The Cherokee are a group of Native Americans who used to live in the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains. Their territories covered the western parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, the northern parts of Alabama and Georgia, the southwestern part of Virginia, and parts of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Traditionally, the Cherokee were only allowed to marry men and women from other tribes. The men and the women of the tribe were assigned different, but equally important, responsibilities. The men were involved in hunting, diplomacy with other tribes, and war, while the women took care of the family, farming, and properties. The chiefs of the tribe were men and the landowners were women. Activities such as storytelling, arts and crafts, music, and medicine-making were done by both men and women.
A number of ceremonies were performed by the Cherokee for certain occasions, and two of the most important ceremonies were the booger dance ceremony, and the fire ceremony and stomp dance,. The booger dance ceremony was held before members of the tribe go to war. The warriors had to carve masks for themselves and wear them during the ceremony. Then, they would make fun of each other as they performed the booger dance. The masks they wore symbolized their enemies, and they believed that the ritual would weaken the spirit of their enemies. The Cherokee performed the fire ceremony and stomp dance to purify their spirits. During the ceremony, the participants of the stomp dance would dance around the sacred fire, and meat would be thrown into the fire as sacrifice.
The Cherokee language belongs to the Iroquoian family, and it has some similarities with the languages of the Mohawks, Oneida, and Seneca. It is a somewhat complicated language that uses a lot of soft sounds. The Cherokee writing system was developed by Sequoyah around two centuries ago. He used 85 characters to represent all the syllables in the Cherokee language. After he introduced his writing system to the Cherokee people, more than 80% of them learned to read and write in just a few months time.
The Cherokee first came into contact with the Europeans in the year 1540. Hernando de Soto went to the Cherokee country to look for gold, and he captured some Cherokee people and sold them as slaves. This resulted in a serious warfare between the Cherokee and other Indian tribes. Other than warfare, the Europeans also brought epidemics to the Cherokee. Towards the end of the 18th century, half of the Cherokee population was wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.
Around the 1830s, the Cherokee were forced to leave their homelands in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee and relocate to Oklahoma. A total of 17,000 Cherokee people were held at gunpoint by soldiers of the US government, and they were put in prisons and camps before they were marched to reservation camps in Oklahoma. This event became known as the Trail of Tears, and it resulted in the death of about 4,000 Cherokee and people of other tribes.
Today, Cherokee can be found in various parts of the US, but most of them are living in east Oklahoma. There is also a Cherokee reservation in the western part of North Carolina. Other Cherokee territories are located in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas. Many Cherokee have assimilated into the modern American society, but some of them prefer to stay in reservation camps. Throughout the years, the Cherokee have embraced the religion, education, and the way of life of the Americans, and they have contributed significantly to the improvement of many aspects of the American society. There are more than 300,000 Cherokee living in the US today.