Cherokee indians, or as they called themselves ah-ni-yv-wi-ya (“the only people”) is an Iroquois people, which, before the Europeans’ colonization of North America, was a resident of what is now the eastern and southeastern United States. These Indians were regarded as civilized by the white because they had assimilated many of the colonists’ customs, including keeping slaves and owning plantations.
The clans represented the seven spiritual, material, and universal levels that constituted Cherokee’s world. They represented a person’s path through life, from birth to death and in preparation for an afterlife. It did not mean that the person was a member of a clan was at that level that the clan represented. The clans were meant to create balance between the spiritual forces and all the members of all clans were considered equal. Blue clan or wildcat clan made a medicine from a blue-colored plant for use in purification ceremonies. Their clan colors were blue and their trees were ash. They represented purity.
Cherokee government consisted of two tribal councils. One ruled during peacetime, and the other was a council of war. There was also a medicine chief who could mediate between the two tribal council chiefs, the white chief and the red chief, if there was a discord between them. Every little village had its own red and white tribal councils.
The white tribal council consisted of a white chief who had a deputy chief at his side, seven counselors (one from each clan), a chief speaker, a representative of older men and of a council of grandmothers. They were old and had total control over all the village shops.
The Red Tribal Council consisted of a red war chief, his deputy chief, seven war advisers (one from each clan), a chief speaker, messengers, and scouts. The Red Council had the responsibility to declare war when he found it necessary. However, it was the council of grandmothers who decided what would happen to the prisoners of war if taken.
Cherokee lived in a matrilineal society, which means that kinship was counted on the mother’s side, and that it was the child’s uncle, who saw that the child was taught to hunt and fight.
However, the father of a child had the right, along with the child’s grandmother, to decide what name the child would be given. But it was only if children born in wedlock. Seven days after birth the baby was taken to a running water and was washed at seven places on the body.
Cherokee met white colonists for the first time in the early 1500s and they were involved in all the bloody wars in the area. However, they were mainly farmers and hunters who were divided into seven clans. It has been estimated that in 1650, 25 000 people lived about in their capital Echota and in about 60 000 in surrounding villages.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 there were 729,533 people claimed to be fully or partially Cherokee in the United States.
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