- After originating in the Great Lakes areas, it is thought that the Cherokee migrated south into Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
- Their dialect is part of the Iroquoian language.
- The Cherokee call themselves Ani-Yu’wiya (The Principal People), though their name may come from either the word Chalakee (People Who Live In The Mountains) or Chilukikbi ((People Who Live In Cave Country).
- Tsalagi refers to the Cherokee language.
- There are seven clans: Long Hair, Paint, Bird, Wolf, Deer, Wild Potato, and Blue. Children become members of their mother’s clan.
- Their most important animal has always been the deer and they traditionally worshipped the Deer God.
- The Cherokee believe everything in nature has a spirit that should be respected and honored.
- Their men are often tattooed.
- The villagers enjoy wearing jewelry, originally made from silver, shells, and painted clay beads.
- Traditionally, the Cherokee had two homes in two different villages – one used in summer and the other in winter.
- Round winter huts were made of wood covered with mud. They had a bark roof and a fire pit in the middle.
- Rectangular summer homes were light and airy, made from long sticks covered with bark. These had grass roofs.
- The Cherokee were farmers (corn, squash, beans, tobacco, sunflowers, and melons), hunters (fish, game, and turtles), and gatherers (fruits, nuts, and berries).
- Although polygamy was a common tribal practice, women controlled much of the day-to-day life, were active in decision-making, and could divorce freely at will.
- Unique among the Indian Nations, Cherokee women were also warriors.
- Medicine Men were skilled herbalists who effectively used natural remedies to heal their people.
- In the Eighteenth Century this tribe allied themselves with the British Colonists and supplied them with deerskins.
- When gold was discovered in Georgia, Congress passed the 1830 Indian Removal Act to forcibly relocate the Cherokee to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), thereby triggering the infamous Trail of Tears.
- The Eastern Band refused to move and hid in the mountains of North Carolina, where they were eventually permitted to stay.
- Between 1838-1839 about half the native population died from smallpox.
- Around the time of the American Civil War many African-Americans were adopted into the tribe.
- They were the first Native Americans to use a written language that was developed by a Cherokee intellectual called Sequoyah.
- He isolated 86 symbols and assigned an easily memorized character to each, allowing whole villages to become literate.
- The Cherokee also produced the first native newspaper.
- Today, more than 300,000 people belong to federally recognized tribes, and over 800,000 self-identify with the Cherokee nation.
Debo, Angie. A History of the Indians of the United States. London: Folio, 2003.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian at http://www.cherokeemuseum.org/
Wikipedia, “Cherokee,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee