Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Cherokee Syllabary

Marker ID:  
Location: at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park on Shadden Rd., Birchwood, TN
County: Meigs
Coordinates: N 35° 24.423    W 085° 0.383
  35.40705    -85.00638333
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None


By the beginning of the 19th century, many Cherokee had adopted many white ways of living. They build American type farms, wore American style clothes, developed American style systems of government and began buying African slaves to work on plantations. Missionaries who settled in the Cherokee Nation in 1803 promoted Christianity. For many, these adaptations were intended to prove to the white community that the Cherokee would be compatible neighbors who shared ways of living and believing.

One of the most remarkable developments was the creation of a written language. In 1809, Sequoyah (known in English as George Gist), began thinking about the way whites communicated with each other by writing. He soon began work on a method of writing the Cherokee language. In 1821, he completed his syllabary and submitted it to the leading men of the Nation. Thousands learned the syllabary within months. Missionaries translated the Bible into Cherokee in 1825. In 1828, the Nation began publishing a bilingual newspaper the Cherokee Phoenix.

"Never before, or since, in the history of the world has one man, not literate in any language, perfected a system for reading and writing language."