Native American Cultural Assessment: the Cherokee
In the interest of promoting tolerance and peace, and with regard to the United States government’s handling of Native affairs, their story is one that is manful, stoic, and must not be forgotten. The Cherokee people were a large and powerful tribe. The Cherokees’ Macro- Simian- Iroquois language and their migration legends demonstrate that the tribe originated to the north of their traditional Southeastern homelands.
Linguists believe that the Cherokee migrated from the Great Lakes area to the Southeast over three thousand years ago.The Cherokee language is a branch of the Iroquois language family, related to Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Wyandotte-Huron, Tuscarawas, Oneida and Mohawk. Original locations of the Cherokee were 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. The Cherokee sometimes refer to themselves as Ann.- Kuwaiti, “the people of Kuwait”. Kuwait was the name of an ancient city, located near present Bryon City, NC, which was the center of the Cherokee Nation.Long before Columbus discovered the “New World” or Spanish explorer Hernandez De Sotto arrived, the Cherokee territory stretched from the Ohio River to the north, and southward into Georgia and Alabama.
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Their anomalies extended over 1 35,000 square miles. Cherokee villages had populations of about 350 to 600 persons. Before contact with Europeans, families built round, earth-covered homes for the winter. For the warmer summers they built larger, rectangular homes. The rectangular homes had upright poles forming a framework. The outer covering was bark, wood or woven siding coated with earth and clay.The Cherokee were primarily an agricultural people.
They relied heavily on corn, beans, and squash, supplemented by hunting and the gathering of wild plants. Corn was their most important crop, so important to them they had a Rooney when the corn began to get ripe in hopes that the corn would continue to grow well. The Green Corn Ceremony was the most important ceremony. It did not have a certain date because it occurred when the corn became ripe. This ceremony marked the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year for the Cherokees.The ceremony was the time of thanksgiving and of a spiritual renewal. Other crops planted were beans, squash, and sunflowers.
The Cherokee also hunted. The main two animals that were hunted were white-tailed deer and wild turkey. Other animals that were hunted are bear, quail, rabbit, and squirrel. The Cherokee traveled quite a bit to other towns to trade. They traveled by streams or rivers in canoes. The canoes were quite large at thirty to forty feet long and about two feet wide. About fifteen to twenty men could travel in these canoes.
Cherokee hunting trips were important events.Only men who were fully cleansed and fit were allowed to go on the hunt. When the men needed to go on a hunt they had to obtain a priest’s permission. Cherokee society reflected an elaborate social, political, and ceremonial structure. Their basic political unit was the town, which consisted of all the people who used a single ceremonial center. Within each town, a council, dominated by older men, handled political affairs. Individual towns sent representatives to regional councils to discuss policy for the corporate group, especially issues of diplomacy or warfare.
Towns typically included thirty to forty households clustered around a central townhouse that was used as a meeting place. Houses were square or rectangular huts constructed of locked poles, weatherproofed with wattle and daub plaster, and roofed with bark. These houses were built by the men and took quite a while to build. Construction began in early spring to get the boards from trees. When summer came around the men stopped with the houses and turned to planting crops. As fall arrived the men began to actually put the houses together.Often men from other towns came to help their fellow Cherokee.
The Cherokee society was organized into clans, or kin groups. There were seven major Cherokee clans, each identified by a particular animal totem. A variety of clans was represented in each community and performed significant social, legal, and political functions. This seven-clan system distinguished the Cherokee from the many other Native American tribes. The number seven is found throughout Cherokee legends, beliefs, and customs including their seven-sided council house, and the seven Cherokee festivals.The seven-sided provided seven sections of seats within, giving each clan a section for its representatives within the governmental structure. The Cherokee clans are a matrilineal society.
The home, family, children, inheritance, family ties, and clan membership are under the control and guidance of the women members. Traditionally, The husband served to supply meat and father the children. All Cherokee children belonged to their mother, and clan lineage is passed through the mother. Grooms were adopted into the clan of tier spouse.In the Cherokee Marriage Ceremony, the groom would bring an offering of meat to the bride’s family, showing that he is a good hunter and promising to help support them. The bride brings offerings of food, showing that she can be a good homemaker. Then they would join together under the ceremonial blanket, showing that they could both support a family.
The knowledge off person’s clan is important for many reasons. Historically, and still today among Cherokee traditionalists, it is forbidden to marry within your clan because clan members are considered rather and sisters.A woman got her name, and her Clan from her female elders. She keeps this name for life, even if she is baptized with an Anglo name or married. His mother gives a boy a soft, loving type of a name. The primary responsibility for discipline and teaching hunting and warfare Was not the responsibility Of a child’s father but with his maternal uncle. When he becomes a man, his uncles will give him a new name.
When he is matured and ready to become a warrior, young males would go on a vision quest. The medicine man then gives the man a new name, related to his vision quest, that he would use for fife.Cherokee villages were largely independent in daily matters, with the main tribe only getting together for ceremonies or war parties. Political leadership was divided according to the current circumstances: “red” chiefs during war and “white” chiefs in times of peace. The Cherokee nation was composed of a confederacy Of red and white towns, or, war and peace towns. A supreme war chief of the entire tribe led the chiefs of the red towns, while the officials of the white towns were under the supreme peace chief of the tribe.All of the Cherokees weapons and tools were made from plants, animals, and there natural things like rocks and minerals.
This lasted until tools and weapons were available from the white men. The most commonly used weapon was the bow and arrow. Other weapons were the stone ax and club. Skills such as basket weaving and pottery making were used. Anthropologists discovered that Cherokee basket and pottery styles resemble those of South American and Caribbean tribes, differing from other tribes of the southeast U. S.This could be evidence that they contact with Natives from these areas.
In 1 540 the Cherokee settled to a territory about 40,000 square miles in size n the southeast area Of the United States. Hernandez De Sot’s expedition is believed to have made the first European contact in 1 540 when they met the Cherokees on the Tennessee River. When De Sotto first encountered the Cherokee, he found a peaceful nation of people that were living in about 200 settlements or towns. The most dramatic effect that De Sotto and his explorers brought to the Cherokee was bringing new European epidemics.In 1650 their population was about 22,000, after smallpox epidemic had reduced their number by nearly one- half. The Spanish maintained a small mining and operation in the area until 690. The Cherokees location in the interior mountains kept them relatively isolated until after the settlement of Virginia by colonists in 1609.
In 1629 some English traders had entered into the Appalachia mans and met the Cherokee people. Contact for the Cherokees then became continuous with the founding of the Carolina colonies in 1663. The Cherokee population in 1674 was about 50,000.The Cherokee soon realized that the settlers were not going to go away anytime soon. They entered into a treaty with South Carolina 1684. This began a steady trade in deerskins and even Indian slaves. Organizational hanged began to occur within the Cherokee as a result of trade contacts.
Leadership shifted from priests to warrior, and warriors became hunters for profit, not just for subsistence of the tribe. The Cherokee had begun a new tradition of adapting to the incursion of settlers and traders, and one of learning the ways of the white men.And their increasing dependence on trade goods began to draw alliances between the Cherokee and the British. Cherokee intermarried with whites more than with members of other Indian tribes. This caused many problems with the laws of the clans. However, even Hough the children were Of both white and Indian ancestry, their clansmen regarded them as Cherokee. The Cherokees were allies of the British in their wars against the French and Spanish between 1689 and 1763.
The Cherokees raided Spanish settlements in Florida during 1 673 and also fought with the coastal tribes of the Carolinas area.Epidemic continued to wage against the Cherokee. Their population in 1674 was about 50,000. A series of smallpox epidemics in 1 729, 1 738, and 1753 reduced there numbers by half. During the American Revolutionary War the Cherokee sided with the British against the colonists. In fact, just three days before the signing of the Declaration Of Independence, Cherokee warriors attacked along the entire southern Fortier. After the Revolutionary War the Cherokees were generally treated badly by the Americans and what was left of the French since they had sided with the British.
Roving bands or Militias often attacked Cherokee villages. The nation’s new President George Washington ordered that the Cherokee would be used as an assimilation experiment in Indian education and that the future other Indian tribes would depend on the Cherokees example. Loans for college were set up so that upper level Cherokee education could be undertaken. Around 1800 the Cherokee began adopting the economics and politics of the white settlers around them. Some Cherokee owned plantations and even kept slaves. Many Cherokees adopted “white” names.During the early sass’s the Cherokee were to become one of the most progressive, and successful tribes in the United States.
The tribe formed a republican government called the Cherokee Nation. It was set up much like the new U. S. Government. The government included a chief, a vice-chief and 32 council members. A constitution of code laws was also put in place. Still, in spite Of the Cherokees civilized ways of living; white settlers wanted the government to move all of the Southeastern U.
S. Indians to the new frontier areas west of the Mississippi River.In 1821 a Cherokee named Sequoias introduced a system for writing their language. Sequoias is the only known person in history to single-handedly invent a written language. As a child Sequoias had no formal education. He studied hard to learn the white men’s language. Sequoias had always dreamed of the language from as far back as 1 809 until 820 when he began o work on it.
Sequoias first tried pictures as characters in his alphabet, but soon had hundreds Of characters and gave up that idea. He next used his own symbols to form sentences, words, and syllables.His language turned out 86 characters long that represented all the sounds in the Cherokee tongue. Cherokees originally discouraged See ayah at first because they thought his idea was crazy. This soon changed and he even received a silver medal for inventing the language. The language helped the Cherokee become one of the civilized tribes. The Cherokee even developed their own newspaper.
The Cherokee Phoenix” was a newspaper written in English and Cherokee print. The paper taught the Cherokees and white settlers about the Cherokee daily life and customs. In 1 830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.Some senators were against the act, but it passed anyway. The Indian Removal Act gave president Jackson the power to exchange lands west of the Mississippi for the southeastern territory of the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminole. It was not enough that Cherokees were taking up the ways of the white men; you see it was gold fever that was Enid this act. Gold was discovered and the white men rushed into the Cherokee lands to try to get rich.
The administration of President Andrew Jackson produced a fraudulent treaty that was signed by many Cherokees.According to the treaty the Cherokee were to move west to Indian Territory. The removal policy also led to conflict between Jackson and the U. S. Supreme Court, which had ruled in favor of the right of the Cherokees to retain their lands in Georgia. Jackson refused to enforce the Court’s decision. Another interesting, and sad side note to this affair is that during the Creek War, Cherokee Chief John Ross fought valiantly under General Andrew Jackson.
At the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Ross was instrumental in turning the tide of battle in Jackson’s favor.John Ross, a leader of the Cherokees, born to a Scottish father and a part-Cherokee mother fought hard for the Cherokee peoples rights but eventually was forced to lead them to new lands in the West. During the winter of 1838-39, the U. S. Army forced approximately 15,000 Cherokee to move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Many of the Cherokee did not have warm clothing, or even shoes, for the winter march. Thousands died n the way, including the wife fjord Ross.
This forced march became known as The Trail of Tears. Around 1 ,OHO Cherokee escaped removal and stayed in the mountains of North Carolina.Eventually they bought land there, and the government even allowed them to stay. Today they are known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee. In Oklahoma, the Cherokee set up their own government with schools, and churches. A re-run of earlier events was set to occur. In the late asses, Congress abolished the Cherokee Nation and opened much of the Cherokee land for resettlement by whites.
During the Civil War, the Cherokee were aligned with the Confederacy. Who loud blame them after the way they had been treated by the “Republic”? A declaration rebuking all existing treaties with the Federal Government was approved.Chief John Ross signed the treaty with the Confederacy. One Cherokee, Stand Waite rose to the rank of General in the Confederate Army. General Stand Waite was a greatly respected strategist by the opposing Union Generals. On June 23, 1865, Stand Waite was the last Confederate general to surrender his command to the United States. The displaced Five Tribes tried to form their own state of Sequoias in eastern Oklahoma.
That failed in 1905, and the Cherokee Nation was officially solved on March 3, 1906 during the process leading to the creation of the state of Oklahoma.The present government of the Cherokee Nation was formed in 1 948 after passage 1 934 Indian Reorganization Act. In 1961, the U. S. Claims Commission awarded the Cherokee a $1 settlement. This was to account for lands taken from the Cherokee. Today, many Cherokee (numbering around 1 00,000 people) live in northeastern Oklahoma, where they have restored their tribal government.
Some still live on a reservation in North Carolina. Many other Cherokee have moved elsewhere, and thousands of people of mixed Cherokee and white ancestry live throughout the United States.