The Cherokee Native American Tribe

Sami Brandt & Maddie Anderson

Way of Life

Location

The Cherokee tribes were originally settled in Southwestern Virginia, Western North Carolina, Northwestern South Carolina, Eastern Tenessee, Northern Georgia, and Alabama. These areas were abundant in natural resources. Artifacts have been found that indicate the Cherokees lived there more than 11,000 years
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Homes & Villages


The Cherokee lived in villages that inhabited anywhere from 200-500 people & 30-60 homes. There was also a plaza, town square, & council house where the villagers held meetings. For protection of the village the Cherokee men set up tall poles made of wood to barricade any unwanted visitors. Each family had exactly two homes, one for winter & one for summer, each located in separate villages. The winter homes resembled domes made of wood for the structure, mud for extra insulation, & bark on the outer layer. These cozy bungalow had very unique & colorful interior decor. Several vibrantly colored rugs were draped across the walls along with hand woven baskets. This unique architecture allows the excess smoke from the fire's to escape out the smoke hole (chimney) without letting too much heat out. The summer homes are very different, they have a rectangular form & were usually a great amount bigger. These elongated homes were specifically built to allow cross breezes to be used as conditioners. The roofs were coated with clay & grass for insulation against any harsh storms. All of the homes created by the Cherokee were created by interweaving river cane in circular frame work, & plastering the outside with mud, also known as Wattle & Daub houses.

Writing System

During the early 1800's the Cherokee adopted their government to a written constitution and established courts & schools, which were influenced by the white settlers. Cherokee scholar, Sequoya, invented the Cherokee written language in 1821 having an alphabet that contained 86 characters. This helped the Cherokee nation to become literate within a few years, & in 1828 a Cherokee newspaper, the Phoenix, was published in the native language.

Agriculture

The Cherokee were well known for being one of the most advanced farmers yet with their genius methods such as irrigation & terracing. They had quite a variety of crops that included squash, beans, pumpkins, melon, sunflowers, tobacco, etc, but their primary crop was corn. It was the women's duty to take care of all of the farming, & to make sure that planted enough of everything to provide for the village at least for two years, if needed. After interaction with the European settlers they began to grow peaches, & watermelon gained by trade & by the mid 1700's they expanded their crops to apples from Europe, black-eyed peas from Africa, & sweet potatoes from the Caribbean. This was one of the few ways the European settlements benefited the Natives.

Hunting

Legend said that the Cherokee were some of the most skillful hunters of their time period, & that they could hit a fly from 30 feet away! However, they believed that hunting was strictly to provide for others, & was not to be taken by as a sport. They made sure every part of the animal was put to good use such as a turtle. The mean would be eaten & its hard shell would be used as a rattle to amuse infants with. Their most prized game was the deer because of how many uses it had.

Tools

Wardrobe

Deer skin seemed to be very trendy with the Cherokee's, especially the women who wore deerskin tops, skirts, & moccasins. Men however only wore loincloth ( a single article of cloth wrapped around the hips, usually worn by men in warm seasons) in the summer & added a few extra layers such as leggings, shirts & robes in the winter time.
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Men & Women's Roles

Women had unique roles compared to the traditional American woman, they were allowed to be warriors & to participate in government events. They also had control of the house meaning that she called the shots. The men mostly cut down trees to clear land for farming, & used the wood to build canoes, frames for housing, & the fencing around the village. Men also did the majority of the hunting while the women stayed inside & cooked/ kept the house tidy.

Festivals and Religious Observances

There are five main festivals or religious observances that take place throughout the year. The first is the First New Moon of Spring Festival. This festival is usually held in March. On the first night the Cherokee women performed a friendship dance. On the second day there was a ritual purification with water. On the third day they fasted. On the fourth night they feasted and danced. The next festival was the Green Corn Ceremony. This festival usually took place in late June or early July, depending on when the first corn ripened. The Cherokee did many dances at this festival such as the stomp dance, feather dance, and buffalo dance. Other rituals of this ceremony included fasting, playing stick-ball, sacrificing corn, and feasting. The third festival was the Mature Corn Ceremony. This ceremony was held exactly 45 days after the Green Corn Ceremony. Many dances were performed and a feast was held. There were also cleansing and purifying rituals as well. Then was the Great New Moon festival, held in October. This festival marked the beginning of the Cherokee new Year. There were large feats of meat, corn, pumpkin, beans, and squash. Dances, purification prayers, and offerings, were also performed during this festival. The last festival was the Winter festival. This festival was 10 days after the Great New Moon festival. The purpose of this festival was to forgive old conflicts and start the new year as friends. The stomp dance was the main dance of this festival. Again, feasts were held. At this festival they offered tobacco. Some of the present day Cherokee still carry on the tradition of celebrating this festivals today.

Sami's Reaction

My reaction is that the Cherokee really had everything going for them. They had homes suitable for any season, plenty of natural resources, they even tried to start a government. I I wonder how this tribe would of prospered if not forced out by the European settlers? Now I know why some of the American's felt threatened by them, they had a better system going than us at the time. I just wonder why not learn from them & make peace with them? They could of helped us get to know the land, create more efficient watering systems, & how useful one animal can truly be.

Maddie' s Reaction

The Cherokee were simple people. They lived in villages, farmed, hunted just like the average American did in the 1800s. I can't imagine, one day people invading my neighborhood and forcing us to go elsewhere. Why didn't, us as Americans, take another approach, or negotiate with them. I wonder what it was like traveling a trail when all my friends and family are dying. I would have none of my belongings, everything that was important to me was left in my village that I would never see again.