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Illustration: Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia

Good morning, fellow Appalachians- 

As we begin our four-week journey together in this newsletter series, I thought I would start with a story that is shared widely in my community, but that I find many of my fellow Appalachians do not know – the story of how these mountains we call home came to be. 

Long ago, before Christopher Columbus claimed his discovery of America in 1492, the land in which he later inhabited had already been discovered by people we know today as Native Americans. 

The area we know today as Appalachia was once inhabited in its entirety by today’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Eastern Band were originally known as just the Cherokees, but due to the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830, under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Cherokees were removed from their homelands and were forced to march west to “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma.

Photo: Jeremy Wilson/Provided

During this removal, more than 4,000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears. This horrific piece of American history is a deep scar that has left historical trauma within the DNA of Native Americans today– a deep scar that still goes unseen by many non-natives. 

Before this tragic time came to be, before the days of Christopher Columbus and long before the time of Andrew Jackson, Appalachia did not exist. 

The Earth was nothing but a mere small island surrounded by seawater, suspended by cords hanging from the four cardinal points. At the time before Earth came to be what it is today, there was a very small creature known as the Water Beetle. The Water Beetle came down from the Sky Realm and took itself into the depths of the ocean. 

During this venture down into the water’s depths, the Water Beetle became tired and looked for a place to rest. He eventually found himself at the bed of the ocean, and when he came back up, he brought a small portion of mud. This mud began the creation of Earth that we live on today.

Once the Earth was formed, the animals from the Sky Realm wanted to come down to the New Earth, but it was not suitable for them to live on and thrive. This is when the Great Buzzard came down and flew over the masses of the New Earth. Eventually, the Great Buzzard became tired, and once his wings touched the ground, he created valleys. Each time his wings rose back up, he created the mountains. So, for what we know today as the Appalachian Mountains, this is how they were created. 

The creation of these mountains comes with a plethora of Cherokee stories that hide within them, stories that I look forward to telling you in the coming weeks.

See you again soon-

Jeremy 

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