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Frequently Asked Questions

Culture

Culture Frequently Asked Questions

What is the symbolism of the Cherokee Nation seal?

The seal of the Cherokee Nation was created by an executive Act under Chief Lewis Downing in 1869. The Act calls for the seal to contain a seven-pointed star inside of a wreath of oak leaves, symbolizing the eternal flame of the Cherokee people. The star is not designated to point a specific direction, but in the original version from 1869, it rests on a single downward point. The points of the star represent the seven traditional Cherokee clans. Within the rings of the seal, the words Cherokee Nation, September 6, 1839, are included, recognizing the date of the signing of the first Cherokee Nation Constitution after relocation to Indian Territory, as well as the date of the Act of Union, uniting the Old Settlers and Eastern Immigrant Cherokees into a single Cherokee Nation government once again.

What do the symbols on the Cherokee flag mean?

The Cherokee Flag contains the Cherokee Nation seal (see the question above for the full symbolism of the seal) in the middle with seven stars in the outer field along with a single, black star. The seven stars in the outer field represent the seven clans, and the one additional star, which is black, is to remember those who died as a result of the Trail of Tears.

Was there ever a Cherokee princess?

Many people have the impression that the Cherokee historically had princesses. In fact, the title of "princess" in Cherokee culture never existed. There is the possibility that a chief’s daughter may have been thought of as a princess by other visiting cultures, in much the same way that a king's daughter would have been called a princess. This position or title, however, was never used by the Cherokee. Today, “Miss Cherokee” is the winner of an academic competition for a scholarship. She holds her title for one year, acting as an ambassador of goodwill on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. Many people undoubtedly confuse this honor with being a "Cherokee Princess."

What clan am I?

In general, Cherokee clans have not been written down and recorded anywhere. Clans can be very difficult to determine if you do not have an elder in your family who is traditional enough to know the clan system and what clan your family may have belonged to. A Cherokee person's clan comes through their mother, so if their mother is/was not Cherokee, the person is usually considered to be without a clan.

What religion do Cherokees practice?

Frenchman Christian Priber, who is said to have claimed to be a member of the Jesuit order, established himself among the Cherokee in 1736. Priber learned our language and promoted Christian principles as well as a vision for a "utopian society." Priber's work along with that of other missionaries eventually brought about the conversion of some Cherokees from their own religious ceremonialism and rituals to Christianity. The first known Cherokee conversion to Christianity was 1773. In 1801, the first permanent Christian mission in the Cherokee Nation was established, providing education as well as religious training. Called the Moravian Mission, it was located at Springplace, in present-day Georgia. Cherokees embraced the educational aspects of these mission schools, sometimes more than the spiritual aspects, feeling it helped them and their children be competitive among the dominant culture.

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 stomp grounds are private; participation is almost always restricted to those who already practice traditional ceremonies and are part of those communities. They are by invitation only.