Sequoyah and the Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

Sequoyah and the Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

Sequoyah and the Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

Sequoyah and the Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

Synopsis

Through a unique combination of narrative history and primary documents, this book provides an engrossing biography of Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee writing system, and clearly documents the importance of written language in the preservation of culture.

Excerpt

When someone thinks of famous Native American figures in history, several names come to mind—Pocahontas, Squanto, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse to name a few. Another name perhaps less familiar but still recognizable is Sequoyah. the story of this Cherokee man who invented a writing system for his native language is filled with myth and legend. Documents do exist proving he lived, invented, and taught his syllabary to his fellow Cherokee during the years just before and after the removal of the Cherokee to the west along the Trail of Tears. There is also plenty of evidence that his writing system was used extensively among Cherokee speakers during the 19th century and that it is still taught today in Cherokee schools. Few people now speak the language or write it with Sequoyah’s syllabary, but efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to revitalize native languages have increased its usage. Road signs and other markers in Cherokee country, both east and west, use the syllabary and celebrate its native origin. Syllabary charts are prominently displayed in classrooms and on bulletin boards and illustrate how to use it.

There is, however, much that will never be known about the life of the man who invented this unique type of writing system. Sequoyah did not leave behind letters, memoirs, or other important pieces of evidence. They may have existed, and some still claim to have documents written by Sequoyah, but their authenticity is impossible to prove. What one can know about his life is brief but surrounded by a colorful and often dramatic story of his people during a traumatic time in their history. in order to understand both the man and his amazing contribution to Cherokee culture, one must learn a little of the history of the entire nation. the story in this volume is partly a biography but also an overview of Cherokee history and a discussion of Cherokee culture, specifically in relationship to language.

In order to understand why it was important that the Cherokee have a system of writing, one must recognize the role stories played and still play in the culture. Wrapped up in the many stories handed down over the . . .

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