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Sequoyah

AKA George Gist

Born: c. 1770
Birthplace: Tuskegee, AL
Died: Aug-1843
Location of death: San Fernando, Mexico
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Missing

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Multiracial
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Linguist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Put the Cherokee language on paper

Sequoyah is believed to be the only person in human history to single-handedly craft a widely-used written language. Half-Cherokee, half-Englishman, he was christened George Gist, but abandoned by his father and raised in the Cherokee ways. After his foot was injured, possibly in a hunting accident, he became better known by his native nickname, Sequoyah, meaning literally, Pig's Foot. He eventually married a Cherokee woman, but worked in the white man's world as a silversmith.

He saw the advantage of communication via scribbles on paper or "talking leaves", and spent a dozen years devising symbols for every sound in the spoken Cherokee language. He taught it to his daughter, who introduced the new syllabary to the Cherokee people. It caught on almost immediately, allowing Cherokee people to write letters home and keep written records, and within a few years Cherokee Phoenix was launched -- the tribe's first newspaper. He never learned to read or write in English. He was awarded the Cherokee's highest honor, and a lifelong pension. The largest species of tree on Earth -- the sequoia -- was named for him, as is Sequoyah County in Oklahoma, where he once lived.

Father: Nathanial Gist (fur trader)
Mother: Wut-teh ("Betsy", b. circa 1740)
Wife: Sallie Waters Guess
Daughter: Ayoka
Son: George Guess Jr.
Daughter: Polly Guess
Son: Richard Guess
Son: Teesey Guess

    English Ancestry Paternal
    Cherokee Ancestry Maternal

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #1859 (19 cents, Sequoyah portrait, issued 27-Dec-1980)



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