Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
American Indians of North America
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- Alternate meanings: Cherokee (disambiguation)
The Cherokee 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 people of Cherokee heritage 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.
To some, 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 themselves. The name which the Cherokees originally used for themselves is Aniyunwiya. The term Cherokee was born 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.
There were several famous Cherokees in American history, including Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee writing system. Sequoyah is the only person in history to invent a written language single handedly. Sequoyah never learned to speak, read or write the English language. Another famous person with Cherokee ancestry was the humorist Will Rogers. Today, Wes Studi is a well-known actor. Famous Cherokee politicians include Chad 'Corntassel' Smith, Wilma Mankiller and Ross Swimmer . The American blues-rock guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, was of Cherokee descent via his paternal grandmother, Nora Rose Moore. Johnny Bench, a Hall of Fame catcher on the Cincinnati Reds from 1967 to 1983, is of Cherokee descent. Oral Roberts, a Pentecostal evangelist in the 1950's through the 1990's, is also of Cherokee descent.
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 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.
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. See: Indian Removal, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, and Trail of Tears.
Samuel Carter, author of Cherokee Sunset, writes, "Then … there came the reign of terror. From the jagged-walled stockades the troops fanned out across the Nation, invading every hamlet, every cabin, rooting out the inhabitants at bayonet point. The Cherokees hardly had time to realize what was happening as they were prodded like so many sheep toward the concentration camps, threatened with knives and pistols, beaten with rifle butts if they resisted" (Samuel Carter III, Cherokee Sunset: A Narrative of Travail and Triumph, Persecution and Exile (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976), 232.)
Once the Cherokees reached Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), 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, North Carolina on May 9, 1865.
The Cherokees in Oklahoma lost their right to elect their own chief in 1907 when Oklahoma became a state. Various chiefs were appointed by the Presidents until 1970 when the Cherokees regained their right to elect their own government via a Congressional Act signed by President Nixon. W. W. Keeler was the first elected chief of the Oklahoma Cherokees. Keeler, who was also the President of Phillips Petroleum was succeeded by Ross Swimmer, Wilma Mankiller, Joe Byrd and Chad Smith who is currently the chief of the Oklahoma Cherokees.
On June 14 2004, the Cherokee National Tribal Council voted to officially define marriage as a union between man and woman, thereby outlawing gay marriage. 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 'Corntassel' Smith expressed that the motive behind this decision was an effort to parallel the laws in Oklahoma.
- Population figures from Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), p. 115.; 1990 population figure from the Encyclopedia of North American Indians; 2000 population from a USA Today news story, which explains that the 2000 population figure increased so dramatically because of a greater effort to count everybody, and because multi-racial people were, for the first time, able to identify themselves as belonging to more than one group.
- Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, by John Ehle , 1988. ISBN 0-385-23954-8
- Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, by Wilma Mankiller, Michael Wallis , St. Martin's Griffin, 1999. ISBN 0-312-20662-3
- Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
- United Keetoowah Band
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (official site)
- Arkansas Cherokee Indian Genealogy And History
- ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY (1885/86), Contains The "Midê'wiwin, or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa, by W. J. Hoffman and: The Sacred formulas of the Cherokee, by James Mooney
- ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY (1897/98: pt.1), Contains The Myths of The Cherokee, by James Mooney
- New Georgia Encyclopedia
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