Aside from being an accomplished silversmith for his people, Sequoyah's most notable contribution to the Cherokee was the development of a writing system in the early 19th century. The Cherokee syllabary, which was created independently of any significant European influence, described each sound in the language as a distinct symbol.Continue Reading
Sequoyah was born around 1770 to Wut-teh, a Cherokee tribe member, and an unknown father, possibly a non-native from Europe. He was raised by his mother, helping her run a trading post. After moving to contemporary Alabama, he became a silversmith, interacting with non-natives on a regular basis. His fascination with European writing systems led him to begin developing the Cherokee syllabary.
After 12 years of work, Sequoyah debuted his Cherokee alphabet. He first taught it to his 6-year old daughter, Ayokeh, and later she helped him demonstrate its usefulness. Many Cherokee tribal leaders were initially resistant to the concept. Sequoyah persuaded western Cherokee leaders by copying down a series of words that the leaders uttered, then called his daughter in to read aloud what he had written. He later carried a written speech back to the eastern Cherokee, convincing them of its usefulness. For his accomplishments in developing the writing system, the General Council of the Eastern Cherokee gave Sequoyah a silver medallion in 1824.Learn more about US History