The Cherokee culture is one of the most diverse cultures the world has known. These indigenous Native Americans came from the southern Appalachian Mountains, together with western North and South Carolina, southwest Virginia, northern Georgia and Alabama and the Cumberland Basin of northern Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Presently Cherokees dwell in eastern Oklahoma while some are also living in North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and Georgia.
The Cherokee community was an agrarian community who heavily relied on corn, beans and squash. They were also into hunting and gathering wild plants. They lived in settled villages of houses, which had a circular structure made up of branches and plastered with mud.
However, Cherokee culture underwent a major transformation under the influence of the white culture of the Native American People both on the political and cultural front. After gold was discovered on Cherokee land in northern Georgia, The Indian Removal Act was introduced in Congress in 1829. As a result thousands of Cherokee were forced to leave their land.
The creation of written language by Sequoyah in 1821 was a great landmark in Cherokee history. Moreover, The Phoenix, a Cherokee newspaper was also published in February 1828. In the recent past, Cherokee people converse in English as well as their native Cherokee language.
The Cherokee Indian tribe was separated into seven matrilineal clans, which were isolated in war and peace. Interestingly, leadership roles like the "red" chiefs during war and "white" chiefs in times of peace were considered.
Cherokee people participated in different social and religious dances, which evolved with the passage of time as a consequence of contact with other cultures. Although some of these traditional dances have become obscure in today’s time many are now still being performed and practiced. Cherokee dances were categorized mainly into two types viz. social dances and religious dances. The latter dance form included pre-selected dancers who exhibited tough choreography and steps and at least one social dance at the end of the ceremonies.
The Cherokee people used bows, arrows and blowguns whilst hunting and in wars these men either fought with bows and arrows or with tomahawks and spears. The fishermen on the other hand used fishing poles and spears.
One of the most striking things about the Cherokee people is that they were specialized in craftsmanship like gourd art, pottery, rivercane baskets and pipe carving. However, after they moved Oklahoma they concentrated on beadwork and textile arts.
Speaking of Cherokee clothing what we find is that the men wore breechcloths with leather pant legs while the women wore wraparound skirts and poncho-style blouses. But both wore moccasins on their feet. The men unlike the women tattooed and painted their faces and bodies. They either preferred to cut their hair in the Mohawk style or shaved it entirely whereas the women had long hair.
These people have indeed overcome the test of time as some still hold the rich traditions of Cherokee culture.
Joseph Paige © 2006