Utalotsa Woni--"Talking Leaves" A Re-examination of the Cherokee Syllabary and Sequoyah1 rose gubele In Armstrong Woods, California, I stood with one hand on a giant sequoia, staring up, straining to see the topmost branches as they disappeared into the vault of the sky. The red bark under my palm felt like coarse prickly hair, and the earth was thick and springy beneath my feet. The sacred silence was broken only by the whispered prayers of countless voices in the wind through the boughs. The scent of spicy soft pine filled the air, and light filtered down through the branches, like sun through stained glass. From childhood I had accepted as fact that the great sequoias were named for the Cherokee man Sequoyah, who had introduced the syllabary to many of my ancestors. Subsequently my academic training taught verification of all information, so I began an investigation into the history of how the sequoias were named. I discovered that the coastal redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, was named in 1847 by botanist Stephen Endlicher. Several authors have varying hypotheses concerning the origin of the name sequoia, and one of these theories links this name to Sequoyah, the Cherokee inventor of the
Studies in American Indian Literatures – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Feb 1, 2012
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