Moonshine mini-jugs were once found in souvenir shops coast to coast, but nowhere as commonly as in — how did you guess! — North Carolina.
State Capitol? Check. Mount Mitchell State Park? Check. USS North Carolina? Check….
This jug from the Cherokee Reservation seems less comical than poignant, given Native Americans’ long struggle with alcoholism and addiction.
“In 1776, seeking revenge for raids committed by the militant Chickamauga faction of the Cherokees, militias from several colonies set out on a scorched-earth campaign designed to bring the entire Cherokee nation to its knees….
“Captain William Moore commanded a portion of the North Carolina soldiers. In early November, the expedition captured two Cherokee women and a boy. Clearly uneasy about the capture of noncombatants, Moore declared that the three should be held in prison until the Continental Congress could decide their fate. The soldiers disagreed; according to Moore, ‘the Greater Part Swore Bloodily that if they were not Sold for Slaves upon the Spot, they would kill and Scalp them Immediately.’
“Moore conceded to the demands of the mob, and the women and boy were auctioned off to the soldiers….”
— From “The Native South: New Histories and Enduring Legacies,” edited by Tim Alan Garrison and Greg O’Brien (2017)
“At the very least, we can definitively trace the term to 1937, when it was used in a popular song. It is likely that Cackalacky’s etymology runs much deeper, however….
“It may have arisen from a kind of sound-play utterance used to refer to the rural ways of people from Carolina — a play on the pronunciation of the state. Another hypothesis is that Cackalacky was derived from the Cherokee term tsalaki, pronounced ‘cha-lak-ee,’ the Cherokee pronunciation of Cherokee. Yet another hypothesis traces it to a cappella gospel groups in the American South in the 1930s, who used the rhythmic (but apparently meaningless) chant clanka lanka in their songs. Derivations related to the German word for cockroach (kakerlake) and a Scottish soup (cockaleekie) have also been suggested….
“Certainly the popularity of Cackalacky has risen in the last decade, and it has now become a positive term of solidarity used throughout the state. We favor the sound-play etymology for Cackalacky, but we are honesty just venturing our best guess….”
— From “Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina” by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser (2014)
This is not, of course, the Miscellany’s first or even second swat at the elusive origins of Cackalacky, and it likely won’t be the last.
“Tom Belt, elder-in-residence in the Cherokee studies program at Western Carolina University, said there are approximately 300 native speakers among the 14,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
” ‘Herein lies the crux of the problem,’ he said. ‘How do we get more spoken? We’re at such a low ebb…. And that’s why we’re here [at a conference in Philadelphia on preserving Native American languages].’
“Why is preserving the language so important?
” ‘The language not only validates but embodies the idea of being something…’ Belt said. ‘Without it we can’t be who we are. All language is the way we interpret the world — any language is…. And if we have to interpret our world with the language with which another people interpret the world, then it is no longer our world.
” ‘We’re not that people. We’re something, but we’re not what we say we are. So in order to be Cherokee… we have to say that, we have to speak that, we have to think that.’ ”
— From “Trying to save vanishing languages” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 2010
Bridget’s post on image vs. reality in Cherokee postcards reminded me of these similarly market-driven pinback buttons. Such “tourist” buttons were especially common in the 1930s, but they typically depicted America’s natural wonders or historic sites, not its human beings…. Make of that what you will.