25 Facts: The Cherokee

cherokee

The Cherokee

  1. After originating in the Great Lakes areas, it is thought that the Cherokee migrated south into Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
  2. Their dialect is part of the Iroquoian language.
  3. 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).
  4. Tsalagi refers to the Cherokee language.
  5. There are seven clans: Long Hair, Paint, Bird, Wolf, Deer, Wild Potato, and Blue.  Children become members of their mother’s clan.
  6. Their most important animal has always been the deer and they traditionally worshipped the Deer God.
  7. The Cherokee believe everything in nature has a spirit that should be respected and honored.
  8. Their men are often tattooed.
  9. The villagers enjoy wearing jewelry, originally made from silver, shells, and painted clay beads.
  10. Traditionally, the Cherokee had two homes in two different villages – one used in summer and the other in winter.
  11. Round winter huts were made of wood covered with mud.  They had a bark roof and a fire pit in the middle.
  12. Rectangular summer homes were light and airy, made from long sticks covered with bark.  These had grass roofs.
  13. The Cherokee were farmers (corn, squash, beans, tobacco, sunflowers, and melons), hunters (fish, game, and turtles), and gatherers (fruits, nuts, and berries).
  14. 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.
  15. Unique among the Indian Nations, Cherokee women were also warriors.
  16. Medicine Men were skilled herbalists who effectively used natural remedies to heal their people.
  17. In the Eighteenth Century this tribe allied themselves with the British Colonists and supplied them with deerskins.
  18. 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.
  19. The Eastern Band refused to move and hid in the mountains of North Carolina, where they were eventually permitted to stay.
  20. Between 1838-1839 about half the native population died from smallpox.
  21. Around the time of the American Civil War many African-Americans were adopted into the tribe.
  22. They were the first Native Americans to use a written language that was developed by a Cherokee intellectual called Sequoyah.
  23. He isolated 86 symbols and assigned an easily memorized character to each, allowing whole villages to become literate.
  24. The Cherokee also produced the first native newspaper.
  25. Today, more than 300,000 people belong to federally recognized tribes, and over 800,000 self-identify with the Cherokee nation.

Sources:

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

 

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