A Brief Biography of Sequoyah
Sequoyah was born circa 1776 at the village of Tuskeegee, which was very near where the Museum is today. His father was Nathaniel Gist, a Virginia fur trader. His mother was Wut-teh, daughter of a Cherokee Chief.
Sequoyah married a Cherokee, had a family and was a silversmith by trade. Sequoyah and other Cherokees enlisted on the side of the United States under General Andrew Jackson to fight the British troops and the Creek Indians in the war of 1812.
Although Sequoyah was exposed to the concept of writing early in his life, he never learned the English alphabet. He began to toy 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, read military orders, or record events as they occurred. After the war, he began in earnest to create a writing system for the Cherokees.
When he returned home after the war, he began to make the symbols that could make words. He finally reduced the thousands of Cherokee thoughts to 85 symbols representing sounds. He made a game of this new writing systems and taught his little girl Ayoka how to make the symbols.
In 1821, after 12 years working on the new language, he and his daughter introduced his syllabary to the Cherokee people. Within a few months thousands of Cherokees became literate.
By 1825 much of the Bible and numerous hymns had been translated into Cherokee. By 1828 they were publishing the "Cherokee Phoenix," the first national bi-lingual newspaper, along with religious pamphlets, educational materials and legal documents.
In recognition of his contributions, the Cherokee Nation awarded Sequoyah a silver medal. He continued to serve Cherokee people as a statesman and diplomat until his death.