[sw-l] An interesting article on Sequoyah.

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Sep 30 21:29:18 UTC 2004

Many people have compared Valerie Sutton to Sequoyah, the Cherokee scribe who was purported to have "invented" the Cherokee writing system.  A new book, called "Tell Them They Lie" by Sequoyah's descendants contains the following:

Chapter Seven [pp 83-4]

[in 1795] On their return to their village, the former fighting faction of chiefs held a general council in Tsatasi Ughvis village. Sequoyah made a great decision at that council. It was decided to forego the requirement of ancient Taliwa blood; admit all trusted Cherokees to the Seven Clan Scribe Society, and to fight the great experiment civilization program of the United States government with their own syllabary, to be taught to all who wished to learn their own writing and reading. Sequoyah was the only scribe left in the nation. Others had been either killed, or had removed to the West.
So the teaching began in October 1795. In each village chiefs council, the people gathers and were informed about the ninety- two symbols that represented parts of syllables in their language, and were shown the ancient thin gold plates upon which the symbols were engraved by their forefathers -- the Taliwa. [ftn: There are 92 symbols in the original Cherokee syllabary. Seven symbols were discarded by the Rev. Samuel A. Worcester, and many others were reworked within the framework of the Roman letters. Six of the discarded symbols served as a key to the six different dialects in the language.]. He explained to them that many of the symbols and syllables stood for different word meanings, and that there was no capitalization, nor punctuation to be used in writing the syllabary. The people were instructed on how to write the symbols, and how to read them according to the dialect that they spoke, using one of the six symbols as a mnemonic key to their own particular dialect.
Sequoyah showed them how to use the mnemonic key symbols in the length and pitch sounds of the spoken language. A symbol syllabary, and a hand-printed dictionary of all Cherokee words and their meanings were presented to each village, along with a Cherokee number syllabary up to one million.


What this little excerpt is saying is that the written language of Cherokee was ancient, and that Sequoyah was the last scribe of his community who knew it.  A very interesting historic truth.

We are fortunate to know Valerie Sutton and to watch her development from a small start to our huge community on the internet devoted to Sign Writing.

Charles Butler

Valerie Sutton <sutton at signwriting.org> wrote:
SignWriting List
September 30, 2004

Dear SW List Members:
I am happy to announce that a second article on SignWriting has been
published in the SIGNews, September 2004 issue. You can read it on the
web, on the SIGNews website:



Val ;-)

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