The Cherokee Indians

The Cherokee Indians The Cherokee Indians were one of the four civilized tribes in the United States during colonial times. The Cherokee people were interested in the white men and their ways, and even using some of the new mens ways. The Cherokee played an important role in Colonial American history with help from Sequoyah and learning the ways of white men. The Cherokee were originally located in the southeast United States. This area included: the western sides of the Carolinas, the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama, southwest Virginia, and the Cumberland Basin.

Around 1781 the Cherokee population was around 25,000. They had just lost around half of their population due to smallpox and other diseases. The population remained stable at 25,000 until the late 1830s when the Cherokee were forced to move to Oklahoma(Sultzman). On their way to Oklahoma many of the Cherokee committed suicide or died of hunger causing the population to drop again(Brandon 227). The Cherokee lived in towns of 30 to 60 houses and a large council house(Sultzman).

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The houses in the towns were not very large, only being one, two, or three room homes. Most of the homes were one story high, but a two-story house was not uncommon. The houses were built by the men and took a long time to build. The men began in early spring to get the boards from trees. When summer came around the men stopped with the houses and turned to planting crops and welfare.

As fall arrived the men began to actually put the houses together. Often men from other towns came to help. Since the houses were so small they did not have much room for furniture. The little furniture that they did have was stools, storage chests, and three-foot-high beds. The beds were located in the back and sides of the house.

The beds had white-oak foundations and mattresses covered with bear, buffalo, mountain-lion, elk, and deerskins, dressed with the hair on. Just outside the front door of each house was a small sweat house. This is where a fire was constantly kept burning. These were used to purify themselves for religious purposes and to cure diseases(Mails 51, 54). The Cherokee were primarily an agricultural people.

Corn was their most important crop. Corn was so important to them they had a ceremony when the corn began to get ripe in hopes that the corn would continue to grow well. Other crops planted were beans, squash, and sunflowers. They also hunted. The main two animals that were hunted were white-tailed deer and wild turkey.

Other animals that were hunted are bear, quail, rabbit, and squirrel(Brown 63). Hunting trips in the towns were very serious. Only the men who were fully cleansed and fit were allowed to go on the hunt. When the men needed to go on a hunt they had to go get the priests authority. For the priest to give the permission to the hunt the men must not just be fit and cleansed, but the town must also need meat and/or animal skins.

The Cherokee would never be wasteful(Mails 59). All of the Cherokees weapons and tools were made themselves from plants, animals, and other natural things such as rocks and minerals. This lasted until tools and weapons were available from the white men. The most commonly used weapon was the bow and arrow. Other weapons were the stone ax and club.

Many of the children had blowguns for toys as well as a weapon. The Cherokee children were not allowed to go on the large hunts, but only by themselves(Brown 51). These weapons were still used after guns were available in many towns. Some areas, however, were heavily hunted by the white men and the amount of game on some of the Cherokee land was reduced. In these areas guns were used instead of the traditional weapons(Sultzman 2). Men who did not hold special rank or position wore belted skin robes fashioned from the hides of bear, deer, otter, beaver, and mountain lion.

In the winter they also wore moccasins made of beaver skins. All of the men except some priests shaved all of their heads leaving only a small roachlike section. The women wore short and sleeveless deerskin dresses which were sewn together with fishbone needles. The dresses belted at the waist. The women were also allowed to weave beads and feathers into the dresses. They also wore deerskin moccasins that were like half boots.

The younger children wore nothing during the summer months, and only skin robes and fur-lined moccasins in the winter. Older children wore cloth or animal-skin skirts(Mails 47-9). The Cherokee traveled quite a bit to other towns to trade. They traveled by streams or rivers in clay-out canoes. The canoes were thirty to forty feet long and about two feet wide.

Fifteen to twenty men could travel in the canoes. The girls leaned from their mother and the boys learned from their mothers brother. The girls and boys both learned the same things: agriculture, hunting, fishing, handicrafts, and household work. They also learned social skills: speech, etiquette, clan obligations, traditional beliefs, and history. Children learned from their mother or mothers brother until the early 1800s when several schools were established for the Cherokee children.

The idea of schools came from the white men. The schools taught the children to read and write the new written language that Sequoyah had just invented. They also learned what their mother or mothers brother would have taught them(Brown 65, 28, 31). The most common game was anesta, a stick-ball game. This game was often used to settle disputes.

The field was two to three hundred yards long. Two stakes were set up at each end to throw the ball through. The ball could only be touched by the stick and not the hands. There were no rules against how the ball got through the post such as hitting, kicking, or biting the other players. Other games played were a football type game and tug of war.

Bets were always placed on the games so winning was always important. In these two games it …