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Born in the s in what is now Tennessee and trained as a silversmith and blacksmith, the Cherokee man never learned how to read or write in English, but he always knew that literacy and power were intertwined.
According to the Manataka American Indian Council, a written language may have existed centuries earlier, but the script was supposedly lost as the tribe journeyed east across the continent. Sometime aroundSequoyah began working on a new system to put the Cherokee language back on the page.
He believed that, by inventing an alphabet, the Cherokee could share and save the stories that made their way of life unique. White people were encroaching further on their land and culture, and they were resistant to anything that resembled assimilation.
Sequoyah, however, saw it differently: Rather than destroy his culture, he saw the written word as a way to save it.
In the words of Sequoyah, "The white man is no magician. Sequoyah became further convinced of this inafter he helped the U. S Army fight the Creek War in Georgia. For months, he watched soldiers send letters to their families and saw war officers deliver important commands in written form.
He found the capability to communicate across space and time profoundly important. He tried to invent a logographic system, designing a unique character for every word, but quickly realized he was creating too much unnecessary work for himself. So Sequoyah started anew, this time constructing his language from letters he found in the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets, as well as with some Arabic numerals.
Sequoyah became more reclusive and obsessive, spending hour upon hour working on his alphabet. According to the official website of the Cherokee Nation, people outside his family began whispering that he was meddling with sorcery.
BySequoyah was too busy to pay the gossip any mind: He was teaching his six-year-old daughter, Ayokeh, how to use the system. Rather than punish Sequoyah, the officials asked him a question: Can you teach us how to read?
Within just a few years, thousands of people would learn how to read and write, with many Cherokee communities becoming more literate than the surrounding white populations.Origin of Art, Origin of Religion, Evolution of Art and Religion, Origin of Symbol, Origin and Evolution of Language.
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