Christy Long ‘Galvloi’
Visions and Vessels: An Exploration of Southeastern Iconography
September 14 — December 29 2023
/ɡäləlōē/ pronunciation (gah-luh-lo-ee)
Christy Long, ᎦᎸᎶᎢ ‘Galvloi’ is proud of her heritage and passionate about creating art forms to appreciate in expressive and social contexts. Her skill and knowledge are in time-honored cultural craftsmanship practiced and handed down for generations.
As a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, she thrives on building stronger connections between her art forms and the larger human issues that affect indigenous communities and global society. She cherishes the collaborative process to gain perspective and share insight, inspiration, wisdom, and knowledge. She considers it her calling to combat stereotypes through creative art forms shared with positivity and respect for living culture.
“As with language, art objects contain the code of tribal identity. They remind us of what it means to be Cherokee. They speak in the Cherokee natural tongue of how their makers are related to a tribal family and how that family is anchored in community. Objects are also guardians that pass down the fire of knowledge to future generations so they may think about and see the world in the way of their forebears. They honor the past and anticipate the future. Yet it is equally important to remember that the human qualities required to advance the community are gifts of the divine.” —Rennard Strickland
Long has featured her work at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual. She has additional work on permanent display in private collections worldwide.
How the World was Made – Cherokee Creation Myth
The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.
When all was water, the animals were above in Gălûñ′lătĭ, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni′sĭ, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.
At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gălûñ′lătĭ. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.
When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska′gĭlĭ′, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ′gine Di′gălûñ′lătiyûñ′, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.
There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything—animals, plants, and people—save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter it, but to do this one must fast and go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.
When the animals and plants were first made—we do not know by whom—they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your hair every winter.”