Putting on the Spots

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The Cherokee, like other Native American tribes and indigenous people around the world, have many legends going back centuries about how the world was formed and how the world works.

These ancient Cherokee stories tell of the nature of the animals, plants, trees, mountains, streams and rivers of the land in the Smokey Mountains and the Appalachian Mountain region.

Old Cherokee tales include accounts of “the little people,” the “Yunwi Tsunsdi.” These beings are sometimes described as being spirits, and other times as small human-like people, about two feet to four feet tall.

These little people may have different appearances and, according to legend, they may be of three or four different types. Little people can be kind and helpful, especially to children, and can also play tricks on people. They can also be dangerous if a human intrudes on them, and they have the power to confuse the mind of a human.

The little people have the ability to remain unseen and invisible if they choose and generally avoid being detected by humans. But, at times, they will reveal themselves.

They live close to nature, in the forests and mountains. They have a spiritual aspect to them and they try to teach humans about kindness, joy and respect. The little people like to dance to rhythmic drumming and music.

As we try to understand our world, nature and the universe, we collectively use a wide range of investigative methods: Science, observation of and interaction with nature, direct experiences of many kinds, spiritual teachings, history, human legends, art, music and other paths.