Customs and Ceremonies of the Cherokee Indians

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Grade school children and American historians alike study the customs and ceremonies of the Cherokee people. It is believed that they, like other Native Americans, came from Asia during the ice age by way of the frozen Bering Strait. At the time of the American Revolution, the Cherokees took the side of the British to try to stop the colonials from invading their lands. In the American Civil war, the Cherokees sided with the South, and sent their own declaration of independence to the United States government.

1 A Blessed Marriage

The Cherokees were separated into seven clans, which were large family groups. If a man and woman wanted to marry, they had to be from different clans, and one had to ask a family member for approval. The chief would put two roots in his palms and say a prayer. If two roots moved at the same time, it meant good luck for the marriage; if only one moved, it meant bad luck.

2 Housing Customs

Cherokee people lived in villages along riverbanks in two types of houses. One house was rectangular, made of wood and occupied during the summer. This house was made of long sticks and tree bark. The other type of house was used during the winter, and was a wooden, cone-shaped building covered in clay. Each Cherokee village had its own council house, which was large, circular and without windows.

3 Great New Moon Ceremony

The Great New Moon Ceremony took place when the new moon appeared in October. The ceremony represented a new year, because the Cherokee tribe believed the world was created in autumn. Families brought corn, beans and other produce from their fields to share with the tribe. The rituals included dancing and a purification process where the tribe’s priest predicted health for the coming year while using a sacred crystal.

4 Green Corn Ceremony

The Green Corn Ceremony was performed when newly grown corn was ripe. The corn was not to be eaten until the ceremony had taken place. The Cherokees sent messengers to other villages with news of the celebration. While traveling, the messengers were to gather seven ears of corn from the fields of different clans. The ceremony began seven days after the messenger's return, and the chief and his counselors would fast for the six days prior to it. During the seven days, the tribe would light a fire from the sacred coals.

Dan Dechenaux has written since 2009. Specializing in health and sports topics, he contributes articles to The Sports Ad-Visor. Dechenaux received a Master of Arts in communication arts from the University of Notre Dame.