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A New Nation
(1776-1830)

Sequoyah



Sequoyah
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.58

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    retelling, generation, camps, artistic, injury, witchcraft, writing, setback, chief, jewelry, tribe, born, hearing, exactly, however, member
     content words:    Native American, Tennessee River, Paint Clan, To Sequoyah, Native Americans, Cherokee Phoenix


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Sequoyah
By Jane Runyon
  

1     Sequoyah was a very artistic Native American. He was born in the 1770's in a camp along the Tennessee River. His mother was a member of the Paint Clan, and his father was a white man. He was raised in the Cherokee tradition. From the time he was very young, he loved to draw. He would draw the animals he saw in the woods near his camp. He would draw the flowers and trees which surrounded his home. He was injured in a hunting accident when he was young. This injury kept him from hunting and fishing like many of his friends. He spent much of his time thinking and drawing.
 
2     Although Sequoyah was half white, he never learned the English language. He could not speak it, write it, read it, or even understand it. He observed something fascinating about the language, however. He noticed that the white man could say something, make some marks on a piece of paper, give that paper to another white man, and the other white man would understand what the first man had said without hearing it himself. To Sequoyah, this had to be some kind of magic. He became obsessed with trying to find the secret so that his own people could do the same thing with their language. Up until this time, the only way the Native Americans had to preserve the stories of their people and their beliefs was to tell the story to each generation. Sequoyah believed that many of the true words and meanings of these stories were being lost in the retelling.
 
3     Sequoyah experimented with different ways to write his own Cherokee language. He made marks for each sentence spoken. When these marks became hard to remember, he tried marks for each word. This also proved hard to remember. He finally came up with a mark for each sound or clusters of sounds. When he had finished, he had eighty-five different symbols representing the sounds.

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