Sewing Ourselves Together

In the ancient Cherokee story of Terrapin and the Wolves, Terrapin, that great warrior, was captured by the Wolves. After much discussion about what to do with him, the Wolves finally decided to throw Terrapin off a high bluff into the river. Terrapin was secretly relieved by this decision, as he was a good swimmer. However, as he was hurtling down from the top of the bluff toward the surface of the river below, Terrapin came to a startling realization. The depth of water at this particular spot in the river was much lower than he had anticipated, and the river bottom, at this point, was solid rock. Terrapin was in a desperate situation. From the look of things, his life in the earth was rapidly reaching its end.

Uncontrollably flipping over in the air, Terrapin crashed through the shallow water of the river; the back of his great shell smashing hard into the rock bottom. There the once great warrior lay, his shell shattered into 12 pieces, his blood flowing out to stain the river red. In spite of searing pain, Terrapin managed to right himself. As the Wolves watched from the high bluff above, Terrapin slowly and painfully crawled out of the river, pulling himself up onto the opposite bank. There, in his brokenness and agony, Terrapin began to sing.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

Gudaye wu; Gudaye wu.

I sew myself together; thats what Terrapin sang that day. And as the Wolves watched from the high bluff, they saw the shattered pieces of Terrapins shell come back together again, and they watched as Terrapin got up and went on his way. Now, Terrapin was and remains much smaller than he was before, and Terrapin has learned humility. Terrapin avoids the water now, where before he was a good swimmer. And Terrapin will always bear the scars. But Terrapin is still the one Creator made him to be. He is still Terrapin.

This story of Terrapin is one of the best illustrations of the restoration of indigenous cultures. Indigenous cultures and peoples are shattered and lie in pieces. With Creators help we sing ourselves back together, gathering and sewing the bits that may still be found, mindful that we may never reclaim all, and that we will forever live with the scars of conquest. Also mindful that in order to be true to Creators original instructions, we must remain as the peoples Creator made us to be.