The Culture of Cherokee

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As a Native American people, the Cherokee is a prosperous tribe that originates from the southeastern parts of the United States (U.S). Notably, the Cherokee group situated in more than a few states including Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi among other southeastern territories of the U.S thereby making it as one of the biggest Indian Tribes in the country. Therefore, this paper provides a review of the Cherokee people by way of describing the group, its mythology, its traditional culture, and the folk attributes accountable for the thriving of the tribe.
Background of the Cherokee Group
Today, the federal authorities in the U.S understand three Cherokee tribes including the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, also situated in Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. As part of the Iroquoian language group, the Cherokee dialect constitutes the uniqueness of the tribe. Oral tradition reveals that the Cherokees migrated from the Great Lakes region towards the southern parts of the U.S during the ancient times.

The 19th century saw the Cherokee recognized as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes" since it depicted a considerable development of its culture. Notably, the past century witnessed the Cherokee embrace technology as well as accepting the dynamism of its culture. As such, the Cherokee boast as one of the pioneering non-European ethnic cohorts to acquire U.S citizenship (Duncan & Riggs, 2003). Therefore, identifying the important myths of the Cherokee would foster an understanding of its rich culture.

Myths of the Cherokee Ethnic Group

The Cherokee have been identified as a people that value the interaction with the environment as revealed by a wide array of myths passed from one generation to the next through oral narratives. The stories of the Cherokee have been captured in the form of cosmogonic, quadruped, bird, snake, fish, and insect myths as well as wonder stories and historical traditions (Nelson, 2014). As mentioned earlier, the aspects of nature contribute to a considerable number of the Cherokee myths.

The myth of the Water Spider reveals that a red-striped spider with black downy hair offered fire to the Cherokee people after experiencing frustrations in starting a fire. Further, another story identifies the Cherokee tribe as one of the cannibals also known as Anada’ duntaski in efforts to describe the origins of the core and game or Selu and Kana’ti, respectively. The lucky hunter, Kanati and his wife, Selu experienced hardship after acquiring diseases from the animals as a punishment for killing wildlife. Nonetheless, plants offered a remedy to the diseases and thus, regarded friendly to the Cherokee (Nelson, 2014).

Cherokee mythology also narrates the hummingbird brought tobacco to the people since it had medical benefits. Besides, tobacco was smoked during council meetings to start or end wars. Tobacco was also smoked when welcoming visitors as well as predicting the future by identifying the direction of the smoke.

Further, the Cherokee mythology relates that the sun and the moon represent a young woman and her brother, correspondingly. The Redbird is considered the sun’s daughter. The myth also relates that a giant frog in the sky tries to swallow the heavenly bodies thereby causing eclipses. The sons of Thunder residing in the west and above the sky vault wore clothes depicted by the rainbow and lightning (Nelson, 2014). The various myths associated with the group cover several aspects of nature that contribute to the construction of the Cherokee culture.

Cherokee Dance, Music, and Body Modification

The Cherokee have two categories of dance including religious and social dances. The religious dances have complex choreography and could include one social dance at the end. The Stomp Dance is one common religious dances among the Cherokee. The Butterfly Dance is well known social dance among the Cherokee people (Duncan & Riggs, 2003).

One of the ancient Cherokee musical instruments includes the flute, rattles, and drums before embracing the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin. Tribal stories and chanting constitute the vocals of the group’s music (Nelson, 2014). Music, as an aspect of Cherokees arts and crafts, is usually used in religious and ceremonial traditions.

The Cherokee value tattoos as part of their cultural practices that seeks to denote their identity. The body modifications usually signified tribal identification, accomplishments, and the acquisition of power (Nelson, 2014). The Cherokee tattoos often modified the face and upper body parts.

The Distinctiveness of the Cherokee Folktales and its Contributions to the Development of the Culture

The Cherokee folklore is integral in facilitating the uniqueness of the culture. The various myths and legends explain the aspects of creation, medicine and disease, and social life (Nelson, 2014). In this light, the group used its myths to understand the universe, influence their wellbeing, and engage in war against intruders. As such, the myths encouraged the Cherokee to interact with the environment positively so as to reap its benefits.

Further, the Cherokee applied folks to foster the spirituality of the tribe. The “stomp grounds” ensure that the Cherokee have an opportunity to carry out their religious ceremonies and thus, maintain its traditions in modern America (Duncan & Riggs, 2003). Thus, amid the assimilation and acculturation of the Cherokee, the tribe still maintains its traditions thanks to its rich folklore.


The Cherokee is one of the Native American ethnic groups with a rich culture depicted by its myths and traditions that make its culture distinctive. The myths regarding creation, medicine and disease, and insects facilitate their interaction with the environment in its natural form. The dance, music, and body modifications practiced by the Cherokee also facilitate to the uniqueness of the Indian community.


Duncan, B. R., & Riggs, B. H. (2003). Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook. University of North Carolina Press.

Nelson, J. B. (2014). Progressive traditions: Identity in Cherokee literature and culture (Vol. 61). University of Oklahoma Press.

July 24, 2021



Race and Ethnicity

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People Native American

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