Sequoyah wins Cherokee Phoenix’s ‘Most Influential Cherokee’ poll
Sequoyah defeated John Ross in the final round of the Cherokee Phoenix’s ‘YOU DECIDE: Most Influential Cherokee in History’ Facebook poll. The Cherokee syllabary inventor beat the long-time principal chief 264 votes to 80 votes. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Following two weeks of voting, the Cherokee Phoenix’s Facebook audience chose Sequoyah as the most influential Cherokee in history.
The list of Cherokees in the elimination-style poll consisted of those who made impacts on the tribe’s language, culture, art, government and other areas. Beginning on May 18, Cherokee Phoenix readers began voting between two notable Cherokee people at a time, among 16 finalists. The final poll was held on June 1.
In the round of eight, Sequoyah, former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, “Beloved Woman” Nancy Ward and former Principal Chief John Ross moved on to the final four. In that round, Sequoyah received 332 votes and Mankiller 295, while Ward received 143 votes and Ross 198. In the final vote, Sequoyah received 264 votes and Ross 80 votes.
“We were so pleased with the engagement and participation in the ‘YOU DECIDE: Most Influential Cherokee in History’ polling event,” Executive Editor Tyler Thomas said. “The series of polls offered us the opportunity to highlight several Cherokee people who made a truly significant impact in our history. We hope our audience enjoyed this educational event, and we look forward to doing similar polling events in the future.”
Sequoyah spent 12 years developing a syllabary or written language for Cherokee. He wished for his people to be able to write their thoughts and messages on pieces of paper like their white neighbors. In 1821, the Cherokee Nation adopted the syllabary, and within months thousands of Cherokees became literate by learning to read and write their language. Sequoyah’s syllabary was also incorporated in the tribe’s newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, in 1828 making the newspaper a bilingual newspaper. A variation of the syllabary is still used today by the CN.
Sequoyah County in eastern Oklahoma, where Sequoyah lived and operated a salt works, is named after the Cherokee genius. His home site is now a CN-operated museum.
The exact date of Sequoyah’s birth is unknown. It’s thought he was born between 1760 and 1780 in his hometown of Taskigi in eastern Tennessee. It is believed he died in northern Mexico in 1843 while searching for Cherokees who left the CN to escape tribal infighting and the threat of further land loss.
Readers who participated in the poll were entered into a drawing for a Cherokee Phoenix swag bag each time they voted. Justin Pettit, of Sallisaw, won the drawing on June 2.
The 16 Cherokees from the tribe’s history in the polling event were Elias Boudinot, Jesse Bushyhead, Rachel Caroline Eaton, Durbin Feeling, William Wirt Hastings, William Wayne Keeler, Wilma Mankiller, Anna Mitchell, John Ridge, Will Rogers, John Ross, Mary Golda Ross, Sequoyah, Redbirth Smith, Nancy Ward and Stand Watie.