Sequoya was the wold-famous inventor of the Cherokee alphabet
. The Cherokee were one of the most powerful tribes
in North America when the white man first arrived.
The son of a white man named George Gist or Guest and a Cherokee woman, Sequoya was called Sikwayi by the Cherokees but to his father's people he was known by his father's name, George Gist.
Sequoya's father was an American scout
who was taken prisoner by the tribe.
Sequoya was born about 1760 in the Cherokee town of Taskigi, Tennessee
. In those days if a Cherokee wanted to read and write it was impossible to do so in his own language for no Cherokee alphabet existed. At the age of 50, Sequoya, who was unable to read or write, started to work out a system of writing. He listened to the Cherokees and found they used 85 syllables
. He then had to invent 85 signs which he managed with the aid of an English
Twelve years passed before he had completed his weary task.
The head men of the Cherokees approved the alphabet and within a year
thousands of Cherokees could read and write in their own language
As a tribute
to his achievement and labours, the American Government
awarded him a pension
which kept him in comfort for the rest of his life. To honour him even further, his name was given to the giant redwood tree
of California, the sequoia
. These trees are the oldest living things on the earth. Many of them are 2,000 and 3,000 years old while some of the bigger redwoods are estimated to be up to 5,000 years old.