The headlines blare a constant a constant cacophony of alarm these days. No matter the outlet, the message remains the same. Terms like “unprecedented outbreak,” “national emergency,” and “never before in history” dominate the news.

If you did not know better, you might think sickness is something entirely new to the human experience.

Sickness and disease are nothing new to the human experience of course. In fact, the Cherokee stories of disease and medicine go back several thousand years. They say that in the Long-Ago Time there was no such thing as disease, and therefore no need for medicine. But there came a time when the animals and the insects became unhappy with people, the animals and the insects met together in a great council to plot what affliction they would wreak upon humans as revenge for their grievances.

The stories vary as to what abuse or affront produced this desire for revenge. They say that Bear complained of humans hunting too many of his relatives. They say that Grasshopper complained that humans were always stepping on him for no reason. They say that Ant complained that humans were always knocking over his hills and killing his relatives. One after the other, animals and insects rose to accuse humans of one sin or another.

In the fullness of time, the animals worked themselves to a fever pitch, from the worms to the great bears, all agreed that something should be done about the abuses perpetrated by people upon the animals and the insects. The only question was what to do. On this the animals could not agree at first, instead they agreed to extend the council until they could agree on what punishment to send upon the humans.

There was much argument and much disagreement before the animals came to some decision. Not all shared the same opinion. But eventually they all agreed to a suggestion from one of the insects to send sickness and disease among humans. The intent was that after a short time there would be no humans left. And it might have been so, if not for the plants.

In those days everyone spoke the same language — humans, animals and plants could all understand each other. The plants overheard the plotting of the animals. The Cedar tree was Chief of the trees in those days and he sent out a message to all the plants to gather for a grand council. As requested, the plants all gathered at the appointed time. Cedar told them told them what the animals were plotting and of the need to discuss what, if anything, to do about it.

The plants were much friendlier to humans than the animals were in those days. The plants discussed the situation for several days before reaching a consensus. After much discussion it was concluded that humans probably deserved what the animals were dishing out, at least to some extent, but the plants decided they could not just stand by and do nothing. It was decided among the plants that they would do something to help the people. Just what would remain to be decided.

The plants spent a few more days discussing what to do. After some time, it was decided to follow a suggestion from Cedar and from the Sage clan to send medicine to protect and to heal the people of whatever disease was sent among them.

They say that is the origin of medicine. They say that after the plants decided to help the people by sending medicine, the next thing they had to do was to teach people how to use it. And that they say is why we have medicine people. People who dedicate their lives to medicine and healing. These are the ones for whom we give thanks at times like this.

Take courage my relatives, this too shall pass. Throughout the history of people, we have struggled and suffered and survived. There is a medicine for this thing and some medicine person will find it. In the meantime, let us be kind and pray.

Fulton Arrington is a past president and current board member of the Friends of the New Echota State Historic Site. He can be reached by email at

Recommended for you