Commonwealth Journal

Local News

April 23, 2007

Tribal pride lives on in pulaski

Pulaski County men with Cherokee heritage trying to garner local support

Two Pulaski County men with Cherokee blood are trying to increase local membership in a tribal group they lead.

Yona Edwards, principal chief of Cherokee of Kentucky Chickamauga (CKYC), Tahitsi Band, and Giga Tali, Red Chief of CKYC, say rolls are open to accept enrollment requests from anyone who would like to become tribal citizens.

“We want to teach,” said Giga Tali, whose name in the Cherokee language means “Two Bloods.”

Yona, Cherokee name for “bear,” agrees. “It is our intent to bring back the indigenous presence to this area that is so much a part of its rich history. We are going to teach cultural ways and the history from the native prospective.”

CKYC has been in existence for seven or eight years, according to Yona. Up to now, the thread that has tied the tribe together is the Internet.

“We want to get to know people ... the Internet is not that productive,” said Giga Tali. Yona estimated that up to 85 percent of the residents in the Lake Cumberland area has some Native American Indian blood.

About their organization, Yona said: “We’re not playing Indian. It’s not about beads and feathers. It’s what’s in your heart.”

He said the ways of the Cherokee are about living in harmony with each other and the land. “Our tribe is about learning the ways and let you be driven by that.”

“What we want to do is teach those who want to learn about the old ways,” said Yona. “The one thing we all have in common is that we are all related.”

Yona pointed out that 500 years of contact have resulted in a lot of mixed blood. “(Until a few years ago) much of it has been hidden ... it was not vogue to be an Indian.”

Giga Tali and Yona have a dream. They want to build a cultural center and provide a place where both children and adults may come and experience the ancient culture of Cherokees. “We want to keep the language alive,” Yona added. “We call ourselves, ‘Tsalagi’ (Ja-la-gee), it is what the Cherokee people call themselves. They are ‘AniYvWiya’, (Ah-nee-yuh-wee-yah), meaning, the Principal People, or True Human Beings.”

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