The Cherokee Indians were a very large Native American tribe that originally settled in the southeast portions of the United States. They settled in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee after migrating south from the Great Lakes region. The word Cherokee translates into "those who live in the mountains".
The Cherokee were able to learn to read and write thanks to a brilliant scholar named Sequoyah. He is the only documented Native American to successfully create a writing system for his tribe. The alphabet he created allowed the Cherokee people to become literate in a language all their own.
Over 4,000 Cherokee men and women died in the 1800's when President Andrew Jackson forced them to leave their homelands and relocate to Oklahoma. He had the U.S.army march them there during the cold winter months and many suffered from starvation, disease, and hypothermia. This is known as the Trail of Tears.
The men and women both had distinct yet equal roles. The men would hunt, fight when necessary, and make political decisions while the women would farm, tend to the children and the property and make social decisions on behalf of the clan. Only the men could become war chiefs yet the women were the landowners and could also become peace chiefs.
Cherokee men did not wear much other then simple loin cloths made of deer hide in the warm summer months along with moccasins on their feet. In the cooler weather, they added to fur to their moccasins and wore deer skin shirts and leggings, and fur robes and hats.
Cherokee women usually wore short deer skin skirts or "tear" dresses and loose blouses in the warm months and like the men, they wore fur or animal hide robes that were sometimes decorated with jewelry and feathers to indicate their status.
Once cloth was introduced by the Europeans, cotton blouses and skirts became popular, especially the well-known ribbon blouse.
Primitive Cherokee men and women were primarily hunters and gatherers. The men hunted deer, foul, and small forest animals. Later on fishing became a secondary source of food. The women harvested beans, corn, squash, pumpkins, and other wild food items.
The Cherokee became expert weapon makers in an effort to protect them selves from other tribes and eventually the white man.
Hunting weapons of choice included bows and arrows, blowguns (some of which could be as long as nine feet), clubs made out of stone, and spears.
Fighting weapons included arrows, tomahawks (made and used with enough accuracy to split a coconut tree from 30 feet away), and later on axes and guns.
Tools used in daily life were stone adzes or hand axes, hoes, various knives, shovels, wooden rakes and fish hooks made from bone and sticks.
This particular tribe was and still is well-known for their talented artwork. One such example is the Cherokee Star Quilts. These quilts are made from many different torn pieces of cloth that have been sewn together.
The Cherokee also made clay pots, carved pipes, wooden canoes, clothing, river cane baskets, bead jewelry, soapstone carvings, elaborate dance masks and rattles, and double wall baskets. The baskets were another Cherokee specialty. They would often dye them early on with black walnut and blood root. They were later able to add other colors by using butternut, wild berries, and yellow root.
Cherokee houses resembled an upside down basket. They were solidly constructed, made of river cane and interwoven branches and plastered with mud. They had thatched roofs and the entire dwelling was a bit sunken into the ground.
There were usually anywhere from 30 to 60 of these dwellings in a village.
In later periods the Cherokee built log cabins with bark roofs.