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Michelle Mays: Music


(Michelle Mays)
Michelle Mays

I remember my Father talking about Selu.  His Grandmother told him the story of Selu.   When my Mother served  beans and cornbread my Dad would say, "Selu Awahdolee"  (This is how it is phonetically pronounced.)  He'd say, "My Grandmother, when serving cornbread, always made us say, Selu Awahdolee and if we didn't she'd get very angry'.  My Dad and all of us kids thought it just meant, Pass the cornbread.  Later, after I had children and told them the story of Selu, I began asking my elder relatives about their experiences and asked about the stories their parents told. I found more elaboration to the story than I ever thought! 

There was an ugly time in our country's history that involved the people of the Cherokee Nation.   Cherokee children were taken away from their families by the US Government so that they could be raised 'civilized'.   Speaking the Cherokee language was forbidden in order to help break the chains of tradition.   Selu Awahdolee meant more than just, pass the cornbread, it meant... I want my traditions, I want my grandmother, Selu.  I think my Great Grandmother sent a secret message through time to her children, her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren.  The message was," Remember and return to the traditions of the Cherokee people when it is safe."     It's safe now Grandmother.     

I have to thank Susie Ballard Mays for impressing my father with the story of Selu, and for my Great Aunt Redbird. Without these people in the chain of my ancestors, I would be lost. Thank you for the beautiful gift, my people.

Thank you Tommy Wildcat, Cherokee National Treasure,

 for playing your beautiful flute on the song, Selu.  After the recording session Tommy stepped out and said to me, " I feel honored to play the flute for your song.  I think the song is good for the People."  Tommy, it is I who am honored.  I always knew you were an extremely special being, but now, even the whole of the Cherokee Nation knows you as a National Treasure.  I am so honored to have your flute music on my song, Selu, and I'm honored to know you.  Thank you, Tommy. 



Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu, Osio, Selu She had always been there, standing tall in her Green Robe Loving hands reaching for her people. Caring for her beloved people. Grandmother cared for her people, keeping them healthy and strong. Selu fed her children, even when the hunters failed. From the strength of her bones, And the life in her blood, she fed them. Selu taught them the sacred way, to respect and honor life. All you need is given, if the sacred way you keep. Take only as you need, and leave the rest, Keep the balance of life. (Ch) Her children listened , and knew the wisdom of her words, For she was the oldest, the wisest, and guided with loving hands The people grew, their numbers were many, Strong Tsa-la-gee. But some young ones , bold and daring, and filled with curiosity, Followed her, when the hunters failed… to claim food the glory for themselves. They saw her undo her robe, and shake her body, As the basket filled with corn. She had always been there, feeding the people and tending their needs. No one had asked, for they’d been just children, but now they’d grown and they knew who she was. (Ch) The young ones told all the people what they had seen. And the people, confused, afraid, then knew Selu was the Mother of all life. They shunned her in fear, they shunned her in awe, The balance of life was gone. Selu knew her time with her beloved children had come to an end. It broke her heart, it broke the peoples heart when she said it’s time for me to go. When she died she told them, Bury me in the meadow by moonlight, Where the Day moon shines, and I’ll come back to you. (Ch) And the people cried, as they buried her in the moonlight. And the Tsa-la-gee people cried, their tears fell like rain They remembered her words, and tended her grave, All Summer long. In the Harvest moon she retruned….. As if she’d always been there, Standing tall in her Green Robe. Loving hands reaching for her people. And in her hands, she held….…Corn Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu Selu awa-do-lee, Selu, Osio, Selu (O'sio - a Cherokee greeting. O’sio Selu - Greetings, my Mother Goddess.) Credits: Written by Michelle Mays, 1997. Inspired by the Cherokee traditional story of Selu, the Cherokee Corn/Earth Goddess, and Mother of the Cherokee Nation. Vocals-Michelle Mays, Rob Volmar, Amanda Martin. Cherokee flute-Tommy Wildcat, Native American Music awards flutist of the year, 2002 and nominee 2003, Officially recognized Cherokee National Treasure, 2013.   Drum- Koenlg, Keys-Ernie Tullis, Bass-Rob Volmar, Guitar-Michelle Mays