The Cherokee Native Americans
|Ethnography, Native American, 🗽 American Culture, 🕋 Ethnicity
Table of Contents
The Cherokee are an Iroquoian-speaking people. They originate prehistorically from the Great Lakes region, migrating all the way to territories in the south that have now come to encompass the American country. The earliest recordings that are available on the Cherokee are outlined by the Spanish adventurists from the 18th century who wrote about the different types of Native American tribes, describing them as the Iroquois (Confer, 2017). The Cherokee are an indigenous group to the continent of America having lived on the continent for thousands of years according to oral traditions passed from the elders of the tribe to early researchers in the 19th century. Thus, before the advent of the invaders into their territories, the Cherokee inhabited vast territories, they lived in South West North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia (Confer, 2017). Towards the end of 17th Century, the advent of the Europeans witnessed the intrusion of the first European person into the tribe. This person is widely believed to be Cornelius Dority who was a Virginian Trader in tobacco, sugar and other items in 1690. The Cherokee now sold the traders who existed within their territories Indian Slaves for labor in Virginia after raiding their enemies. The Cherokee is one of the five largest Native American groups that exist within the society today and are federally recognized as the Cherokee Nation, the Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina (Confer, 2017). The culture of the Cherokee people and their assimilation that emanated from the advent of the Europeans into North America remains a great and educative subject of analysis as the subsequent research paper illustrates.
The tribe is traditionally a matrilineal society that entails favoritism towards the maternal side of the Tribe. It contained Women elders, and most of the decisions of the tribe were mainly conducted after the approval of women. Marriage as an example was an advantageous union towards the wife’s family and as such, homes were built closer to the woman’s family with the man coming from his clan to live near his in laws. Furthermore, the culture of the Cherokee allowed women freedom to obtain divorces from their husbands as the line of success depended upon her allowing this to occur (Dwyer, Birchfield & Birchfield, 2012). This means that the Cherokee can be considered as some of the earliest proponents of Feminism. The Cherokee comprise of seven clans in total, and people were not allowed to marry a person from the same clan as it was forbidden to ensure diversity within the tribe.
The Cherokee greatly believed in the existence of a higher power. Their religion was based on Nature through the embracing of Animals. These Animals were observed as deities and special emissaries between the tribe and their ancestors. An example of this belief system is witnessed through the existence of animals and various creatures as religious symbolism and practice. The Cherokee had six traditional practices throughout the year for religious observance. The First New Moon Festival symbolized spring, The Green Corn Festival symbolized corn eating and its sacrifice, The Mature Green Corn was a cleansing and purifying ceremony, The Great New Moon Festival symbolized, the New Year. Days after this festival, another was held to get rid of the bad blood amongst the people and the last festival; the winter festival outlined the beginning of winter (Dwyer, Birchfield & Birchfield, 2012). Economically, the tribe as earlier stated was set on agriculture and trade. They grew various crops such as corn, peas, and potatoes as well as in livestock. The Cherokee further believed in the conducting of the slave trade from the tribes they conquered.
After the advent of the Europeans in America, the Cherokee slowly integrated into the new beliefs and ways of the people. The Europeans began grabbing land from the native people living in the area. They forced treaties and various agreements that pushed natives from their land to native territories around the country. After the trail of tears occurred, where the natives went to war with the Europeans over territory and lost, the Cherokee were moved to reserves in the territory of Oklahoma in the 1830’s. This region was preserved as an autonomous region until it joined the United States Union later (La Vere, 2017).
As a result of the advent of the Europeans, the Cherokee adopted some of their Culture and philosophy. They allowed for various religious beliefs to infiltrate their cultures, such as Protestantism and Catholic Belief System. They did this while still maintaining the essential parts of their culture to exist next to the white people peacefully. Furthermore, their language which is hard to understand by the European Speakers was transcribed by a Cherokee named Sequoyah. This allowed for the introduction of literacy into the tribe because the Cherokee children could now learn just like the Europeans. This eventually culminated in the publishing of a newspaper in the language known as The Phoenix. In addition to this, the Cherokee became more organized and politically aware because of the European invasion of their land. In 1827, they declared a capital city in Georgia, known as New Echota (Maymi, 2013)..
Conclusively, as a result of the vastness of their size as a tribe, they fought against encroachment and created their written constitution that allowed the legislature, executive, and judiciary, thus adopting European methods of governance The Cherokee are thus an indigenous group that adopted the modern ways of their European invaders into their land. As a result, become part of modern America through intermarriage with the European and other tribes becoming diversified.
- Confer, C. W. (2017). Demanding the Cherokee nation: Indian autonomy and American culture, 1830–1900. Pacific Historical Review, 86(2), 362.
- Dwyer, H., Birchfield, D. L., & Birchfield, D. L. (2012). Cherokee history and culture. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub.
- La Vere, D. (2017). The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity. Ethnohistory 64(1): 154-155
- Maymí, M. A. (2013). Becoming Indian: The struggle over Cherokee identity in the twenty-first century. American Indian Quarterly, 37(1-2), 269-272.