Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shawnee Enemies: The Cherokee

My Enemy, My Friend?

This week we are going to take a break from the Course of the Corset to learn more about the Cherokee. Next Tuesday, the Course of the Corset will return with a look into Victorian Corset. But for now, sit back and get to know more about one of the Shawnee's enemies, The Cherokee.

Native American politics can be complex and hard to understand sometimes. The Shawnee and Cherokee relations are just that, complex. The Shawnee people have a love/ hate relationship with the Cherokee. These feelings are rooted deep through Shawnee history and the cultural differences between the two groups. Yet there were times the Shawnee did interact with the Cherokee without attacking them and vice versa. Today, an intertribal group of Shawnee and Cherokee known as the Loyal Shawnee live in Oklahoma. Although they are known as Cherokee Shawnee, they are federally recognized as Shawnee. You can read more about their story at

Just who were the Cherokee?

 The Cherokee 
It All Begins at Home in the Past. 
A member of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Cherokee lived in the Southeastern portion of the the United States and are descended from the Mississippian Culture. The Mississippians were a group of mound building tribes the developed their culture deep within the Mississippian Valley beginning around 800 AD. The Mississippian culture is marked by nine distinctive traits that unify them, although the tribes may have expressed them in different variations. Wikipedia sums them up like this:
      1) The construction of large, truncated earthwork pyramid mounds, or platform mounds. Such mounds were usually square, rectangular, or occasionally circular. Structures (domestic houses, temples, burial buildings, or other) were usually constructed atop such mounds.
      2) Maize-based agriculture. In most places, the development of Mississippian culture coincided with adoption of comparatively large-scale, intensive maize agriculture, which supported larger populations and craft specialization.
      3) The adoption and use of riverine (or more rarely marine) shells as tempering agents in their shell tempered pottery.
      4) Widespread trade networks extending as far west as the Rockies, north to the Great Lakes, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
      5) The development of the chiefdom or complex chiefdom level of social complexity.
      6) The development of institutionalized social inequality.
      7) A centralization of control of combined political and religious power in the hands of few or one.
      8) The beginnings of a settlement hierarchy, in which one major center (with mounds) has clear influence or control over a number of lesser communities, which may or may not possess a smaller number of mounds.
      9) The adoption of the paraphernalia of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC), also called the Southern Cult. This is the belief system of the Mississippians as we know it. SECC items are found in Mississippian-culture sites from Wisconsin (see Aztalan State Park) to the Gulf Coast, and from Florida to Arkansas and Oklahoma. The SECC was frequently tied in to ritual game-playing, as with chunkey.
The complex society of Mississippian Culture flourished until 1500 AD. The map on the right shows their locations. At this same time, the ancestors of the Shawnee were known as the Fort Ancient Culture, which is located at the top of the map. It is interesting to note how isolated the Fort Culture society is when compared the vast Mississippian cultures. This isolation helped to create the cultural differences between the Cherokee and Shawnee.

See the video below for more information on the descendants of the Mississippian Culture. 

The cultural remnants of the Mississippians are found within the Cherokee and her sister tribes of the Five Civilized Tribes. The Five Civilized Tribes include: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. They term Five Civilized Tribes first came into use during the mid-nineteeth century to identify these closely related group of tribes. The term represents the tribes' willingness to assimilate into European way of life through adopting the European culture as their own. Members of the Five Civilized Tribes intermarried with the Europeans, adopted Christianity as their religion, wrote constitutions, maintained a centralized government, owned slaves, dressed like the Europeans, accepted patrilineal descent, became literate, settled on farms, and lived in European style houses. All the tribes accepted this long before the Removal Act. Their willingness to abandon the native ways and adapt to the European way of life often put them at odds with Shawnee. While the Cherokee were adapting, the Shawnee strove even harder to keep their own cultural identity through strict conservatism. The Shawnee taught their young never to abandon the Shawnee ways and too keep the creed their creator had given them deep within their hearts. 

Join me Saturday as I introduce you to a Cherokee silversmith but the name of  George Gist, better known as Sequoyah, the father of the Cherokee language.

If you were a Native American would you adapt to the white ways or try to keep your cultural identity?

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