Today, the Eastern Cherokee maintain traditions of music, storytelling, dance, foodways, carving, basket-making, headwork, pottery, blowgun-making, flint-knapping, and more.
Their ideas of religion were everything to them. They believed the world should have balance, harmony, cooperation, and respect within the community and between people and the rest of nature. Cherokee myths and legends taught the lessons and practices necessary to maintain natural balance, harmony, and health.
Cherokee culture encompasses our longstanding traditions of language, spirituality, food, storytelling and many forms of art, both practical and beautiful. However, just like our people, Cherokee culture is not static or frozen in time, but is ever-evolving.
The Green Corn ceremony, the most important ceremony among the Cherokee, celebrated the harvesting of corn in late July or August. Everyone abstained from eating the new corn until they had performed the ceremony. The Green Corn ceremony marked a time of purification and renewal of individuals and society.
The Cherokee were farming people. Cherokee women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Cherokee men did most of the hunting, shooting deer, bear, wild turkeys, and small game. They also fished in the rivers and along the coast.
After 1800 the Cherokee were remarkable for their assimilation of American settler culture. The tribe formed a government modeled on that of the United States. Under Chief Junaluska they aided Andrew Jackson against the Creek in the Creek War, particularly in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Fire was and is sacred to the Cherokee, and is a living memorial. It has been with the people from the beginning of time. Fire is a gift of the Great Spirit, it separates men from animals.
They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, whites looted their homes. Then began the march known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.
Today the majority of Cherokees practice some denomination of Christianity, with Baptist and Methodist the most common. However, a significant number of Cherokees still observe and practice older traditions, meeting at stomp grounds in local communities to hold stomp dances and other ceremonies.
The personal belongings of the deceased were either buried with him or burned at the grave site. Food and furniture were smashed and thrown away. As soon as the corpse was buried, a priest was sent for to ritually cleanse the house.
The holiday hosts many different cultural and artistic events such as a two-night intertribal pow wow, stickball, Cherokee marbles, horseshoes and cornstalk shoot tournaments, softball tournaments, rodeos, car and art shows, gospel singings, the annual Miss Cherokee pageant, the Cherokee National Holiday parade, and
Cherokee men traditionally wore a feather or two tied at the crown of the head. At that time, Cherokee women wore mantles of leather or feathers, skirts of leather or woven mulberry bark, front-seam moccasins, and earrings pierced through the earlobe only.
Cherokee adults played two major games: basket dice, a game of chance, and stickball, a form of lacrosse. These, as well as a number of minor games, were fixed parts of ritual sequences until recently.
According to early Spanish explorers, Cherokee people made some of their clothing out of deerskins or the skins of other animals. They wove other clothing out of bark strips or strands of hemp. (Apparently they didn’t spin.)
What did the Cherokee tribe eat? The food that the Cherokee tribe ate included deer (venison), bear, buffalo, elk, squirrel, rabbit, opossum and other small game and fish. Their staple foods were corn, squash and and beans supplemented with wild onions, rice, mushrooms, greens, berries and nuts.