Tohi: The Cherokee State of Well­being

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

Under the Rattlesnake: Cherokee Health and Resilience




Encounters between Euro-and Native Americans from the earliest times have prompted individuals on both sides to marvel at the difference in languages and to wonder about the differences in ideas and perspectives that must surely follow. Nowhere have these differences drawn more interest and speculation than in the complex realm of healing and medicine. Since the period of earliest contact between Cherokees and European colonists, the distinctive features of the Cherokee medical system and beliefs have been duly noted. From Adair and Timberlake to Mooney and Olbrechts to the Kilpatricks and Fogelson, interested observers have described and documented the beliefs, practices, and formulas that form the basis of Cherokee medical practice. The Cherokee medical formulas collected and examined over the years reveal substantial portions of the ideology that underpins Cherokee healing practices. The goal of this chapter is not to add another layer of understanding to Cherokee medical practice specifically, but rather to look at the linguistic evidence for an understanding of the basic state of nature and the cosmos in the Cherokee worldview. This fundamental project will cast additional light on the materials collected by others and form the foundation for a linguistically based examination of the Cherokee medical system as it is understood today.