Tuesday, February 16, 2021

American Calligraphy #8: The Cherokee syllabary

ABCs of the USA: The stories behind America’s most distinctive calligraphy styles.

Nearly two centuries ago, on Feb 21, 1828, in New Echota, Georgia, the first newspaper in the Cherokee language was published. This writing system was invented by Sequoyah (c 1770-1843), who wanted his fellow Cherokee to be able to read their own language in book pages, which he called "talking leaves." The hand-lettering and type he created were based on some of the forms of the Roman alphabet but not its sounds. (Thus, the three letters above are the Cherokee letters for "U S A.")

Since its inception, linguists have admired its capacity to spell out any language.  

Cherokee speakers kept its use alive, despite the tribe's forcible relocation by the US government from North Carolina to Oklahoma, a journey known as "the trail of tears." Although recently spoken by as few as 1500 people, its use is increasing again through education and advocacy. 

For more history

    In this week of Presidential birthdays we can also honor the memory of all that was lost through the failure of the colonizers to recognize the cultural integrity of the native people whose land they invaded.  

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