The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Alternate meanings: Cherokee (disambiguation)

The Cherokee (Cherokee: ᏣᎳᎩᏱ, Tsa-La-Gi-Yi) are a people native to North America who first inhabited what is now the eastern and southeastern United States before most were forcefully moved to the Ozark Plateau. They were one of the tribes referred to by Native Americans as the Five Civilized Tribes.

Ethnologists today recognize that 5 to 7 million Cherokee descendants live worldwide.

Bands recognized by the United States government, but representing only 250,000 Cherokees, have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Cherokee Nation, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians), and at Cherokee, North Carolina (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians).

State-recognized Cherokee tribes have headquarters in Georgia and Alabama. Other large and small non-recognized Cherokee organizations are located in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and other locations in the United States.

The spiritual core of the nation is the Keetoowah Nighthawk Society.

The name Cherokee is an old pronunciation of Tsalagi, which is the name for the Cherokees in the Creek language, as well as the term now most commonly used by the Cherokee. The name which the Cherokees originally used for themselves is Aniyunwiya. The term Cherokee was borne out of a now-extinct pronunciation of the name Tsalagi as Cha-ra-gi, which eventually shifted into the English word, Cherokee.


Language and Alphabet

Main article: Cherokee language

The Cherokee speak an Iroquoian language which is polysynthetic and is written in a syllabary invented by Sequoyah. For years, many people wrote transliterated Cherokee on the Internet or used poorly intercompatible fonts to type out the syllabary. However, since the fairly recent addition of the Cherokee syllables to Unicode, the Cherokee language is experiencing a renaissance in its use on the Internet. There is now even a Cherokee-language Wikipedia .


See: Cherokee mythology

Famous Cherokee

There were several famous Cherokees in American history, including Sequoyah, who invented the writing system, and American humorist Will Rogers. Sequoyah's contribution in inventing the Cherokee writing system is all the more remarkable in that it has not been duplicated by any single linguist before or since; although himself illiterate, Sequoyah grasped the significance of written communication and after a great effort over a period of years succeeded in producing a means of written communication for the Cherokee language.


Beginning at about the time of the American Revolutionary War, divisions over continued accommodation of encroachments by white settlers, despite repeated violations of previous treaties, caused some Cherokee to begin to leave the Cherokee Nation. These dissidents became known as the Chickamauga. Led by Chief Dragging Canoe, the Chickamauga made alliances with the Shawnee and engaged in raids against colonial settlements, aided by the British.

John Ross (Cherokee chief) was an important figure in the history of the Cherokee tribe. His father emigrated from Scotland prior to the Revolutionary War. His mother was a quarter-blood Cherokee woman whose father was also from Scotland. He began his public career in 1809. Still permitted under the Constitution at that time, the "Cherokee Nation" was founded in 1820, with elected public officials. John Ross became the chief of the tribe in 1828 and remained the chief until his death.

See: Trail of Tears

Cherokees were displaced from their ancestral lands in North Georgia and the Carolinas primarily as a result of the gold rush around Dahlonega, Georgia in the 1830's.

Once the Cherokees reached Indian Territory, tensions ran high and the suspension of the Cherokee Blood Law was ignored. On June 22, 1839, after the adjournment of a tribal meeting, some of the prominent signers of the Treaty of New Echota were assassinated, including the drafter of the Blood Law, Major Ridge, along with John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. This started 15 years of civil war amongst the Cherokees. One of the notable survivors was Stand Watie, who became a Confederate general during the American Civil War. The Cherokees were one of the five "civilized tribes" that concluded treaties with, and were recognized, by the Confederate States of America.

Other Cherokees in western North Carolina served as part of Thomas' Legion, a unit of approximately 1,100 men of both Cherokee and white origin, fighting primarily in Virginia, where their battle record was outstanding. Thomas' Legion was the last Confederate unit to surrender in North Carolina, at Waynesville, NC on May 9, 1865.

Recent news

On June 14 2004, the Cherokee National Tribal Council voted to officially define marriage as a union between man and woman, thereby outlawing Censored page. This was a decision made in response to an application for a union of a lesbian couple that was submitted on May 13. Principal Chief Chad Smith expressed that the motive behind this decision was an effort to parallel the laws in Oklahoma.

External reading

  • Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, by John Ehle , 1988. ISBN: 0-385-23954-8.

External links

  • Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
  • Original Keetowah Society - Spiritual Core of the Cherokee

Last updated: 02-07-2005 00:12:23
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01