The Cherokee culture


Location: The original location of the Cherokee was the southern Appalachian Mountains, including western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama, southwest Virginia, and the Cumberland Basin of Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Alabama. Currently, the Cherokee live in eastern Oklahoma. There are also Cherokee in North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.

History: At the time of contact, the Cherokee were a settled, agricultural people. Homes were usually a circular framework interwoven with branches and plastered with mud. Agriculture relied heavily on corn, beans and squash supplemented by hunting and gathering of wild plants. In less than 30 years the Cherokee underwent the most remarkable adaptation to white culture of any Native American people. The clan system of government was soon replaced by an elected tribal council. A written constitution modeled after that of the United States was added in 1827. Many Cherokee became prosperous farmers with comfortable houses, beautiful cultivated fields and large herds of livestock. Christian missionaries arrived by invitation, and Sequoia invented an alphabet that gave them a written language and overnight made most of the Cherokee literate. They published a newspaper, established a court system, and built schools. Although the poor Cherokee still lived in simple log cabins, many Cherokee were more prosperous and 'civilized' than their increasingly envious white neighbors. When gold was discovered on Cherokee land in northern Georgia, miners arrived and Indian removal was suggested. The Indian Removal Act was introduced in Congress in 1829. This was the beginning of the Trail of Tears. Forced to abandon most of their property, the Cherokee were marched west without adequate shelter, provisions, or food. As many as 4,000 died.

Language: Iroquian, but Cherokee differs significantly from other Iroquian languages.

Daily Life: Many modern Cherokee live on reservations and work hard to preserve their rich cultural history. Others have moved across the United States and have assimilated into the dominant white culture.

Best Known Features: Particularly noteworthy was the invention of written language by Sequoyah (George Gist) in 1821. Utilizing an ingenious alphabet of 86 characters, almost the entire Cherokee Nation became literate within a few years. A Cherokee newspaper, The Phoenix, began publication in the native language in February, 1828.


The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians