Why The Cherokee Abandoned Privilege by Jennifer Reeser

Why The Cherokee Abandoned Privilege

At one time, there had been a privileged sect,
A-Ni’ Qua-Ta’-Ni, whom some elders say
presaged the Cherokee, with great respect,
while some dismiss the legend, with dismay.

Perhaps this long-ago society
conceived, constructed, and preserved the mounds,
but perished through some weird calamity —
the constant fire extinguished, or wild hounds;

or pestilence destroyed them, with one blow,
each hallowed priest, each mystic minister
drowned in a cataclysmic flood or snow —
though some claim something much more sinister.

These were the “sanctified,” those set aside
and given preference, given supervision
of ceremony, who performed with pride
the ancient rites, in unsurpassed precision.

Superior, the tribesmen would suppose,
above and super-ceding any other,
till one rogue, misbehaving priest arose
to take the wife of their chief’s own brother.

Akin to Brahmins, they — through birthright “law” —
the Nicotani, held as though by rein
the people, in rare reverence and awe,
and thus, grew fat with rudeness and disdain.

How they ascended, no one may discover,
their means of massacre, nor where they’re buried.
A lovely woman they would make a lover —
even the shrinking maid, even the married.

The tribe endured with brooding for a time
each new atrocity from this high caste,
each overbearing insolence and crime,
until a daring brave appeared at last,

the son of an authoritative man
avenging the dishonor of his wife,
who led the Cherokee to kill the clan,
not sparing any Nicotani life.

Not since that bloodbath do the Cherokee
exalt a single soul, nor tolerate
entitlement by birth — society
admitting neither paramount nor great.

by Jennifer Reeser

Jennifer on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s form reflects an oral tradition that suits the narrative quite well.


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