Free «Culture Review Exercise: The Southeast (The Cherokee)» Essay
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Primarily, the Cherokee resided in the Appalachian Mountains, and by the nineteenth century, they came to live in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In 1838, they partially agreed to live in the reservation. The present paper discusses the Cherokee in the context of their political and social structures, gender relations, technology and economics, as well as comparative characteristics with other peoples in the region, prior to the nineteenth century.
The Cherokee functioned as independent entities in their clans. There were four such groups, and each of them was divided into a peace group and war group with its chiefs, members, and groups. Women could participate in councils on par with men, and they also owned property and furniture. The society was matrilineal: a sister’s son inherited chiefdom or other important social positions. The major principle of judging disputable cases was the principle of reciprocity, or “an eye for an eye” (Sutton, 2012, p. 327). Therefore, the Cherokee would usually fight and kill only to restore the balance rather than to acquire new lands or property. However, warfare would bring fame and honor of men participated with a brave heart. The Cherokee took captives and often tortured them. Women might be involved in torture especially if they were related to the deceased. Captives might be left to work instead of the deceased family member. Females could also participate in warfare, but usually, they did it to cook.
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The Cherokee had a strict division of labor. Farming was a female business as well as cooking, gathering plants, and tending to the house. Men went to war, hunted, fished, and helped to prepare fields for a new season or harvest. However, “men did not dominate women or control… women controlled their own sexuality” (Sutton, 2013, p. 328). The Cherokee did not frown upon adultery, pre-marital sex, and transgender persons but they did not like the disruption of harmony. Therefore, behavior that might upset someone should have been done quietly.
The Cherokee had two types of houses: summer and winter. Summer houses were usually two-storied. The Cherokee traveled by foot or by canoe. To cross a river, they could make a skimpy raft and leave it on the spot. Due to warm weather, the Cherokee wore little clothes. In summer, men wore a loincloth, and women — a skirt with no top. Children ran around naked. In winter, they wrapped in animal skins. Chiefs and shamans wore feathered headgears. Both men and women wore jewelry made of bone, shell, large animal claws, and antlers. Moreover, they had tattoos. Warriors tattooed their faces. Men either shaved their head leaving a lock of hair or wore it loose. Women could also either wear hair in a knot or loose (Sutton, 2013, p. 330).
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The Cherokee were engaged in both farming and hunting. Women planted corn for bread as well as grits and beans to dry out and use in winter. Also, the Cherokee cultivated pumpkins, watermelon, peas, squash, and sunflower and gathered wild berries, nuts, wild honey, and tree sap. Men hunted primarily deer, bear, and smaller game such as rabbits and birds. They usually used a bow and arrows and fished with hooks and nets. They might occasionally use traps and poison for fish (Sutton, 2013, p. 329).
Children were ‘taught gender’ playing games and toys according to their sex. Girls played with dolls, as well as daughters-and–mothers, and boys played at hunting and war. Children were usually brought up in their mother’s clan. If parents divorced, children came to her parents to live with them. Menstruating women were not regarded as unclean but had to stay in a separate building. Postmenopausal women were highly respected for stopping the unclear activity of menses (Sutton, 2013, p. 328). Divorces were rare and could easily be obtained. Men could have more than one wife.
How the Culture Is Typical of the Peoples in the Region
The Cherokee were the first among Native Americans to invent an alphabet by a guy named Sequoyah, who served in the US militia under the name of George Guess. He realized that a written language was extremely important for preserving his people and developed 85 letters. He began teaching the Cherokee how to read and write in their language, and within 20 years they already had a newspaper (Sutton, 2013, p. 324).
On the whole, the peoples in the region were typical in their ways of tilling the land, hunting, and living. Nevertheless, the Cherokee did not have such a social system of ‘castes’ as the Natchez had. The peoples in the region did not use money and usually traded or bartered what they needed for what they had. Because of the warm weather, they often wore little clothing. People decorated themselves with paint, tattoos, and jewelry. Unlike the Natchez women, the Cherokee ones did not blacken their teeth with ashes.
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Even though the Cherokee are typical of other groups in the region, their major difference is the adaptation and means of survival. For example, the Natchez did not survive.
The Cherokee Today
From 30,000 population in 1540, now the Cherokee boast more than 875,000 individuals, which make it the largest Native American tribe (Sutton, 2013, p. 331). Because of the 1838 deportation, now there are two distinct groups: the Western and Eastern Cherokee. The Western Cherokee live in Oklahoma and have the Intertribal Council of the Five Tribes. The Eastern Cherokee live in the North Carolina Reservation. The tribe lives off tourism business and a casino (Sutton, 2013, p. 331).
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