What is the Cherokee tribe known for in the arts?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Members of the Cherokee tribe engaged in many of the same artistic endeavors as other Native American tribes. Perhaps the most famous is the Cherokee syllabary, or alphabet, designed by Sequoyah in 1825--

"the only time in recorded history that a member of an illiterate people independently created an effective writing system."

Other forms of Cherokee art include:

  • Pots.  Cherokee clay pottery was made entirely by hand and used for everyday cooking as well as to house spices and plants.
  • Baskets.  Usually made only by women, Cherokee baskets often had complex designs, colorfully ornamented with paint or dye.
  • Masks.  Masks were created for mostly ceremonial purposes, and they often were painted and had fur added.
  • Rattles.  Rattles were made from turtle shells with dried corn kernels used to produce the sound. They were used in religious ceremonies, to drive away evil and "invite the attention of good spirits." 
  • River Cane.  Still produced by modern Cherokees, river cane provided a wide range of items for everyday use and for weaponry. Besides baskets, masks and reed flutes, river cane was used to make shields and even blow guns.

Cherokees also practiced beadwork and made their own clothing, examples of which can be found in Cherokee, NC: the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Paintings of the old Cherokee ways can also be seen in modern renditions done by today's Cherokee artists.


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