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Cherokee Indians

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The Cherokee Indians were one of the civilized tribes in the United States. They were located in the southeastern part of the U.S. This includes the western parts of North and South Carolina, The northern parts of Alabama and Georgia, Southwest Virginia and the Cumberland basin of Tennessee. It appears the Cherokee settled in 1000 A.D. to 1500 A.D. Their development took place in to stages or phases. The Pisgah which took place 1300 A.D. to 1540 A.D. and the Qualla which took place 1540 A.D. to 1750 A.D. The first period was primitive and the second was influenced by European contact. They were a large tribe that was part of the Iroquian language group even though their language is very different. Despite this the Cherokee developed written language due to contact with the white men. They were very interested in learning the white men ways. Although there is a lot written about the Cherokee and Europeans, the focus here will be Cherokee life including daily life, marriage, government, and war.

Cherokee villages consisted of groups of relatives that included members of at least four clans. They grew crops outside their villages. There were also some fields inside the villages. Each family had a marked section of the field. Both men and women helped in farming every section. As with many tribes the men were responsible for hunting, fishing, building houses and council lodges, made important decisions, performed religious ceremonies, trained young boys and defended the village. The Cherokee women were responsible for the home, raising the children, helping in the fields, preparing and gathering food, washing and making clothes, and making baskets and pottery. Even though The Cherokee were a matrilineal society only certain women were allowed to have input in council decisions.

The Cherokee had many rules and regulations to live by and since they have a strong sense of tradition these rules were not challenged until they came into contact with the European. An example would be women were not allowed to marry until they had their first menstruation. During a young woman’s menstruation she is separated from her family and taken to a special place outside of the village where she stays for seven days. No one is allowed to touch her because she is believed to be unclean. Even she can not touch her own food therefore another woman feeds her. After seven days, she washes her clothing, body, and anything else she has touched during the seven days and then returns home. Now she is allowed to marry.

Marriage is looked at as a life long venture. If a man wants to marry a certain woman he has to ask both his and her parents for their permission. If both parents agree then a priest is told. On the morning of the ceremony the priest prays asking for a sign as to whether a couple should marry or not. To get the sign that he is looking for he holds two roots in his hand. If the roots moved together in his hand then it was O.K for a couple to marry. But if the roots did not move or moved together and one died then the marriage would be forbidden. When the roots came together with no problem, the ceremony went on. The priest prayed over the couple and warned them about being unfaithful because if they did then they would go to a “bad place” when they died.1 Divorce did happen but was a rare occurrence. All that had to be done was the dividing of blankets. Priests were allowed to marry but the woman had to be of utmost character. She must be a virgin. She could not be a widow or divorced. Also this marriage has to be approved by seven counselors. Once a couple is married then they can focus on having children.

When a woman learns that she is pregnant she tells her husband whom then goes and builds her a place for her last three months of pregnancy. Men were not allowed to be present at the birth of a child unless he was a priest who was invited to pray over the mother while she was in labor. The Cherokee mother has her baby by kneeling on a robe with her legs spread apart. When the child was delivered she usually landed on her back but sometimes on her chest. If this happens the child is immediately wrapped in a cloth and put in a creek or river. Once the cloth has unraveled from around the child it is rescued form the water. It is believed any bad fortune was taken away with the cloth that has floated away. After the birth the father or the closest relative buried the placenta. A day or so after the birth the naming ceremony took place. A woman elder gave the child a name. Names were usually based on the child’s resemblance to an object, on something that happened during or after the birth or an unusual trait a child has. Later in life the name is changed to something that describes the person. They take this name to their grave.

Death holds some strong traditions. When a father is dying, he calls to his children to gather around him. At this time he gives them advice, life

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