Some of the most intriguing stories of the Cherokee are about the “Little People.” Only seen rarely, they are ever present and very much enjoy music and dancing. They are quite small, with long hair, and dwell in the forests, thickets, caves, and waters. The Little People are not considered “supernatural,” but spirit beings, a natural part of our world. As with the majority of Tribes, they have a clan system. Each clan has a special mission in their interaction with humans. They help us with important lessons.
The Rock or Rock Cave Clan teaches us the “Golden Rule” of treating others as we want to be treated. If you are intentionally mean, you can expect some badly mischievous and possibly harmful repercussions from the Rock Clan. The Laurel Clan’s lesson is one of joy. They teach us through light-hearted jokes and pranks to not take things too seriously, to find and share humor each day. The Dogwood Clan encourages and rewards us to be good to one another, not for recognition or gain, but from our hearts. The Tree Clan protects the animals and chastises those who are not respectful of their animal relations.
Although the Little People live with us, they do not like to be disturbed or followed. If pursued, they are capable of causing mental disorientation. They are helpful to humans, especially children, and deserving of our respect and gratitude. If you are in the solitude of nature and catch a glimpse of a small person, or hear the faint beat of a drum, do not investigate. If you find something along the way, always ask before taking it with you. It may belong to a Little Person. They thoroughly enjoy gifts we place for them at the edge of the woods, fields, lakes, or streams. If one is helped by the Little People, a gift, offered with gratitude is required.
This is what the Elders teach us and most would consider this a lovely fairy tale, similar to those in other countries. However, stories of the Little People pre-date European contact. I have heard of them for years and often wondered about shadows and movement glimpsed briefly from the corner of my eye. It’s not something one feels comfortable in sharing, your mental condition might be questioned. But among the Cherokee, experiences and interaction with the Little People continue. This now includes me.
Several years ago, my husband bought me a quartz crystal for my birthday. It’s on a silver chain and I wear it frequently for extended periods. We were working at the Cherokee Tribal Grounds when I noticed the chain had broken and my crystal was gone. Most likely my dog broke the chain, jumping up several times as I walked her, and the crystal could have fallen anywhere across several acres. I was upset and asked everyone to keep an eye out for it. I did walk around and check the camper. However everyone was busy, so I returned to my tasks. A few hours had passed when I noticed my husband’s water jug was empty. I returned to the camper, and to my amazement, the lost crystal was on the table. It wasn’t there before and no one had been in our camper, but the dog.
That evening I took a chocolate chip granola bar (one of my favorite treats) to a special area on the edge of the woods. Dogs aren’t allowed there, and it’s the designated place to offer gifts for the Little People. I didn’t know what to expect in the morning, other than a bowl full of ants. They are everywhere here in the Southeast US and will make a way to anything sweet. When I retrieved the bowl the next day, I was completely confounded. With a little melted chocolate remaining, there was not one ant in or near it. There were no bugs at all! That was “supernatural.”
I told an Elder about my gift of gratitude. He commented that it was apparently received very well, as that day our construction had proceeded smoothly. Nothing broke or was misplaced, no one was injured. Do I believe in the Little People? When you rule out every logical explanation, regardless of how improbable, whatever remains must be the answer. A beloved item was lost and returned. No one really looked for it, the dog didn’t find it. That leaves the Little People as my benefactors that day and I remain grateful.
The next time you’re out in nature and catch a quick glimpse, or hear a faint drum beat, be mindful you are not alone. Ask permission to take something found, and occasionally share a little of your evening meal or a special treat. We are rewarded for learning and living the lessons of the Little People.