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Cherokee Family Structure Essay

It is believed the Cherokee tribe originated in the Great Lakes area and are of Iroquoian descent. Due to unknown circumstances, the tribe eventually migrated to the Southeast portion of the the United States. The first record of interactions with the Cherokee people was in the sixteenth century with Spanish explorers. The Cherokee people have been considered highly innovative and adaptive. For example, instead of the traditional teepee, they built log cabins.

As one of the largest Indian tribes, they branched off into smaller tribes yet remained connected by strong spiritual beliefs. After the European colonists came in the 1800s, the Cherokees did their best to adapt to new ways of life more in sync with the European settlers (indians. org). They even created their own alphabet, the Cherokee syllabary, and newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix. However, once gold was found it Georgia, Native land was taken over and scoured. This brought about the forcible removal of the Cherokee people in 1838-1839.

Cherokees took part in what is currently known as the Trail of Tears, the journey from the Southeast to Indian Territory. Many lost their lives during this tragic journey, but those who survived did their best to rebuild their life in Oklahoma. Beginning in the 1840s through the 1850s, Cherokee people began making progress; they built establishments such as schools, churches, and businesses. After the Civil War, however, Cherokee people were divided on who to ally with, Since some sided with the Confederacy, the federal government took away Cherokee rights and land (Cherokee. rg). There is still tension between the Cherokee Nation and federal government, and Native Americans are working to beat the cycle of abuse and oppression to re-establish their culture and gain equality. Family Structure Traditional Cherokee family structure is based on the multigenerational care and the value of kinship. Families value and respect all members, young and old, and rely on one another for support. Elders, or older members of the tribe, are especially esteemed for their wisdom and life experience.

The word family does not only mean immediate blood relations for Cherokee people, but extended family, other tribal or community members, or anyone else taken in as family. In Cherokee culture, an individual acts for the good of the family, not just themselves (Garrett, Herring 2001). Cherokee culture is matriarchal, which means the woman is the head of the family. Not only is the culture matriarchal, but it is also matrilineal. The importance of the females in the family is emphasized and it was custom women stayed with their birth families.

Male leadership was valued, but not vital in daily life. The key words to describe Cherokee family structure are flexible, interdependent, and inclusive. Families make decisions to best fit the needs of the entire family, and make necessary changes to adjust to new environments. The family structure for Cherokee culture has remained mostly unchanged throughout the years (sustaining the family). Religion Although Cherokee people don’t practice formal religion, they have deep spiritual beliefs and spiritual symbology.

Most Native American theology is shared orally through the telling of sacred stories. In most of the stories, an animal is the main character, and its purpose in the story is to teach a lesson. Animals are regarded with deep respect in Cherokee culture, as they represent “sustenance, spiritual power, and knowledge” (Aftandilian 2011 p. 192). Cherokee Indians believe animals have more wisdom and spiritual knowledge since they have been present on the earth longer, and tend to focus on commonalities humans have with animals instead of differences.

Animals play key roles in Native creation stories and continue to be deeply respected in Cherokee culture (Aftandilian 2011). The Cherokee people believe symbols represent spirituality in many ways. For example, a few animals in particular are sacred to the Cherokee people because of their purity and sacredness in stories. The cougar and the owl are said to have stayed awake during the seven days of creation, which makes them nocturnal with incredible night vision. Cherokee culture also believes the numbers four and seven are spiritually sacred.

The number four is respected because of the cardinal directions and seasons, and the number seven is sacred because of the seven Cherokee tribes. The number seven, like the cougar and owl, is said to be the ultimate level of purity and sacredness in Cherokee spirituality (Cherokee. org). Many Cherokee people take part in spiritual rituals such as the vision quest or sweat lodge in order to heal their spirit (Flynn, Olson, 2012). Education Before Cherokees were forced to conform to the educational ideals which came ith imperialism, they received their education from the tribal elder. The elders would teach tribal members with stories about various aspects of Cherokee culture. After colonization, education changed drastically for Native American people. Most were forced to assimilate into culture through the use of boarding schools led by white people which stripped them of their native dress, language, spirituality, and family ties. A multitude of psychological as well as physical abuse happened in these boarding schools (Smithers 2015).

Educational conditions for Native American students are still unfavorable for cultural identity development and self-esteem. Many students find acculturation in the school setting difficult due to racism, financial disadvantages, and the teaching of primarily EuroAmerican history and culture. This leaves many students confused about their cultural identity and where they fit in the education system. Teachers don’t always know Native American culture which can cause dissension between student and teacher (Flynn, Olson 2012).

With a high school graduation rate of 70. % and 11. 3% of Native American receiving their bachelor’s degree (McAuliffe 2013), teachers need to understand basics of Native culture, such as social behavior, communication patterns, and incorporate cultural awareness into the classroom setting. By doing so, teachers provide an inclusive and empowering learning environment to Native students. Communication Style Communication is an essential aspect of Cherokee culture, especially when considering the cultural emphasis on the significance of storytelling for spiritual and educational realms.

Humor is a key part of cultural communication for Native Americans; it is frequently used by Native people while casually communicating or even sharing wisdom from oral traditional stories (Teuton 2011). In general, Native American communication values harmonious interaction. It is frowned upon to confront another person, but instead to use silence and patience to show respect. Native Americans show respect through nonverbal communication also, such as the avoidance of eye contact and practicing modesty while speaking.

Native Americans are cooperative in communication and prefer humility to overbearing competitiveness or assertiveness (McAuliffe 2013). Socioeconomic Trends Native Americans people, in general, have had socioeconomic issues relating to multigenerational stress which comes with forced assimilation into a completely different culture. In the United States, completion of college or another technical school helps people find specialized jobs which pay more than minimum wage earnings. As stated previously, only 11. 3% of the Native American population receiving a bachelor’s degree (McAuliffe 2013). Consequently, as of 2010, only 55. % of the Cherokee Nation is employed (US Dept. of Int).

This is congruent with McAuliffe’s statistics stating the average unemployment rate of Native Americans as 45%. (2010 p. 192) . The average median income for Native Americans households is $33,000, which is hardly enough to make ends meet. The poverty level for Native Americans is 25. 7%, which is almost double the amount of the entire U. S. population at 12. 4% (McAuliffe 2013). These numbers show why the Native American socioeconomic outlook seems bleak. Without an education and decent salary, Native American individuals are unable to break out of the cycle of poverty and oppression.

Along with occupational and education issues, Native Americans battle alcoholism, physical disease, and mental health issues at much higher rates than other ethnic populations (McAuliffe 2013 p 193). Changes in Society Native Americans have had to endure vast changes in their society throughout the years. Unfortunately, most changes have been inauspicious and uncontrollable. One example of a sizeable societal change was when the Cherokee people were uprooted from their land in the southeast and violently forced to move into Indian Territory in 1838-1839.

This scattered the Cherokee people and required them to adapt to a new life and reestablish their society in an unfamiliar land (Smithers 2015). A positive societal change in the Cherokee nation came when Sequoyah created the Cherokee syllabary. This revolutionized Cherokee education and the preservation of language while shining light on Native American academic achievements. After the syllabary was created, The Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper which featured both English and Cherokee languages side by side, came to fruition (Cushman 2010).

Although the Cherokees faced hardships efore and after the printing of the newspaper, the creation of it shows resilience and adaptation skills which helped Cherokee Indians survive through many societal changes. Sources of Conflict The main source of conflict Cherokee people experienced was related to their trade partnership with the British colonists. In an effort to ally with the British, the Cherokee were often abused, mistreated, or forced to pick sides. For example, during the Yamasee War, the English asked the Cherokee people to help them. The Yamasee Indians were attacking the British because of corrupt trade deals and trespassing on Indian land.

To show alliance with the British, the Cherokee Indians killed a group of Creek Indians, which started a forty year war between the Creeks and Cherokees (Georgiaencyclopedia. org). Another example is during the Seven Years War when the British were losing the battle with France for Ohio country. They asked the Cherokee Indians to aid them in attack, and Cherokee Indians honored their alliance and helped. After the battle, Cherokee Indians grew frustrated and felt they were not receiving proper compensation for their military services.

A group of Cherokee Indians stole items from settlers, which resulted in violent warfare between the Cherokee and British. Their alliance was weakened at this point, yet even after the Seven Years War Cherokee people came to call when asked by the British colonists. Each time a war broke out a similar situation occured; the Cherokees fought for the British, felt undervalued, and ended up at odds with the settlers, History repeated itself for the Cherokee people during the American revolution and Civil War (Georgiaencyclopedia. org).

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