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An Ancient People

Pre-Cherokee History

The Cherokee, and what some anthropologists deem to be their pre-Cherokee ancestors, have lived in the mountains of North Carolina since the end of the last ice age, or about 10,000 B.C. The early Cherokee hunted, fished, and farmed, thriving in the rugged mountain landscape.

Development of a Distinctly Cherokee Way of Life

More than a thousand years ago, these people began developing a distinctly Cherokee way of life. They shared decision-making and endeavored to reach democratic consensus on issues. Theirs was a matriarchal society, with land being handed down through the women of the tribe. They were a highly spiritual people with ceremonies and customs that maintained a balance in all things. They called themselves the Ani-Yvwiya, the “Real People,” or the “Principal People.”

The Cherokee lived in towns of rectangular log houses and worked extensive, communally-held farms nearby. Corn, beans, and squash—called the “three sisters”—were staples in their diet. They also raised potatoes and grew peaches. Each of their towns had a council house for meetings and religious ceremonies.