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Sequoyah was born about 1770 in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee on the Tennessee River, Tennessee. His mother was Wut-teh, the daughter of a Cherokee chief of the Paint Clan. His father, a white fur trader, was thought to be a Nathaniel Gist. He abandoned the mother before the son was born. Sequoyah was sometimes known to the white man as George Gist, Guess or Guest.

Sequoyah married a Cherokee and had a family. He was a hunter and fur trader until a hunting accident left him crippled. He was also a skilled silver craftsman. He never learned to speak, write or read English, but was always fascinated with the white people’s ability to communicate with one another by making distinctive marks on paper - what some native people referred to as "talking leaves".

He and other Cherokee enlisted in the United States militia and fought under General Andrew Jackson against the British and Creek Indians in the War of 1812.

Around 1809 he realized his people were at a tremendous disadvantage by not having the means to communicate their ideas through a written language. He began work on devising an Indian alphabet when he returned home from war.  He completed the alphabet in 1821. He taught this written language to his daughter, Ayoka. The two of them introduced the written Cherokee language to the Cherokee people.

In recognition of his contributions, the Cherokee Nation awarded Sequoyah a silver medal created in his honor and a lifetime literary pension.

In 1822 he went west. He died in August 1843 somewhere in the southwest, possibly Mexico.

"It is said that in ancient times, when writing first began, a man named Moses made marks on a stone. I can agree with you by what name to call those marks and that will be writing and can be understood,"  attributed to Sequoyah.

Sequoyah Statue in Gordon County

Cherokee Nation - mid 1700s

Cherokee Nation - 1800

Sequoyah Links



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