Cherokee Tribe

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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Cherokee tribe.

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Cherokee Tribe

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Long ago, The Cherokee people came from the Northeast and settled in the mountain regions. They believed it as the center of the world and pictured it as an island hanging by four chords from the sky. Much later men from across the ocean and parts of Europe came to settle in the area. Cherokee life changed as Native Americans began to trade with the new settlers. The Cherokee tribe called themselves as “ Aniyunwiya” which means, ‘The Principle People.’


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People of this tribe were slim. The skin color varied from a light tan to a dark tan. They had straight black hair. Women rarely cut their hair, as long hair was considered to be beautiful. Men and boys shaved or plucked their hair leaving a small patch on top. Their clothes were made of animal skin and in winter, they wore animal skins such as bear, panther, and beaver, with the fur on the inside for warmth. They wore moccasins on their feet with long deer skin leggings. Women and girls wore skirts made of buffalo calf-skin with the hair on the inside. They wore deer skin shirts decorated with small turkey feathers. Their jewelry was made from shells, seeds, bone, animal hair, and feathers. When the Cherokee started trading animal skin with the new settlers, they wore clothes made of cloth instead of animal skin.

Family and Marriage Life

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The Cherokee tribes lived in joint family, which  belongs to an even larger family called ‘Clan.’ There were seven main clans in their tribes, namely Bird, Wolf, Deer, Wild potato, Long Hair, Blue, and Paint. You would be a part of your mother’s clan, but not your father’s clan.
After marriage, the man moved to the woman’s house to be a part of her family. A Cherokee child would assume different names during the course of his or her life. Their names were like sun, moon, sky, star, earth, etc, which meant, they used to call their children with the nature’s names. 

House and Food

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A Cherokee would live in two houses; one would be his home in the hot summer months with a winter home nearby. The summer home was entirely made of logs. Beaver and Otter of Buffalo skin blankets kept them warm. The weapons would hang from a wall within easy reach, should enemies attack. The winter home called as ‘asi’, was shaped like a cone with a fire in the center to keep it warm.   

Corn was their favorite meal, cooked in soups, stews, and ground into meal to bake bread. Meat came from the animals of forests, meadows, and streams. Plums, berries, mushrooms, wild greens, wild potatoes, and nuts formed a part of their food menu. The Cherokee had no set meal times, people ate after a good hunt, when they were hungry, or when travelers arrived, above all sharing was very important for them. In cold seasons, most tribes stored food for the winter, as it was harder either to grow plants or to hunt animals.

Village and Tools

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The rivers gave them fish to eat, fresh water to drink, and bathe. The council house stood in the center of the village. The fields and forests surrounding their village were free for anyone to hunt in or explore. A tall wall of pointed wooden posts surrounded the village to keep out wild animals and enemies. Each village had two chiefs, one for peace and one for war. The White Chief or the Peace Chief was always dressed in white and the Red Chief or the War Chief was dressed in red clothes. Each of them had seven clan members to help them, carry out their duties.
Before the new settlers arrived, their tools were made of stones and animal bones. When the new settlers came, they traded animal skins for sharp steel axes, steel hoes, iron, cooking kettles, metal fishhooks, and steel sewing needles.

Occupation and their Jobs

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Fishing and hunting were the main occupation of the Cherokee man, apart from cultivating corn. There were no formal schools for children, but they learnt the Cherokee history from their parents and relatives. These stories were fun to hear, and taught lessons of good manners and behavior.
Women helped in harvesting corn and in painting. They also helped in building the summer and the winter houses. They would also cook; make baskets, and clay pots. Girls helped their mothers in all the earlier mentioned works. Boys were too busy learning the skills, which needed to make them strong Cherokee warriors. They were taught to hunt, fish, and to make bows, arrows, arrow heads, and blow guns. They would cut down trees for house building and help in making canoes.


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The Cherokee had no written language until 1821. A chief named Sequoya created the Cherokee syllabary. A syllabary is an alphabet made up of sets of syllables rather than letters. The Cherokee syllabary has eighty-five characters, each character has a unique sound and once they learned all the characters, they could write anything in Cherokee language. Many of the Cherokee people learned to read and write in only few days, with the help of the Cherokee language created by their chief, Sequoya. Cherokee school children learn to speak Cherokee and have lessons in Cherokee lifestyle.

The Trail of Tears

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The new settlers wanted to occupy the Cherokee lands after the discovery of gold in them. In 1838, the Cherokee were told by the U.S. government to move to the west of Mississippi. When they protested they were forced out of their homes. They had to leave their homeland. The terrible journey lasted for 6 months. Over 4000 died along the trail. The Cherokee call it, ‘The Trail of Tears.’ In 1984, there was the first reunion of the Eastern and the Western Cherokee since 1838.


Books on the Cherokee

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Links to other sites on the Cherokee

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Little People of the Cherokee http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/lore132.html
Trail of Tears http://ngeorgia.com/history/nghisttt.html
Appalachian Summit http://appalachiansummit.tripod.com/
Why the Opussum's Tail Is Bare http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/lore114.html
The Origin of Medicine http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/lore82.html
Cherokee Indians Smoky Mountains http://www.smokymtnmall.com/mall/
Cherokee Stories http://www.powersource.com/cocinc/
Cherokee Nation http://users.aol.com/Donh523/navapage/
Cherokees of California http://www.powersource.com/cocinc/
Cherokee North Carolina http://www.cherokee-nc.com/

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