Sequoyah developed formal written language of the Cherokee people

Sequoyah, a Cherokee man, was responsible for developing the Cherokee syllabary that led to the formal written language of the Cherokee people. Illustration by Samantha Mandujano

By Samantha Mandujano, Chief Illustrator & Staff Writer

 Samantha Mandujano

Sequoyah, who was believed to be born around the 1700’s in Tuskegee (which is today now recognized as a location found under Tellico Lake in Tennessee), was a Cherokee man who was responsible for developing the Cherokee syllabary. He was raised by his Cherokee family and was surrounded by the culture, while also interacting with the European settlers who lived near the land. 

By observing the way that these settlers could communicate in the form of writing, Sequoyah was influenced to develop a writing system for his own native language, which his people could in turn use and pass on to future generations. A few years later, around the time of the War of 1812, Sequoyah began to develop each and every letter for every sound in his language. It’s believed that he first tried using pictographs, but eventually settled on symbols that could represent the syllables of the Cherokee language, which were influenced by the letters of other languages. 

He encouraged his people to utilize this method of communication, allowing them to later on publish their own works of literature and document historical moments and their culture. His vigorous work and dedication would soon pay off, as it was later on officially declared as the formal written language of the Cherokee people.