The Great Cherokee/Shawnee Moonbow at Cumberland Falls
A Historical Narrative By Dan Troxell
Since the beginning of time, when the cosmos was created, and the earth, sun, and moon were formed by the voice of the Great Spirit Yahowah (YHWH) and the “Cho-Ta-Auh-Ne-Le-Eh” commonly referred to as the Elder Fires Above, the tradition of the Moonbeam blessing at Cumberland Falls in southeast Kentucky was held sacred by many Tribal Nations east of the Mississippi River. This special occurrence of the Moonbow was taken as a distinct sign from the Great Spirit to the Native people, and was interpreted as a Great Invocation and Blessing with great meaning that is very hard to be translated into the English language for non-Indian understanding.
This physical geological and Native American spiritual wonder at Cumberland Falls Kentucky came in the universal light form of the Moonbow and was given to all Real Human Beings by the Great Spirit and the Elder Fires Above as a distinct sign of deliverance in the configuration of a great sacred spiritual endeavor to always remind the people that the Great Spirit and Elder Fires Above would never forget them and will always be with them forevermore, in times of darkness and times of light, as according to the rotating Cherokee/Shawnee calendar wheel commonly today mistakenly called the “Medicine Wheel“.
For within the luminous bow itself was seen the ever presence of the Great Spirit who blessed the people and the Land of the Thunderbolt, the Land of Lightning, the land of the Cherokee/Shawnee People, where the Great Spirit led his people to inhabit many years ago during the times of migration from South America. But even before the coming of the Shawnee and Cherokee people to the area many other Native Indian Nations living there also revered Cumberland Falls and the Moonbeam as a consecrated area seeking the same blessings and power from it.
What is called today the Totelo Sioux (falsely translated as all other Native Nation names) inhabited the Cumberland Falls area before the Cherokee and Shawnee People. Then with the coming of what people know as the Cherokee/Shawnee (real names Ani-Yun-Wia and Shawandasse) migrating people to Cumberland Falls in 1,000 BC, they also recognized its same importance, retained its holiness, and became the Protectors and Guardians of it. The Ani-Yun-Wia nor the Shawandasse nor the others before placed the Blessing or invented its significance but all was given as a gift from the Great Spirit above, its meaning was there for the people to receive. For within all geological wonders is the special shaping of creation by the Great Spirit with a certain important expression and knowing ascribed to each wonder. But the geological wonders of the Cumberland Falls area was more, much more to the Native people, especially to the Cherokee and Shawnee Nations of Kentucky, its last native care keepers.
Many Native American warriors of the Cumberland Falls area wore the sign of the Lightning Bolt proclaiming their devotion to the Great Spirit thus becoming great Warriors, Leaders, War Women, Beloved Women, Holy People, and Medicine People of the area. Special places of the Ani-Yun-Wia (Cherokee) placed the mark of special near, on, and around many places of importance. The round circle with an inside cross painted red was often used. This red circle cross denoted an area of guardianship and protection by the Great Spirit. (side note from QuietBuck.. not to be mistaken as the Christian cross)
Many medicine and holy people worked many wonders at Cumberland Falls relying on the power of the Great Spirit, the blessing from the Moonbow, and the spiritual singing of the Waters called Ta-Eachee or Hand of the Long Man. Cumberland Falls since 1,000 BC was in the territorial boundaries of the Cherokee yet the protection fell both to the Cherokee and Shawnee People, and attended by many from north, south, east, and west.
Many ceremonial dances and rites were performed at Cumberland Falls itself consecrating many things natural and supernatural by the Native People. And as most all Native American Tribal Nations, including the Ani-Yun-Wia (Cherokee) and Shawandasse (Shawnee), always danced and performed their finest sacred ceremonies after nightfall and not during the day, Cumberland Falls was no exception and held many a celebration for good reason. This was one of the places where the Great Spirit would actually reach out to the people in a physical anomaly. And at night, during a very special time, the Great Spirit would reveal his presence and the Blessing would appear only at Cumberland Falls in the Moonbow, for all people. (side note from Quiet Buck… the moonbow only shows up at the full moon, or properly from scripture the new moon, a commanded day by YHWH).
The bow came in many colors during the fall and wintery seasons and during the summer the colors were less evident in the bow, but its importance never ever lost it value and significance to its people far and near of all tribes. The winter months, during each full moon, was the brightest of all. The brighter colors came with the changing of the calendar wheel. As we today call January 1st New Year, the Ani-Yun-Wia (Cherokee) found the New Year when the leaves in the forest change its colors. To them, all life began in the fall, and in it came the Blessing of the Falls: Cumberland, Ywahoo, and Eagle, all three forming a sacred triangle in southeast Kentucky. And at all the 3 Falls during the Moonbow Blessing, great ceremonies were performed around great bonfires, drumming and flute playing, rattling of rattles, elaborate dancing and singing, with many people in attendance ceremoniously dressed, hoping to see what could not be seen, feel the wind when there was no wind, touch what could not be touched, and receive a Great Blessing. (side note from Quiet Buck… as one can see the Cherokee celebrated sabbath and new moon)
Also within the Cherokee and Shawnee Nations, as any other tribal band, were many special societies that one could belong to, both male and female. Initiations into these groups were performed sometimes at the sacred 3 Falls area of Cumberland, Eagle, and Ywahoo Falls. Honor and special titles were given to many people at these sites paying elaborate ceremonious tribute to their won deeds in peace and war. Many visitors from many different Tribes had also sojourned to the area to witness and receive the blessing of the Moonbow such as Tecumseh, Pontiac, Cornstalk, Black Fish, Gilala, Doublehead, Cornblossom, Peter Troxell, Moytoy, Standing Fern, Middlestriker, and many others from many tribes too
numerous to mention here. But within the Kentucky Native American culture nothing compared to the untouchable sacred Moonbow of the Cumberland Falls, given to them by the Great Spirit, and shared by all who saw it, touched it, and received. The 3 Falls, the geological wonders, its land, and all the waters surrounding them, are most holy sacred grounds. These are the grounds of the Lightning Bolt of the Cherokee/Shawnee Thunder People.
Mother Earth and Sister Moon is looking for respect, protection, and remembrance at these areas, and in return the Great Spirit will give the blessing and show the wonder of the Moonbow, for all to see and receive, forevermore. For what many will experience in the Moonbow event had been encountered since the 1st aurora of Creation and the 1st sounds of a Native people upon the land. It reaches out to touch the hearts of all. It is marked upon the Calendar Wheel. It is shaped upon the red circle of its people, Salagi (Red Fire People – Cherokee).
Listen closely, for all the area will speak to you, telling you its blessing and showing you its most sacred design. But during the event, remembrance is the key. Listen closely, look into the eye of the bow, and just maybe you will encounter, hear, and see the essence of a native people, the powerful array of the colorful bow, and its Kentucky Native American heritage. Listen closely and hear the ancient sounds of the rattle, the flute, the drum, and just maybe one can hear the ceremoniously singing of the Kentucky Ani-Yun-Wia (Cherokee) and Shawandasse (Shawnee), still echoing the story of remembrance and blessings, wisdom and knowledge.
As the great moonbow at Cumberland Falls is the mother bow, through out the sacred mountains of the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky and Tennessee are smaller moonbows that are her children, all guarded by what the Thunderbolt Cherokee call “Nune-hi”, the invisible immortal people who can be found at and behind all waterfalls and water places. But her children, the smaller moonbows, can only be seen by those whose heart is close to the essence of the Native people and the land. It takes the heart of a Real Human Being to see the smaller bows. The small bows are shy, and only appear when the Great Spirit allows or when they feel the true heart of a person who comes near. But the smaller bows are there, everywhere on the Plateau, everywhere a Native people walked. As a misty blue sacred mountain mirror lake embracing the Cherokee ancient stories, the children moonbows are there for the true at heart to encounter, and the Mother Bow at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky watches its children and those people who approach with a pure heart of a Real Human Being. (side note from Quiet Buck… real human beings, meaning wheat not tares)
For the land is more than just soil and scenic beauty or scientific terminology. It is alive, has a substance, has veins and breaths, and will touch the hearts of all who journey within its sacred paradise, a paradise for Real Human Beings. The posterity waits for recognition of its heritage. Its ancestry that spans time itself, from the dawn of creation to now. To its mother earth and her children there is no duration counting as we do. And when the time comes, as a great remembrance of the lands legacy and its native people who lived there thru history, then all the children bows of all designs and structure will reveal themselves for all to see forevermore, they will join their mother in scenic wonderment, as a paradise exploding with all its majesty, mystery, and wonder. But the mother falls and her children are only a fraction and one part of the Cumberland Plateaus being. To the native people, especially the Thunderbolt Cherokee, the geological wonders, its mysteries, and all its living things of the Cumberland Plateau area was, is, and will forever be, much more.
This special Moonbow is formed when light, reflected off a full moon at the right angle, is refracted like a prism in the mist of the falls. It is much like the rainbows that occur during the daytime but this Moonbow at Cumberland Falls only occurs at night and during certain special conditions on which its name is derived. Because the event requires a full moon and several other meteorological conditions, it is not nearly as common. In fact, there are only two places in the world where it has been observed on a regular basis.
These are Cumberland Falls in southeast Kentucky and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa, where it is also referred to as a lunar rainbow. While certain kinds of other smaller moonbows can and in fact do occur other places, they are always rare. And being rare, the Kentucky Cherokees and other Tribal Bands on the Plateau and elsewhere always held the Cumberland Falls moonbow as a special event and a very sacred affair.
Today Cumberland Falls in SE Kentucky is of the Dept of Parks as Cumberland Falls State Park. Many events are held each year by the Park in recognition of the Moonbow. What non-Indians hold in the lunar rainbow as a phenomenon, the Thunderbolt Cherokee and Shawnee held as a sacred blessing from Yahowah (YHWH).
For as the great Moonbow at Cumberland Falls is of the Light of the Great Spirit, the People are as the shining spirit of Real Human Beings.