The Cherokee people are a Native American tribe indigenous to the Southeastern United States, principally Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, a large number reside in northeast Oklahoma, over 70,000, in a 7,000 square mile area. They are the largest Native American Indian tribe in the United State.
The Cherokee Nation today is an active leader in education, housing, vocational training, business and economic development. The Nation is not a federally-recognized, but is truly sovereign nation covering most of northeast Oklahoma. Its jurisdictional service area encompasses eight entire counties along with portions of six others.
They speak Cherokee, an Iroquoian language. The complexity of the Cherokee language is best exhibited in verbs, which comprise approximately 75% of the language, as opposed to only 25% of the English language. Today, many Cherokee speak English.
Traditional Cherokee religion is interwoven with daily life – medicine, government, all aspects of Cherokee life. Cherokee life is like a basket, with all the strands woven with one another. The Cherokee culture, once spread over thousands of miles in the Southeast, started changing dramatically as European settlers pushed westward in the 1700s. Christian missionaries, notably from the Moravian Church, lived and worked among the Cherokee and were strong advocates for their rights. The first conversions to Christianity came before the American Revolution, and by the early 1800s a number of prominent leaders were devout Christians.
But there was a dark side as well: European settlers, often misreading or ignoring the teachings of their Christian faith, systematically and violently drove out the Cherokee. In 1838, Cherokee people were force-marched over 1,200 miles to what is now Oklahoma. Starvation, sickness and exhaustion on this “Trail of Tears” took between 4,000 and 8,000 lives. To this day, many Cherokee revile how Christians treated them.
Today, some Cherokee practice the traditional religion. Others are fervent Christians who consider the old ways “pagan.” However, many combine ideas from Cherokee religion with Christian teachings. Cherokee religion follows ways of nature and emphasizes preservation and balance. It is practiced in every aspect of life all the time.
Pray for the gospel to continue to spread among Cherokee people.
Pray for God to raise up Christian leaders from within the Cherokee community to work in the harvest.
Pray for Christians in the Cherokee community to start new churches and ministries.