Postcards: Cherokee Alphabet/Sequoyah
Convinced that his people needed their own "talking leaves" to preserve their culture, Sequoyah began his work on a Cherokee syllabary in 1809. Each symbol in Sequoyah's alphabet stood for a syllable in spoken Cherokee. The system was so easy to master that Cherokees using it could become literate in a matter of days. Unlike English, it enabled Cherokees to write their thoughts in a fully Indian way: a horse, for example, translates as "bearer of heavy things" and a lawyer as "one who argues repeatedly."