Cherokee Traditions: From the Hands of our Elders
Home About Arts & Crafts Language & Literature People Photographs Other

 
Browse the collection

Language & Literature

While the Cherokee language has been spoken for thousands of years, its written form is only 200 years old. The writing system invented by Sequoyah is called the syllabary because its sounds are represented syllable-by-syllable, rather than by individual letters, like the English alphabet. Sequoyah (c. 1770–1843) began to develop the syllabary around 1810 and worked on it for more than a decade. After its official adoption by the Cherokee Nation in 1825, the use of the syllabary grew quickly and Cherokee people learned to read and write their language. Within a short period of time, the literacy rate among Cherokees surpassed that of their Euro-American neighbors.

The Cherokee Phoenix was the first newspaper published in the U.S. by any Native American tribe and the first printed in a native language. The Phoenix was first issued in 1828 in what was then the Cherokee capital city at New Echota, near Dalton, Georgia. For the most part, parallel columns in the newspaper run in Cherokee and English.


Cherokee Traditions:
A project of Hunter Library Digital Initiatives at Western Carolina University
Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual
Museum of the Cherokee Indian

With support from:
Cherokee Preservation Foundation logo Blue Ridge National Heritage Area logo