CCD   HISTORY 201 - History of United States 1


Sequoyah(a.k.a George Gist)
Born: 1776 near Tuskeegee, Tennessee
Died: 1843, near Tyler, Texas.

Developed the Cherokee alphabet

Near the town of Tanasee, and not far from the almost mythical town of Chote lies Taskigi(Tuskeegee), home of Sequoyah. In this peaceful valley setting Wut-teh, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief married Nathaniel Gist, a Virginia fur trader. The warrior Sequoyah was born of this union in 1776.

Probably born handicapped, and thus the name Sequoyah (Sikwo-yi is Cherokee for "pig's foot"), Sequoyah fled Tennessee as a youth because of the encroachment of whites. He initially moved to Georgia, where he acquired skills working with silver. While in the state, a man who purchased one of his works suggested that he sign his work, like the white silversmiths had begun to do. Sequoyah considered the idea and since he did not know how to write he visited Charles Hicks, a wealthy farmer in the area who wrote English. Hicks showed Sequoyah how to spell his name, writing the letters on a piece of paper. Sequoyah began to toy with the idea of a Cherokee writing system that year(1809).

He moved to Willstown, Alabama, and enlisted in the Cherokee Regiment, fighting in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, which effectively ended the war against the Creek Redsticks.

During the war, he became convinced of the necessity of literacy for his people. He and other Cherokees were unable to write letters home, read military orders, or record events as they occurred. After the war, he began in earnest to create a writing system.

Using a phonetic system, where each sound made in speech was represented by a symbol, he created "Talking Leaves", 85 letters that make up the Cherokee alphabet. His little girl Ayoka easily learned this method of communication. He demonstrated his syllabary to his cousin, George Lowrey, who was impressed. A short time later in a Cherokee Court in Chattooga, he read an argument about a boundary line from a sheet of paper. Word spread quickly of Sequoyah's invention. In 1821, 12 years after the original idea, the Cherokee Nation adopted Sequoyah's alphabet as their own. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate