If You Lived With the Cherokee (If You)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. Where did the Cherokee live?
In the Great Smoky Mountains. Long ago, the Cherokee migrated to the Great Smoky Mountains from the Northeast, home of the Iroquois-speaking tribes: the Huron, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk Nations. Did you know the Cherokee call themselves Aniyunwiya, meaning "The Principal People?" They had a summer and a winter house. Their summer home was made of either logs or small trees and stalks of switch grass with a deerskin door. Their winter home, or asi, was round with a thatched roof made of reeds shaped like a cone and thick mud walls to keep it warm. There were sixty to eighty Cherokee villages along the rivers in Cherokee country. Each village had a dozen households and 200 to 400 or more people. The villages had a tall wall of pointed wooden posts surrounding them to keep out wild animals and enemies.

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2. What did the Cherokee wear?
Deerskin shirts and skirts, breechclouts, leggings, moccasins, armbands, and jewelry. The Cherokee clothes were made from animal skins. In the summer, young children did not wear clothes. Men wore deerskin shirts and breechclouts (a band of deerskin that hung from a belt at the waist). Women wore deerskin skirts wrapped around their waists. In the winter, men wore animal skins, moccasins, and long deerskin leggings. Women wore skirts and shirts decorated with small turkey feathers. Also, men wore armbands, and women wore jewelry around their necks, wrists, and ankles. Their clothes were decorated with shell beads, stone disks, porcupine quills, feathers, and animal hair. The Cherokee had black straight hair. Women rarely cut their hair because long hair was beautiful hair to the Cherokee, and men plucked or shaved their hair so only a small patch was left on top.

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3. Did the Cherokee hunt and fish or grow crops?
Both. The men and boys hunted (deer, bear, elk, buffalo, squirrels, birds, frogs) and fished (fish, mussels, and crayfish). They used bows and arrows to hunt large game and blowguns and darts to hunt smaller animals. They used bone hooks or box traps to fish. The women planted and harvested the big village cornfield in a valley. In addition, each family had their own garden. They ate beans, pumpkins, squash, sunflower seeds, plums, grapes, berries, mushrooms, wild greens, persimmons, nuts, and wild potatoes.

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4. Who were the chiefs of the Cherokee village?
The White Chief (Peace Chief) and the Red Chief (War Chief). The White Chief helped with religious ceremonies and made sure people got along. He dressed in white deerskins, was known for his bravery and wisdom, and had seven men to help him rule, one from each clan (Bird, Wolf, Deer, Wild Potato, Long Hair, Blue, and Paint). The Red Chief was in charge only in times of war. He wore red clothes, had skills of a leader and warrior, and also had seven clan members help him. War Women or Beloved Women helped the Red Chief plan when to attack an enemy. Other leaders were headmen who helped the chiefs make decisions, make laws, and conduct religious ceremonies and a priest who talked for hours about the correct spiritual way to live.

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5. Did the Cherokee have festivals?
Yes. Festivals celebrated important seasonal events. The First New Moon of Spring was celebrated in March. The Green Corn Dance was in August when the young corn was ready for tasting. The Ripe Corn Ceremony was held in September when the corn was harvested. The Friendship Ceremony, or Atohuna, was held in the fall to forget grudges and build friendships. It was a time to begin a new year with new things and new feelings. Atohuna lasted seven days and nights with dances every night. The Chief Dance was a festival held every seven years.

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6. What does Nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi mean?
"The Place Where They Cried" and is also known as the Trail of Tears. In 1838, the Cherokee were told by the U.S. government to move to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee refused to move and took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court where they won. However, a new law was passed which forced the Cherokee to move to the Indian Territory anyway. Eight thousand Cherokee went by boat. Another 17,000 Cherokee walked to the Indian Territory. They were hungry and thirsty. One out of four Cherokee did not survive the journey west, and over 4,000 Cherokee died along this trail called Nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi or the Trail of Tears. Some Cherokee did not move west and hid in the mountains. Did you know today they are called the Eastern Band and live in the Qualla Boundary in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina? (Read more about the Eastern Band in the PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY Report #11 by Sacagawea).

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Aniyunwiya: What the Cherokee call themselves meaning "the Principal People"

Switch Grass: Tall, bamboo-like cane grass that grows near the river

Dugout Canoe: A canoe made from one log, hollowed out by fire, and shaped to a point at each end

Yowa: The Great Spirit

Atohuna: The Friendship Ceremony which takes place in the fall to forget grudges and build friendships

Anesta: Stick ball, a major Cherokee sport

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. What is the Cherokee Syllabary?
An alphabet made up of sets of syllables rather than letters. Sequoya, a Cherokee chief, created the Cherokee Syllabary in 1821. Sequoya got the idea to create this syllabary after he saw the new settlers had papers with writing on them. The papers rustled like leaves and "talked" to people through written language. Sequoya called them "talking leaves" and thought the Cherokee must have talking leaves, too. For twelve years, Sequoya and his daughter, Ahyoka, worked on the syllabary. They made a symbol for each Cherokee sound. The Cherokee Syllabary has eighty-five characters. Once a person learned the characters, they could write anything in the Cherokee language. Many Cherokee learned to read and write in only a few days. Did you know Sequoya and Ahyoka were the first people to create a written language all by themselves? Did you know the sequoia tree is named in Sequoya's honor?

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b. Where do the Cherokee live today?
There are over 186,000 Cherokee living today. This is the second-largest group of Native Americans in the United States, after the Navaho. Most Cherokee live in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. A smaller group, known as the Eastern Band, live on a tiny part of the same land where their ancestors lived in the Great Smoky Mountains. (For more information, go to PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY Report #11 by Sacagawea.) Both bands of the Cherokee have their own schools, businesses, museums telling the story of its band, and a Cherokee village built in the same way as the villages of their ancestors. Both perform summer plays telling their history. The Eastern Cherokee perform Unto These Hills, and the Western Cherokee perform Trail of Tears. The town of Tahlequah in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, is the capital of the Cherokee Nation, and it is where the Cherokee government meets. Many streets in Tahlequah are named for Native American tribes such as Cherokee Avenue, Delaware Street, Shawnee Street, Chickasaw Street, and Choctaw Street. The street signs are in both Cherokee and English.

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c. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
Aniyunwiya is another word to describe the Cherokee.

My sister wasn't able to find me when I hid from her in the switch grass.

I like to go for a ride in my dugout canoe.

The Cherokee believe in one Great Spirit called Yowa.

I forgave my best friend for eating the last cupcake at the Atohuna Ceremony.

My friends and I played anesta during the summer.

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d. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the Cherokee:
PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY Report #11
The Official Site of the Cherokee Nation (Tahlequah, Oklahoma)
The Official Home Page of the Eastern Band of Cherokee (NC)
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Sequoyah Birthplace Museum (Vonore, Tennessee)

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