[sw-l] An interesting article on Sequoyah.

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Thu Sep 30 22:59:43 UTC 2004

SignWriting List
September 30, 2004

Dear SW List, and Charles, and Mr. Cobb:
Thank you for this nice message (see below). And I blushed a little, 
when you compared me to Sequoyah. That is very kind of you, although we 
all know there are differences between the histories...Charles has been 
working with SignWriting since the early 1980's I believe, isn't that 
right, Charles? smile...so we both have seen the ups and downs that 
occurs in the beginning of all writing systems...It has been quite a 
journey, hasn't it? And it isn't over yet! As we discussed 
yesterday....smile...I appreciate your patience with me and all these 
new developments...In time it will settle down and become accepted and 
then everyone will look back and say "yes"...those were the days...! 

Sequoyah is certainly credited as the inventor of the written form for 
the Cherokee Language. I didn't realize there was such a long history 
behind him, in the writing of the Cherokee language, which just goes to 
show how history has many sides to it, that we oftentimes don't grasp 
at first glance...

SignWriting, Braille and the Cherokee syllabus all have one thing in 
common...people know of a name of a person connected to the 
development. Most written forms for languages evolve without one 
specific person behind it...like written English...who invented the 
Roman alphabet? No one knows. But Braille, although first developed by 
a member of the French army, was then developed further by a blind 
teacher named Louis Braille. So we know his writing system as 
Braille...And all three writing systems had people against it in the 
beginning. I had understood that it took Sequoyah about 25 years to get 
it established, and SignWriting is 30 years old this year.

There are several write-ups about these comparisons on the web...and 
thank you, Charles, for your kind message ;-)  Val ;-)


Why Has SignWriting Been Controversial?
... The Cherokee Indian chief, named Sequoyah, was a brilliant man who 
  it was time that their language become a written language. ...

SignWriting Email List 15
... We discussed the history of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Indian Chief who 
invented the
  writing system for the Cherokee Indian Language in the early 1800's. 

Why Write Sign Language?
... Sequoyah of the Cherokee Tribe in the United States recognized 
that, in the modern
  world (over a 100 years ago), a language had to have a written form. 
  www.signwriting.org/about/questions/quest0003.html - 23k

Silent News, March 1999
... Sutton points to a Cherokee Indian chief, Sequoyah, who in the 
early 1800s fought
  to do the same thing she is doing, and succeeded: "(He invented) the 
written ...
  www.signwriting.org/library/ journal/silentnews/sw217.html - 9k

SignWriting List Forum
... they decided to use Sequoyah's alphabet, and now the Cherokee 
Indian language is
  preserved for future generations. > >Interesting, I didn't know about 
this. ...
  www.signwriting.org/forums/ swlist/archive2/message/629.html - 5k

SignWriting List Forum
... The Cherokee Indian chief Sequoyah, who invented the written form 
for his native
  spoken language, was also surrounded by controversy for 25 years. ...
  www.signwriting.org/forums/ swlist/archive2/message/639.html - 6k

SignWriting List Forum
... have the internet - ha! Wasn't that an amazing story about Sequoyah 
  the jurors to learn to read and write?! It is really ...
  www.signwriting.org/forums/ swlist/archive2/message/643.html - 5k


On Sep 30, 2004, at 2:29 PM, Charles Butler wrote:

> 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 th!  eir 
> 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:
> SIGNews
> http://www.signews.org
> Val ;-)
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