Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sequoyah and the Cherokee Alphabet

One of the most significant scholarly accomplishments of the 19th century was achieved by a disabled Cherokee warrior working quietly in a crude log cabin near the present city of Fort Payne, Alabama.

Sequoyah, also known by the "white" name of George Gist or Guess, had located to Wills Town, a major Cherokee settlement in Alabama, in 1818. Born in Tennessee in around 1770, he had served with U.S. allied Cherokee forces under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, in 1814.

In the years following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Sequoyah became convinced that the reason white civilization was advancing much more rapidly than that of the various Native American tribes was because the whites had developed a way of communication with each other in writing.

The more he thought about the possibilities of a written Cherokee language, the more Sequoyah decided to make the development of one a personal quest. Despite ridicule from family and friends, he began work on the project. It would take years to complete.

In 1821, however, Sequoyah successfully demonstrated his Cherokee Alphabet. Over the next few years leaders in the nation became convinced of the remarkable nature of his effort and the use of the written Cherokee language spread like wildfire. In 1825 the Cherokee became the first Native American nation to publish their own newspaper in their own language. Sequoyah's alphabet had become the first official written language in Indian history.

To learn more about Sequoyah and his remarkable alphabet, please visit our new Sequoyah pages at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sequoyah.

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