Your Grandmother's Cherokee

Preserving the Cherokee language, one word at a time.


Ancestors--photos of Swimmer and Qweti by James Mooney, Qualla Boundary, 1880s

Why it matters that I try to figure out the language:

It matters that you try…

It is in the trying that you honor the ones that came before you.

They are why you are here. 

It is snowing-- Gutiha!

Snow in the Smoky Mountains.  Photo by Kristy Maney Herron

It’s Snowing –Gutiha

Here in the mountains it has been snowing for several days, as it has throughout the east.  So here are some words for you to use to talk about snow.

Words for Warriors-- Dahnawa Danatlihi

Outacite, Chief of the Cherokees.  London, 1762

The Cherokee word for warrior, Dahnawa Danatlihi,  literally means “War  They-Are-Running-Place.”  One way to translate that would be “They run to the place of war.” Or you could say, “Where they run is war.”

A New Way to Learn Cherokee Language

Sunrise at Waterrock Knob.  Photo by Barbara R. Duncan

The Cherokee language had to be simple and easy and logical, if people spoke it as an oral language for thousands of years. They had to have an agreement about the meanings of the words and the parts of words.

A New Way - The Patterns

Roxanne Standingdeer Stamper (1911-2011.) She created the Road to Soco design, pictured here as a pattern on a Pendleton blanket.

In order to find the patterns in the words, you have to look at the full form of the word.  Many speakers and even dictionaries do not give the full syllables of the word.  You need to see these syllables to see the patterns.

New Way - Old Words

Cherokee Primer, 1846

As we tried to follow the Cherokee patterns in the Cherokee language, we kept running into two problems.  One was not having the full forms of the words.  (We’ll talk about the second problem a little later in the blog—English.)


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