Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Cherokee are an Iroquoian-speaking people aboriginally occupying the southern Appalachians of North America. Western North Carolina was the heart of their farming/hunting lands but they also lived in portions of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. In 1838-1839 a major portion of the Cherokee were forcedly removed from their homeland by the United States government to the present state of Oklahoma along the infamous “Trail of Tears.” In the early twenty-first century there are two main groups of Cherokee--the Oklahoma Cherokee are the larger group and are known as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and United Keetoowah Band; the Eastern Band is considerably smaller. Based on self-identification in the 2000 census, the Cherokee are the largest Native American group in the United States.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Eastern Woodlands


United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are reference by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The NN08 Cherokee collection consists of 46 English language documents, covering a time span from 1540, the period of the first Cherokee-European contacts, to the early twenty-first century. Considerable emphasis is placed on culture history, economy, society, and Cherokee-Euro-American relations. The primary works dealing with these ethnographic topics are: Wahnenauhi, 1966, n. 5; Gearing, 1962, no. 13; Mooney, 1988, no 21; Gilbert, 1978, no 23; Perdue, 1995, no. 39; Finger, 1991, no. 41; King, 1979, no. 49; Sturtevant, 1979, no. 53; Davis, 1979, no. 56; Reed, 1979, no. 57; King, 1979, no. 58, Iobst, 1979, no. 59 and Witthoft, 1979, no. 60. There is no single work in this collection that gives a complete overview of all aspects of Cherokee ethnography, but the combination of the various documents listed above will give the reader a good idea of what the Cherokee were like.

Folklore, myths, and magical formulas are a primary focus of interest in the Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick documents 1966, 1965, 1967, and 1970, nos. 7, 9, 11, and 15, as well as in Mooney, 1988, no. 21.

Nearly all the studies in this collection deal at some level with the topics of socio-cultural change and acculturation, especially Gulilck and Williams, 1973, no. 1; Kupferer, 1966, no. 6; Neely, 1992, no. 37; Finger, 1991, no. 41; McLoughlin et al, 1984, no. 44, and Witthoft, 1979, no. 60.

The evolution of Cherokee law and government are the subject of three works; Strickland, 1975, no. 12, focuses on the transformation of Cherokee law and justice from the time of the first specialized Cherokee legal institutions and law coded in 1808 until the dissolution of the Cherokee court system by the Federal government in 1898. Reid, 1970, no. 14 complements the above study by focusing on Cherokee law and government in the historic period prior to the nineteenth century, and finally, Reid, 1979, no. 51, which discusses law in relationship to homicide in the seventeenth century.

Other ethnographic subjects which may be of some interest to the reader are: sex and gender in Cherokee society in Fox, 2603, no. 35; invention of the Cherokee writing system (Syllabary) in Perdue, 1995, no. 39; origin and development of the Cherokee Ghost Dance (ca. 1789-1810) in McLoughlin et al, 1984, no. 45; shamanism, witchcraft, sorcery, and mysticism in Irwin, 1992, no. 46, Fogelson, 1977 , 1975 nos. 47 and 48.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary was written by Mary Jo Tippeconnic Fox in June 2006. The synopsis and indexing notes were added by John Beierle also in June 2006.

Overview by

John Beierle

American Indian Federation (AIF) - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"


asi-sweat lodge - use "OUTBUILDINGS (343)"

Cherokee Historical Association (CHA) - use "HUMANISTIC STUDIES (814)"

Community Action Programs - use "ECONOMIC PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (179)”

Community development clubs - use "SODALITIES (575)"

dida:hnese:sg-SORCERER/WITCH - use "SORCERY (754)"

dida:hnvwi:sg – medicine man - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)”

Eastern Cherokee Band - general information and as a corporation under North Carolina

law - use "TRIBE AND NATION (619)"

Free Labor Companies – see gadugi

gadugi-Free Labor Companies use "MUTUAL AID (476)" and "SODALITIES (575)”

Ghost Dance - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Green Corn Dance - use "DANCE (535)" and "TILLAGE (241)"

Harmony Ethic - use "ETHOS (181)" and "ETHICS (577)"

idi:gawe sdi-sacred formulas, written in the Cherokee syllabary - use "WRITING (212)", "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)", and "MAGIC (789)"

Indian “doctor”, as a herbalist - use "MEDICAL PERSONNEL (759)"; as a magical practitioner (e.g., conjurer/sorcerer) - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)" and "SORCERY (754)"

Indian Claims Commission - use "SPECIAL COURTS (698)"

Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) - use "ECONOMIC PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (179)"

Qualla Boundary – the main Cherokee reservation in North Carolina - use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)"

Red vs. White Organizations – moiety-like organizations functioning among the aboriginal Cherokee. These were probably pseudo-moieties - use "MOIETIES (616)"

Rescue Squads - use "MISCELLANEOUS FACILITIES (368)" and "MEDICAL PERSONNEL (759)"

Seven Counselor’s Court - use "JUDICIAL AUTHORITY (692)"

The Red Court - use "SPECIAL COURTS (698)"

“Trail of Tears Singing - use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)" and "MUSIC (533)"

Tribal Council – first established in the early 1800s as the National Council of Cherokee - use "PARLIAMENT (646)". Prior to the early 1800s - use "COUNCILS (623)"

Tribal orator – a priest sometimes called the “beloved man” - use "PRIESTHOOD (793)"

uku – the principal chief of the Cherokee nation - use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)"

ulanigvgv-infusion with supernatural power - use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)”

“Unto These Hills” pageant - use "SPECTACLES (541)"

“White Indians” – white-Cherokee racial hybrids - use "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)" and "RACIAL IDENTIFICATION (144)"

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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