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The Cherokee, or (ah-ni-yv-wi-ya) in the Cherokee language, are a people native to North America, who at the time of European contact in the 16th century, inhabited what is now the Eastern United States and Southeastern United States until most were forcefully moved to the Ozark Plateau. They were one of the tribes referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes.


Bands and naming

Nations and Bands recognized by the United States government, and representing 250,000 Federally recognized Cherokees, have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (the Cherokee Nation, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and at Cherokee, North Carolina (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). State-recognized Cherokee tribes have headquarters in Georgia, Missouri and Alabama. Other large and small non-recognized Cherokee organizations are located in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and other locations in the United States.

A 1984 KJRH-TV documentary, "Spirit of the Fire" explored the history of the Keetoowah Nighthawk Society, and their preservation of the traditional ceremonies and rituals practiced and maintained by the Cherokee after their arrival in Oklahoma. Redbird Smith was an influential Nighthawk member and the group revitalized traditional spirituality among Cherokees, beginning in the early 20th century. Today there are seven ceremonial dance grounds in Oklahoma and these either belong to the Keetoowah tradition or the Four Mothers Society.

The spelling "Cherokee" was once believed to be due to the Cherokee language's name, "Tsalagi" (ᏣᎳᎩ) - this then may have been rendered phonetically in Portuguese (or more likely a barranquenho dialect, since de Soto was Extremaduran) as chalaque, then in French as cheraqui, and then by the English as cherokee.

The Cherokee language does not contain any "r" based sounds, and as such, the word "Cherokee" when spoken in the language is expressed as Tsa-la-gi (pronounced Jah-la-gee or Cha-la-gee) by native speakers, since these sounds most closely resemble "Cherokee" in the native language. A Southern Cherokee group did speak a local dialect with a trilled "r" sound after early contact with Europeans of both French and Spanish ancestry in Georgia and Alabama during the early 1700s. The ancient Ah-ni-ku-ta-ni dialect and Oklahoma dialects do not contain any 'r' based sounds.

The word "Cherokee" is a derived word which came originally from the Choctaw trade language. It was derived from the Choctaw word "Cha-la-kee" which means "those who live in the mountains" or "those who live in the caves." The name which the Cherokees originally used for themselves is Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya (literal translation "these are all the human people"). Most native American tribes have a name for themselves which means approximately this. However, modern Cherokee call themselves Cherokee, or Tsalagi.

Language and writing system

Main article: Cherokee language
SequoyahThe Cherokee speak an Iroquoian language which is polysynthetic and is written in a syllabary invented by Sequoyah. It is now believed that a more ancient Syllabary that predated Sequoyah and may have inspired his great work for the Cherokee people was handed down through the Ani Kutani, an ancient priesthood of the Cherokee people.

For years, many people wrote transliterated Cherokee on the Internet or used poorly intercompatible fonts to type out the syllabary. However, since the fairly recent addition of the Cherokee syllables to Unicode, the Cherokee language is experiencing a renaissance in its use on the Internet. It should be noted, however, that as of June 2006 the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma still officially uses a non-unicode font for online documents, including online editions of the Cherokee Phoenix.



Other History links

John Ross Gold Rush The Legend of the Cherokee Rose
The Legend of the Red Cedar Tree Trail of Tears