What language did the Cherokee tribe speak?
The Cherokee tribe spoke in the spoke in their own dialect of the Iroquian language family, unlike the other 'five civilised tribes who spoke in the Muskogean language. The name Cherokee, derives from the Creek word "Chelokee" meaning "people of a different speech." In their own language the Cherokee originally called themselves the "Aniyunwiya" meaning the "principal people". The Cherokee were also referred to as the 'Tsalagi', meaning the "cave people". Their chief divisions were established in settlements around the head-waters of the Tennessee and Savannah rivers, and were distinguished as the
- Elati Tsalagi or Lower Cherokee meaning those in the plains
- Atali Tsalagi or Upper Cherokees meaning those on the mountains
What was the lifestyle and culture of the Cherokee tribe?
The Cherokee tribe were unlike the other 'civilised tribes' not only in language but also in their ancient history. The Cherokee originated in the north and gradually moved southwards establishing settlements across the regions once inhabited by the Mississippian culture of mound builders. In all other respects the Cherokee assumed the same lifestyle as other tribes of the southeast region. They established a vast number of fortified towns consisting of 30 - 80 wattle and daub houses together with a large meeting house. The people were both hunters and farmers. They raised the "three sisters" crops of corn (maize), beans and squash and celebrated the Busk, or Green Corn festival. The Europeans brought devastating unknown diseases and wars to the people. The newcomers also brought many new ideas and the Cherokee adopted American-style clothes and log cabin styles of houses. In 1821 Sequoyah aka George Gist (c. 1770 - 1843) invented the Cherokee Alphabet, using symbols for letters. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to the forced removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears.
The Five Civilised Tribes and the Trail of Tears
Following the War of Independence the 'civilizing programs' began. The Cherokee tribe became known as one of the Five Civilised Tribes who also included the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminoles tribes. The culture and social structure of the Cherokee people included a judiciary system, a written constitution, two legislative chambers and a public school system. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by Andrew Jackson, started the removal of the Five Civilised tribes, including the Cherokee, along the infamous Trail of Tears from their homelands to reservations in Oklahoma. Nearly 4000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears from malnutrition, disease and exposure. The Cherokee refer to the journey as 'Nunna daul Isunyi' which translates to “The Trail Where They Cried”. For additional information refer to the Trail of Tears Facts and the Trail of Tears Map.
Picture of the Cherokee
The above picture depicts Col-lee, who was a a Band Chief of the Cherokee. It was painted by the famous artist George Catlin (1796-1872) at Fort Gibson in 1834. The chief wore a blue colored matchcoat over a white shirt. He also wore decorative red sash around his waist. His turban style headdress was worn by many of the southeastern tribes and made with strips of calico cloth wrapped around his head like a headband or turban.
Where did the Cherokee tribe live?
The Cherokee are people of the Southeast Native American cultural group. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Cherokee tribe.
- The Southeast region extended mainly across the states of Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida
- Land: River Valleys, mountains and swamps
- Climate: The climate was hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter
- Animals: The animals included rabbit, wild hog, turkey, opossum, raccoon, squirrel and deer
- Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn, beans, squash
- Natural resources: Fruit, wild onions, greens, mushrooms, seeds and nuts
What clothes did the Cherokee wear?
The Cherokee men originally wore breechcloths made from deer skin or bark fabric of the type depicted in the Green Corn Dance picture. Leggings and moccasins were also worn. Chiefs wore long, full cloaks made of feathers and feather caps. The men shaved their heads, leaving a a scalplock)which they allowed to grow long. They painted and tattooed their bodies and faces. The Cherokee women wore a knee-length, wraparound skirts, also made from a bark fabric or deerskin. A poncho style blouse was later introduced. The above picture of Col-lee shows how the style of clothes worn by the Cherokee changed in the late 1800's. Clothing was were greatly influenced by the Americans and the availability of trade cloth.
What did the Cherokee tribe live in?
The Cherokee tribe lived in wattle and daub houses made by weaving river cane, wood, and vines into a framework, then coating the frame with mud. The roof was either thatched with grass or shingled with bark. As many as eight people might share this type of house. A fire constantly smouldered in the hearth, which made the windowless ‘asi’ smoky and dark. Although the men built the houses, the women owned them. The American settlers brought new ideas and strong, sharp tools that replaced the stone axes and in the 1800's some of the Cherokee began to build American style log cabins. Rather than a chimney, a smoke hole was made in the roof.
What did the Cherokee tribe eat?
The food that the Cherokee tribe ate included deer (venison), bear, buffalo, elk, squirrel, rabbit, opossum and other small game and fish. Their staple foods were corn, squash and and beans supplemented with wild onions, rice, mushrooms, greens, berries and nuts. As time passed the Cherokee began raising cattle, hogs, chickens, and other domesticated animals that they acquired from Europeans.
What weapons did the Cherokee use?
The weapons used by the Cherokee included war clubs, tomahawks, battle hammers, knives, bows and arrows, spears and axes. Cherokees also used blowguns, generally for small game, but occasionally for warfare. The Europeans introduced muskets and then rifles. Leadership amongst the Cherokee was divided according the situation. The "red" chiefs were leaders during war and "white" chiefs in times of peace. Cherokee warriors wore tattoos and used face and body paint. Red paint for success, blue to indicate defeat or trouble, black paint meant death, and white stood for peace and happiness.
Cherokee History: What happened to the Cherokee tribe?
The following Cherokee history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Cherokee timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.
Cherokee History Timeline
1542: The Hernando De Soto expedition encounters the Cherokee.
1542: Epidemics of smallpox and measles and inter-tribal warfare with the Creek diminish the Cherokee population in the late 1500's and 1600's
1629: The first traders from the British settlements began trading among the Cherokees
1688: The French and Indian Wars (1688-1763) starts with King William's War (1688-1699). The Cherokee become allied with the British against the French
1702: Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)
1715: The Yamasee War (1715–16) fought in South Carolina between the British-American Colonists and their Native Indian allies including the Cherokee, against the Yamasee Native American Tribe
1721: The Cherokee Treaty with the Governor of the Carolinas and the first concession of lands
1744: King George's War (1744 - 1748)
1754: French and Indian War, aka the Seven Years War (1754-1763)
1755: The Waccamaw tribe wage war with Cherokee and Natchez
1758: The Anglo-Cherokee War, First Cherokee War (1758–1761) - The Cherokee uprising in present-day Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas
1776 Chickamauga Wars, aka the Second Cherokee War, (1776–1794) Cherokee involvement in the American Revolutionary War and continued through late 1794
1785: Treaty of Hopewell is the first treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokees
1796: The 'civilizing programs' began, instigated by George Washington, which led to the name of the Five Civilised Tribes
1821: The invention of written language by Sequoyah (George Gist)
1822: Cherokee's Supreme Court established
1824: First written law of the Western Cherokee
1827: Cherokee Constitution established by a convention. John Ross elected chief
1830: The Indian Removal Act of 1830
1832: US Supreme Court decision Worcester vs Georgia establishes tribal sovereignty, protecting the Cherokee from Georgia laws. President Jackson refuses to enforce the decision and Georgia holds lottery for Cherokee lands
1835: Treaty of New Echota, giving up title to all Cherokee lands in southeast in exchange for land in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma)
1838-1839: The Trails of Tears. The US Government's forced removal of 17,000 Cherokee
1861: American Civil War begins. Civil War between Union Cherokees and Confederate Cherokees
1887: General Allotment Act passed requiring individual ownership of lands once held in common by Native Indian tribes
1893, President Grover Cleveland appoints Senator Henry L. Dawes, to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes
1893: The Dawes Rolls, or the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes, entitled an allotment of land to tribe members, in return for abolishing their governments and recognizing Federal laws
1934: The individual allotment policy of the Dawes Act was terminated by the Indian Reorganization Act
Cherokee History Timeline