In the precontact period, the Cherokee were one of the most powerful and skilled groups in North America. In the sixteenth century the Cherokee were established in the Eastern Woodlands with a highly developed agricultural culture. A 1750 smallpox epidemic devastated their society, killing almost half of their members. In the nineteenth century, they established themselves as the Cherokee Nation, but their forced remove in 1838--along what came to be known as "the trail of tears"--again destroyed thousands of lives. After settling in Oklahoma the Cherokee reestablished themselves as a noted tribal culture.
The two Cherokee narratives included here reflect cultural expectations of women. The Ignorant Housekeeper suggests similarities in gender expectations that cross Native and Euro-American cultures and was probably intended as a cautionary tale, while The Wren and the Cricket distinguishes between the sexes' actions but also captures traditional concerns about the relationship between the Cherokees and the natural world.
An old man whose wife had died lived alone with his son. One day he said to the young man, "We need a cook here, so you had better get married." So the young man got a wife and brought her home. Then his father said, "Now we must work together and do all we can to help her. You go hunting and bring in the meat and I'll look after the corn and beans, and then she can cook."
The young man went into the woods to took for a deer and his father went out into the field to attend to the corn. When they came home at night they