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Pics of the Week: Sequoyah

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We have visited the topic of the images on the bronze doors of the Adams Building in several posts – Itzamna, Quetzalcoatl, and Brahma.  Today’s post  celebrates Native American Heritage Month by featuring two pictures from the Adams Building.

John Adams Building, Library of Congress
John Adams Building, Library of Congress

One image is of Sequoyah from the building’s bronze doors done by Lee Lawrie, the other is of a warrior from the relief around the doors.

The images on these doors were selected to depict the written word so the choice to include Sequoyah is particularly apt.  It was he who developed a writing system for the Cherokee language, the Cherokee syllabary.

Sequoyah was likely born around the year 1770 near what is now Knoxville, Tennessee and was a silversmith by trade, and his interaction with Europeans and their writing systems must have sparked a desire to create one for the Cherokee. Eventually he developed a system that used symbols, some of which were Latin alphabet letters, for each syllable. After several years promoting his alphabet,  the Cherokee Nation finally adopted the writing system in 1825.

Many members from a number of tribes, including many Cherokee, were moved as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and that journey became known as the Trail of Tears.   Sequoyah was one of the many that was relocated, and this is why the statue of him in the National Statuary Hall Collection represents the state of Oklahoma. He died somewhere in Mexico about 1843.

If you wish to read a legislative history of the Native American Heritage Month, the Law Library has written a post.

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