Portrait at Will Rogers Memorial Museums ©Author Adventures

Sequoyah, Father of the Cherokee Literacy

Sequoyah (c. 1775 – c. 1843) was a farmer who served in the War of 1812 and established his homestead in eastern Oklahoma prior to the migration of Cherokees who moved to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. He wanted them to have a better life through literacy, recognizing that literacy would lead to improved communication and knowledge.

Watch an excellent video about this visionary inventor and his home here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDPSpksJvtY.

The Cabin

Sequoyah built his log cabin in Sallasaw in 1829. It is now a National Literary Landmark and located at 470288 Highway 101.

According to https://www.visitcherokeenation.com: “Surrounded by a 10-acre park, the actual cabin is located inside a stone memorial structure, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. Stepping inside, you’ll experience what it might have been like when Sequoyah originally lived there. Relics and documents associated with his life are on display.”

Sallasaw, located near Oklahoma’s eastern border, has a population of approximately 8,500 residents, more than eight times the number of residents during Sequoyah’s day. It is also the fictional hometown of the family of main characters in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

The Cherokee “Syllabary”

“Sequoyah invented a system of eighty-four to eighty-six characters that represented syllables in spoken Cherokee (hence it is a syllabary, not an alphabet). Completed in 1821, the syllabary was rapidly adopted by a large number of Cherokees, making Sequoyah the only member of an illiterate group in human history to have single-handedly devised a successful system of writing. This view is supported by firsthand accounts of missionaries to the Cherokees, government agents, and journalists who interviewed Sequoyah (or a man claiming to be Sequoyah) and statements of some people claiming to be Sequoyah’s descendants. It has been the basis of awards by the Cherokee Nation, the U.S. Congress, and various states. There are monuments, parks, and schools named for Sequoyah in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and other states. The giant sequoia tree, found in California, is named for him.” (Wadley, Ted. “Sequoyah (ca. 1770-ca. 1840).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 17 January 2014. Web. 09 February 2014.Cherokee Syllabary)

Read more at Tennessee.

Sequoyah’s Cabin is the last stop on our Oklahoma Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart