It is good to look back and reflect about our beginnings. One such area of reflection surrounds our Lodge name. In recent years, some have questioned the origin and English translation of our Lodge name, Wa-Hi-Nasa, Home of the Eagles. Today, we say that our Lodge name, as translated from the Cherokee language, is “Home of the Eagles.” Is this a correct translation?
Our Lodge was chartered in 1938 and took the name Wa-Hi-Nasa, translated from Cherokee into english. Meanings can change over time and online American Indian dictionaries are incomplete at best. Even slight spelling alterations do happen over time. Additionally, the written Cherokee language is separate from English and is based on a syllabary. That is, each sound in a word is represented by one of 85 separate characters that make up the Cherokee alphabet. What about Wa-Hi-Nasa? Does it really translate to “Home of the Eagles?” In a word, YES! The name Wa-Hi-Nasa is in the Cherokee syllabary. It translates exactly as: A person doing research based on available Cherokee dictionaries would however be hard pressed to find exact translation matches. There are however two Cherokee words that contain a similarities to our Lodge name. The first word is eagle. In Cherokee, the syllabary for eagle is “a-wa-hi-li” (bold added for emphasis). In the available Cherokee dictionaries there is no listing for the plural of eagle.
Pictorial representations suggest that the above term seems to refer to a bald eagle which is the Lodge’s totem. Lodge tradition is that the word home is not the word originally translated into Cherokee but rather lair was the word used. Unfortunately, the word lair cannot be found in any modern Cherokee dictionary. However, the word place can be found, the syllabary being “na-nah-I” (bold added for emphasis). While both of these words, eagle and place, do not directly translate into our tag line “home of the eagles”, they are undeniably close.
In conclusion, our Lodge name does appear to translate more precisely as “Eagles Lair” or “Eagles Place.” Even so, “Home of the Eagles” means exactly the same thing as these other translations and is simply a more understandable modern translation of the original. So take pride in our Lodge name and know that our founders established a noble and rich tradition that is indeed based on Cherokee language and culture.