I have seen Blood Mountain shrouded in mists and fogs so dense that the mountain seemed to have disappeared completely from sight. When fall's splendor of color climbs the hills, Blood Mountain stands as a mural of Nature, like a carpet of gold, red and russet, spread as a feast of beauty for the eyes. In winter, I've seen it with snow and ice on its summit. With sunlight reflected on its frozen crest, it becomes a giant protruding diamond of glistening glory.
As tourists come to visit the mountains in the fall, surely many have taken time to read the historical and official sign that marks Blood Mountain and to wonder about the myths that surround it and the history that gave it its name.
I quote directly from the sign:
"Blood Mountain - Elevation 4458 ft. - Chattahoochee National Forest"In Cherokee mythology the mountain was one of the homes of the Nunnehi or Immortals, the "People Who Live Anywhere," a race of Spirit People who lived in great townhouses in the highlands of Old Cherokee County. One of these mythical townhouses stood near Lake Trahlyta. As a friendly people, they often brought lost hunters and wanderers to their townhouses for rest and care before guiding them back to their homes. Before the coming of white settlers, the Creeks and Cherokees fought a disastrous and bloody battle in Slaughter Gap between Slaughter and Blood Mountain." (Georgia Historical Commission)
First, the myth of the Nunnehi was common to other places, not just to Blood Mountain. From Mooney's "Myths of the Cherokee," we learn that the spirit people often assisted those in trouble on their hunts and travels. They were caregivers for those in distress and provided places of rest and recuperation.
Who are we to find fault with the myths of the Nunnehi? Most of us believe in guardian angels who protect and minister. Maybe we express our stories in a different way from the Cherokee-held beliefs of the "People Who Live Anywhere." But basic to most cultures is the faith of ministering spirits that come when needed to bind up wounds and provide sustenance.
Blood Mountain’s name came in a more caustic and confronting manner. Not even the Nunnehi could prevent the confrontation between the Creeks and the Cherokees that occurred many years ago. When the Cherokee came south, they discovered the Creek Nation already entrenched in the mountains. Desiring the land for their habitation, the Cherokee waged a great battle against the Creeks at Slaughter Gap. It is said that the streams ran red with blood from those killed as these two Native American tribes fought for dominance of the land. Thence came the name for the highest peak where this battle occurred, and Blood Mountain stands as a sentinel to this historic fray.
The Cherokee built villages throughout Union County. One was in the shadow of Blood Mountain.
Then the white men began to come to the mountains to settle. At first the whites and Cherokees lived in peace. Known as one of the five "civilized" tribes (the others were Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles), the Cherokee taught the white man how to till the rugged mountain land and what herbs and plants were beneficial for eating and for medicinal purposes.
History teaches us of the treaties signed and the efforts made to separate the Cherokee from their lands. Some of them are cited here. The Treaty of 1819 ceded Cherokee lands to the whites in other southeastern states except in north Georgia and eastern Tennessee. With the discovery of gold in 1828, prospectors became land-hungry and excessively greedy. It was that year that Georgia passed legislation extending Georgia ownership to North Georgia Cherokee lands.
Despite pleas to the contrary, in 1830 the Indian Removal Bill passed the U. S. Congress. That was the beginning of the end of Cherokee occupation of North Georgia. Before 1832, when Union County was formed from the large Cherokee County which covered much of North Georgia, numerous white settlers had secured land through land lot grants and gold lot grants.
President Andrew Jackson wanted Indians removed to lands west of the mighty Mississippi River where land had been set aside as Reservations. Both Governors Gilmer and Lumpkin of Georgia wanted the Indians sent west. Despite Chief John Ross and the Cherokee Council's pleas in Washington in 1835, about five hundred Indians had signed for removal, going against their Chief who was trying to keep the mountain land for the Cherokees.
We know the sad story of The Trail of Tears and the forced removal of 1838.
Mainly those Cherokee who hid out in caves to escape the soldiers or those married to white settlers remained in their mountain home.
Cherokee names were left on mountains and in the valleys, on hamlets and rivers. Mrs. Belle Abbott wrote on October 27, 1889 in her "The Cherokee Indians of Georgia" (University, Alabama, Confederate Publishing Co., reprinted 1980, p. 7): "Visiting among the mountains of North Georgia, I have often been possessed with the feeling that an impalpable presence moves about the hills and wanders through the sweet, green valleys. There is a whisper in the corn, and a sighing in the leaves, a pathos in the moonlight, and a ghostly grouping in the clouds. What is it? Do the spirits of the departed Cherokees linger yet about their beloved hunting grounds? And do they whisper to the sympathetic heart of today, 'O pale faces, write of us; give us a little page in history of the land that denied us a home.'"
I've felt that 'impalpable presence" on the top of Blood Mountain and other places bearing names given by those long-departed inhabitants.
c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 2, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.