The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum
The Sequoya Birthplace Museum strives to give understanding and appreciation to the history of the Eastern Tennessee Cherokee Indians through their exhibits. 1. Sequoyah, who the museum was named after, was a Cherokee Indian whose mother was full-blooded Cherokee. A single mother raised Sequoya, as his father was absent and his identity has been debated historically. He was born in 1770 in Tuskegee (near today’s Knoxville, TN) and died in Mexico. His exact burial is unknown. He had seven children.
Backstory and Context
Although Sequoyah never attended school, he was an intelligent child and worked on a farm and with his mother. She ran a trading post. At some point in his life, he became disabled and it prevented him from successfully becoming a warrier.2
Though Sequoyah was not known as a great warrior, he was known for his remarkable creation of a written language. He worked for 12 years, beginning in 1809, creating a written language of the Cherokee spoken language so that the Cherokee people could have literacy. The date is historically debated. 3. He used 86 characters that represented syllables. He taught his daughter the language and the two together displayed to the Cherokee people how the written language worked. Although it took 12 years to create, the Cherokee Nation adopted the writing system of Sequoyah in 1825 and began publishing the Cherokee Phoenix by 1834. Translations of Cherokee Laws and Bibles were some of the achievements that followed the creation of this written language. 4
In 1838 “Sequoya walked with his people in the Trail of Tears.”5 The Trail of Tears is the pathway in which the Native American Indians traveled when forced to relocate from their homes east of the Mississippi after the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The forced journey using over 2,200 miles of trail, was long and brought death to many people. Unable to have basic-necessities such as adequate clothing, shelter, and food, the Native American Indians suffered great death. Some people were even without shoes and the harsh winter weather took its toll killing thousands of people, especially the elderly, sick, and the young.
President Andrew Jackson led the Trail of Tears Indian removal and relocation. He used negative propaganda to empower this historical tragedy. Included in this Clio is a photo of such propaganda. There were as many as 45,000 people relocated and they were not of only one tribe or of one state. The Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced against their will to leave their homelands which were lands that were carved by the wings of a bird.6
During the Trail of Tears journey, the Native American people left behind their homes and the only life they knew. They also had to leave behind their source of traditional medicine. This contributed to their deaths as well. Some estimate that there was a loss of as many as 6000 Cherokee alone. Along with the other mentioned tribes, there were also other people included in these relocations, such as “European Americans and African Americans.”7
In 1831 the Choctaw were the first Native Americans forced to relocate. The other tribes followed from 1831 to around 1837. The Choctaw Indians described the relocation with the phrase “Trail of Tears.” 8
Sequoya’s name lives on through a wealth of clubs, research centers, museum, and other places that bear this legendary name.