver and Hope Pheasant will again participate in the annual celebration and defend their blowgun championship titles.

Driver is Security Manager at the Cherokee Museum in Cherokee, N.C., works in the museum's matting shop, and works in the Outdoor Drama Unto These Hills.  He also does an outreach program, going to schools to teach students about Cherokee culture and history.

Pheasant has also appeared in several movies and documentaries, including Indians of the Southeast and 500 Nations. His family consists of his wife, three daughters, and 10 grandchildren.  Speaking of his growing family, Driver said, "I told my kids they were going to have to stop now, or I would have to start a moccasin shop at a flea market."






by Al Swilling

December 29, 1835, was the beginning of the end of Tsa-La-Gi life in Tennessee.  By December 6, 1838, state and federal governments had fraudulently but successfully removed the Cherokee people from the Southeast to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.  Later legislation not only whittled away at the Cherokee Nation’s land in Indian Territory, it also attempted to take away the cultural identity, heritage, and religious freedom of all Native American people.

Eventually, the laws that denied Native Americans their religious liberty were repealed—sort of—and we were again allowed to practice our sacred dances and ceremonies.  Still, Native Americans continue to be short-changed and denied the same religious liberties that are enjoyed by virtually every other race or people in this nation.  Some rights have come to indigenous people only after long, fierce struggles with federal and local governments and non-indigenous citizens.  One area in which Native Americans are still struggling for equal religious rights is exemplified by the continuing controversy over the fate of Moccasin Bend, a Native American burial site located in Chattanooga and Hamilton County, Tennessee.

Moccasin Bend has been called one of the largest single Native American burial grounds east of the Mississippi River.  To the tribes indigenous to the Southeast, especially the Creek and Cherokee nations, its importance is comparable to Arlington National Cemetery.  If Moccasin Bend was a burial site for any other race of people in the United States, it would be called a cemetery; and ideas involving destruction of the graves there would not be entertained or tolerated.  However, Moccasin Bend is a Native American burial site, which archeologists are fond of referring to with such dehumanizing terms as "archeological resources."  Consequently, many non-natives consider it perfectly acceptable to desecrate and destroy our ancestors’ graves, at Moccasin Bend and elsewhere, for the sake of commercial development.  Others see Moccasin Bend as worthy of preservation as an annex to the Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park because of its two-month-long occupation by the Union Army during the Civil War.  Few non-native people consider the desecration of our sacred burials as being anything of significant consequence.  It is as though we are viewed by them as somehow less than human, therefore our ancestors’ graves and remains are little more than archeological curiosities to be dug up, studied, and packed away in boxes in museum warehouses or put on display to be viewed by the general public.

Well, we are human, and our ancestors’ graves are as sacred to us as the graves of any other race of human beings are to them.  Because of our deep reverence for our ancestors and their places of rest, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokees, the Southeastern Native American Alliance, and other tribal and intertribal organizations have become actively involved in negotiations with the National Park Service (NPS), "Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park" (FMB), and others to try to preserve the many Native American ancestral graves located on the site.

In the course of this ongoing series of meetings with the NPS, which began in February 1998, we hope to reach a solution that will be agreeable to all concerned.  However, there are those taking part in the negotiations who wish to exploit and desecrate our ancestors’ graves for financial gain. 

I speak of the Moccasin Bend negotiations as a struggle for religious liberty and equality because in traditional Cherokee culture there was no distinction between secular and spiritual life.  Cherokee daily life was inseparably intertwined with their spiritual beliefs.  Every aspect of life and death reflected Cherokee spiritual beliefs.  Therefore, it isn’t hard to understand why the graves of our ancestors are sacred and of great religious significance to us.  The desecration of those burial places is an infringement of our religious rights and belies the concept of "liberty and justice for all."  For our ancestors’ sake, for our sake, for the sake of our descendants, we must do everything within our power to ensure that Moccasin Bend and all sacred sites like it are preserved and protected.

SENAA prefers that Moccasin Bend be returned to the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokees, and the United Kituwah Band, but their financial circumstances and distance from Moccasin Bend make such a proposal impractical.

Of all the currently available alternatives, making Moccasin Bend a national park seems the most practical solution to preserving our ancestors’ graves.  So far the NPS’s position, paraphrasing an NPS spokesperson, has been that the preservation and protection of Native American burials on Moccasin Bend and the wishes of the "Native American community" will be given priority.  However, the NPS also seems determined to include provisions in the final proposal that will allow non-indigenous people, and Chattanooga as a community, to exploit the Native American "archeological resources" at Moccasin Bend for financial gain.  Tourism and boosting of Chattanooga’s economy are clearly the primary motives for some people's   involvement in the negotiations with the NPS and the Native American people.

The recommendations that the NPS will issue at the end of 1998 concerning the most practical use of Moccasin Bend will reveal whether we have won or lost this battle for religious freedom, cultural preservation, and the salvation of one of our largest sacred sites.


For information on how YOU can help SENAA and the Cherokee and Creek nations secure the proper protection for Moccasin Bend and our ancestral places of rest, write to:

Moccasin Bend Planning Team
Denver Service Center—Spratt DSC/RP
12795 West Alameda Parkway
PO Box 25287
Denver, CO  80225-9901





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