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Cherokee

How do you pronounce the word "Cherokee"? What does it mean?

It's pronounced "CHAIR-uh-kee." It comes from a Muskogee word meaning 'speakers of another language.' Cherokee Indians originally called themselves Aniyunwiya, "the principal people.

Where do the Cherokee Indians live?

The Cherokees are original residents of the American southeast, particularly Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Most Cherokees were forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1800's along the Trail of Tears. 

What language do the Cherokees speak?

Most Cherokee people speak English today, but 20,000 people also speak the Cherokee Indian language. Cherokee is a complex language with soft sounds. If you'd like to know a few easy Cherokee words, "osiyo" (pronounced oh-see-yoh) is a friendly greeting, and "wado" (pronounced wah-doh) means 'thank you.'

How do Cherokee Indian children live?

They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Cherokee children enjoy hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Cherokee kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. In one popular game, Cherokee kids tried to throw a dart through a moving hoop. Lacrosse was a popular sport among Cherokee teenagers and adult men. Like many Native Americans, Cherokee mothers traditionally carried babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Cherokee tribe?

The Cherokee Indians had an even division of power between men and women. Cherokee men were in charge of hunting, war, and diplomacy. Cherokee women were in charge of farming, property, and family. Men made political decisions for the tribe, and women made decisions for the clans. Chiefs were men, and landowners were women.

What were Cherokee homes like?

The Cherokee Indians lived in settled villages. Cherokee houses were made of rivercane and plaster, with thatched roofs. These dwellings were about as strong and warm as log cabins. The Cherokees also built larger seven-sided buildings for ceremonial purposes, and each village usually had a lacrosse field with benches for spectators. Many Cherokee villages had palisades (reinforced walls) around them for protection.

What was Cherokee clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Cherokee men wore breechcloths and leggings. Cherokee women wore wraparound skirts and poncho-style blouses made out of woven fiber or deerskin. The Cherokees wore moccasins on their feet. After colonization, Cherokee Indians adapted European costume into a characteristic style, including long braided or beaded jackets, cotton blouses and full skirts decorated with ribbon applique, feathered turbans, and the calico tear dress. 

The Cherokees didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Cherokee men usually shaved their heads except for a single scalplock. Sometimes they would also wear a porcupine roach. Cherokee women always wore their hair long, cutting it only in mourning for a family member. Men decorated their faces and bodies with tribal tattoo art and also painted themselves bright colors in times of war. Cherokee women didn't paint or tattoo themselves.

What was Cherokee transportation like? Did they paddle canoes?

Cherokee Indians made long dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs. Over land, the Cherokees used dogs as pack animals. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.

What was Cherokee food like in the days before supermarkets?


The Cherokees were farming people. Cherokee women harvested crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Cherokee men hunted deer, wild turkeys, and small game and fished in the rivers. Cherokee recipes included cornbread, soups, and stews cooked on stone hearths.

What were Cherokee weapons and tools?

Cherokee hunters used bows and arrows or blowguns to shoot game. Fishermen generally used spears and fishing poles. In war, the Cherokees fired arrows or fought with a melee weapon like a tomahawk or spear.

What are Cherokee arts and crafts?

Traditional Cherokee art included pipe carving, rivercane baskets, gourd art, and pottery. After moving to Oklahoma, the Cherokees couldn't get the materials they used to use for traditional crafts, so they concentrated on other crafts like beadwork and textile arts.

What kinds of stories do the Cherokees tell?

There are many traditional Cherokee legends and fairy tales. Story-telling is very important to the Cherokee Indian culture.

Who are some famous Cherokee Indians?

One of the most famous people in Cherokee history was Sequoyah. Sequoyah was a very brilliant man. Although he did not know how to read or write in any other language, he succeeded in inventing a writing system for Cherokee that is still used today. A famous Cherokee Indian from modern times is Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be Principal Chief of the Cherokee tribe.