10 Things You Should Know About Cherokee Nation

Brian Daffron

Many people and images come to mind about the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Syllabary, created by Sequoyah, may be one of them. For many others, it may be the Trail of Tears. Still, Cherokee people such as Will Rogers or Wilma Mankiller may come to mind.

Yet there is much more to the Cherokee Nation’s rich cultural history and present-day accomplishments. The Cherokee Nation’s website lists their current enrollment at over 317,000 and more than 8,000 employees. The Nation’s economic impact within Oklahoma and neighboring northeastern states, is estimated at $1.5 billion.

Indian Country Today Media Network asked Dr. Candessa Tehee, the executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center, which ten items she felt that readers should know.

We believe in education.

Literacy and education have been a high priority among Cherokee people long before removal to Oklahoma. Sequoyah’s written language system created a high percentage of literacy among Cherokee people, much more so than their white American neighbors. The Cherokee Syllabary is still in active use within their Cherokee Immersion Charter School, as well as street signs in downtown Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

After Removal, the Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah became, according to Tehee, “the first female institution of higher learning West of the Mississippi,” whose historic buildings now form the nucleus of Northeastern State University. Today, the Cherokee Nation runs Sequoyah High School, formerly controlled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and has a successful higher education scholarship program.

Cherokee_Syllabary (wikimedia)

There’s no such thing as a Cherokee princess

Many families throughout the United States—who are not enrolled Cherokee Nation members—make claims of Cherokee descent. Although the Cherokee Nation encourages the tracing of family ancestry, a large number of people with potential Cherokee ancestry make the erroneous claim that they’re descended from a “Cherokee Princess.”

“Our traditional clan system is matrilineal, meaning clans are passed down through the mother’s side of the family,” said Tehee. “Women have important roles in both ceremonial and family life but, historically, there has never been a princess system.” In recent times, the 1955 Cherokee National Holiday created the “Queen of the Cornstalk Shoot” (a traditional Cherokee archery competition), which was changed in 1957 to Miss Cherokee.

We have great museums

The Cherokee Nation facilitates at least four museums in northeastern Oklahoma. These include the Cherokee Heritage Center outside of Tahlequah, voted third in the USA Today “10 Best Readers’ Choice Native American Experience.” The Cherokee Heritage Center grounds include the Cherokee National Museum, Ancient Village, Adams Corner Rural Village, Nofire Farms, Cherokee Family Research Center, and the Cherokee National Archives.

Other museums of the Cherokee Nation include the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, which houses the printing press of the Cherokee Advocate newspaper; the Cherokee National Prison Museum, which was the only penitentiary in Indian Territory from 1875-1901; and the John Ross Museum in Park Hill, Oklahoma, dedicated to the longtime leader of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Supreme Court Museum (Courtesy Cherokee.org)


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spktruth200's picture
Submitted by spktruth200 on
Its time all the natives in this country Stop WORSHIPING A CHRISTIAN GOD, and go back to native ways. My mother was Christian, father a native took us into the woods on Sunday and taught us the Cherokee ways. I long ago stopped worshipping a Christian God (because so called Christians) destroyed native America, slaughtered millions and stole our country. If you want to get back the natives, then go back to the native ways, this world needs our old ways..

Chooj's picture
Submitted by Chooj on
As a "citizen", you can be 1/512th Cherokee, not know anything about our culture and language, live in California (with family that hasn't be back to NE Oklahoma for three generations), and still vote for our chief and two council members--ridiculous.

kalidescopemind's picture
Submitted by kalidescopemind on
This complaining about a 1/512th "3rd generation" Cherokee voting in tribal elections reflects a serious problem in the Cherokee Nation. I saw it on my CIB when the math was done incorrectly on my %. There are many Cherokees who cannot trace their blood. Cherokees in CA have no access to any Cherokee services. What is right about that? We have set a system of using the Dawes list, and if anyone thinks they are more entitled to tribal rights than any other lower % Cherokee, then they are thieves just like the white man who has stolen so much from Cherokees. Learn how to share, and respect all Cherokee citizens. And for the record, I do not vote in tribal elections, as I am unable to get much information on the candidates. If someone is really bad, I trust the Cherokees in OK to take care of that.

verncox's picture
Submitted by verncox on
Whites could care less about Columbus too. We're well aware that the Scandanavians (Northern Europe) visited North America first. (by hundreds of years at that).

Paul Thomas Adams
Submitted by Paul Thomas Adams on
kalidescopemind, seriously, no information ? Subscribe to the Cherokee Phoenix News paper, or go to the nation web sight for list of candidates names the google them, it's that simple. Doh-dah-dah-go-huh-ee I he do lv I Oginallii Jadaxsastesti (come around again friend, take care ) http://www.cherokee.org/ https://www.facebook.com/osiyotv/?fref=photo

Paul Thomas Adams
Submitted by Paul Thomas Adams on
spktruth200, agree to some of your veiws, I am proudly tsa las gi and Christian, ordained minister for 14 years, I am a ni gi lo hi, long hair/twister clan, this clan coincidentally this clan was known for producing the peace chiefs, and holy men ? The Long Hair Clan, whose subdivisions are Twister, Wind and Strangers, are known to be a very peaceful clan. In the times of the Peace Chief and War Chief government, the Peace Chief would come from this clan. Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus the name 'Strangers.' At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Long Hair arbor is on the East side, and also houses the Chiefs and other leaders of the ground. http://cherokeereligion.weebly.com/christianity-vs-cherokee.html