One of the most celebrated and famous Native Americans in the Cherokee history is Sequoyah.  Sequoyah was born to a Virginian fur trader and a Cherokee woman in 1776 in the village of Tuskeegee.  He married a Cherokee woman himself and settled into the life of a silversmith providing for his family.  Sequoyah and other Cherokee were amongst the ranks of the United States under the guidance of General Andrew Jackson fighting the British troops and the Creek Indians in the War of 1812.

Sequoyah never learned the English alphabet even though he was exposed to the concept of writing early.  He began to occupy himself with the idea of literacy for the Cherokee people. Unlike the white soldiers, he and the other Cherokees were not able to write letters home to their families, read military orders from the white soldiers and their Generals, or keep diaries and journals of their experiences. After the war had ceased, he began to create a writing system for the Cherokee people.

When he returned home after the war, he began to make the symbols that could make words reducing thousands of Cherokee thoughts to 85 symbols representing sounds. In order to teach his new writing system to his daughter Ayoka, he played a game with her as she learned to write. In 1821, after 12 years, he and his daughter introduced his alphabet to the Cherokee people. Miraculously, within a few short months, thousands of Cherokee became literate.  Soon the Bible, educational materials, hymns, and the first bilingual newspaper featuring the Cherokee alphabet called the “Cherokee Phoenix” were in mass production.  In recognition of his contributions, the Cherokee Nation awarded Sequoyah with a silver medal created in his honor and a lifetime literary pension.  He continued to serve the Cherokee people as a statesman and as a diplomat until his death.

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