Cherokee Tribe

Cherokee Native Indian

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Cherokee Native Indian Tribe of the Southeast cultural group.

The Cherokee Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Cherokee were a large and powerful tribe who originally moved from the Great Lakes region to the southern Appalachian Mountains and lived in a massive area now distributed among the states of western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia, southwest Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Alabama Alabama, Mississippi, and the west of Florida. The Cherokee people were hunters and farmers who grew the staple crops of corn, beans and squash.

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Facts about the Cherokee Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Cherokee Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Cherokee tribe live, what clothes did they wear and what food did they eat? Discover what happened to the Cherokee tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Cherokee tribe speak?
The Cherokee tribe spoke in the spoke in their own dialect of the Iroquian language family, unlike the other 'five civilised tribes who spoke in the Muskogean language. The name Cherokee, derives from the Creek word "Chelokee" meaning "people of a different speech." In their own language the Cherokee originally called themselves the "Aniyunwiya" meaning the "principal people". The Cherokee were also referred to as the 'Tsalagi', meaning the "cave people". Their chief divisions were established in settlements around the head-waters of the Tennessee  and Savannah rivers, and were distinguished as the

  • Elati Tsalagi or Lower Cherokee meaning those in the plains
  • Atali Tsalagi or Upper Cherokees meaning those on the mountains

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Cherokee tribe?
The Cherokee tribe were unlike the other 'civilised tribes' not only in language but also in their ancient history. The Cherokee originated in the north and gradually moved southwards establishing settlements across the regions once inhabited by the Mississippian culture of mound builders.  In all other respects the Cherokee assumed the same lifestyle as other tribes of the southeast region. They established a vast number of fortified towns consisting of 30 - 80 wattle and daub houses together with a large meeting house. The people were both hunters and farmers. They raised the "three sisters" crops of corn (maize), beans and squash and celebrated the Busk, or Green Corn festival. The Europeans brought devastating unknown diseases and wars to the people. The newcomers also brought many new ideas and the Cherokee adopted American-style clothes and log cabin styles of houses. In 1821
Sequoyah aka George Gist (c. 1770 - 1843) invented the Cherokee Alphabet, using symbols for letters. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to the forced removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears.

The Five Civilised Tribes and the Trail of Tears
Following the War of Independence the 'civilizing programs' began. The Cherokee tribe became known as one of the Five Civilised Tribes who also included the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminoles tribes. The culture and social structure of the Cherokee people included a judiciary system, a written constitution, two legislative chambers and a public school system. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by Andrew Jackson, started the removal of the Five Civilised tribes, including the Cherokee, along the infamous Trail of Tears from their homelands to reservations in Oklahoma. Nearly 4000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears from malnutrition, disease  and exposure. The Cherokee refer to the journey as 'Nunna daul Isunyi' which translates to “The Trail Where They Cried”. For additional information refer to the Trail of Tears Facts and the Trail of Tears Map.

Picture of the Cherokee
The above picture depicts Col-lee, who was a a Band Chief of the Cherokee. It was painted by the famous artist George Catlin (1796-1872) at Fort Gibson in 1834. The chief wore a blue colored matchcoat over a white shirt. He also wore decorative red sash around his waist. His turban style headdress was worn by many of the southeastern tribes and made with strips of calico cloth wrapped around his head like a headband or turban.

Map showing location of Southeast Native American Tribes - Cherokee tribe

Map showing location of the
Southeast Native American Tribes

Where did the Cherokee tribe live?
The Cherokee are people of the Southeast Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Cherokee tribe.

  • The Southeast region extended mainly across the states of Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida
  • Land: River Valleys, mountains and swamps
  • Climate: The climate was hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter
  • Animals: The  animals included rabbit, wild hog, turkey, opossum, raccoon, squirrel and deer
  • Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn, beans, squash
  • Natural resources: Fruit, wild onions, greens, mushrooms, seeds and nuts

Green Corn Dance (Busk)

What clothes did the Cherokee wear?
The Cherokee men originally wore breechcloths made from deer skin or bark fabric of the type depicted in the Green Corn Dance picture. The Cherokee used mulberry bark to make fibers woven into soft shirts and other clothes. Leggings and moccasins were also worn. Chiefs wore long, full cloaks made of feathers and feather caps. The men shaved their heads, leaving a a scalplock, which they allowed to grow long. They painted and tattooed their  bodies and faces. The Cherokee women wore a knee-length, wraparound skirts, also made from a bark fabric or deerskin. A poncho style blouse was later introduced. The above picture of Col-lee shows how the style of clothes worn by the Cherokee changed in the late 1800's. Clothing was were greatly influenced by the Americans and the availability of trade cloth.


What did the Cherokee tribe live in?
The Cherokee tribe lived in wattle and daub houses  made by weaving river cane, wood, and vines into a framework, then coating the frame with mud. The roof was either thatched with grass or shingled with bark. As many as eight people might share this type of house. A fire constantly smouldered in the hearth, which made the windowless ‘asi’ smoky and dark. Although the men built the houses, the women owned them.

The American settlers brought new ideas and strong, sharp tools that replaced the stone axes and in the 1800's some of the Cherokee began to build American style log cabins. Rather than a chimney, a smoke hole was made in the roof.

Wattle and Daub House

What did the Cherokee tribe eat?
The food that the Cherokee tribe ate included deer (venison), bear, buffalo, elk, squirrel, rabbit, opossum and other small game and fish. Their staple foods were corn, squash and beans supplemented with wild onions, rice, mushrooms, greens, berries and nuts. As time passed the Cherokee began raising cattle, hogs, chickens, and other domesticated animals that they acquired from Europeans.

What weapons did the Cherokee use?
The weapons used  by the Cherokee included war clubs, tomahawks, battle hammers, knives, bows and arrows, spears and axes. Cherokees also used blowguns, generally for small game, but occasionally for warfare. The Europeans introduced muskets and then rifles. Leadership amongst the Cherokee was divided according the situation. The "red" chiefs were leaders during war and "white" chiefs in times of peace. Cherokee warriors wore tattoos and used face and body paint. Red paint for success, blue to indicate defeat or trouble, black paint meant death, and white stood for peace and happiness.

Cherokee Booger Masks
The Cherokee were famous for their Booger masks A Booger mask was a carved mask with exaggerated features and expressions used in the Booger Dance. Booger masks often represented non-Indian people as well as animals. The word 'booger' is derived from boogieman or bogeyman and used by whites to reflect the grotesque carvings on the masks.

Cherokee History: What happened to the Cherokee tribe?
The following Cherokee history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Cherokee timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Cherokee History Timeline

  • 1542: The Hernando De Soto expedition encounters the Cherokee.

  • 1542: Epidemics of smallpox and measles and inter-tribal warfare with the Creek diminish the Cherokee population in the late 1500's and 1600's

  • 1629: The first traders from the British settlements began trading among the Cherokees

  • 1688: The French and Indian Wars (1688-1763) starts with King William's War (1688-1699). The Cherokee become allied with the British against the French

  • 1702: Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)

  • 1715: The Yamasee War (1715–16) fought in South Carolina between the British-American Colonists and their Native Indian allies including the Cherokee, against the Yamasee Native American Tribe

  • 1721: The Cherokee Treaty with the Governor of the Carolinas and the first concession of lands

  • 1744: King George's War (1744 - 1748)

  • 1754: French and Indian War, aka the Seven Years War (1754-1763)

  • 1755: The Waccamaw tribe wage war with Cherokee and Natchez

  • 1758: The Anglo-Cherokee War, First Cherokee War (1758–1761) - The Cherokee uprising in present-day Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas

  • 1776 Chickamauga Wars, aka the Second Cherokee War, (1776–1794) Cherokee involvement in the American Revolutionary War and continued through late 1794

  • 1785: Treaty of Hopewell is the first treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokees

  • 1796: The 'civilizing programs' began, instigated by George Washington, which led to the name of the Five Civilised Tribes

  • 1821: The invention of written language by Sequoyah (George Gist)

  • 1822: Cherokee's Supreme Court established

  • 1824: First written law of the Western Cherokee

  • 1827: Cherokee Constitution established by a convention. John Ross elected chief

  • 1830: The Indian Removal Act of 1830

  • 1832: US Supreme Court decision Worcester vs Georgia establishes tribal sovereignty, protecting the Cherokee from Georgia laws. President Jackson refuses to enforce the decision and Georgia holds lottery for Cherokee lands

  • 1835: Treaty of New Echota, giving up title to all Cherokee lands in southeast in exchange for land in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma)

  • 1838-1839: The Trails of Tears. The US Government's forced removal of 17,000 Cherokee

  • 1861: American Civil War begins. Civil War between Union Cherokees and Confederate Cherokees

  • 1887: General Allotment Act passed requiring individual ownership of lands once held in common by Native Indian tribes

  • 1893, President Grover Cleveland appoints Senator Henry L. Dawes, to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes

  • 1893: The Dawes Rolls, or the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes, entitled an allotment of land to tribe members, in return for abolishing their governments and recognizing Federal laws

  • 1934: The individual allotment policy of the Dawes Act was terminated by the Indian Reorganization Act

Cherokee History Timeline


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the Cherokee lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Cherokee would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Cherokee
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Cherokee Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Cherokee Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Cherokee nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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