What Are Some Common Cherokee Last Names?

Common Cherokee last names can be difficult to ascertain. During the period between the late 1700’s and the beginning of 1900, Cherokees tended to adopt a European surname and give this name to their children, choosing names such as Adair, Guess, Ward and Smith.

Some Cherokees retained their Cherokee names, choosing instead to translate the word into English, resulting in surnames such as Wolf, Walker and Bear. Often Cherokee names referred

to a single animal, plant or insect. While a few compound names were found in the Cherokee tribe, such as Yellowbird or Risingfaun, not as many occurred in the Cherokee language as in other tribes.

A1904 newspaper article with a list of Cherokee names lists some familiar surnames such as Fox, Hawk, Kingfisher and Starr. Some Cherokee translated the sounds in their names into phonetic English; this practice resulted in names such as Ahquatageh and Tehital. However, these names were difficult for English-speaking settlers to spell or pronounce, and many fell into disuse. Many names were translated into English by census takers sent by the U.S. Government to do an accounting of the population of the Indian nations. Thus, people with Cherokee blood may have names that sound like English names.