Sequoyah (c1770 – c1844)


The sequoia/sequoiadendron tree is possibly named after Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian who was born around 1770. His father was white or part-white, and soon left his wife and family. Sequoyah lived in Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and became a silversmith.


Around 1809 he began to create a system of writing for the Cherokee language which up until then had been only oral. This took 12 years to complete, but by 1823 it was in full use by the Cherokee nation.

Cherokee Indians quickly learned to read and write in their own language, and soon there was a newspaper in Cherokee published in Phoenix, Arizona.

There followed the publication of bible and educational material.  It is considered that Sequoyah is the only individual to have invented a language or syllabary.


One of Sequoyah’s later aims was to establish a language that would unite all Native American Indians.

He was much respected and revered by the time of his death around 1843.


It is an interesting fact that Native Americans called letters “talking leaves”.