Sequoyah and The Talking Leaves

George Guess - Sequoyah and His Syllabary


Today I would like to tell you the story of Sequoyah, also known as George Guess. Though he never went to school he was a man of intelligence and many talents.

Raised by a single mother he learned how to run a store at a young age. In later years he learned both blacksmithing and silversmithing, but that is not what he is best known for. 

Sequoyah noticed that the white men who came to his store communicated with "taking leaves". These talking leaves were written words. As a businessman he knew what an advantage that was.

At the time there was no written language for the Cherokee. Language. Around 1809 Sequoyah set upon the task of changing that. At first he thought we would try a writing system much like Chinese that had a character for each word. Sequoyah decided to develop a symbol for each syllable in the language. After approximately a month, he had a system of 86 characters. 

 At first there was reluctance on the part of the Cherokee to learn the writing system. For that reason the first person to learn the writing system was Sequoyah's 6 year old daughter. After a demonstration by Sequoyah and his daughter, Cherokee leaders agreed to a small group learning.

Within the span of 5 years many more were writing and reading the new Cherokee script and in 1824 Sequoyah was awarded the medal for the creation of the writing system and the following year the Cherokee officially adopted the syllabary and used it in official documents. Less than 9 years afer creating the new system the tribe  launched the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper in a native language. Today you can find the Phoenix in printed form and online. 

Sequoyah was only the 2nd person to create a writing system by himself and his system went on to inspire many other indigenous groups around the world to create a written language that has helped preserve these language for generations to come. 

 Wado Sequoyah! 

In 2023 Greg Stice, Cherokee Artist was inspired by Sequoyah to develop his award winning Sequoyah Legacy Collection. You can find this collection that is built on the Sequoyah syllabary here. award winning cherokee copper



 Get a Free Frameable Print of Sequoyah and his Syllabary 

Sequoyah and the Cherokee Language -Cherokee Copper Free



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    Misty Grant : November 14, 2023

    I am very impressed with the syllabary. I have never seen it written down anywhere. How is it read? Top to bottom, right to left, left to right? How is it read? Also, how do you pronounce the syllables?

  • Author image
    Brenda Bagley: September 06, 2023

    I remember seeing the story about the Cherokee alphabet on a TV program, Death Vally Days. It was several years ago. He was a courageous man.

  • Author image
    Maxmillian Lowe : August 25, 2023

    This is very impressive. He should have gotten nobel prize for literature for inventing the Cherokee alphabet.

    Did you know that American Sign Language is more related to Native American languages and Japanese than it is to English?

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