Our Place in the Universe

In Cherokee Earth Dwellers, Christopher Teuton MA’95, PhD’03 explores humanity’s role in an interconnected web of lifeforms.

Book cover "Cherokee Earth Dwellers" depicting illustrations of a plant, a wolf and a snake, by Christopher B. Teuton & Hastings Shade.

Teuton imparts traditional Cherokee knowledge to a broad readership.

At one time, traditional Cherokee knowledge was shared only among community and family members. According to Christopher Teuton MA’95, PhD’03, it’s time that knowledge enriched everyone’s understanding of their place in the world.

In Cherokee Earth Dwellers, Teuton, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, imparts the knowledge of his former collaborator, the late Cherokee elder and knowledge-keeper Hastings Shade, to bring the tribe’s understandings of the world to a broader audience. The book combines Shade’s lifelong work of documenting the Cherokee names of plants and animals with oral histories and contributions from Shade’s late wife, Loretta Shade; his son Larry Shade; and other knowledge-keepers. Their combined wisdom elucidates the concept of ayetli gadogv — “to stand in the middle” — from which humans can begin to understand their relationship with and responsibilities to the “more-than-human” relatives with whom we cohabit the Earth.

Cherokee Earth Dwellers imparts a full, rich, and exciting vision of a living Cherokee cosmos that fosters balance, health, maturity, and awareness of the interconnection of all that is,” writes Kristine Morris of Foreword Reviews.

In preserving traditional names and stories from the natural world, the book also contributes to a language-revitalization movement that counteracts efforts of colonial forces that once sought to eradicate Cherokee language and culture.

Teuton is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington and author of Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club, a collection of 40 interwoven stories about Western Cherokee life and storytelling.

Published in the Summer 2023 issue


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