Cherokee Symbols

The Cherokees are a Native American tribe that reside in America, and they have devised their own symbol syllabary to use as a medium of communication. Almost every Cherokee Indian is familiar with these symbols and can understand them with ease.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Every culture has developed their own unique symbols and signs over time, and Cherokee symbols are widely recognized language tools that were developed by the Native American Cherokees to portray their beliefs. These symbols are distinguished as syllabary symbols.
Syllabary is a form wherein a particular symbol or representation is used to denote a fixed syllable. Thus a sentence will contain a few syllables, rather than a lot of words. The symbols that are used in syllabary usually sound like a consonant (which is optional), followed by a vowel. The symbols of Cherokees thus make use of syllabary, and not alphabets, because each symbol represents a distinct and unique sound.
*Image of George Gist (Sequoyah)
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (PD)
(Author: Lithographer: Lehman and Duval (George Lehman (d.1870); Peter S. Duval) Painter: Henry Inman (1801-20-28 - 1846-01-17); copy after a painting by Charles Bird King (1785 - 1862) which was lost in a fire in the Smithsonian in 1865.)
The Cherokee Tribe
According to the census in 2000 AD, the Cherokee tribe is made up of about 30,000 members. There are a total of 563 Native American tribes that are recognized by the Federal United States Government, and the Cherokees are the biggest amongst them. As a result, the popularity of their symbols and mediums of communication is quite high, and there are many people who can understand these symbols and speak them as well.
History of Cherokee Symbols
The Cherokee syllabary was created by Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, in the year 1819. His contribution is noteworthy because he was completely illiterate and had no prior exposure to any form of written script. By 1825, his syllabary became immensely popular and the Cherokee tribes adopted it as their written language.

There are currently 85 symbols of Native American Cherokees (originally there were 86), and these comprise the written and spoken language of the Native American Cherokees.
Cherokee Characters
Each character denoted in a chart of symbols represents a particular sound, that ends with a vowel. The phonetic value of symbols differ and often mean two different things, thus implying that this is not easy to pick up. The pictorial representation of each syllable looks like an alphabet out of the English language, but it differs in the vocal sound greatly.
Cherokee Syllabary
Cherokee Syllabary
Cherokee Syllabary
Cherokee Syllabary
These symbols are widely used as signs on the streets in the areas where the Cherokees dominantly reside. There are three recognized Cherokee tribes in the United States today. The Cherokee Nation tribe and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians tribe both reside in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribe resides in Cherokee, North Carolina.

The pictorial representation of these symbols are very attractive to look at, so some people use these as tattoo designs as well. Tattoos of these symbols are quite commonly seen, especially in the Cherokee-inhabited areas, and these are intended to be a homage to their culture and belief systems. Most common Cherokee tattoos make use of the symbols for love, brotherhood, peace, harmony, unity and good fortune. These protect the wearer from evil spirits and give them peace of mind.
Cherokee Animal Symbolism
The Cherokees are believed to share a very close bond with the spiritual world. They believe that their forefathers from the spiritual world often communicated with them, and they in turn communicated back through the means of animals and other signs in nature. Here's a look at what some of these animals represent -
Alligator
A warning sign of fast approaching danger or enemies.
Ant
Symbolic of hard work and perseverance.
Antelope
Indicative of opting for another path to solve the problem at hand.
Ape
Indicative of an opponent or competitor coming your way.
Armadillo
Reminds us to respect boundaries.
Badger
Indicative of impending hard work, which would be required for your task at hand.
Bat
Is believed to be a warning sign of an impending crisis within the family.
Bear
One of the most positive signs of Cherokee symbolism, the bear is believed to bring you courage to face all the difficulties in life.
Beaver
Indicates that you might need to devote more time to get your job done.
Bee
Another positive symbol, it is believed to bring in good news, usually associated with good fortune.
Boar
A symbol of strength, it is believed to suggest that you would have someone by your side through thick and thin.
Buffalo
Another symbol of strength, that will help you through your problems.
Bull
Symbolic of success, especially in your love life.
Butterfly
This is more of a mixed sign; it symbolizes the changing times, and could also be indicative of the changing of loyalties of your loved ones.
Cat
Closely associated with the spiritual world in most religions, it is believed to be a message for you to be more alert about things going on around you.
Cock
Is believed to be a sign of good news coming your way, and also a gentle reminder for you to keep your emotions in check.
Condor
Symbolic of wisdom being passed down from the spiritual world.
Cougar
A warning sign to be aware of an attack from unexpected quarters.
Cow
Symbolizes prosperity coming your way.
Coyote
Makes you aware of unexpected change headed your way.
Crow
Is a warning sign about the wrong path you've chosen.
Deer
Is a bearer of good news.
Dog
Speaks of a trusty friend.
Donkey
Talks about the arguments and fights within the family.
Dolphin
Is symbolic of great positive energy coming your way.
Dove
Peace and tranquility prevails in all your works.
Dragon
Is symbolic of your suppressed emotions, and longing for worldly pleasures.
Duck
Clears the distrust you had in a faithful friend.
Eagle
Speaks of a hard path, but assured success.
Falcon
Symbolic of great success against all odds.
Fish
Points to the need for better focus toward your goals to achieve success.
Fox
A reminder to be watchful of your choice of a loved one.
Frog
Speaks of a time for a complete change of heart and purification of your soul.
Gazelle
Symbolic of happiness headed your way, especially in your love life.
Goat
Reminds you to be more aware of things in your love life, and to sort out your differences.
Goose
Speaks of a great inheritance, but with a fair bit of traveling.
Grasshopper
A warning sign of impending unexpected danger.
Hawk
Speaks of an extremely trustworthy friend.
Horse
Reminds you to be strong in the midst of great troubles, and to have a good judgment.
Hummingbird
Symbolizes tremendous joy.
Hyena
Is believed to be a message about avoiding taking important decisions for a while, especially after sundown.
Jackal
Is meant to make you realize that you may have wrongly judged a loved one.
Jaguar
Symbolizes an upcoming journey to a place you love.
Kangaroo
A warning sign of grudge or revenge that is going to be acted out against you.
Leopard
Advises you to seek better knowledge.
Lizard
Symbolic of a great and important lesson headed your way.
Lion
Symbolizes immense strength, and also the advice to practice restraint and patience.
Lynx
Symbolizes that a great secret is gonna be revealed to you.
Moose
Symbolizes that you are about to receive a great blessing in a vision.
Monkey
Reminder for you to be more in control of the situation.
Mouse
Speaks of the time to review things.
Owl
Warning about betrayal by a loved one.
Peacock
Symbolic of false pride, that is keeping you from reaching out to a loved one you may have hurt.
Panther
Warns of an impending illness.
Parrot
Warns of a stranger using flattery to deceive you.
Pigeon
A sign of a long and fruitful love relationship.
Rabbit
A sign to tell you to slow down things, and take a breather.
Rat
Time to clean up things, and your life.
Robin
A warning sign of someone about to misguide you.
Scorpion
A sign of victory over the enemy.
Seagull
Inspires a sense of satisfaction from your work, and a lesson well learned.
Seal
Sign of an unexpected pregnancy, that will cause a lot of trouble.
Shark
A sign of grave problems and difficulties ahead.
Sheep
Warns you against being indecisive.
Snake
Tell you to beware of deceitful tongues and back stabbers.
Spider
Reminds you to resolve disputes at home to attain true happiness.
Stork
Warns you about envious eyes, and about being watchful against theft.
Swan
Signifies great spiritual satisfaction coming your way.
Tiger
Symbolizes an impending illness to a loved one, or a sign of an embarrassing situation that awaits you.
Turkey
Reminds you to be careful about stressing yourself out.
Turtle
Brings the message of assured success in your conquest.
Unicorn
A mixed sign, which speaks of great fortune that awaits you, but also about close companions turning against you.
Vultures
Ironically, symbolizes the upcoming end to problems.
Whale
Signifies the enormity of the task at hand, and that you would need to seek assistance.
Wolf
Cautions you from being over-trusting.
Zebra
Reminds you to never stake your honor and reputation.
People interested in the symbols of Cherokees and their history can learn more about them and can even learn the syllabary for themselves. These symbols are very fascinating indeed, and carry a lot of history and heritage with them.