Sequoyah is widely celebrated as an unlettered Cherokee Indian who, entirely from the resources of his own brilliant mind, endowed his whole tribe with learning - the only man in history to conceive and perfect in its entirety an alphabet or syllabary.
Soon after 1800, Sequoyah began to realize the magic of writing. He and other Indians of the time, who occasionally saw samples of writing, called these mysterious pages the white man's "talking leaf."
He experimented aimlessly at first, but gradually his conception took practical shape. It was slow and laborious work for an untutored Cherokee. Finally, after twelve years of labor and discouragement, he completed his syllabary, composed of eighty-five symbols, each representing a sound in the Cherokee language.
The simplicity of the syllabary and its easy adaptability to the speech and thought of his people enabled them to master it in a few days. The Cherokee nation was made practically literate within a few months.
About the Author:
Grant Foreman (1869-1953), known as the dean of American Indian historians, was the author of Indian Removal, The Five Civilized Tribes, and Sequoyah and editor of Ethan Allen Hitchcock?s Traveler in Indian Territory, all published by the University of Oklahoma Press.