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characters corresponded to a sound in the Cherokee language. The language was easily learned. A year later a Moravian missionary would write that "the alphabet was soon recognized as an invaluable invention…in little over a year, thousands of hitherto illiterate Cherokees were able to read and write their own language, teaching each other in cabins or by the roadside. The whole nation became an academy for the study of the system. Letters were written back and forth between the Cherokees in the east and those who had emigrated to the lands of Arkansas."30

The second theory holds that Sequoyah was "one of the chosen scribes of the Anisahoni Clan, and a member of the Seven Clan Scribe Society."31 Traditionally, only members of the Anisahoni were educated in reading and writing the Cherokee language. At the turn of the century, after consecutive wars with the United States, the Creeks and other tribes, Sequoyah was the only scribe left who completely understood the Cherokee written language. Sequoyah, fearing the death of the language, and understanding the benefits it could have, began to teach it to those outside the Anisahoni Clan. Many of the mixed-blood elite were as ignorant of the existence of a written Cherokee language as whites.

Regardless of origin, the presence of a written language was shortly revealed to missionaries, as evidenced by a letter from a white teacher named Charles Pellham: "George Guess is his name. He caused it. This Cherokee Indian commenced writing letters to his countrymen, which they could read. It was soon discovered that Indians could talk on paper to their friends here in the nation…there is no part of the Nation where it is not understood. There is no doubt that it will prevail over every other method of writing." Pellham goes on to state that "if books were printed in the Cherokee Characters found upon the person of Guess's aide, there are those in every part of the Nation who could read them. Probably fifty times as many would read one printed in Guess's Characters as would read one printed in English."32

 


29. Or George Guest, or Gist, depending on the document.
30. N.p., n.d, in Grant Foreman, Sequoyah (Norman, OK: Univeristy of Oklahoma Press, 1938), 11.
31. Traveller Bird, Tell Them They Lie (Los Angeles: Westernlore Publishers, 1971), 24.
32. Charles Pellham, n.p., n.d., in Traveller Bird, 113.
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