The Little People

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my aunt talks to me about the legend of the Little People in Cherokee folklore.

AJ: There was another story I’ll tell you. It’s about the Little People. Have you heard of them?

Me: I don’t think so, no.

AJ: Again, your Mimi, and therefore your mom and I, weren’t told many stories about Cherokee folklore growing up. Some people felt that it was in competition with religion and Christianity, so they didn’t tell their kids.

Me: Right.

AJ: Well, the Little People are this race of spirits who live in caves. They’re about the height of your knees, and are supposedly very pretty and handsome. Their hair is so long it almost touches the ground. They’re helpful, kind, and great workers. They love music and spend their times singing and dancing. They’re kind of like you: they’re very nice and sweet, but don’t like to be disturbed.

Me: That is like me.

AJ: [laughs] My mom told me that sometimes you will hear the Little People drumming but that it is not safe to follow the sound because they don’t want to be disturbed at home. If you bother them, they’ll throw a spell on you so that they become confused and get lost. They like to do things for people, but they don’t like to be watched. Supposedly, you could hear them whispering outside of their house, but that you weren’t allowed to go outside. In the morning, you would wake up and find that corn had been gathered and set outside of your home.

Me: That’s nice.

AJ: I know. I wish I had the Little People clean my house at night.

Me: It would be a good service, huh?

AJ: One last thing about the Little People is that if you find something in the woods you have to say “Little People, I would like to take this” and then you’d say whatever it is you found.

Me: Why do you have to say that?

AJ: Because it may belong to one of them. If you don’t ask permission, the Little People will throw stones at you.

Me: I guess that makes sense.

AJ: So next time you’re out in the woods of California, make sure and say hi to the Little People.

Me: I will.

I personally really like this, and I know my aunt likes it to because she enjoys the idea of these people in a way looking out for the Cherokee people. I like it because it reminds me a lot of myself: I like helping people, but I don’t want any recognition or people to observe me trying to help someone. I would much rather not get any praise. My aunt is very similar to me in that fashion, so in a way we feel a connection to the Little People. I think a lot of the traditions with the Little People, such as asking for their permission to take something in the woods, is a practice that makes life a little more interesting. I don’t think my Aunt believes in the Little People, but she still likes to do the act. In a way, I think it connects her with our ancestors, and in another way, I think it’s just a little thing to do that keeps life interesting.