The Cherokee were farming people. Cherokee women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Cherokee men did most of the hunting, shooting deer, bear, wild turkeys, and small game. They also fished in the rivers and along the coast.
What did the Cherokee do for a living?
The tribal diet commonly consisted of foods that were either gathered, grown, or hunted. The three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – were grown. Wild greens, mushrooms, ramps, nuts, and berries were collected. Deer, bears, birds, native fish, squirrels, groundhogs, and rabbits were all hunted.
In addition to corn, the Cherokee grew beans, squash, sunflowers, pumpkins, and other crops. Cherokee women were the primary farmers. “The Three Sisters” were staples in the Cherokee diet–corn, beans and squash.
The Cherokee cleared woodlands for cultivated fields in a practice called “slash and burn” or “swidden” agriculture. This involved felling larger trees and burning shrubs and grasses. New fields would be cultivated with a digging stick. These fields would be used until the soils became depleted.
The traditional Cherokee diet consisted of mostly wild meat, especially wild hogs and white-tailed deer, and corn and bean bread, pumpkins, dried fruit, and nuts, which were usually ground into a flour to be used in other dishes. The principle crops they grew were maise (corn), beans, and squash.
The Cherokee were ill-equipped for the grueling hike. “We had no shoes,” noted Trail of Tears survivor Rebecca Neugin, “and those that wore anything wore moccasins made of deer hide.” They were also malnourished, sustaining themselves on a daily menu of salt pork and flour.
Traditional ceremonial people of the Yuchi, Caddo, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee and some other Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands use the black drink in purification ceremonies. Black drink also usually contains emetic herbs.
The food that the Cherokee tribe ate included deer (venison), bear, buffalo, elk, squirrel, rabbit, opossum and other small game and fish. Their staple foods were corn, squash and and beans supplemented with wild onions, rice, mushrooms, greens, berries and nuts.
The Cherokee were southeastern woodland Indians, and in the winter they lived in houses made of woven saplings, plastered with mud and roofed with poplar bark. In the summer they lived in open-air dwellings roofed with bark. Today the Cherokee live in ranch houses, apartments, and trailers.
They believed the world should have balance, harmony, cooperation, and respect within the community and between people and the rest of nature. Cherokee myths and legends taught the lessons and practices necessary to maintain natural balance, harmony, and health.
After 1800 the Cherokee were remarkable for their assimilation of American settler culture. The tribe formed a government modeled on that of the United States. Under Chief Junaluska they aided Andrew Jackson against the Creek in the Creek War, particularly in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Agriculture: The Cherokee were farmers, hunters and gatherers. They grew corn, squash and beans, along with pumpkin, melons, sunflowers, tobacco, and other crops. Corn was the most important food.
They used natural resources such as rock, twine, bark, and oyster shell to farm, hunt, and fish.
The earliest Cherokee fishers were skilled trappers. They constructed underwater raceways called stone weirs to collect and harvest the native sicklefin redhorse, brook trout, and other fish in large baskets. The dried and smoked meat was preserved as a winter food staple.
Bean bread is perhaps one of the most well known Cherokee foods.
As for what the Cherokees called themselves, it was Yun-wiya or Ani-yun-wiya, said in the third person to signify they were the “real people” or “principal people” of this world. It was common for many tribes to use the term real people or people when referring to themselves in their language.