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My Cherokee Heritage and General Cherokee History

Updated on April 1, 2017
GARH608 profile image

I started my genealogy search when I was in 8th grade. DNA testing led me to Cherokee, Saint Luke, Napoleon Bonaparte, & Marie Antoinette.

Characteristics of Native Americans

I found out not too long ago that my maternal Haplogroup comes from European men having taken Cherokee wives. Therefore, I have continued my research into this part of my heritage. I found many to be quite fascinating.

Physical characteristics that I exhibit are noted in ( ).

  • High cheekbones. (They were higher when I was younger.)
  • Almond shaped almost oriental looking eyes. (Something that is quite obvious that I have.)
  • Heavy “fat” eyelids where the eyelid appears to have an extra fold. (I believe I have this as well.)
  • “Shovel” teeth, the teeth have a ledge on the backside. Run your tongue across them; they feel almost like a shovel shape.
  • Large front teeth with a slight or more than slight gap. (No gap.)
  • Lack of the Carabelli cusp on the maxillary first molars (a little bump), which is missing in Native Americans.
  • Large heavy earlobes.
  • An inverted breastbone. Often called a Chicken Breast. The bone actually makes an indentation in the chest.
  • Little toes that lie under the next one.
  • A second toe longer than the big toe. (I have this)
  • A wider space between the big toe and second one. (I have this)
  • A straight back, which means a flat butt (My youngest brother has this one.)
  • An extra ridge of bone along the outside of the foot.
  • “Lingual nodes,” the two bony nodes that protrude from the jaw bone under the tongue.
  • A pigmentation in the back of the eye on the retina peculiar to Native Americans.

In addition to the listed characteristics, Native Americans also have the following:

  • Higher occurrence of hypoglycemia. (I have this, and apparently so does my son.)
  • Higher occurrence of Type-2 Diabetes. (We both need to watch out for this.)
  • Thyroid conditions Hypo and Hyper are often found in those with Native Ancestry. (My mom has this)
  • Alcoholism is due to the lack of an enzyme to convert the alcohol in the bloodstream.
  • Oclesia of the Esophagus – the last muscle in the esophagus becomes too strong
    and closes off after just a few bites and the person can not swallow anymore.
  • Heart Disease. (My maternal grandmother, who is the line of Cherokee Indian died of a heart attack.)
  • Arthritis. (My mom has this, and I won't be surprised when I get it to.)
  • Kidney problems, most likely related to the occurrence of diabetes.
  • Native Americans are harder to match to for blood transfusions and marrow donations due to their antigens being harder to match. This is usually in cases of cancer where this is needed. (Wonder if this could mean that even though my children have the same blood type as their father, he still will not be able to match them in this??)
  • Pudgy jowls that most Native American women end up with as they age. (I got this.)

Therefore, physical characteristics to the Native Americans is not limited to just the traditional dark hair, high cheekbones, nose shape and darker skin that most people associate with them. However, not all Cherokees possess these physical features, due to early contact with Scottish and German miners in the southeast. Some Cherokees can be blond, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. Cherokee men are typically between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 5 inches tall, with women usually being less than 6 inches shorter. Interestingly, Cherokees may gain some of their physical features from Middle Eastern people, as their DNA has trace similarities with that of Egyptians, Turks, Lebanese, Hebrews and Mesopotamians.

Settlements

The Cherokee Indians settled in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. They did not live in tipis; contrary to popular belief, the only Indians to live in tipis were the nomadic Plains Indians. The Cherokee were relatively settled in their communities and built their more durable homes close to where they grew their crops. At the time of the first contact with European settlers, the Cherokee villages were permanent communities consisting of about 30 to 60 dwellings surrounded by agricultural fields.

The Cherokee Indians needed resilient housing to protect themselves from the elements. In winter, they covered their woven sapling log cabins with mud to keep out the frigid air and snow. During summer, the Cherokee resided in larger dwellings with grass and bark roofs to let in more light and air.

Though friendly with the European settlers, the Cherokee tribe sided with the British during the American Revolution, even participating in a few attacks against the colonists.

After gold was discovered on Cherokee lands in the 1830s, the Indian Removal Act was passed. Many fled to North Carolina or the Appalachian Mountains to avoid being forcefully relocated. In violation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, President Andrew Jackson ordered those that remained to be taken into custody and placed in an internment camp in preparation for this "Indian removal." Many died in the internment camp.

Those that survived were forced to march 1,000 miles to Oklahoma, an event that became known as the Trail of Tears. (Which is kind of funny to me now. Because I had my own Trail of Tears in June 2013, when I left NC for MO. Who says life isn't a circle?) Thousands of people died during this arduous journey; others succumbed to illness and injuries sustained on this march once they arrived in their new lands.

The Cherokee quickly rebuilt their community, which eventually grew to include newspapers, schools and churches. Today, more Cherokees live in Oklahoma than any other state, and their communities are federally protected

Natural resources to make weapons

To make stone weapons, arrowheads and spear points, Cherokees sharpened rocks using harder rocks or deer antlers. They also used rocks to create grooves in stones and wrapped string made out of rawhide around the grooves, so they could attach the arrowheads or spear points to a wooden handle made from a branch. If a piece of wood had a knot in it, that was used to hold the head of the weapon in place.

Blowguns were made of long pieces of wood and were filled with darts made out of hardwoods. To poison the dart, the Cherokees tricked venomous snakes into biting rotten meat, which the Cherokees dipped their darts into. Thistledown was attached to the darts to create a seal in the blowgun. They also used poisonous plant extracts to poison their darts.

To make fishing hooks, Cherokees used fish bones, another natural resource, or sticks. They also harvested clay to make pottery.

Philisophical

The Cherokee believe that decisions affecting the entire tribe must be met and discussed as a group. They treated each other with respect and believed that bad deeds are always punished, so they are careful to avoid committing them. When the Europeans arrived in the New World, the Cherokee were quick to welcome them with open arms. They often intermarried with the newcomers and incorporated their foods, philosophies and languages into their own culture. Their open and adaptable nature has allowed them to survive as a tribe into the 21st century, despite the incredible hardships their people have suffered.

Lifestyle

The Cherokee claim to have always lived in the southeast region of the United States. Their lifestyle was that of an agricultural society. They lived in permanent settlements along the banks of rivers, raised crops and hunted wild game. The Cherokee are matrilineal, with the line of descent passing through the mother. Men were in charge of hunting and fishing while women tended the gardens, growing vegetables and herbs for both food and medicine.

Cherokee Celebrities

Cher - actor/singer

Kevin Costner - actor

Johnny Depp - actor

Cameron Diaz -actor

Crystal Gale - country singer

James Garner - actor

Jimi Hendrix - musician, singer and song writer

Loretta Lynn - country singer

Chuck Norris - actor

Dolly Parton - country singer

Burt Reynolds - actor, director

Will Rogers - entertainer, roper, journalist, author

Quentin Tarantino - film director

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    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 months ago from Texas

      This is a fascinating hub, I know that my great, great grandmother was in the "Trail of Tears" when she was a child, this is on my mother's side of my family. On my father's side my great, great grandmother full blood Cherokee who married a man was half Cherokee. These are facts from researching genealogy.

      Thank you for all the information.

      Blessings my friend

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 8 weeks ago

      Excellent and informative article about "our" people. A program on the History Channel (so I can't vouch for the truth of it) said that our forefathers admired the Cherokee democracy so much that they modeled the U.S.A.'s democratic republic after it. From 1817 through 1828 lands were set aside in the Ozark Mountains in what was to become Arkansas for Native Americans, and those who came at that time were referred to as the "Cherokee Old Settlers". My parents home was located just 5 miles east of the Eastern border of this land.

      I trace one line back to 1811, the Eastern Band in VA, but I have a couple of other lines that I suspect, but haven't been able to prove were Cherokee from their settling in TN. I have many of the characteristics that you listed, including one that you left out, the "straight back" which is a nice way of saying "flat butt." LOL

    • GARH608 profile image
      Author

      Pathways thru life 8 weeks ago from Mid West

      It's funny that you mention "straight back and flat butt," my youngest brother has that one to a tee. I will have to make sure that I add it to the list. If you don't mind, of course?

      I know an 82 year old Cherokee Native American who is from the Ozark area. He has children who actually lives in Arkansas too. Pretty interesting stuff.

      Thanks for the comment.

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