Reconstructing the folk zoological world of past cultures


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Reconstructing the folk zoological world of past cultures the animal semantic domain of the protohistoric Cherokee Indians
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2 v. (xxiv, 914 leaves) : ill. ; 28 cm.
Fradkin, Arlene
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Subjects / Keywords:
Cherokee Indians -- Ethnozoology   ( lcsh )
Ethnozoology   ( lcsh )
Cherokee Indians -- Social life and customs   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1988.
Bibliography: leaves 860-913.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Arlene Fradkin.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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aleph - 023282646
oclc - 19061190
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Copyright 1988


Arlene Fradkin

To Mom and Dad,

Guess what?
I'm Phinallv Donel


Folk biological studies of past cultures, of

necessity, are dependent upon the interplay of knowledge

from various scientific disciplines. Specialists, such as

archaeologists, anthropological linguists, zoologists,

botanists, ethnologists, ethnohistorians, and geographers,

provide important insight into the reconstruction of the

folk zoological world of past human populations.

Consequently, it is with great appreciation that I

acknowledge the contributions of a number of people who

have helped with this study.

First, I would like to thank my dissertation committee

for their overall guidance and support: Dr. Jerald T.

Milanich, who served as chairperson; Dr. M.J. Hardman-

de-Bautista, who fully convinced me of the necessity in

developing a holistic anthropological perspective (for

which I am very grateful) and who thus always supported my

belief in the importance of integrating linguistic and

archaeological research; Dr. Maxine Margolis, for her

expertise in human ecology and for her class on environment

and cultural behavior, one of my favorite courses in my

graduate school career; Dr. Samuel Proctor, for his wealth

of knowledge on the history of the Southeast United States;

and Dr. Leslie Sue Lieberman, for her encouragement.

Many thanks also belong to the following people for

their help in their respective fields: Mr. Kurt Auffenberg,

malacology; Dr. David Auth, herpetology; Mr. Bill Autry,

archaeology; Mr. George Burgess, ichthyology; Mr. Bruce

Chappell, history; Dr. Carter Gilbert, ichthyology;

Ms. Dolores Jenkins, library science; Mr. Ray Jones, library

science, who introduced me to the procedures involved in

doing archival research; Dr. Stephen Kerber, history;

Mr. Howard Kochman, herpetology; Dr. Carl Kuttruff,

archaeology; Dr. Rochelle Marrinan, archaeology; Dr. Peter

Meylan, herpetology; Ms. Lee Ann Newsom, paleobotany;

Mr. Kent Perkins, botany; Mr. Bill Sherman, English writing;

and Dr. Tom Webber, ornithology. Also, a note of

appreciation goes to Sigma Xi for awarding a small research

grant in the initial stages of this study.

Most important, I would like to express gratitude to my

family and to all my friends, who helped me survive this

dissertation by their emotional support: Miki, Chris,

Rosa, Beau, Tricia, John, Peter, Nina, Peggy, Alan,

Gillian, Kris, Susan, Tibby, Harvey, and all my folk

dancing friends. Special thanks go to Dr. Sorayya Carr,

who was a never-ending source of helpful suggestions

and encouragement. Her friendship I will always cherish.

Finally, I must mention my orthopedist, Dr. William

Petty. Under his medical care, I was able to fully recover

from a major accident several years ago. To him, I am

forever deeply grateful.

Although many of the aforementioned individuals did

indeed contribute significantly to this dissertation, the

writer takes full responsibility for the synthesis of the

data and for its ultimate presentation.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...................................... iv

LIST OF TABLES ................ ..................... xii

LIST OF FIGURES..................................... xvii

KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS...................... xix

ABSTRACT............................................. xxii


1 INTRODUCTION................................ 1


The Cherokee Language...................... 7
Genealogical Classification.............. 7
Cherokee Dialects........................ 11
Description of the Cherokee Language..... 12
Phonology .... ........... .............. 12
Morphology.............................. 15
Writing system......................... 20
The Cherokee Environment................... 22
Physiography............................. 23
Ecology--The Biota....................... 28
Flora .................................. 29
Fauna................................... 35




Data Sources................................. 49
Recording Procedures....................... 56
Linguistic File.......................... 56
Oral Tradition File...................... 57
Ethnographic/Historical File............. 59
Framework of Analysis ...................... 62
Semantic Domain Analysis--Introduction... 62
Nomenclature........ .................... 65
Cultural Significance.................... 74
Classification........................... 76
Structural frameworks and
arrangements......................... 77
"General" classification............... 84
Cross-cultural comparison.............. 93
"Special" classifications.............. 97
Synthesis of Results of Semantic Domain
Analysis and Zooarchaeological
Implications........................... 98

4 CHEROKEE ANIMAL NOMENCLATURE.................. 102

Introduction--Organization of the Animal
Names.................................... 102
Conventions on the Arrangement of
Individual Descriptive Accounts of
Cherokee Animal Names .................... 103
Cherokee Animal Names...................... 105
'Animal' Cover Terms ..................... 105
Invertebrates............................ 107
Insects/worms/spiders.................. 107
"Fish" invertebrates................... 123
Fish..................................... 124
Herpetofauna............................. 134
Toads/frogs............................. 134
Salamanders/lizards.................... 137
Turtles................................. 142
Snakes................................... 143
Alligator............................... 149
Birds.................................... 150
Mammals..................................... 187


Cherokee Animal Names--Data Summaries...... 205
Noun Categories.................... ..... 207
Linguistic Processes in Name Formation... 212
General Semantic Patterns................ 226
Age ....................... ........... 226
Gender ............................... 228
Onomatopoeia........................... 230
Shape.................................. 233
Behavior............................... 233
Size................................... 236
Color................................... 239
Texture................................ 242
Habitat................................. 242
Focal membership....................... 244
Smell .................................. 244
Analogy.................................. 244
Lexemes Types............................ 245

SECULAR ACTIVITIES......................... 255

Native North American Animals .............. 256
Procurement Methods and Implements........ 256
Fishing................................. 256
Hunting.................................. 259
Food and Nonfood Products................ 267
Introduced Old World Animals............... 276
Preservation, Preparation, and Consumption
of Animal Foods ......................... 286
Preservation............................. 286
Preparation and Consumption............... 289


Cherokee Ideology and Ritual................ 295
Mythology, Folktales, and Folk Beliefs
and Knowledge .......................... 295
Sacred Formulas.......................... 302
Methods Employed by Ritual Specialists... 308
Sacrifice and Divination................. 312
Major Ceremonies......................... 316
Rites of passage ....................... 316
Communal ceremonies.................... 318
Hunting................................. 325
Civil/military affairs................. 326


Animals in Cherokee Ideology and Ritual.... 329
The Under World .......................... 329
Invertebrates--"fish" invertebrates.... 329
Fish................................... 331
Herpetofauna........................... 334
Mammals .................................. 348
The Middle, or This, World............... 352
Large quadrupeds....................... 354
Medium/small quadrupeds................ 374
The Upper World .......................... 392
Prominent birds........................ 396
Minor birds ............................ 420
Ambiguities/Anomalies.................... 427
Ambiguities............................. 428
Anomalies............................... 432


"General" Classification................... 446
Major Life Form Taxa..................... 455
Tsgoya 'insect/worm'................... 455
Ajaldi 'fish'.......................... 459
Inada 'snake'.......................... 461
Jisgwa 'bird'.......................... 462
Nvhgi-dikanasatdv 'mammal'............. 466
Ambiguously Affiliated Taxa............... 470
Unaffiliated Taxa........................ 470
Unaffiliated covert complexes.......... 472
Unaffiliated generic isolates.......... 475
Cross-Cultural Comparison.................. 478
Folk/Science Correspondences............. 483
Relative Diversity....................... 487
"Special" Classifications................... 490
Habitat.................................. 491
Edibility................................ 493
Food..................................... 495
Wild/Domestic............................ 495
Native/Introduced Correspondences........ 496
Color.................................... 496
Limited Morphological and/or Behavioral
Resemblance............................ 498
Mode of Reproduction..................... 499
Pattern of Locomotion.................... 501
Feeding Habit ............................ 501
Diurnal/Nocturnal........................ 501
Transformation........................... 503
Miscellaneous Behavior................... 503


AND CLASSIFICATIONS........................ 506

Categories of Cultural Significance......... 506
Nomenclatural Considerations of
Cultural Significance.................... 510
Noun Categories.......................... 510
Linguistic Processes in Name Formation... 513
General Semantic Patterns ................ 516
Classificatory Considerations of
Cultural Significance.................... 517
Cross-Cultural Comparison................ 518
Folk/science correspondences........... 518
Relative diversity..................... 519
"Special" Classifications................ 521




SECULAR ACTIVITIES.......................... 705



CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE...................... 833

REFERENCES........................................... 860

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY........................... 898

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.................................. 914



2-1 Overhill Cherokee Phonemic System.......... 13

4-1 Tabulation of Cherokee Animal Names
(by Major Western Grouping).............. 206

4-2 Distribution of Cherokee Animal Names
(by Major Western Grouping)
Among Noun Categories .................... 208

4-3 Summary of Distribution of Cherokee
Animal Names Among Noun Categories........ 209

4-4 Examples of Canonical Forms of Uninflected
Nouns Among Cherokee Animal Names......... 210

4-5 Examples of Composite Terms
Among Cherokee Animal Names.............. 213

4-6 Examples of Cherokee Animal Names
Within Each Noun Category................. 214

4-7 Cherokee Animal Names--
Borrowed Terms............................ 216

4-8 Cherokee Animal Names--
Semantic Extension....................... 219

4-9 Examples of Cherokee Animal Names--
Descriptive Derivation................... 222

4-10 Formation of Certain Cherokee
Animal Names by a Combination of
Linguistic Processes...................... 225

4-11 Frequency of Occurrence of Semantic
Patterns Among Cherokee Animal Names...... 227

4-12 Onomatopoetic (Direct) Cherokee
Animal Names............................. 231


4-13 Cherokee Animal Names
Referring to Shape....................... 234

4-14 Cherokee Animal Names
Referring to Behavior.................... 237

4-15 Distribution of Cherokee Animal Names
(by Maior Western Grouping)
Among Lexeme Types ....................... 246

4-16 Summary of Distribution of Cherokee
Animal Names Among Lexeme Types........... 247

4-17 Distribution of Cherokee Animal Names
(by Noun Category) Among Lexeme Types.... 248

4-18 Cherokee Animal Names--
Primary versus Secondary Lexemes......... 249

4-19 Major Types of Unproductive Primary
Lexemes Among Cherokee Animal Names...... 250

4-20 Examples of the Three Types of Primary
Lexemes Among Cherokee Animal Names ...... 252

4-21 Examples of Secondary Lexemes
Among Cherokee Animal Names............... 254

7-1 Cherokee Folk Taxonomy--
Distribution of Cherokee Taxa
by Folk Biological Category.............. 447

7-2 Number of Cherokee Taxa,
Folk Biological Category,
and Relative Hierarchical Level........... 448

7-3 Distribution of Cherokee Taxa of
Hierarchical Levels 2, 3, and 4
Among Maior Cherokee Groupings............ 451

7-4 Cherokee Monotypic versus Polytvpic
Generic Taxa............................. 453

7-5 Size and Frequency of Specific Contrast
Sets in Cherokee Polytypic Generic Taxa.. 454

7-6 Total Number of Cherokee Terminal Taxa
(n=204) Among Maior Cherokee Groupings... 456


7-7 Cherokee Terminal Taxa (n=19)
Excluded From Cherokee/Western
Cross-Cultural Comparisons............... 481

7-8 Total Number of Cherokee Terminal Taxa
(n=185) (by Major Cherokee Grouping)--
Revised for Cherokee/Western
Cross-Cultural Comparisons............... 482

7-9 Distribution (Quantitative) of
Cherokee Folk Terminal Taxa (n=185)
(by Major Cherokee Grouping)
According to Kind of Correspondence
With Western Scientific Species........... 485

7-10 Summary of Distribution (Quantitative) of
Cherokee Folk Terminal Taxa (n=185)
According to Kind of Correspondence
With Western Scientific Species........... 486

7-11 Relative Diversity of Cherokee Folk
Terminal Taxa (n=146) and Western
Scientific Species (n=521) According to
Major Cherokee Groupings ................ 488

7-12 Relative Diversity of Cherokee Folk
Terminal Taxa (n=146) and Western
Scientific Species (n=521) According to
Major Western Groupings .................. 489

7-13 Cherokee Animal Classification
by Habitat--Animals Associated With the
Under, Middle, and Upper Worlds........... 492

7-14 Cherokee Animal Classification
by Edibility............................. 494

7-15 Cherokee Animal Classification--
Native vis-a-vis Introduced Animals...... 497

7-16 Cherokee Animal Classification
by Mode of Reproduction.................. 500

7-17 Cherokee Animal Classification
by Feeding Habit......................... 502

7-18 Miscellaneous Cherokee Animal
Classification by Behavior............... 505


8-1 Distribution of Cherokee Terminal Taxa
(n=204) (by Maior Western Grouping)
Among Four Categories of
Cultural Significance .................... 508

8-2 Summary of Distribution of Cherokee
Terminal Taxa (n=204)
Among Four Categories of
Cultural Significance.................... 509

8-3 Distribution of Cherokee Terminal Taxa
(n=204) (by Noun Category)
Among Four Categories of
Cultural Significance .................... 512

8-4 Distribution of Cherokee Terminal Taxa
(n=204) (by Folk/Science Correspondence)
Among Four Categories of
Cultural Signficance..................... 520

A-1 Native (Indigenous) Flora Present in the
Cherokee Area During the Eighteenth
and Early Nineteenth Centuries
as Recorded in Early Ethnographic
and Primary Historical Accounts........... 532

A-2 Native (Indigenous) Fauna Present in the
Cherokee Area During the Eighteenth
and Early Nineteenth Centuries
as Recorded in Early Ethnographic
and Primary Historical Accounts........... 614

A-3 Introduced Fauna Present in the
Cherokee Area During the Eighteenth
and Early Nineteenth Centuries
as Recorded in Early Ethnographic
and Primary Historical Accounts........... 651

A-4 Vertebrate Fauna, Native (Indigenous)
and Introduced, Potentially Present
in the Overhill Cherokee Country of
Eastern Tennessee During the Eighteenth
and Early Nineteenth Centuries............ 665

B-1 Cherokee Subsistence and Other
Secular Uses of Animals.................. 705


C-1 Animal Actors in Cherokee Mythology......... 717

C-2 Attributive Mutations in Animal Actors
in Cherokee Mythology.................... 733

C-3 Cherokee Animal Food Taboos................ 748

C-4 Cherokee Folk Beliefs--Dreams, Omens,
and Miscellaneous Beliefs................. 756

C-5 Animal Spirits in Cherokee Medicinal
Sacred Formulas.......................... 764

C-6 Animal Spirits in Cherokee Nonmedicinal
Sacred Formulas .......................... 787

C-7 Cherokee Animal Dances..................... 791

C-8 Cherokee Ritual Uses of Animals............. 794

D-1 Distribution (Qualitative) of
Cherokee Folk Terminal Taxa (n=185)
(by Maior Cherokee Grouping)
According to Kind of Correspondence
With Western Scientific Species........... 815

E-1 Summary of Cherokee Animal Nomenclature,
Classifications, and
Cultural Significance.................... 833




2-1 Cherokee Verb Structure.................... 17

2-2 Cherokee Noun Structure.................... 19

2-3 Location of Maior Cherokee Settlements
at Time of European Contact.............. 24

3-1 English to Cherokee Linguistic File Slip... 58

3-2 Cherokee Oral Tradition File Slip.......... 60

3-3 Cherokee Ethnographic/Historical
File Slip................................ 61

3-4 Lexeme Types--
Conklin versus Berlin et al.............. 71

3-5 Folk Taxonomic Structure--Folk Biological
Categories and Their Relative
Hierarchical Levels...................... 86

3-6 Summary of Methodology..................... 101

7-1 Cherokee Folk Taxonomy--
Hierarchical Levels 0 and 1............... 450

7-2 Life Form Taxa--
Life Forml: tsgoya 'insect/worm'........ 457

7-3 Life Form Taxa--
Life Form2: ajaldi 'fish'............... 460

7-4 Life Form Taxa--
Life Form3: inada 'snake'................ 463

7-5 Life Form Taxa--
Life Form4: jisgwa 'bird'............... 464



7-6 Life Form Taxa--
Life Form5: nvhgi-dikanasaldv 'mammal'.. 467

7-7 Ambiguously Affiliated Taxa--
Covert Complex: (bat/flving squirrel)... 471

7-8 Unaffiliated Taxa--
Covert Complexl: (crayfish)............. 473

7-9 Unaffiliated Taxa--
Covert Complex2: (toad/frog)............ 474

7-10 Unaffiliated Taxa--
Covert Complex3: (salamander/lizard).... 476

7-11 Unaffiliated Taxa--
Covert Complex4: (turtle)............... 477

7-12 Unaffiliated Generic Isolates............... 479





















immed. past



active person/number/relational prefix

agentive suffix



aspect suffix

attributive suffix




classificatory verb

composite term

distributive initial prefix

derived noun

derivative suffix


generic folk biological category

greater differentiation

intermediate folk biological category

immediate past


IN inflected noun

inan. inanimate

indic. indicative

inf. infinitive

int. intensive

LD lesser differentiation

LF life form folk biological category

lit. literally

loc. locative

MS modal suffix

NR noun root

ono onomatopoetic constituent

OTO one-to-one correspondence

p. person

perf. perfective

PL undetermined type of primary lexeme

pl. plural

PPL productive primary lexeme

pres. present

PT particle

quot. quotative

refl. reflexive prefix

S specific folk biological category

se. stative person/number/relational prefix

sg. singular

SL secondary lexeme

sp. an unidentified species of the genus

SPL simple primary lexeme

spp. more than one unidentified species
of the genus

trans. translocative initial prefix

UB unique beginner folk biological category

UD undetermined morphological

UDN undetermined type of noun

UN uninflected noun

UPL unproductive primary lexeme

V vowel

VR verb root

+ morpheme juncture

< derived from

I glottal stop

? analysis of morphological
constituents) questionable;
corresponding western scientific
taxon (or taxa) questionable


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Arlene Fradkin

April 1988

Chairman: Jerald T. Milanich
Major Department: Anthropology

Archaeologists are increasingly recognizing the

importance of incorporating folk semantic analyses into

their studies of past cultures. While they have

acknowledged the value of such an approach, few have

actually attempted a project of this magnitude. One major

reason is because no comprehensive methodology for

conducting folk semantic studies of past human populations

has ever been delineated. This study presents such a

methodology and demonstrates its application, using the

Cherokee Indians who lived in eastern Tennessee, U.S.A.,

during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a


case study. Linguistic, oral tradition, and early

ethnographic/historical data are examined in order to

ascertain and delineate the protohistoric Cherokee animal

semantic domain, or folk zoological system.

The analysis of this semantic domain is divided into

four stages. First, the Cherokee animal names are

individually examined for their grammatical and semantic

structure and are subsequently described in terms of noun

categories, linguistic processes constituting their

formation and modification, general semantic patterns, and

lexeme types. The second analytical stage entails a

detailed perusal of recorded oral traditions and early

ethnographic/historical accounts for information pertaining

to the significance of animals in secular as well as in

ideological and ritual contexts in the Cherokee culture.

Next, the Cherokee animal classifications are reconstructed

based upon inferences drawn from the results of the first

two analyses; one "general" classification and 15 "special"

classifications are delineated. Finally, the Cherokee

animal nomenclature and classifications are examined as an

alternative means of gaining insight into the significance

of animals within the Cherokee culture.

The inferences pertaining to the cultural significance

of animals, which have been drawn from the animal

nomenclature and classifications, are integrated with

information previously derived from recorded oral

traditions and early ethnographic/historical accounts.


Together they serve as the basis for generating 10

implications regarding the Cherokee zooarchaeological




Language is becoming increasingly
valuable as a guide to the scientific
study of a given culture .
Human beings do not live in
the objective world alone, nor alone
in the world of social activity as
ordinarily understood, but are very
much at the mercy of the particular
language which has become the medium of
expression for their society .
The fact of the matter is that the
"real world" is to a large extent
unconsciously built up on the language
habits of the group .
For the more fundamental problems
of the student of human culture,
therefore, a knowledge of linguistic
mechanisms and historical developments
is certain to become more and more
important as our analysis of social
behavior becomes more refined. From
this standpoint we may think of
language as the symbolic guide to
Edward Sapir

The concept of language as a relative index of its

associated culture should be of considerable interest to

those pursuing the study of past human groups. Since both

cultural content and adaptive need play a major role in

terminology, a structural analysis of a particular

language's vocabulary may therefore help to delineate those

categories of importance for its speakers.

During the past two decades, archaeologists have

acknowledged the potential importance of incorporating folk

semantic analyses into the reconstruction of past human

lifeways (see Deetz 1977). Several studies have been

conducted. One example is Mary Beaudry's analysis of

seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American culture

through probate inventories (Beaudry 1980). Another study

is Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery's examination of

sixteenth-century Mexican Zapotec culture through Spanish

ethnohistoric documents (Flannery and Marcus 1976; Marcus

and Flannery 1978). Nevertheless, such projects are still

few in number because no comprehensive methodology for

conducting folk semantic studies of past human populations

has ever been delineated.

This study demonstrates how folk semantic analyses

may be profitably incorporated into archaeological studies

of past cultures. More specifically, the objective is to

provide archaeologists with a detailed methodology by which

a reconstruction of the folk zoological world of past human

populations can be accomplished. This approach is

applicable to native North American sites of the

protohistoric1 and historical time periods for which

adequate linguistic and ethnographic documentation is

available and from which the faunal sample is substantial.

One such cultural group that fulfills these basic

1Protohistoric is defined here as referring to
populations who were in contact with peoples that had
written languages but who themselves did not have writing.

requirements is the Cherokee Indians who lived in eastern

Tennessee, U.S.A., during the eighteenth and early

nineteenth centuries. Thus, their language and culture are

chosen to serve as the subject for the present study.

Linguistic, oral tradition, and ethnographic/historical

data, previously collected during approximately the time

period under consideration, are examined in order to

ascertain and delineate the nomenclature and

classifications) of the animal semantic domain of the

protohistoric Cherokee Indians and the significance of this

system of knowledge within the context of their daily

lives. The resultant findings, in turn, serve as the basis

for generating implications regarding the Cherokee

zooarchaeological record.

This study is divided into nine chapters. The present

section focuses upon the research objectives. Chapter

2 provides the setting, introducing the Cherokee language

and the early Cherokee environment, particularly its

zoogeography. Chapter 3 is a detailed discussion of

the methodology, describing the data sources, the recording

procedures, and the framework of analysis employed in this


Chapters 4 through 8 deal with the presentation and

analysis of the Cherokee animal semantic domain, or folk

zoological system. This analysis is divided into four


First, the Cherokee animal nomenclature is delineated

(Chapter 4). The Cherokee animal names are individually

examined for their grammatical and semantic structure and

are subsequently described in terms of noun categories,

linguistic processes constituting their formation and

modification, general semantic patterns, and lexeme types.

The second analytical stage entails a detailed perusal

of recorded oral traditions and early ethnographic/

historical accounts for information pertaining to the

significance of animals in secular as well as in

ideological and ritual contexts in the Cherokee culture.

The role of animals in Cherokee daily secular life is

presented in Chapter 5. Native animals are discussed in

terms of the fishing and hunting methods and implements

employed in their procurement as well as the variety of

products, food and nonfood, derived from each animal. Old

World animals, introduced as a result of European contact,

are subsequently examined, particularly regarding their

gradual integration into the Cherokee culture and the kinds

of uses to which they were put. Methods of preservation

and preparation of foods obtained from both native and

introduced animals as well as cultural patterns pertaining

to their consumption are also delineated. The role of

animals in Cherokee ideology and ritual is examined in

Chapter 6. A summary discussion of Cherokee beliefs,

knowledge, and practices is presented, followed by detailed

descriptions of each animal, native and introduced, in

terms of its role(s) within these traditions.

In the third analytical stage, the Cherokee animal

classifications are reconstructed based upon inferences

drawn from the results of the first two analyses (Chapter

7). One "general" classification and 15 "special"

classifications are delineated. The "general"

classification, or folk taxonomy, is described in terms of

its structure and content and is subsequently compared with

that of western science. Then, the "special," or

alternative, classificatory arrangements are discussed.

The fourth and final stage of the semantic domain

analysis entails examining the Cherokee animal nomenclature

and classifications as an alternative means of gaining

insight into the significance of animals within the

Cherokee culture (Chapter 8). A standard measure of

cultural significance is established using the data

previously obtained in the second analytical stage. Next,

the results from certain major aspects of the nomenclatural

analysis--noun categories, linguistic processes in name

formation, and general semantic patterns--are examined for

information pertaining to cultural significance. Then,

the animal classifications are similarly considered.

Several major parts of the classificatory analysis--cross-

cultural comparison and "special" classifications--are

investigated for any possible indications of cultural


significance supplementary to those ascertained in the


In the final chapter of this study (Chapter 9), the

inferences pertaining to the cultural significance of

animals, which have been drawn from the animal nomenclature

and classifications, are integrated with information

previously derived from recorded oral traditions and early

ethnographic/historical accounts. Together they serve as

the basis for generating 10 implications regarding the

Cherokee zooarchaeological record. Finally, strategies for

additional linguistic/archaeological studies are proposed.


My ancestors didn't come over on the
Mayflower--they met the boat.
Will Rogers
(Sterling 1979:180)

The Cherokee Language

Genealogical Classification

The Cherokee language belongs to the Iroquoian language

family and constitutes the sole member of its southern

branch. The northern Iroquoian division, on the other

hand, includes six extant languages: those of the original

Five Nations of the Iroquois--Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga,

Cayuga, and Seneca (Chafe 1973:1169); and Tuscarora, a

language spoken by a population that moved from eastern

North Carolina and joined the Iroquois circa 1715, thereby

becoming the Sixth Nation (Chafe 1973:1175; Morgan

1871:151). Today, most northern Iroquoian speakers live

in New York State and Canada; there is also an

Oneida-speaking population in Wisconsin and a few speakers

of Cayuga in Oklahoma. Mohawk, Oneida, and Seneca are each

spoken by several thousand individuals; Onondaga, Cayuga,

and Tuscarora, however, are represented by much smaller

numbers. Furthermore, most of these native speakers are

middle-aged or older (Chafe 1973:1169).

The northern Iroquoian branch also includes a number

of languages that have become extinct during the historic

period. Several of these were spoken in New York and/or

Canada: Huron, or Wyandot (Biggar 1924:307-311; Chafe

1973:1170-1171; Morgan 1871:151-152); "Laurentian," whose

vocabulary was recorded by Jacques Cartier (Biggar 1924:80-

81,241-246; Chafe 1973:1169-1170); and Susquehannock (or

Conestoga, or Andaste), as evidenced by a short word list

by Campanius (1696 in Pilling 1888:24). Two other

languages were spoken in the vicinity of the Virginia-

North Carolina border: Nottoway, whose vocabulary was

recorded by J. Wood in 1820 and later by James Tresevant

(Gallatin 1836:81-82); and Meherrin, for which information

is nonexistent (King 1975:7). Eighteenth-century

historical accounts cite several other Iroquoian languages,

Erie and Neutral, though no vocabulary lists have been

preserved (Hoffman 1959:164,166; Morgan 1871:152).

Cherokee is the most divergent language among the

various languages within the Iroquoian family.

Nevertheless, its affinity to this family was speculated

upon as early as the last half of the eighteenth century

(King 1977). David Zeisberger, a missionary/linguist,

suggested such a connection in a manuscript written in

1779/80 (Hulbert and Schwarze 1910:142). Benjamin Smith

Barton (1976:xlv,xlvii-xlviii), however, provided the first

published statement and, in addition, included several

vocabulary comparisons. Albert Gallatin (1836:91-92)

referred to Barton's opinion and expressed hesitant

agreement because conclusive evidence, that is, proof of

grammatical correlations, was nonexistent at the time.

Other early remarks were recorded in the diary of Major

John Norton (Klinck and Talman 1970:46,62,82,85-86), who

had travelled through the Cherokee country in 1809-1810 and

had noted phonological correspondences, i.e., the absence

of bilabial stops (Klinck and Talman 1970:85-86), as

evidence of a relationship.

More substantive demonstrations, however, were provided

during the 1880s. Horatio Hale based his statements upon

grammatical (i.e., similarity in verbal person/number/

relational prefixes [Hale 1883:27]) in addition to

phonological and lexical correspondences (Hale 1883:

27-28). His conclusions were endorsed and expanded upon

several years later by Albert Gatschet (1885b) and J.N.B.

Hewitt (1887), both of whom used their own collections to

confirm and amplify Hale's work. Consequently, by the end

of the nineteenth century, the Iroquoian origin of the

Cherokee language was firmly established (Pilling 1888;

Powell 1891:77).

During the past few decades, several studies have

investigated the nature of the relationships among the

various Iroquoian languages. Floyd Lounsbury (1961) has

determined the major branching into the northern and

southern (Cherokee) divisions to have taken place

approximately 3500 to 3800 years ago based upon

glottochronological tests. Furthermore, he suggests an

earlier split between the Five Nations and Cherokee,

Laurentian, Huron, and Tuscarora. The northern/southern

break, however, was of a much greater magnitude and may he

ascribed to a southward migration of the Cherokee.

Following these two early separations, subsequent divisions

eventually took place among the Five Nations (Lounsbury


Another study deals only with those Iroquoian languages

still spoken today and tests their mutual intelligibility by

means of a technique that involves tape recordings of

texts. The results, at the 75 percent mutual

intelligibility level, demonstrate a division into five

major subgroups: Cherokee, Tuscarora, Mohawk-Oneida,

Onondaga, and Seneca-Cayuga (Hickerson, Turner, and

Hickerson 1952). One final study attempts to classify both

living and extinct Iroquoian languages on the basis of the

number of shared cognates in a limited vocabulary sample

(Hoffman 1959).

The position of the Iroquoian family within a broader

classificatory scheme, i.e., its relationship to other North

American Indian languages, also has been examined. It has

been suggested that the Iroquoian language group is

remotely related to Siouan (Allen 1931; Chafe 1964, 1973;

Morgan 1871:150-151) and Caddoan (Chafe 1973; Latham

1845:44; Sapir 1921:408). Wallace Chafe (1964, 1973)

provides the most convincing evidence by demonstrating a

number of phonological and morphological correspondences

and, as a consequence, subsumes the three groups under the

heading Macro-Siouan phylum (Chafe 1973:1189-1199).

Cherokee Dialects

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,

the Cherokee language was comprised of three principal

dialects. These corresponded approximately with the maior

geographical divisions of the Cherokee Nation (King 1975:9,


The Lower, or Eastern, or Elati, dialect was spoken in

the towns along the Keowee and Tugaloo, tributary

headwaters of the Savannah River, in what is now northwest

South Carolina and the adjacent portion of Georgia (Lower

towns). The Middle, or Kituhwa, dialect was used in the

settlements on the Tuckaseegee, Oconaluftee, Nantahala, and

upper Little Tennessee Rivers in western North Carolina

(Middle towns). The Upper, or Western, or Overhill (or

Otali), dialect was spoken in most of the towns of eastern

Tennessee and upon the Hiwassee and Cheowa Rivers in

extreme western North Carolina, and, moreover, during

the late 1700s and early 1800s, in northwest Georgia and

northeast Alabama (Overhill and Valley towns) (Gilbert

1978:199; Hodge 1911:246; King 1975:9-10, 1979:ix; Mooney

1900a:16-17; Swanton 1952:216-218).

The Lower dialect was the most divergent,

characterized by the phoneme /r/, which was replaced by /1/

in the other two dialects (Mooney 1900a:16). Furthermore,

vowels in the Upper dialect tended to be somewhat lower

(King 1975:21).

Today, the Overhill dialect is spoken by approximately

10,000 people living in the vicinity of Tahlequah in

northeast Oklahoma, descendants of those individuals

removed in the 1830s from their homeland in the Southeast

United States. The Middle dialect is used by about 700

people residing on the Cherokee Indian Reservation (also

called the Qualla Reservation or the Qualla Boundary) in

western North Carolina (King 1975:10). The Lower dialect

has been extinct since the end of the nineteenth century.

Its last speaker was seen by James Mooney on the Qualla

Reservation in 1888 (Mooney 1900a:17). A fourth dialect, a

mixture of Overhill and Middle elements, is spoken today by

approximately 350 people in the Snowbird Community near

Robbinsville, North Carolina (King 1975:10).

Description of the Cherokee Language


The phonemic system of the Overhill Cherokee dialect is

used in this study (Table 2-1). This is the dialect that

was spoken by those Cherokee Indians who lived in eastern

Table 2-1
Overhill Cherokee Phonemic System

Apico- Alveo- Dorso-
Bilabial Alveolara palatalh Velar Glottal
VLC t k
VDd d g

VL ch
VD i

Flat VL h
Flat VD
Sibilant VL s
Sibilant VD

Nasal VD m n
Lateral VD 1
Central VD w y

Front Central Back

High i u
Mid e v o
Low a

Vowel Length:
Pitch Accent: /

alt is uncertain whether the phonemes in this column
are apico-alveolar or apico-dental (cf. King 1975:17).
It is uncertain whether the phonemes in this column
are frontal-alveopalatal or frontal-palatal (cf. King
CVL is an abbreviation for voiceless.
dVD is an abbreviation for voiced.
eVowels tend to be slightly lower in the Overhill
Cherokee dialect in comparison to those of the Middle
Cherokee dialect (King 1975:21).

(based upon information from Feeling 1975)

Tennessee during the time period under consideration, the

eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Overhill Cherokee sound system consists of 14

consonants and 6 vowels (Feeling 1975:ix-x). Cherokee

consonants are as follows (Feeling 1975:x):

ch similar to church chuhga 'flea'
d -- [d] [t] TEg,"still _Jya 'beaver'
g -- [g] [k] o, skill ihlli 'dog'
h hill henilu 'wood pewee'
j John juhla 'fox'
k -- [kh] king kawonu 'duck'
1 rack rolo 'cicada/
m man ujima 'catbird'
n no nokwsi 'meadowlark'
s sing sogwili 'horse'
t -- [th] too tehga 'frog'
w well wesa 'cat'
y yes yona 'bear'
I glottal stop oh-oh ajaldi 'fish'

Several consonant clusters, or sequences, are common in this

dialect: /ts/, /hl/, and /tl/ (Feeling 1975:x). The

Cherokee language does not have bilabial stops (/p/ and

/b/) or labio-dental fricatives (/f/ and /v/) (King

1975:16; Walker 1975:198), a common characteristic of the

Iroquoian language family (Walker 1975:198). The phonemes

/w/ and /m/ are the only consonants involving the lips in

articulation (Haldeman 1850:425); furthermore, /m/ has a

very limited distribution and occurs in only a few native

terms (King 1975:16).

Cherokee vowels are as follows (Feeling 1975:ix):

a similar to father ajaldi 'fish'
e echo elagwa 'snail'
i pit inada 'snake'
o hello ogana 'groundhog/
u Buddha unoga 'trout/bass'
v but vie 'locust'

The vowel /v/ always has a nasal quality; all vowels in

final position are nasalized.

The Cherokee language also is characterized by several

suprasegmental phonemes: vowel duration (long and short)

and pitch accent (King 1975:18). It should be noted,

however, that these are not included in the orthography

presented here because most of the early transcriptions

provide little or no information regarding the nature of

these phonemes; consequently, their reconstruction within

the vocabulary structure is virtually impossible.


Cherokee is a polysynthetic language that is

characterized by numerous inflectional and derivational

prefixes and suffixes, all of which are accompanied by

morphophonemic alternations that may be phonologically or

morphologically conditioned (King 1975:34,41). The three

principal root classes are verbs (bound morphemes),

substantives (free or bound), and particles (free); these

are defined by the morpheme classes to which they are

attached (King 1975:34). Although a detailed morphological

description can be found in Duane King's (1975)

dissertation, the following brief discussion may provide

the necessary information for the analytical segmentation

of the animal lexicon into morphemic units.

The verb system consists of roots, prefixes, and

suffixes. Verb roots provide the basis upon which the

Cherokee language is structured; they are hound morphemes

and must minimally carry an inflectional person/number/

relational prefix (1 of 60 sets known), an aspect suffix

(present, imperfect, perfect, imperative, or infinitive),

and a modal suffix (e.g., indicative, motion, imperative,

or infinitive). Most verbs can optionally add one or more

of eight initial prefixes (empirical, conditional,

translocative, partitive, distributive, cislocative,

iterative, and negative) as well as a reflexive prefix and

1 or more of 10 derivative suffixes (e.g., ambulative,

causative, and repetitive) (King 1975:36). A diagrammatic

representation of Cherokee verb structure is given in

Figure 2-1. Finally, Cherokee has approximately 30 sets of

verbs called classificatory verbs in which the form of the

root is related to the semantic category of the object (in

the case of transitive verbs) or subject (in intransitive

verbs). These verbs differentiate among five semantic

categories: animate, flexible, rigid, liquid, and solid,

or round ("everything else" category) (King 1975:97-106,

1978). Examples found in Cherokee animal names include

-vta- 'place in fire (solid),' -gi- 'pick up (solid),'

-negi- 'pick up (liquid),' and -yh- 'carry (solid).'

+ Initial + Relational + Reflexive
Prefix Prefix Prefix

+ Verb + Derivative + Aspect + Modal
Root ~ Suffix Suffix Suffix

+ = obligatory
+ = optional

Figure 2-1
Cherokee Verb'Structure
(based upon information from
King 1975)

Substantives are divided into three major categories,

according to their respective structure: uninflected,

inflected, and derived nouns (Figure 2-2). Uninflected

nouns are unmarked and consist solely of a single root

morpheme. Inflected nouns require 1 of 10 of the 60 sets

of verbal person/number prefixes and, in certain cases

(e.g., some animate nouns as well as the plurals of

inanimate nouns), also require an initial distributive

prefix. Moreover, some roots may have a reflexive prefix.

Inflected nouns, however, never carry any suffixes.

Derived nouns may be one of two forms: a noun root with a

derivational (optional) attributive suffix or a nominalized

verb (i.e., theme formation). The latter is formed either

by replacing the modal suffix of the verb with the agentive

suffix /-i/ or by replacing the aspect suffix and the modal

suffix of the verb with the appropriate infinitive aspect

suffix and the infinitive modal suffix /-i/, respectively

(King 1975:38-40).

Particles are free roots that denote modification of,

or relationships between, nouns and/or verbs. They may

carry a derivational attributive suffix (King 1975:40).

Examples in the present data are gvhdi 'with' and nvhgi


Finally, compounds, or composite terms, may be formed

by the combination of two or more noun and/or verb roots

and/or stems, thereby constituting a new meaning (King


Uninflected Noun


Inflected Noun

+ Distributive + Person/Number + Reflexive + Noun
S Prefix Prefix Prefix Root

Derived Noun

+ Noun + Attributive
Root Suffix


Initial Person/Number/
+ Distributive + Relational + Reflexive + Verb
Prefix Prefix Prefix Root

+ Derivative + Aspect Suffix + /-i/ Agentive Suffix
Suffix + Infinitive + /-if Infinitive
Aspect Suffix Modal Suffix

+ obligatory
+ optional

Figure 2-2
Cherokee Noun Structure
(based upon information from
King 1975)

Writing system

The Cherokee writing system is based upon a syllabary

consisting of 85 symbols. Each of these represents a

combination of a consonant-plus-vowel (syllable) with the

exception of the consonant /s/ and the six vowels. The

syllabary was devised by a monolingual (and at that time

illiterate) mixed-blood Cherokee named Sequoyah (or George

Gist, or Guess, in English), who borrowed a number of

alphabetic symbols from English and possibly other Indo-

European languages (e.g., Greek), altered their shapes, and

gave them new phonetic values (King 1975:11-12; Mooney

1891:308; Walker 1975:190). The syllabary was accepted by

the Cherokee Nation circa 1821 and subsequently had an

immediate effect upon Cherokee development.

Within several years, a large percentage of the

population became literate in their native language (Mooney

1900a:110; Walker 1975:193; White 1962:511). Missionaries

as well as Cherokee Christians began to transcribe the

Scriptures in the new syllabary (Mooney 1891:308,

1900a:111; White 1962:511). Initially, such materials were

in manuscript form; in 1827, however, through the efforts

of the missionary Samuel Worcester, the Cherokee characters

were cast into type, and a national press was established.

The following year, the Cherokee Nation was printing a

weekly newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix (1828-1834), which

was bilingual in English and Cherokee. Its successor after

the Cherokee Removal was The Cherokee Advocate (1844-

1854, 1870-1906), also bilingual, which first appeared in

Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 1844 (Chafe 1973:1176; Mooney

1900a:111; White 1962:511). Other works printed in the

Cherokee language and syllabary during the 1800s included

the following: The Cherokee Messenger (1844-1846), a

bimonthly religious periodical; The Cherokee Almanac, an

annual; numerous Bible translations; hymn books; sermons;

spelling, arithmetic, and other schoolbooks; several

editions of the laws of the Cherokee Nation; political

pamphlets; and other miscellaneous publications (Chafe

1973:1176; Mooney 1900a:111-112; White 1962:511-512). The

syllabary was also used by the more conservative members of

the tribe: Cherokee ritual specialists recorded many of

the ancient ceremonies and secret knowledge (e.g., sacred

formulas) in manuscript form so that such oral traditions

might be preserved for posterity (Mooney 1891, 1900a:112;

Mooney and Olbrechts 1932; White 1962:511).

During the present century, Cherokee language

publications have become available through a number of

organizations. These organizations include the American

Bible Society, Cherokee Phoenix Publications, Carnegie

Corporation Cross-Cultural Education Project of the

University of Chicago, Laboratory of Anthropology of

Wesleyan University, and Original Cherokee Community

Organization (King 1975:14-15; Walker 1975:194; White


Today, many young Cherokee learn English rather than

Cherokee as their native language; their parents fear that a

knowledge of English as only a second language would pose a

problem as the children matured and ventured into mainstream

(American) society. In the past few years, however, these

peoples have been changing their minds and are now

requesting Cherokee language courses and materials. Thus,

the Cherokee Bilingual Education Program (Feeling 1975;

Pulte and Feeling 1975) and the University of Oklahoma

Press (Holmes and Smith 1977) have published pedagogical

materials on the Cherokee language in order to teach

English-speaking Cherokee about their ancestral language

and consequently their cultural heritage.

The Cherokee Environment

The Cherokee, often referred to as the mountaineers of

the South, claimed, at the time of European contact, an

area of approximately 40,000 square miles (103,600 sq km)

(Mooney 1900a:14). Their territory included what presently

constitutes northern Georgia and Alabama, northwest South

Carolina, western North Carolina, Tennessee east of the

Tennessee River, Kentucky, and southwest Virginia and West

Virginia (Mooney 1900a:plate III). Occupation of such a

vast region, however, was uneven and highly clustered:

Although war and long-term hunting expeditions did result

in the utilization of various portions of this territory at

different times, settlements and principal economic and

social activities were concentrated within a relatively

small section, or core area (Goodwin 1977:6-7) (Figure



Cherokee towns were situated within the southern

portion of the Appalachian Highlands, the second of eight

major physiographic divisions of the United States

(Fenneman 1938:121, 1964). This division includes seven

provinces (Fenneman 1964; Thornbury 1965:72), of which four

--the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and

Appalachian Plateau--encompass the heartland of Cherokee-

occupied lands. These provinces are narrow regions that

extend in a parallel northeast-southwest direction (Haves


The Piedmont Province constitutes the southeasternmost

extent and is the least mountainous portion of the

Appalachian Highlands (Fenneman 1938:123; Thornhury

1965:88). Cherokee Lower towns were situated within this

province's Upland section--Piedmont Upland, or Piedmont

Plateau--which is a dissected peneplain consisting of

eroded Precambrian crystalline rocks underlain by

metamorphosed Paleozoic limestone (Butts et al. 1933:1;



r NC


* 4. U

Figure 2-3
Location of Major Cherokee Settlements
at Time of European Contact
(based upon information from Dickens 1979;
Gilbert 1978; Mooney 1900a)

Fenneman 1938:123). Much of its terrain is rolling uplands

of moderate relief cut by rather deep and narrow valleys

(Fenneman 1938:131). Numerous small mountains and rugged

isolated peaks rise as monadnocks, ranging from 100 to 1,000

feet (30-305 m) above the general plateau surface (LaForge

et al. 1925:59), and are more abundant near the Blue Ridge

(Eardley 1962:96). Major drainage systems include the

Savannah, Chattahoochee, Tallapoosa, and Coosa Rivers

(LaForge et al. 1925:59).

The Blue Ridge Province, which lies immediately west of

the Piedmont, rises in southern Pennsylvania as a narrow

belt, approximately 14 miles (23 km) wide, and continues

southward, expanding in Tennessee and North Carolina into a

broad (maximum width of 70 miles [113 km]) as well as high

(exceeding 6,000 feet [1,829 ml) area of massive mountains

and towering peaks (Eardley 1962:91; Fenneman 1938:163,171-

173; Thornbury 1965:100-103). Cherokee Middle and Valley

towns were located in this province's Southern section, a

mountainous region composed of folded and faulted Cambrian

quartzite and Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks

(Butts et al. 1933:1; Eardley 1962:91; Fenneman 1938:173).

The term "Blue Ridge" is confined to the pronounced frontal

scarp along the east side of the mountain chain; parallel

ranges to the west are collectively called the Unakas with

the Great Smoky Mountains forming their culminating point

(Fenneman 1938:173-174; Thornbury 1965:103). The two

chains are connected by a series of more or less transverse

ranges and peaks, including Black, Grandfather, and

Nantahala Mountains (Braun 1985:195). Distinctive

topographic features of the Southern Blue Ridge are coves

and halds. The former are isolated, flat-floored, somewhat

oval-shaped mountain valleys, approximately 5 to 10 square

miles (13-26 sq km) in area (Fenneman 1938:175; Thornbury

1965:103-104) and ranging from 1,200 to 1,800 feet (366-

549 m) above sea level (Fenneman 1938:175). Balds are dome-

like mountaintops that are composed of grassy summits

rather than tree cover (Fenneman 1938:174; Thornburv


The Ridge and Valley Province is west of the Blue

Ridge and is a region of alternating parallel and

subparallel ridges and valleys (i.e., ridges on resistant

rock and valleys on weak strata) composed of folded

Paleozoic rock (Butts et al. 1933:1) of 1,000 to 2,000 feet

(305-610 m) of local relief (Eardley 1962:95). Cherokee

Overhill towns were situated in this province's Tennessee,

or Southern, section, an area characterized by numerous

faults, a predominance of valleys over ridges, and a

prevalent longitudinal drainage system (Thornbury

1965:124). This drainage system refers to the headwaters

of the Tennessee River: the Powell, Clinch, Holston, and

Nolichucky-French Broad (Fenneman 1938:275; Thornbury


The Appalachian Plateau constitutes the westernmost

province of the Appalachian Highlands and includes two major

plateaus, the Allegheny on the north and the Cumberland on

the south (Eardley 1962:93). Cherokee towns were not

established in this province until the late eighteenth

century and were situated within the southern portion of

the Cumberland Plateau. The Cumberland Plateau is a

dissected plateau of moderate-to-strong relief (Fenneman

1938:337, 1964) underlain by flat-lying strata of

sandstone, shale, and basal conglomerates (Eardley 1962:94;

Fenneman 1938:284; Thornbury 1965:130) and is higher in

elevation than adjacent provinces (Eardley 1962:93;

Thornbury 1965:130). In its northern extent, i.e.,

Kentucky/West Virginia border, the surface of the plateau

begins at approximately 1,000 feet (305 m), gradually

rising southward reaching a maximum height of 2,000 feet

(610 m) near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then slowly

declining to 400 feet (122 m) at its southern edge in

central Alabama (Fenneman 1938:335-336; Hayes 1899:12-

13). The Cumberland Plateau is divided by the Sequatchie

Valley (west) and Wills Creek Valley (east) anticlines

(Hayes 1899:12) into three distinctive parts: Lookout

Mountain to the east, Cumberland to the west, and Walden

Ridge between the two folds (Fenneman 1938:338). Further

dissection occurs in northern Alabama where the remnants

form a series of small isolated table-mountains, or mesas

(Hayes 1899:13). A portion of the Tennessee River crosses

the province following alternately longitudinal and

transverse courses (Fenneman 1938:339-340).

Throughout the first three-quarters of the eighteenth

century, a well-defined correlation prevailed between the

major Cherokee settlement groups and three of the

physiographic provinces: Lower/Piedmont, Middle and

Valley/Blue Ridge, and Overhill/Ridge and Valley (Dickens

1979). During and after the American Revolution, however,

destruction of their towns as well as increasing white

encroachments caused many Cherokee to move southward into

northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama (Gilbert 1978:178;

Mooney 1900a:54-55), thereby establishing settlements

in the southernmost extent of these regions as well as in

the Appalachian Plateau, the fourth physiographic province.

Ecology--The Biota

The Southern Appalachian Highlands region has always

been noted for its highly diverse as well as abundant

floral and faunal communities. Nevertheless, this area has

undergone significant modifications during the past 200

years. Therefore, a description of its ecology in the

eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries must be, to a

large extent, conjectural.

The following reconstructions of the biota are

primarily based upon observations recorded by individuals

who had resided in or had visited the Cherokee country

and/or its general vicinity (see Chapter 3--Data Sources).

Three of these early observers--William Bartram (1853;

Harper 1958), Andre Michaux (Thwaltes 1904:25-104; Williams

1928:327-342), and Francois Andre Michaux (Thwaites

1904:105-306)--were noted botanists, and their journals are

replete with descriptions of the numerous plants they

encountered. Although they were probably more concerned

with accumulating specimens for their collections and

discovering, classifying, and naming new flora rather

than with compiling exhaustive species lists, their

accounts provide some insight into the maior vegetational

communities present at that time. Additional information

on the flora is derived from present-day surviving remnants

of original conditions (Braun 1985; Oosting 1942; Shelford

1963; Whittaker 1956), and, for the fauna, from known

western zoological histories of particular species

(American Ornithologists' Union [AOU] 1983; Behler and King

1979; Borror et al. 1981; Borror and White 1970; Bull

and Farrand 1977; Burt and Grossenheider 1976; Conant 1975;

Evermann and Hildebrand 1914; Gentry 1955, 1956; Hall 1981;

Hamilton and Whitaker 1979; Huheev and Stupka 1967; Kellogg

1939; King 1939, 1944; Lee et al. 1980; Linzey and Linzev

1971; McClane 1978; National Geographic Society 1983;

Peterson 1980; Robbins et al. 1983; Rostlund 1952, 1960;

Schorger 1952, 1973; Smith 1978; Smith and Brodie 1982;

Whitaker 1980).


The Piedmont Upland was, at the time of Cherokee

occupation, covered by an oak-hickory climax community

(Braun 1985:259; Oosting 1942:89). This consisted of

mature hardwood stands dominated by several kinds of oaks

--white (Quercus alba Linnaeus), red (Quercus rubra

Linnaeus), and black (Quercus velutina Lamarck)--and

hickory, particularly mockernut (Carva tomentosa [Poiretl

Nuttall). Other trees associated with this climax were elm

(Ulmus spp.), red mulberry (Morus rubra Linnaeus), and

American ash (Fraxinus americana Linnaeus). The number of

species of shrubs and vines was few. Sweet-shrub

(Calycanthus floridus Linnaeus), mock-orange (Philadelphus

inodorus Linnaeus), and storax (Styrax spp.) as well as

yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens [Linnaeusl William

Townsend Aiton) and coral honeysuckle (Lonicera

sempervirens Linnaeus) were at higher elevations;

grapevines (Vitis spp.) were in the river valleys and

surrounding foothills. These last two areas also supported

several herbs: strawberry (Fragaria spp.), avens (Geum

sp.), Canada burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis Linnaeus), and

the highly valued ginseng (Panax quinquefolium Linnaeus).

The mountainous Southern Blue Ridge, due to its

topographical diversity and its marked altitudinal range,

supported several different kinds of plant communities

(Braun 1985:196). The principal types were found at middle

and lower elevations (1,300 to 4,500 feet [396-1,372 m]) and

included the occurrence of oak-chestnut climax communities

over most slopes and rolling uplands (Braun 1985:192,197-

199), interspersed by mixed (i.e., dominance shared by a

number of species) mesophytic forests in coves and lower

ravine slopes (Braun 1985:192,199-205), and hemlock forests

(Tsuga spp.) on broad valley flats (approximately 4,000

feet [1,219 m]) (Braun 1985:205). The typical oak-chestnut

forest was dominated by a combination of chestnut, i.e.,

American chestnut (Castanea dentata [Marshall] Borkhausen),

"poplar," or tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera Linnaeus),

and several kinds of oaks--white (Quercus alba Linnaeus),

rock chestnut (Quercus prinus Linnaeus), red (Quercus ruhra

Linnaeus), and black (Quercus velutina Lamarck).

Cove hardwood forests were typically mixed mesophytic

communities (Braun 1985:199-205; Whittaker 1956:45), which

consisted of circa 25 or 30 tree species (Braun 1985:201),

including hemlock (Tsuga spp.), umbrella tree (Magnolia

fraseri Walter), and Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina

Linnaeus) (Braun 1985:201). The herbaceous layer was

extremely variegated, containing toad shade (Trillium

sessile Linnaeus), nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum

Linnaeus), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis

Linnaeus), dog-tooth violet (Erythronium americanum Ker),

bellwort (Uvularia sp.), spreading pogonia (Cleistes

divaricata [Linnaeus] Ames), and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum

thalictroides [Linnaeus1 Andre Michaux).

Certain shrubs were associated with the oak-chestnut

and, at times, the mixed mesophytic regions. Most notable

were the colorful rhododendron (Rhododendron minus Andre

Michaux), flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum [Andre

Michaux] Torrey), and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia


Several additional plant communities were described for

other altitudinal zones (Braun 1985:206-212). The higher

slopes (approximately 4,500 to 5,000 feet [1,372-1,524 ml)

were covered by mixed northern hardwoods (Braun

1985:206,207-209), including cherry birch (Betula lenta

Linnaeus), cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata Linnaeus),

mountain maple (Acer spicatum Lamarck), basswood (Tilia

spp.), Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina Linnaeus), and

ash (Fraxinus spp.). Such vegetation, in turn, graded into

a spruce-fir (Picea rubens Sargent and Abies fraseri

[Pursh] Poiret) forest, which covered the mountains'

highest slopes and summits (Braun 1985:206,209-212). One

final community was noted for the lower Blue Ridge

Mountains adjacent to the Piedmont (Braun 1985:206), where

white pine (Pinus strobus Linnaeus) and mockernut (Carya

tomentosa [Poiret] Nuttall) frequently occurred.

The Southern Ridge and Valley was also composed of

several distinct floral communities. Oak-chestnut covered

the high ridges, mixed mesophytic occurred in ravines and

lower ravine slopes, and white oak forests occupied the

valley floors (Braun 1985:226,241). The white oak forest

community included hickory (Carya spp.), slippery elm

(Ulmus rubra Muhlenberg), redbud (Cercis canadensis

Linnaeus), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida Linnaeus), and

ash (Fraxinus spp.), in addition to several species of oak

(Quercus spp.) (Braun 1985:237-239).

The vegetation of the Cumberland Plateau was described

only in one early (non-botanist) source (Klinck and Talman

1970). Several trees were identified generically, such as

walnut (Juglans), hickory (Carva), chestnut (Castanea), oak

(Quercus), and elm (Ulmus). According to Braun

(1985:35,39), this region once supported a mixed mesophytic


The present vegetational composition and pattern of

forest distribution in the Southern Appalachian Highlands

differ significantly from that of the time period under

study. Over the past two centuries, such activities as

clearing land for cultivation and homesteads, lumbering,

forest fires, and livestock grazing (Ayres and Ashe 1905:

18-23) have resulted in the destruction of most of the

primary plant communities once characteristic of the several

physiographic provinces and, subsequently, in the

development of secondary forests (Braun 1985; Oosting


The Piedmont Upland today consists of oak-pine

transitional forests with the widespread occurrence and

almost universal dominance of pines, particularly loblolly

(Pinus taeda Linnaeus), short-leaf (Pinus echinata Miller),

and scrub (Pinus virginiana Miller) (Braun 1985:259,262;

Oosting 1942). The Southern Blue Ridge no longer supports

an oak-chestnut climax community (Braun 1985:192,197): The

original chestnut trees were destroyed by a chestnut blight

fungus during the 1920s and 1930s (Shelford 1963:38-39;

Whittaker 1956:3-4) and have since been naturally replaced

in many sites by oaks (Braun 1985:192; Woods and Shanks

1957:847). Secondary mesophytic communities are restricted

to coves and lower ravine slopes (Braun 1985:192). Greatly

reduced northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests occur at

higher elevations (Braun 1985:206-207; Whittaker 1956:48-


The Southern Ridge and Valley also has been modified.

Oak-chestnut forests once occupying the steep-sided ridges

of northern Tennessee are now transitional communities with

predominantly oak (Braun 1985:228,241); in the Knoxville

vicinity and southward, lower ridges, knobs, and valley

floors are covered by white oak associations (Braun

1985:226,233,237-239,241) and ravines and lower ravine

slopes by mixed mesophytic forests (Braun 1985:226,241);

and in the province's most southern part, i.e., northwest

Georgia and northeast Alabama, oak-pine forests prevail

(Braun 1985:275-276). Finally, the Cumberland Plateau

supports a mixed mesophytic community (Braun 1985:35,39).

Table A-1 in Appendix A is a listing of all the native

(indigenous) flora present in the Cherokee area during the

eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as recorded in

early ethnographic and primary historical accounts.


The local native, or indigenous, fauna, like the flora,

was exceptionally rich in variety and plenitude. At the

time of Cherokee occupation, the total vertebrate animal

population consisted of approximately 510 native species.

Fish abounded in the numerous rivers and streams that

flowed through the Cherokee area (Alvord and Bidgood

1912:82,213; Klinck and Talman 1970:38-39; Lanman

1849:407,431; United States Senate 1846:14; Williams

1927:52,69, 1928:28, 1930:239). Principal species included

the following: "trout," or bass (Micropterus spp.) (Lanman

1849:373,384,393,405,441; United States Senate 1846:14);

bullhead catfish (Ictaluridae) (Lanman 1849:384; Walker

1888:44; Williams 1928:171), particularly "yellow cat," or

flathead catfish (Pvlodictis olivaris [Rafinesquel)

(Williams 1928:494); "large minnow," or brook trout

(Salvelinus fontinalis [Mitchilll) (Lanman 1849:352); and

suckers (Catostomidae) (Lanman 1849:384), particularly

"mullet," or redhorse (Moxostoma spp.) (Lanman 1849:384;

Walker 1888:44; Williams 1928:171), and "hog-fish," or

northern hog sucker (Hypentelium nigricans [Le Sueurl)

(Lanman 1849:384). Several other fish have also been

mentioned as present: lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens

Rafinesque) (Alvord and Bidgood 1912:223; Williams

1928:37); "pickerel," or "salmon," i.e., walleye

(Stizostedion vitreum [Mitchilll) (Lanman 1849:384);

"carp," or carpsucker (Carpiodes spp.) (Walker 1888:44;

Williams 1928:171); "perch," or sunfish (Lepomis spp.)

(Walker 1888:44; Williams 1928:171); and shad

(Alosa/Dorosoma spp.) (Lanman 1849:373).

Herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) was represented

by both aquatic and terrestrial species. The former

included certain salamanders--hellbender (Cryptobranchus

alleganiensis alleganiensis [Daudin]) (Thwaites 1904:289),

mudpuppv (Necturus maculosus maculosus [Rafinesquel), dusky

salamander (Desmognathus spp.), and spring salamander

(Gvrinophilus spp.)--and several snakes (e.g., water snake

[Nerodia sp.1), many of which naturally occurred in small,

fast-flowing rocky mountain streams. Frogs (Anura) (Louis-

Philippe 1977:63; Williams 1928:493) as well as freshwater

turtles--common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina

serpentin; [Linnaeusl), musk turtle (Sternotherus spp.),

map turtle (Graptemys spp.), and painted/pond slider turtle

(Chrysemys spp.)--were found in quiet or slow-moving

streams, rivers and lakes (Behler and King 1979; Conant

1975; Huheey and Stupka 1967). Terrestrial forms included

the eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina

[Linnaeus]), a few lizard species, e.g., skink (Eumeces

sp.) (Lanman 1849:382), and a variety of snakes (Behler and

King 1979; Conant 1975; Huheey and Stupka 1967). Of the

latter, those most common were the northern black racer

(Coluber constrictor constrictor Linnaeus) (Lanman

1849:353,382) and the venomous "coppersnake," or northern

copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokeson [Daudini)

(Williams 1927:72), and timber rattlesnake (Crotalus

horridus horridus Linnaeus) (De Vorsey 1971:107; Lanman

1849:346,353,379; Williams 1927:72).

Birds constituted the greatest number of species

(circa 240) of all the vertebrate fauna. Wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo Linnaeus) was the largest as well as

the most abundant and widely distributed bird (Alvord and

Bidgood 1912:212; Hawkins 1916:23,24; Klinck and Talman

1970:118,143,147,148; Louis-Philippe 1977:59; Mereness

1916:113; Public Record Office 1725; Thwaites 1904:261;

Williams 1927:44,47,71, 1928:27,100,435), occurring year-

round and often congregating in flocks in the mountains

(Lanman 1849:352), plains (Harper 1958:220,563; Williams

1928:478), and meadows (Harper 1958:225,654). Other

residential ground-dwelling gallinaceous fowl were

"pheasant," or ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus [Linnaeus])

(Harper 1958:209,566; Louis-Philippe 1977:59; Williams

1927:71, 1928:435), noted for its loud drumming call

(Harper 1958:209,566), and "quail," or "partridge," i.e.,

northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus [Linnaeusl) (Lanman

1849:352; Williams 1927:71).

Waterfowl, such as the Canada goose (Branta canadensis

[Linnaeusl) (Fries 1970:1986; Williams 1927:47,71,

1928:263), tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus [Ordi) (Williams

1927:47, 1928:263), and a variety of ducks (Anatinae)

(Williams 1927:47,71), were present in the area's lakes and

ponds either for the duration of the winter (winter range)

or for a brief period of time as a resting place along

their spring and/or fall migration routes (migrants).

Raptorial birds--the year-round residential "buzzard," or

turkey vulture (Cathartes aura [Linnaeus]), and black

vulture (Coragyps atratus [Bechstein]) (Cathartidae), as

well as the wintering bald (Haliaeetus leucceph li;

[Linnaeus]) and golden (Aquila chrysaetos [Linnaeusl) eagles

(Accipitrinae)--were quite common in the mountains,

frequently roosting on cliffs and rocky ledges near ravines

(Lanman 1849:365,366,367).

A great variety of year-round passerine, or perching,

birds were observed in the area: blue jay (Cyanocitta

cristata [Linnaeus]), eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna

[Linnaeus]), eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis [Linnaeus]),

American crow (Corvus brachyrhvnchos Brehm), American robin

(Turdus migratorius Linnaeus) (Lanman 1849:352), northern

mockingbird (Mimus polvglottos [Linnaeusl) (Harper

1958:218,566; Lanman 1849:352,454), and "redbird," or

northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis [Linnaeusl)

(Lanman 1849:352; Louis-Philippe 1977:59). Additional

common residents were the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura

[Linnaeus]) (Lanman 1849:352,396; Louis-Philippe 1977:59;

Williams 1928:435) and several species of woodpecker

(Picinae) (Lanman 1849:352; Louis-Philippe 1977:59).

Certain birds were only present during the breeding

season, i.e., generally summer but may include spring.

These included the common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor

[Forsterl), Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis

Gmelin), and the whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus

Wilson) (Caprimulgidae), all noted for their shrill cries

(Harper 1958:209,217,218,574,662), and the purple martin

(Progne subis [Linnaeusl) (Lanman 1849:396) and eastern

kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus fLinnaeusl) (Lanman 1849:352).

It should be noted that the rock dove (Columba livia

Gmelin) was not a native bird but rather was introduced into

North America (AOU 1983:250-251; Robbins et al. 1983:166;

Schorger 1952) by the Europeans in the 1600s (Schorger

1952). Its possible domestication by the Cherokee remains

uncertain as this is never mentioned in any of the primary

historical accounts.

Mammals constituted the largest-sized of the native

fauna. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus

[Boddaert]) surpassed all other mammalian species both in

abundance and in distribution and was found throughout the

area (Alvord and Bidgood 1912:212; American State Papers

1832:41; Foreman 1956:149; Hawkins 1916:24; Klinck and

Talman 1970:112,117; Lanman 1849:352-353,379; Louis-Philippe

1977:59; Richardson 1759; Tassel 1976:129; United States

Senate 1846:23; Williams 1921:177, 1927:47, 1928:27,435,

1931:137): in the mountains (Klinck and Talman

1970:119,147; Lanman 1849:352,370,438,441), woods (Fries

1968:49; Williams 1927:71), and meadows (Harper

1958:225,492-493); and near water--along rivers and streams

(Lanman 1849:393-394,434-435; Williams 1930:239,271), on

plains (Harper 1958:220,614), in valleys (Klinck and Talman

1970:81), in ravines (Lanman 1849:379,393), and at salt

licks (Walker 1888:45; Williams 1928:171).

Black bear (Ursus americanus [Pallas]) was quite common

(Alvord and Bidgood 1912:212,223; Klinck and Talman

1970:143; Richardson 1759; Tassel 1976:129; United States

Senate 1846:23; Walker 1888:45; Williams 1921:177, 1927:45-

46,47, 1928:27,37,172, 1931:137) in the mountains (Lanman

1849:352,370,371,404-405,438,453; Thwaites 1904:289-290)

and wooded habitats (Williams 1927:71). Several bears

were reported as weighing approximately 350 pounds (159 ke)

(Lanman 1849:371) or 400 pounds (181 kg) (Thwaites

1904:289; Williams 1927:47). A number of other large

mammals resided in the area, including the following:

"buffalo," or bison (Bison bison [Linnaeusl) (Alvord and

Bidgood 1912:213; Fries 1968:51; Tassel 1976:129; Walker

1888:43,44; Williams 1921:177, 1927:47,71,120-121,

1928:28,170,171,173, 1930:445-446); elk (Cervus canadensis

Erxleben) (Alvord and Bidgood 1912:212; Harper 1958:30,498;

Richardson 1759; Williams 1928:27, 1931:137); "panther," or

mountain lion (Felis concolor Linnaeus) (Fries 1968:52;

Lanman 1849:352,370,394,438; United States Senate 1846:23;

Williams 1927:71); and gray wolf (Canis lupus Linnaeus)

(Alvord and Bidgood 1912:212; Fries 1968:51-52; Klinck and

Talman 1970:39; Lanman 1849:370; United States Senate

1846:23; Williams 1927:71, 1928:27).

Medium-sized mammals also abounded in the mountains and

woods: "wildcat," or bobcat (Lynx rufus [Schreberl) (Lanman

1849:370), eastern raccoon (Procyon lotor [Linnaeusl)

(Lanman 1849:370; Williams 1927:71), Virginia opossum

(Didelphis virginiana Kerr) (Williams 1927:71), and fox

(Vulpes vulpes Linnaeus and Urocyon cinereoargenteus

[Schreher]) (Lanman 1849:370; Williams 1927:71). Smaller

species included rabbit, i.e., eastern cottontail

(Sylvilagus floridanus [Allen]) (Williams 1927:71), several

kinds of squirrels (Sciuridae) (Williams 1927:71),

especially the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis Gmelin)

(Lanman 1849:352), and plainnose bats (Vespertilionidae)

(Harper 1958:217,449; Lanman 1849:367).

Several mammals were aquatic. Beaver (Castor

canadensis [Kuhll) (Alvord and Bidgood 1912:223; Fries

1970:1983; Hagy and Folmsbee 1971:120; Richardson 1759;

Williams 1927:47,69, 1928:37,258, 1931:137) and river otter

(Lutra canadensis [Schreberl) (Williams 1927:69) resided in

the area's streams, rivers, and lakes.

Invertebrate fauna, e.g., insects, also thrived in the

Southern Appalachian Highlands. The cell-building

activities of the "dirt," or mud, dauber

(Sceliphron/Chalvhion spp.) (Lanman 1849:398) and the

distinctive song of the katydid (Tettigoniidae) (Lanman

1849:396) were described. The "flying stag," perhaps the

stag beetle (Lucanidae), was noted for its large beautiful

branching "horns" (mandibles) (Williams 1927:72). The

"stump-stinger," an insect having a hard and pointed weapon

with which it bores into trees to deposit its eggs (Lanman

1849:398), probably referred to a female horntail

(Siricidae) (Borror et al. 1981:661).

The presence of certain domestic animals was noted.

Of these domesticates, the dog (Canis familiaris Linnaeus)

(Fries 1970:1982; Harper 1958:228,494-495; Klinck and

Talman 1970:81; Mereness 1916:113; Public Record Office

1725; Virginia State Archives 1909:61; Williams

1928:101,257,490) was the only native species. All others

were introduced following European contact and were

gradually accepted by the Cherokee during the eighteenth

and early nineteenth centuries. Thus, horse (Equus

caballus Linnaeus) (American State Papers 1832:124,543,638,

1834:283,651; Bartram 1853:32,47; Cherokee Phoenix 1828; De

Vorsey 1971:108; Fries 1968:165, 1970:1985; Hagy and
Folmsbee 1973:93; Harper 1958:225,230,528-529; Hawkins

1916:16,56; Henderson 1931:103,107; Klinck and Talman 1970;

Lanman 1849:416; Louis-Philippe 1977:75,91; McDowell

1955:14-15,73, 1958, 1970; Mereness 1916:154,158; Public

Record Office 1725, 1761:599; Richardson 1759; United

States Senate 1846:14; Virginia State Archives 1909:61;

Williams 1927:67,72, 1928:261,460,477,479,485,490,

1930:241,242,436, 1931:128; Yonge 1933:35), swine (Sus

scrofa Linnaeus) (American State Papers 1834:651; Cherokee

Phoenix 1828; Fyffe 1761:5; Hawkins 1916:21,22,23,56;

Klinck and Talman 1970; Louis-Philippe 1977:79; McDowell

1955:14-15, 1970; United States Senate 1846:14; Virginia

State Archives 1909:61; Williams 1927:72,

1928:464,479,485,490, 1930:140,241,242,436,444), and

chicken (Gallus gallus [Linnaeus]) (Fyffe 1761:5; Hawkins

1916:18,21,23; Virginia State State Archives 1909:61;

Williams 1928:479,485,490, 1930:241,443) became common

domesticates. These were followed by cattle (Bos taurus

Linnaeus) (American State Papers 1832:205, 1834:651;

Cherokee Phoenix 1828, 1831; Fries 1970:1985; Fyffe 1761:5;

Hagy and Folmsbee 1973:93,94; Harper 1958:221,467; Hawkins

1916; Henderson 1931:103,105,107; Klinck and Talman 1970;

Lanman 1849:416; Louis-Philippe 1977:75; McDowell 1970;

Mereness 1916:252; Meriwether 1904:443; United States

Senate 1846:14; Virginia State Archives 1909:61; Williams

1928:159,261,479,485,490, 1930:138-139,241,242), sheep

(Ovis aries Linnaeus) (American State Papers 1834:651;

Cherokee Phoenix 1828; Hagy and Folmsbee 1973:94; Henderson

1931:105; Klinck and Talman 1970:162; Lanman 1849:416;

Meriwether 1904:443; United States Senate 1846:14), goat

(Capra hircus Linnaeus) (American State Papers 1834:651;

Cherokee Phoenix 1828), cat (Felis catus Linnaeus)

(Williams 1928:490), and honey bee (Apis mellifera

Linnaeus) (Brown 1938a:445; Malone 1956a:22,139; Moonev

1900a:82; Swanton 1979:252).

The present fauna of the Southern Appalachian

Highlands is somewhat altered in composition (relative

numbers and variety of species) and in distribution.

Modifications were occurring even during the Cherokee period

of occupation. Overexploitation resulted in diminishing

deer and bear populations (Goodwin 1977:132; Klinck and

Talman 1970:130-131; Newman 1979) as well as in the

extirpation of the buffalo by the late 1700s (Harper

1958:30,458; Linzey and Linzey 1971:76-77; Rostlund 1960;

Williams 1930:445-446). Following the American Revolution

and throughout the nineteenth century, more extensive

changes took place with the arrival of increasing numbers

of Euro-American settlers into the region. Large tracts of

land were cleared for cultivation and homesteads (Ayres and

Ashe 1905:18-23), thereby reducing or altering the natural

habitat of many animal species. Furthermore,

indiscriminant hunting and trapping practices led to the

extirpation of the elk (Linzey and Linzey 1971:74) and

fisher (Martes pennanti fErxlebenl) (Linzey and Linzey

1971:63) by the mid-1800s, gray wolf circa 1890 (Linzey and

Linzey 1971:52,53-54), and mountain lion (Linzey and Linzev

1971:68-70) and river otter (Linzey and Linzey 1971:67) by

the 1920s, and to the total extinction of the Carolina

parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis [Linnaeusl) (AOU 1983:268;

Peterson 1980:178) and passenger pigeon (Ectopistes

migratorius [Linnaeus]) (AOU 1983:258; Schorger 1973) by

the early 1900s.

During the twentieth century, additional factors, such

as lumbering, road construction, and urban growth, produced

more drastic consequences. The chestnut blight fungus of

the 1920s and 1930s destroyed the original oak-chestnut

community (Shelford 1963:38-39; Whittaker 1956:3-4); in

time, certain birds were no longer abundant (Shelford

1963:42), and several mammalian species, e.g., squirrel and

bear, were forced to shift from chestnuts to acorns for

their food supply (Linzey and Linzev 1971:xiv). The

increasing use of pesticides led to the eventual

extirpation of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus

Tunstall) in the mid-1950s (AOU 1983:128; Bull and Farrand

1977:470; Peterson 1980:map 181). More recently, various

pollutants, e.g., toxic chemicals, and extensive dam

construction are having a maior impact upon the region's


One further modification should be noted.

Approximately 13 new species have been introduced since the

late nineteenth century. They include the following: three

birds--European starling (Sturnus vulgaris Linnaeus) (AOU

1983:585-586; National Geographic Society 1983:346;

Peterson 1980:256), house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus

[Muller]) (AOU 1983:746; National Geographic Society

1983:440; Peterson 1980:270, map 356), and house, or

English, sparrow (Passer domesticus [Linnaeusl) (AOU

1983:764-765; National Geographic Society 1983:432; Peterson

1980:262, map 341); and 10 fish--threadfin shad (Dorosoma

petenense [Guntherl), rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri

Richardson), brown trout (Salmo trutta Linnaeus), goldfish

(Carassius auratus [Linnaeusl), common carp (Cyprinus

carpio Linnaeus), mosquitofish (Gamhusia affinis [Baird and

Girard]), white bass (Morone chrysops [Rafinesquel),

striped bass (Morone saxatilis [Walhauml), redhreast

sunfish (Lepomis auritus [Linnaeusl), and yellow perch

(Perca flavescens [Mitchilll) (Lee et al. 1980).

Tables A-2 and A-3 in Appendix A are a listing of all

the native (indigenous) and introduced fauna, respectively,

present in the Cherokee area during the eighteenth and

early nineteenth centuries as recorded in early

ethnographic and primary historical accounts.

Table A-4 in Appendix A is based upon research by western

zoological systematists and entails a comprehensive list of

all the vertebrate fauna, native and introduced, potentially

present in the Overhill Cherokee country of eastern

Tennessee, the specific geographical focus of this study,

during the time period under consideration.


The analysis of a culture's
terminological systems will not, of
course, exhaustively reveal the
cognitive world of its members, but it
will certainly tap a central portion of
Charles 0. Frake

Folk semantic studies are ordinarily conducted among

contemporary human populations with the goal of discovering

and describing the natives' own world of experience. Such

research necessitates the use of descriptive linguistic and

ethnosemantic field methods, whereby intensive fieldwork is

carried out in a natural setting by participant observation

and then by elicitation and formal interviews. A number of

living informants are relied upon for the collection of

words, their definitions) in terms of the classes that they

label referentss), and the relationships) among these

recognized classes, as well as for any associated contextual

information, all pertaining to specific phenomena. Such

phenomena are usually restricted to a particular cultural,

or semantic, domain (a set of conceptually related classes).

The present work differs from typical folk semantic

studies in that it attempts to reconstruct the beliefs,

knowledge, and practices of a group of people that lived in

the past. More specifically, the objective is to provide a

detailed methodology by which the language and culture of

the Cherokee Indians who lived in eastern Tennessee,

U.S.A., during the eighteenth and early nineteenth

centuries may be examined in order to ascertain and

delineate the nomenclature and classifications) of their

animal semantic domain and the significance of this system

of knowledge within the context of their daily lives. In

this type of approach, the fieldwork entails an

investigation of linguistic, oral tradition, and

ethnographic/historical data previously collected during

approximately the time period under consideration. The

informants are represented by the entirety of written

sources in which relevant information was recorded.

A note of caution, however, is essential regarding the

use of these sources as a basis for reconstructing past

human knowledge and lifeways. Many of these writings are

by individuals rooted in western cultural traditions, which,

in turn, may have influenced their interpretation of

Cherokee cultural phenomena. Thus, the present type of

study necessitates a double awareness: The researcher must

contend not only with his/her own cultural biases, as in

all anthropological work, but also with those of the

earlier investigators.

Data Sources

Data pertaining to the language and culture of the

protohistoric Cherokee Indians may be obtained from

numerous sources. Some of these writings have been

published, but others are in the form of unpublished

manuscripts that are stored in a number of archival

depositories and/or special library collections. For

convenience, these various kinds of sources, like the data,

are categorized here into three major types: linguistic,

recorded oral traditions, and early ethnographic/historical


Linguistic sources provide the animal nomenclatural,

or lexical, data and include vocabulary lists, early

dictionaries, texts, early grammars, and linguistic field

notes. Linguistic field notes may he separate documents,

generally recorded on small pieces of paper, or they may be

scattered throughout the other previously mentioned

linguistic sources, frequently scribbled in the margins

alongside certain lexical terms. These notes often provide

information pertaining to the morphological analysis,

literal meaning, and/or origin of a particular animal name;

a description of the animal referent, such as its physical

appearance and/or behavior; and the identification of the

animal referent in terms of the corresponding western

scientific taxon or taxa.

A number of the vocabulary lists were collected by

several anthropologists and linguists, such as James Mooney

and Albert Gatschet, respectively, who conducted research

for the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American

Ethnology (BAE), and are on file at the Smithsonian

Institution's National Anthropological Archives in

Washington, D.C. (Gatschet 1879-1880, 1885a, 1885b, 1886;

Hewitt 1887; Jones 1866a, 1866b, 1866c; Jones et al. n.d.;

Mooney 1885, 1887; Preston 1796). Additional unpublished

word lists are stored in the library of the American

Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (Campbell 1800;

Hawkins 1784, 1800; Olbrechts 1930b). Other vocabulary

lists have been published (American Society 1824:58-62;

Bringier 1821; Brown 1938a:525-549; De Vorsey 1971:115-

131; Domenech 1860:164-189; Gallatin 1836:305-367,398-

404, 1848:82-88; Hale 1883:27; Haywood 1959:264-267;

McIntosh 1844:100-103; Mooney 1900a:506-548; Say 1905:290-

298; Williams 1930:60-64).

Early attempts at describing portions of the Cherokee

grammatical system also provide some animal lexical data.

A number of these sources have been retained as manuscripts

(Hewitt 1887; Jones n.d.; Mooney n.d.a, n.d.h), though

most have been published (American Society 1824:58-62;

Gabelentz in Krueger 1963:2-29; Gallatin 1836:239-250,276,

291-294,415-421; Pickering in Krueger 1963:29-56; Worcester


More recent (twentieth-century) studies on the Cherokee

language are also examined, including vocabulary lists in

manuscript form (Marnett 1939), animal accounts (Pickens

1943; Speck 1946; Witthoft 1946b), dictionaries (Alexander

1971; Chiltoskey 1972; Feeling 1975; King 1975), grammars

(Bender 1949; Bender and Harris 1946; King 1975; Pulte and

Feeling 1975; Reyburn 1953a, 1953b, 1954), texts (Olbrechts

1931; Speck 1927), and workbooks (Holmes and Smith 1977).

These materials are not used as sources for animal names

since they may contain terms added in the recent past,

which, consequently, are not relevant here. Rather, such

references are consulted for a working knowledge of the

Cherokee language and thus make possible the analysis of

the phonological and morphological structure of the lexicon

found in the earlier written sources.

The nomenclatural data obtained from the foregoing

literature and subsequent analysis thereof serve as the

basis for ascertaining Cherokee animal classifications.

Such evidence is supplemented by inferences also drawn from

other kinds of linguistic data, and from information

pertaining to the significance of various recognized fauna

in secular as well as in ideological and ritual contexts in

the Cherokee culture as derived from recorded oral

traditions and early ethnographic/historical accounts.

Oral tradition sources deal exclusively with native

renditions of traditional beliefs, knowledge, and practices

as recorded by anthropologists or by linguists or, in later

times, by the Cherokee natives themselves. Such references

take several forms: mythology, folktales, and folk beliefs

and knowledge (Davis 1909, 1910, 1937; Kilpatrick and

Kilpatrick 1966; Mooney 1888, 1900a; Olbrechts 1931; Speck

1927; Ten Kate 1889; Terrell 1892; Witthoft 1946a, 1946b);

sacred formulas (Mooney 1891; Mooney and Olbrechts 1932);

ceremonial descriptions, e.g., dances (Speck and Broom

1951) and the ball play (Mooney 1890b); and ethnohistorical

manuscripts, i.e., traditions recorded by individual

Cherokee (e.g., Hicks in Swanton 1979:768-769,771-772;

Kilpatrick 1966; Mooney and Olbrechts 1932).

Ethnographic/historical sources consist of early

observations written by nonanthropologists and of official

documents, both of which frequently contain important

ethnographic, or cultural, information. Although such

information is usually presented from the writers' own

perspective, a few oral traditions as related by native

informants are sometimes included.

Early observations involve descriptions by individuals,

most of whom had firsthand contact with the Cherokee

Indians. Such accounts are abundant and are predominantly

in the form of journals and diaries, which were written by

various kinds of individuals: travellers--George W.

Featherstonhaugh (Foreman 1956), Louis-Philippe (1977;

Williams 1928:433-441), and Major John Norton (Klinck and

Talman 1970); botanists--William Bartram (Harper 1958),

Andre Michaux (Thwaites 1904:25-104; Williams 1928:

327-342), and Francois Andre Michaux (Thwaites 1904:105-

306); missionaries--Reverend William Richardson (1759;

Williams 1931), Martin Schneider (Fries 1970:1975-1988;

Williams 1928:245-265), August Gottlieb Spaneenberg (Fries

1968:30-64), and Abraham Steiner and Frederick C. De

Schweinitz (Williams 1928:445-525); captives--Antoine

Bonnefoy (Mereness 1916:239-255; Williams 1928:147-162);

explorers--Dr. Thomas Walker (1888; Williams 1928:165-

174); and European, colonial, or later American officials

--Colonel George Chicken (Cheves 1894; Mereness 1916:95-

172; Public Record Office 1725; Williams 1928:93-104), Sir

Alexander Cuming (Public Record Office 1730; Williams

1928:115-143), Lieutenant Colonel James Grant (Public

Record Office 1761; Yonge 1933), and Benjamin Hawkins

(1916; Grant 1980; Williams 1928:369-372).

Other informative primary accounts are within the

context of the following: monographs by traders (James

Adair (Williams 1930] and Alexander Longe [Corkran 19691),

missionaries (Reverend Daniel Sabin Butrick [1884, n.d.a,

n.d.b; Payne n.d.]), and other individuals (e.g., I.P. Evans

[n.d.]), who lived among the Cherokee for an extended

period of time; memoirs--Lieutenant Henry Timberlake

(Williams 1927); letters--William Fvffe (1761), Charles

Lanman (1849), Chevalier Chr. de Lantagnac (Williams

1928:177-184), and Abraham Wood (on the explorations of

James Needham and Gabriel Arthur) (Alvord and Bidgood

1912:207-227; Williams 1928:17-38); and reports--William

Bartram (1853), Reverend David Brown (American State Papers

1834:650-652), John William Gerard De Brahm (De Vorsey

1971; Williams 1928:187-194), David Menzies (1761), and

William Holland Thomas (United States Senate 1846).

Some ethnographic information, however, is less

consciously transmitted and may he found in various

official documents pertaining to Cherokee/white business,

military, and/or political affairs. Such records include

trade agreements and lists of goods and prices (McDowell

1955, 1958, 1970), peace treaties and/or land cessions

(American State Papers 1832, 1834; Hagy and Folmsbee 1972,

1973; Henderson 1931; Public Record Office 1730), speeches

and "talks" (American State Papers 1832:205-206; McDowell

1958, 1970; Tassel 1976; Williams 1921), and correspondence

(Hagy and Folmsbee 1971, 1972, 1973; McDowell 1958, 1970;

Meriwether 1904; Virginia State Archives 1909).

It is very important to note that a few of these early

primary sources (Bartram 1853; Fries 1968; Harper 1958;

McDowell 1955, 1958, 1970; Williams 1930) provide

ethnographic information on other Southeast Indian groups in

addition to the Cherokee. Although such descriptions of

specific groups are, for the most part, presented as

individual accounts, a separate section is usually also

included containing observations on the Southeast Indians

in general without distinguishing among the various groups.

Nevertheless, such general information is also used in this

study as it may possibly pertain specifically to the

Cherokee Indians, or else to the Southeast Indians as a

whole, i.e., broadly diffused cultural traits.

Important secondary sources are also consulted (e.g.,

Alden 1944; Brown 1938a, 1938b; Corkran 1962; Crane 1929;

Franklin 1932, 1933; Havwood 1959; King 1979; Malone 1956a;

Milling 1940; Mooney 1900a:14-228; O'Donnell 1973; Ramsey

1853; Randolph 1973; Rothrock 1929; Royce 1887; Swanton

1979; Williams 1937, 1974; Willis 1955).

It should be emphasized that the three categories of

sources defined here are not mutually exclusive in the

kinds of data they contain. Thus, linguistic, or

nomenclatural, data are also derived from recorded oral

tradition sources, such as sacred formulas (see Mooney

1891), and from early ethnographic/historical accounts,

such as word lists compiled by traders and travellers (see

Williams 1930:60-64). Oral tradition data, such as myths,

are sometimes recorded in linguistic sources as texts (see

Speck 1927) and in early ethnographic/historical accounts

as local Indian stories (see Lanman 1849). Ethnographic,

or cultural, data may be found in linguistic sources, e.g.,

descriptions of hunting methods used in capturing certain

animals (see Mooney 1885), and in recorded oral tradition

sources, e.g., descriptions of religious festivals (see

Hicks in Swanton 1979:771).

Recording Procedures

A file system may serve as a guide to the systematic

collection of large amounts of data. This procedure is

employed in descriptive linguistic fieldwork, whereby the

processing of material is often done by slip filing (Hardman

and Hamano 1981:226-235; Nida 1949:195; Samarin 1967:153).

This method of organization is used here, and a number of

separate files are established for each of the major kinds

of data--linguistic, oral tradition, and ethnographic/

historical--involved in this study.

Data entries are written on 4X6-inch (10X15 cm) pieces

of paper because these are small enough in size for

purposes of easy storage and portability but large enough

for recording a substantial amount of information. The

grouping of these slips as well as the overall organization

of the files is determined by the classes inferred from the

materials gathered so that these data banks may serve as an

adequate basis for all subsequent analyses and


Linguistic File

The linguistic, or lexical, file consists of a record

of all the Cherokee animal names obtained from early

sources. It is partitioned into two major sections:

English to Cherokee (source to target language, or language

of researcher to language under study, respectively), and

Cherokee to English (target to source language) (Samarin

1967:155). This file is analogous to the morphological

kind set up by descriptive linguists; the difference is

that, in the lexical file, the data are ordered by lexeme

rather than by morph.

For every animal name examined in a particular

reference, two slips are made, one for each section. The

lexical entry includes the following basic information

(Figure 3-1): Cherokee animal name; English gloss; type of

source (vocabulary list, dictionary, text, or grammar); and

full reference, where the name is located, to enable later

checks, if necessary. Other data recorded consist of any

notes accompanying the name.

The English to Cherokee slips are grouped and ordered

according to the manner in which the names were recorded in

the standard vocabulary lists employed by early

investigators, i.e., by the western science classificatory

system. The Cherokee to English section, however, entails

an alphabetical filing of the lexical terms: The objective

is to ascertain whether any of the animal referents have the

same name.

Oral Tradition File

Oral tradition data constitute a distinct file, which

is in two parts. The first section is subdivided into the

four major kinds of Cherokee oral traditions: 1. mythology,

folktales, and folk beliefs and knowledge; 2. sacred

English Gloss File Name
Type of Source

Cherokee Animal Name
(supplementary information)


Cherokee Animal Name

cow Linguistic
Vocabulary List


borrowed from the Spanish vaca

Mooney 1885:192

chickadee Linguistic
Vocabulary List


This term is onomatopoetic.
Cherokee regard chickadee as a news bringer.

Mooney 1885:119

Figure 3-1
English to Cherokee Linguistic File Slip

formulas; 3. ceremonial descriptions; and 4. ethnohistorical

manuscripts. Every tradition is described in detail on a

separate index card. The second section consists of slips

recorded for every animal mentioned with an account of its

context (Figure 3-2) and is arranged according to the

classificatory scheme inferred from the data examined.

Ethnographic/Historical File

The ethnographic/historical file, like the oral

tradition one, is composed of slips recorded for every

animal discussed in these references with its contextual

and any other accompanying information (Figure 3-3). This

file, however, is partitioned into seven major subject

headings: 1. natural ecology (native animals present in the

Cherokee country); 2. native North American animals in

secular culture (animals procured, food and nonfood

products, and trade); 3. introduced Old World animals in

secular culture (animals acquired/raised, food and nonfood

products, and trade); 4. procurement methods and implements

(fishing, hunting, seasonality, and female/male roles);

5. food processing and consumption patterns (food

preservation, food preparation, cooking/storage/eating

utensils, and patterns of consumption); 6. animals in

ideology and ritual (ideology, group ritual [religious

festivals/dances], rites of passage, hunting ritual,

medicinal/sickness ritual, power [civil/military--rulers,

ball play, war, peace, divination/sacrifice, and

English Gloss (lexicon if File Name
provided) Type of

Contextual Information


Cherokee Animal Referent

Partridge Oral Tradition

How the Partridge Got His Whistle

The Partridge was jealous of the Terrapin, who had a
fine whistle. The Partridge asked to try it and flew
away with it. The Terrapin never recovered its
whistle, and the Partridge has had it ever since.

Mooney 1900a:289

Deer Oral Tradition

How the Deer Got Horns

The Deer and the Rabbit were to race. Antlers were to
be given to the winner. The Rabbit cheated before the
race so that the antlers were given to the Deer.

Mooney 1900a:275-276

wolf Oral Tradition
Sacred Formula

To Cure Them When They Have
Their Feet Frost Bitten

The wolf, fox, deer, and opossum are invoked to cure
frostbitten feet.

Mooney and Olbrechts 1932:298-299

Figure 3-2
Cherokee Oral Tradition File Slip

English Gloss (subject heading(s]-- File Name
subheading[s]) Type of Source
(primary or
Contextual Information


Cherokee Animal Referent

deer (native animal-- E/H
nonfood products) Journal

Norton on Cherokee (1809-1810)

Men's dress included moccasins and leggings
made of deer skins.

Klinck and Talman 1970:134

horse (introduced Old World animal-- E/H
animals acquired/raised) Journal

Steiner and De Schweinitz on Cherokee (1799)

At Tellico, there is little cattle, hut there are
many horses, hogs, and especially chickens.

Williams 1928:479

turkey (ideology and ritual-- E/H
sacrifice) Monograph

Butrick on Cherokee (1800s)

On cooking any large fowl, as turkeys, geese, etc.,
they always sacrificed the breast.

Butrick 1884:12

Figure 3-3
Cherokee Ethnographic/Historical File Slip

miscellaneous individual ritual); and 7. classification of

animals. Within each of these sections, the slips are

arranged according to the western science classificatory

system as presented in the original sources. Furthermore,

since the topics overlap to some extent, cross-filing,

i.e., duplicating and subsequently filing the same slip in

several different sections, is employed.

Framework of Analysis

The present study entails an analysis of the

protohistoric Cherokee animal semantic domain. This

analysis is divided into four stages: nomenclature,

cultural significance, classification, and synthesis.

Semantic Domain Analysis--Introduction

A large number of folk semantic studies have

concentrated upon native biological (plant and animal)

semantic domains. Traditionally, such systems were

described in terms of their functional aspects, and, in

many of the earliest studies, the emphasis was on recording

the usage of named plants (see Densmore 1928; Gilmore 1919;

Robbins et al. 1916; Steedman 1930; Stevenson 1915) and

animals (see Henderson and Harrington 1914). These were

usually presented in the form of a list of those western

scientific species recognized, with each entry accompanied

by the native word and a summary of its uses; labelled

biological organisms of no known utility were generally not


During the past three decades, however, with the

development of the subfield of ethnosemantics in

anthropology (also called the new ethnography or cognitive

anthropology), these considerations have been overshadowed

by an overwhelming concern for understanding the natives'

own conceptualizations of their environment and the

structure of such systems of knowledge (Berlin 1972, 1973,

1974, 1976, 1978; Berlin et al. 1966, 1968, 1973, 1974;

Conklin 1962a, 1962b, 1964; Frake 1962a, 1962b, 1964a; see

Berlin 1967, 1976; Berlin et al. 1968, 1973, 1974, 1981;

Conklin 1954, 1955; Frake 1961, 1964a, 1964b, 1964c). These

systems are defined by three analytically distinct, though

interrelated, cognitive processes: classification

(systematically grouping individual living things into

classes and designating the kinds of relations among the

classes established); nomenclature (applying names to these

conceptually recognized classes); and identification

(indicating the criteria employed when assigning an

individual organism to a particular recognized, i.e.,

previously established, class) (Berlin 1973:259; Bruner et

al. 1956:1; Hunn 1975b, 1977:41; Mayr 1969:4; Simpson

1945:3, 1961:9,18-19). Although all three procedures

should ideally be examined in order to achieve a

comprehensive structural description of a particular

society's knowledge of the natural world, only the first

two have been extensively studied in detail (see Berlin et

al. 1974; Hunn 1977). Research into the nature of

identification (see Hunn 1975b) has seldom been pursued.

The resultant findings of a number of these ethnosemantic

studies have been compared, consequently generating several

cross-cultural principles of folk biological classification

and nomenclature (Berlin 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978; Berlin et

al. 1973, 1974; Raven et al. 1971).

Recently, a few researchers are shifting the emphasis

again to the cultural significance, or practical value, of

recognized plants and animals, but in terms of specifying

the native point of view, i.e., the application of folk

systems of knowledge. Such an approach involves an

investigation into the differential human behavioral and

attitudinal responses associated with folk conceptual and

terminological distinctions (Hays 1974, 1982; Hunn 1982).

This new orientation represents a synthesis of traditional

functional interests with more recent cognitive-structural


The present work follows the last approach and

concentrates upon delineating first the nomenclature, then

the cultural significance, and finally the

classifications) of the Cherokee animal semantic domain,

or folk zoological system.1 This particular ordering of

1The process of identification is not considered here
because it requires special psychological theories and
techniques that are not applicable to the study of past
human populations.

the data presentation is necessary because the

reconstruction of the classificatory arrangements is

dependent upon inferences drawn from the results of the

other two analyses.


The first stage of the semantic domain analysis

involves an examination of the nomenclature in terms of

both its grammatical and semantic structure. The

grammatical analysis, which must be completed first,

entails the use of descriptive linguistic techniques.

Contemporary studies of the Cherokee language are consulted

for a working knowledge of its phonology and morphology.

The morphological analysis presented here is primarily

based upon Duane King's (1975) grammar of the Cherokee

language as spoken by today's North Carolina Cherokee

(Middle dialect); the phonemic orthography used, however,

is that of today's Oklahoma Cherokee dialect (Feeling

1975), because it is supposedly the one spoken by those

Cherokee Indians who lived in eastern Tennessee during the

eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Overhill

dialect). Each animal name is analyzed into its morpheme

constituents and put into the phonemic orthography already

established for the Overhill Cherokee dialect (see Chapter


Based upon their grammatical form, the names are then

individually assigned to one of four possible noun

categories. Uninflected nouns consist solely of a single

root morpheme. Inflected nouns require a person/number

prefix and, in certain cases, also require an initial

distributive prefix or may have a reflexive prefix.

Derived nouns may be either a noun root with a derivational

(optional) attributive suffix or a nominalized verb (i.e.,

theme formation) (see Chapter 2). Compounds, or composite

terms, are composed of more than one root and include two

independent segments, a head and an attributive, which are

combined to form a binomial expression. The head is

usually precedent and is generally an uninflected noun; in

some names, it may be an inflected or derived noun. The

attributive, which modifies the head, may be uninflected,

inflected, derived, or, in several instances, composite, or

multiple stemmed. Despite the variety of structural

combinations in composite terms, the head-attributive

distinction is always primary.

In contrast to the grammatical aspect of the

nomenclature, which refers to the language's internal

organization, the semantic component relates to

extralinguistic phenomena and involves the meanings

associated with each name. It is important to emphasize

here that these names do not serve as labels for individual

organisms but rather designate groupings of entities (Hays

1974:111), that is, animal classes. Each name is defined

by stating its English gloss (translation), which is

enclosed in single quotation marks as well as all the

possible referents included in terms of the corresponding

western scientific taxon or taxa. It should be noted that

these western scientific identifications are sometimes

clearly presented in the various sources. Where references

differ in this regard, judgments are made on the basis of

any supplementary information (e.g., description of the

animal) given. In many other instances, however, precise

identifications are not presented and, consequently, must

be based upon such evidence as the literal meaning or the

onomatopoetic nature of the name or the descriptive account

of the animal as given by the Cherokee and/or by the early

investigatorss. For some of these names, these

descriptions are very limited or no supplementary

information is given so that identification is virtually

impossible. It is important to emphasize that, for all of

the names, alternative correspondences between Cherokee and

western scientific taxa may be possible. Thus, this cross-

linguistic semantic matching should be construed only as

establishing approximate, rather than absolute, equivalents

(Casagrande 1954b:338; Conklin 1962a:124; Hall 1964:230;

Nida 1945:205-206; Phillips 1959:184).

It should be noted that each of the names presented

must be an elementary lexical unit, that is, a single

lexeme, or monolexeme: This is considered a semantically

opaque, or exocentric, construction since its meaning

cannot be deduced from its component parts or from its

assumed etymology. A polylexemic form, on the other

hand, is an expression that is semantically transparent, or

endocentric (its meaning can be determined from its

constituents), and, consequently, is a descriptive phrase

(Casson 1981:79; Conklin 1962a:121-122; Goodenough

1956:199; Nida 1958:286). (For example, in English,

"blackbird" is a lexeme referring to a particular species

of bird, and "black bird," a polylexeme, designates a bird

that is black in color [Casson 1981:79; Conklin

1962a:121].) This distinction may be difficult to

ascertain for some of the composite terms; the analysis of

such a restricted vocabulary corpus (only animal lexicon)

as well as the limited amount of recorded corresponding

contextual information precludes a more precise

determination. Hence, a few of the expressions designated

as names in the data set may actually he phrases.

The next procedure entails analyzing each animal name

in terms of the linguistic processes constituting its

formation and modification. Such phenomena may be

triggered by external influences, linguistic and

nonlinguistic (e.g., contact with other human populations

and the subsequent introduction of new cultural forms,

ideas, as well as linguistic features), or are simply part

of the internal ongoing changes that naturally occur in

some form in all language systems.

Three major kinds of processes are common within the

Cherokee language (King and King 1976). External borrowing

involves the importation and eventual integration of new

vocabulary words as a result of intercultural contact (see

Casagrande 1954a:217,228-233; Herzog 1941; Johnson 1943;

King and King 1976:58-59; Lee 1943; Spicer 1943), either

direct (living in close proximity and interacting with

speakers of other languages) or indirect (trade networks),

and may be for purposes of prestige, the avoidance of

taboos, or the fulfillment of certain needs (King and King


Semantic shift is an analogical process (internal

borrowing) and may refer to several types of changes in the

meaning of words (Hall 1964:325-326,348-349), two of which

are noted in the present data set. Semantic extension is

when the meaning of a word, indigenous or previously

introduced, is expanded to include additional cultural

forms or concepts on the basis of a real or an imagined

(metaphorical) semantic similarity (amplification of the

contexts in which a word is used) (Hall 1964:325-326,348-

349; King and King 1976:59; see Casagrande 1954a:217,218-

221; Herzog 1941; King and King 1976:59-60; Lee 1943).

Semantic replacement is a total change of the contexts in

which a word is used; the original meaning of the word is

eventually lost (Hall 1964:325-326; Herzog 1941:66; see

Hoijer 1948:341).

Finally, descriptive derivation, the third kind of

linguistic process, differs from the preceding two major

types in that it entails modifications in the morphology as

well as in the vocabulary and semantic structure and

results in the formation of new words, derived nouns and

composite terms, by the affixation or compounding,

respectively, of already existing lexicon (Hall 1964:175-

180; King and King 1976:60; see Casagrande 1954a:217,221-

228; Hoijer 1948:341; King and King 1976:60-61). All of

the foregoing processes and combinations thereof are

described in detail for each of the animal names in which

they are exemplified.

The last two methods employed in the nomenclatural

stage of the analysis involve examining the vocabulary

words solely in terms of their semantic structure. First,

each name is described regarding the kinds of meanings

represented. Certain semantic dimensions are frequently

expressed, including those of shape, behavior, size, color,

texture, and habitat. Other less important ones are focal

membership, smell, and analogy. Some names are

onomatopoetic, making reference to the characteristic

sounds) produced by a particular animal. Additional

semantic patterns include the marking of age (young versus

old) and gender.

Finally, each animal name is categorized according to

a lexeme typology that was initially devised by Harold

Conklin (1962a:122) and subsequently modified by Brent

Berlin and his collaborators (Berlin et al. 1973:216-

219, 1974:27-29) (Figure 3-4). In the Berlin et al. system,

lexeme forms are divided into two maior groups: primary

and secondary.


Berlin et al.


I --

unitary unitary
simple complex



unproductive productive
primary primary
(analyzable) (analyzable)

Figure 3-4
Lexeme Types--
Conklin versus Berlin
(based upon information from
Berlin et al. 1973, 1974;

et al.
Conklin 1962a;
Hunn 1977)

t \

I \
/ \



Primary lexemes consist of three subtypes: simple,

unproductive, and productive (Berlin et al. 1973:217,

1974:27-28). Simple primary lexemes (referred to as

"unitary simple lexemes" by Conklin [1962a:1221) are

generally composed of a single unanalyzable, or

unsegmentable, constituent (single root morpheme) (Berlin

et al. 1973:217, 1974:28). Examples in American English

folk zoology include "fish," "duck," "squirrel," and

"deer." In Cherokee, however, some of the animal names of

this type are stems having a single root to which one or

more affixes are attached. Both unproductive (or "unitary

complex lexemes" [Conklin 1962a:1221) and productive

primary lexemes are complex analyzable forms consisting of

more than one root morpheme: Among the former, no part of

the name designates a class superordinate to the one in

question (e.g., in American English folk zoology, "sea cow"

is not a kind of "cow"), and, in the latter, one of the

constituents indicates a superordinate class (Berlin et al.

1973:217, 1974:28).

Secondary lexemes are structurally identical to

productive primary forms, and thus both are referred to as

"composite lexemes" by Conklin (1962a:122). Berlin and his

associates (Berlin et al. 1973:217, 1974:28), however,

differentiate between the two types. Productive primary

lexemes occur in contrast sets with simple and unproductive

primary lexemes (Berlin et al. 1973:217, 1974:28) (e.g., in

American English folk zoology, "rattlesnake" is a kind of

"snake" and directly contrasts with such classes as "racer,"

"copperhead," and "kingsnake"). Secondary lexemes, on the

other hand, are found in contrast sets in which all other

members are also secondary lexemes sharing the same

superordinate label (Berlin et al. 1973:217, 1974:28)

(e.g., in American English folk zoology, "black hear,"

"grizzly bear," "Alaskan brown bear," and "polar bear"

label the entire subdivision of "bears" in North America).

The results of the various foregoing procedures are

incorporated into the presentation of the individual

descriptive accounts of the Cherokee animal names. These

lexical data are subsequently summarized in terms of the

four major aspects of the nomenclatural analysis: noun

categories, linguistic processes in name formation, general

semantic patterns, and lexeme types. Such data summaries

are presented in a format quite similar to that used in the

folk biological studies by Brent Berlin et al. (1974:37-

45) and Eugene Hunn (1977:82-99).

A number of additional analytical terms are employed

throughout the presentation of the nomenclatural and, at

times, the classificatory data and are therefore defined

here as specifically used in this study. Lexical variants

are forms that have the same meaning and thus serve as

labels for the same animal class; they differ only in

phonemic detail or, in the case of secondary lexemes, the

attributive used, or are alternate onomatopoetic renditions

(Hunn 1977:132) (e.g., in American English folk zoology,

"opossum" and "possum"). Lexical synonyms are also

semantically equivalent forms but are phonemically and

etymologically distinct (Casson 1981:77-78; Conklin

1962a:130; Frake 1961:116-117; Hunn 1977:132; Kay 1971:880)

(e.g., in American English folk zoology, "snake" and

"serpent," or "woodchuck" and "groundhog"). Lexical

"alternate classifications" are synonyms that differ in

lexeme type (primary versus secondary), thereby implying

that their referent animal class may belong to two

different folk biological categories (generic and specific,

respectively; see the subsequent section on classification

in this chapter), depending upon which linguistic label is

used (cf. Hunn 1977:132 for a similar, though not identical,

definition) (e.g., in American English folk zoology,

"osprey" and "fish hawk"). Finally, polysemous words are

forms that consist of multiple, though related, meanings

(Casson 1981:78; Conklin 1962a:130; Frake 1961:119; Kay

1971:875,881). (For example, in American English folk

zoology, "animal" has two meanings: a general one,

referring to the entire animal domain, and a more

restricted one, referring to mammals in contrast to other

kinds of animals.)

Cultural Significance

The second stage of the semantic domain analysis

entails a detailed perusal of recorded oral traditions and

early ethnographic/historical accounts for information

pertaining to the significance of various recognized fauna

in secular as well as in ideological and ritual contexts in

the Cherokee culture. For purposes of this study, cultural

significance (importance), or practical value, is defined

as the totality (variety, frequency, and conceived value)

of human behavioral and attitudinal responses to recognized

animal classes. This broad perspective encompasses

utilization plus beliefs, knowledge, and feelings (cf. Hays

1974:196-201,309-313,555-563, 1982:91-92 for a similar,

though not identical, definition).

The role of animals in Cherokee daily secular life is

presented first. Native animals are discussed in terms of

the fishing and hunting methods and implements employed in

their procurement as well as the variety of products, food

and nonfood (clothing and tools), derived from each animal.

Old World animals, introduced as a result of European

contact, are subsequently examined, particularly regarding

their gradual integration into the Cherokee culture and the

kinds of uses--such as food, means of transport, and trade

--to which they were put. Finally, methods of preservation

and preparation of foods obtained from both native and

introduced animals as well as cultural patterns pertaining

to their consumption are delineated.

The significance of animals in Cherokee ideology and

ritual is examined next. A summary discussion of Cherokee

beliefs, knowledge, and practices is presented, followed

by detailed descriptions of each animal in terms of its

role(s) within these traditions. Moreover, since the

Cherokee view of the universe as a tripartite system is a

theme pervading much of their folklore, the individual

accounts of the various fauna are arranged according to

the division, or world, with which each animal was

generally associated.


The third stage of the semantic domain analysis

involves a reconstruction of the classifications

constituting the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century

Cherokee folk zoological system based upon inferences drawn

primarily from the nomenclatural evidence, and, in some

instances, from other kinds of linguistic data, as well as

from information pertaining to cultural significance. In

this study, classification is defined as the grouping of

entities, that is, individual animal organisms, into

classes according to certain criteria and specification of

the kinds of relations among these classes established and

subsequently named (Bruner et al. 1956:1; Mayr 1969:4;

Simpson 1945:3, 1961:9,18-19). The methodology employed

here serves as a means of ascertaining and delineating each

of the recognized faunal classes as well as their overall

integration as a coherent and unified system, the animal

semantic domain.

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