The word Cherokee is believed to have evolved from a Choctaw word meaning "Cave People." It was picked up and used by Europeans and eventually accepted and adopted by Cherokees in the form of Tsalagi or Jalagi. Traditionally, the people now known as Cherokee refer to themselves as aniyun-wiya, a name usually translated as "the Real People," sometimes "the Original People."

1-Who were the Cherokee princesses? The Cherokee never had princesses. This is a concept based on European folktales and has no reality in Cherokee history and culture. In fact, Cherokee women were very powerful. They owned all the houses and fields, and they could marry and divorce as they pleased. Kinship was determined through the mother's line. Clan mothers administered justice in many matters. Beloved women were very special women chosen for their outstanding qualities. As in other aspects of Cherokee culture, there was a balance of power between men and women. Although they had different roles, they both were valued.

2- Did the Cherokee live in tipis? The Cherokee never lived in tipis. Only the nomadic Plains Indians did so. The Cherokee were southeastern woodland Indians, and in the winter they lived in houses made of woven saplings, plastered with mud and roofed with poplar bark. In the summer they lived in open-air dwellings roofed with bark. Today the Cherokee live in ranch houses, apartments, and trailers.

3- What was traditional Cherokee dress? Did they wear headdresses? The Cherokee have never worn feather headdresses except to please tourists. These long headdresses were worn by Plains Indians and were made popular through Wild West shows and Hollywood movies. Cherokee men traditionally wore a feather or two tied at the crown of the head. In the early 18th century, Cherokee men wore cotton trade shirts, loincloths, leggings, front-seam moccasins, finger-woven or beaded belts, multiple pierced earrings around the rim of the ear, and a blanket over one shoulder. At that time, Cherokee women wore mantles of leather or feathers, skirts of leather or woven mulberry bark, front-seam moccasins, and earrings pierced through the earlobe only. By the end of the 18th century, Cherokee men were dressing much like their white neighbors. Men were wearing shirts, pants, and trade coats, with a distinctly Cherokee turban. Women were wearing calico skirts, blouses, and shawls. Today Cherokee people dress like other Americans, except for special occasions, when the men wear ribbon shirts with jeans and moccasins, and the women wear tear dresses with corn beads, woven belts, and moccasins.

4- Do the Cherokee live on a reservation? The Cherokee do not live on a reservation, which is defined as land given by the federal government to a tribe. The Eastern Cherokee own 57,000 acres of land which they bought in the 1800s, and which is now owned by them but held in trust by the federal government. This land, called the Qualla Boundary, is mostly woods and mountains in western North Carolina, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cherokee Elders

5- How did the Eastern Band escape the Trail of Tears? The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is descended from Cherokee people who had taken land under the Treaty of 1819 and were allowed to remain in North Carolina; from those who hid in the woods and mountains until the U.S. Army left; and from those who turned around and walked back from Oklahoma. By 1850 they numbered almost a thousand. Today the Eastern Band includes about 11,000 members, while the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma claims more than 100,000 members, making the Cherokee the second largest tribe in the United States.

Cherokee Clothes

6- Do the Cherokee people want to be called Indians or Native Americans? The legal name for the Cherokee people in North Carolina is: "The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians." Because "Native American" can refer to anyone born in America, the North American Indian Women's Association recommends using the term "American Indians."

Cherokee Woman Old Picture

7- What is the Cherokee government, and do the Cherokee people receive money from the federal government? The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nations is a sovereign nation within the larger nation of the United States. The Eastern Band is governed by a Principal Chief and a Vice-Chief and a tribal council made up of twelve members--two representatives each from six townships. These are all elected democratically. Voter turnout at the last major election was 70%. Tribal members also vote in state and national elections. The tribe pays for its own schools, water, sewer, fire, and emergency services.


8- Do Cherokee people still practice their traditional culture? Cherokee arts and crafts are still practiced: basket-weaving, pottery, carving, finger-weaving, and beadwork. The Cherokee language is spoken as a first language by fewer than a thousand people and has declined rapidly because of the policies of federally operated schools. However, since the tribe has begun operation of their own schools, Cherokee language is being systematically taught in the schools. Traditional Cherokee medicine, religion, and dance are practiced privately.

Modern Cherokee Children

Responses to "8 Truths About "Cherokee" Everyone Should Know"

  1. Redhand says:

    Of course, out of necessity, this is a short article. If you really want to know more there are tons of good books on both the Eastern and OK nations. I have been to both, although my family is Eastern. Both have fascinating museums and many other things to see and do. Worth the trip if you're interested.

  2. Jody says:

    Thank you for the information, there are so many 1/2 truths, a down right fabrication it's hard to know what's what. I hope to visit the 2 states mentioned and the museums in the near future. Thanks again

  3. Unknown says:

    Thank you that was very interesting. I would like to know more about your tribe, how your children are raised and educated, every day life.

  4. My grandfather was Cherokee and I have always been interested in the Cherokee culture. So this article was very interesting to me. I have visited the museum in Ok. and found it very interesting. I would love to learn more.

  5. Unknown says:

    I was always told by my Elders that tsa la si (Cherokee) means Fire People, becuase our skin would turn red like a hot ember of coal. And we did at one time lived in caves, and we are a principle people, we voted in our leaders.

  6. Unknown says:

    Thank you for adding to your group

  7. Unknown says:

    Thank you for this, it was very interesting to read. I remember visiting Cherokee, NC when I was a child and going to the museum with my parents as my mother believed her grandmother to have been half-Cherokee (although there were other possibilities given where she lived), though we never found out as she was not allowed to speak about it by my great-grandfather.

  8. Unknown says:

    I am apart of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and I live in Cherokee, NC in the Wolftown community. I just graduated from high school in May of 2015. The children that live here are raised just as every other child in the US would be raised. We go to school graduate go to college all that other stuff and get a job till we are ready to retire. Nothing about how we are raised is different from how other races are raised. We have a museum here and it is very accurate with the information. Yes we have our own school (Cherokee Central Schools) we also have a school here that is like a regular school but we teach in our Cherokee language. If I'm not mistaken we are the only tribe with our own written language (I'm not sure if other tribes have their own written language

  9. Unknown says:

    Bailey, I'm pretty sure Cherokees were the first ones to create writing for their language, however you aren't the only ones. The Lakota, for example too have a form of written language

  10. Unknown says:

    loincloths? Breech cloths I think you meant :)

  11. Unknown says:

    I really do not know where to start with this. My grandmother was full Cherokee. She was a big influence on me as a child to adulthood. I guess with reading how strong and powerful the women are she was the same. My grandmother taught me that trait. Strong and independent. I have a question if somebody would respond back. Paths of Destiny or Destiny Paths and if they are still in existence? Like to know more, the locations and possibly pictures. Ive inquired about this topic due to numerous dreams about this place. Thank you!

  12. Angi_H says:

    Very Cool, My Ancestor's are both Eastern And OK based. Although I am from BOth Orig eastern I can only be in one Band.

  13. Unknown says:

    Truly Awesomeness,A'HO

  14. Patricia Whitedove Bartlett says:

    I have ancestors who were Cherokee, but I don't know from where they came. My great-grandmother died before I had a chance to inquire and no one else seems to be able to tell me. I have always been fascinated with Cherokee medicine and culture. I visit Cherokee, NC several times a year. I don't live far from...I live in Hickory, NC. Very interesting article.

  15. Unknown says:

    Thankyou for this informative article. I am 1/4 Cherokee on my fathers side. I am excited to learn about my Cherokee heritage.

  16. Sky says:

    I am wondering if anyone knows about the woman in the photograph. I was reading this article trying to learn a little more about my heritage,and she looks exactly like my mother.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The lady in the picture is Mary Wells. She was a Cherokee Princess and was my great grandmother x3.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Awesome pictures and articles I just recently found out my real father was a full blooded Cherokee but he died before i had a chance to meet him i am always searching for news but can't find anything out about him i will search till i know

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hi I was Cherokee in a past life .. male with one feather an I love it �� I'm now
    Part maori another culture that is growing back. Funny how
    When I was 5 all I wanted to be when I grew up was an indian
    With a feathers in my hair. What does 1 feather mean? Anything?

  20. There were no Cherokee princesses. She might have been your grandmother but not a princess. She was a very beautiful woman with traditional Indian hair and features.

  21. Unknown says:

    Very good article. S'gi.

  22. Unknown says:

    Both of my grandmother's were Cherokee,I have been to Cherokee NC.when I was young.Thanks for the info on our people.

  23. Anonymous says:

    In Tahlequah we live on a rez. This was implimented by the trail of tears. Never forget.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Quite a bit of European and African blood with the Cherokee. They were a tribe of refuge for many to the point that Cherokee blood lines are watered down by intermarriage. They are true Americans.

  25. Unknown says:

    Thank you so much for all the info.i been trying to learn about my ancestors. I find bits a pieces of info and hoping all the bits and pieces add up one day.

  26. Unknown says:

    I want to learn the Cherokee language and medicine. My maternal grandmother was part Cherokee and my maternal grandfather was full blood Cherokee.... I would love for me and my son's to learn more. We have our roll numbers but don't know how to go about learning the language and medicine.

  27. Unknown says:


  28. Anonymous says:

    I had a dream a few years ago, I was encircled by 12 Indian Chiefs with full headdress on horseback both the Chiefs and the horses eyes were glowing white they said nothing and did nothing but look at me, I felt very safe. And the woman in the old picture looks like me...very haunting

  29. Unknown says:

    Hallo ich würde gerne mehr über die junge Frau erfahren.Sie sieht genauso aus wie ich als ich jung war. Meine Urgroßmutter war eine cherokee.mein vater in Louisiana geboren.kann mir irgendjemand helfen?

  30. Unknown says:

    I always hear of people saying their grandmother (x1, x2, x3, so on) was a Cherokee Princess. I also hear,quite often, there was no such thing as an Indian princess., which is true. But I have some interesting information that may explain ... I have been doing some research of my ancestors. (My maiden name is "Ward"), and I think I may have found where this misconception has originated. Nanyehi (Cherokee: ᎾᏅᏰᎯ: "One who goes about"), known in English as Nancy Ward (c. 1738 – 1822), was a Beloved Woman and political leader of the Cherokee. She advocated for peaceful coexistence with European-Americans and, late in life, spoke out for Cherokee retention of tribal lands. She is also credited with the introduction of dairy products to the Cherokee economy.[1]
    (you can read more info of her here.

    In 1923 the Nancy Ward chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, based in Chattanooga, placed a memorial marker at the grave sites near Benton, Tennessee. Polk County, Tennessee where Benton is located, trying to raise money to create a Nancy Ward Museum. On her memorial marker they refer to her as "Princess and prophetess of the Cherokee Nation". You can find a picture here;

    I have no idea why they would write "princess" on it. But I wonder if that is where the idea came from and has been passed down for generations. ....Just food for thought.

  31. love the info. i am southern band cherokee and we are still fighting for our rights. not our fault the Ridge family had papers messed up and saying some were Cherokee and wernt. Damn what a mess.

  32. Love this thank you!

  33. Unknown says:

    Thank you for this information! We need more of the same to incorporate knowledge about the many diverse tribes into schools and into the government of the U.S.

  34. Unknown says:

    Thank you for sharing the information. When a Native American married a white, were they not part of the tribe any longer. Would like to see articles regarding marriages and their children.

  35. Unknown says:

    I am Cherokee as well. And I have the great honor of working for the Cherokee Nation, North Eastern Oklahoma, my question is-why is it so difficult to find authentic images of Cherokee people in early American history or even Oklahoma history? There are so many of plains Indians old photos etc... and we are documented heavily of meeting from early American explorers.

  36. Unknown says:

    I am Cherokee born in Oklahoma they have many places and museums to stop and learn of history and heritage.

  37. Lucinda M Wells says:

    I did not find out I was of Cherokee lineage until after my Grandmother passed. Not sure if she knew or not but she never talked about it. A relative hired a private investigator to learn about our family and we found out that way that my Dad's Grandmother was Cherokee. She passed during the birth of her 13th child.

    Back in college I researched the Cherokee nation as part of a project to discover my lost heritage. I've had multiple random people over the course of my 33 years tell me I have a "Cherokee nose" or that it signals a great leader... Have always wanted to learn everything I could ! Thank you for this will continue my search !!

  38. Anonymous says:

    William Thomas was the first and only white chief of the Cherokee. He was a lawyer, trading post operator, and federal politician. He was responsible for many of the Eastern Band not having to go on the Trail of Tears.

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