GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS (WATE) — Kathi Littlejohn is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a gifted storyteller. Her family heritage goes back centuries. 

The Cherokee Nation is alive and well in the Great Smoky Mountains and so are their stories. Oral storytelling is an important part of their culture and heritage. Storytellers like Littlejohn are important to keep these stories alive.

The Cherokee Indians tell stories of their history and legends of mythical creatures. One particular story has caught the attention of many, especially during this spooky time of year. The story is about a female monster called Spearfinger, or U’tlun’ta.

According Cherokee lore, Spearfinger had a long, sharp finger on her right hand used to stab humans and pull out their livers, which she would then consume. Spearfinger was said to have stone-like skin and lured her victims using her powers of shapeshifting.

“Cherokees believe in three worlds. Of course, we believe in the upper world which is where the creator lives. Then, the middle world where humans live, animals, birds, insects, and reptiles, but then there’s another world, and that’s what we call the underworld. And humans are not meant to go there,” she said.

“There are portals where the creatures can come out and the story of Spearfinger springs from that,” she added.

She was first told about the story of “Spearfinger” when she was a teenager.  

“When you think that these stories have been handed down, some of them since, we believe from the beginning of time because we have quite a few stories about how the world was created and how people came to be in that world. How animals came to be and look like they do. A lot of the stories have really deep meanings and lessons. So, if we pass those on and teach the other generations that are coming up, then it benefits everybody,” Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn said that it’s not only important to share the history of the Cherokee Nation but these legends as well.

“If you look at our past and all of the efforts that were done to eradicate us, move us, destroy us, and the fact that we’re still here, and that we can still tell our own stories, instead of maybe read about them in a book somewhere, I think that is the underlying point of anything that we do. Our dress, our arts, our festivals, our dances. Everything that we do not showcase that, but that’s our life. That’s our culture. We’re the only people in the world who do something a certain way or a certain way. The efforts that we are doing now to save our language and the stories are a big part of that. They draw us together and are another tradition to keep and pass down.” 

Learn more about the Cherokee nation through the Museum of the Cherokee Indians by clicking here.