Sequoyah

Most people have heard of Sequoyah.  He was arguably one of the most famous Cherokee.  He created a Cherokee alphabet in 1821, allowing the Cherokee language to be recorded and setting the stage for Cherokees to begin to be able to read in their own language. 

While working with the 1869 Cherokee West Census, I came across 4 families with that or a version of that surname.

  • Spirit Sequoh
  • Thomas Sequoh
  • John Sequohi
  • Sequoyah

Recognizing the name, it made me wonder if this was the original Sequoyah.

The original Sequoyah was born to a Cherokee mother, a member of the Red Paint Clan, in the village of Tuskegee sometime between 1760 and 1776.  The identity of his father has never been clear, but some sources say that it was Nathaniel Gist.  Sequoyah took the English name of George Guess also recorded as George Gist, so that is certainly possible.  Other various sources said his father was a Scotchman, a fur trader and a half breed. 

In 1825, Sequoah walked to the Cherokee lands in Arkansas and Oklahoma, setting up a silvershop there, as we was a silversmith.  In 1828 he accompanied a delegation to Washington DC to negotiate for land in the planned Indian Territory.

Sequoah died between 1843 and 1845 on a trip to Mexico seeking the Cherokee who had settled the during the Indian Removal in the 1830s.  Sequoah dreamed of a reunited Cherokee Nation.

So the people with that surname in 1869 could not have been the original Sequoah.  Sequoah did have children, at least 7, and had at least three wives and perhaps as many as 5.  He may have been polygamous as polygamy was accepted in the Cherokee Nation at the time.

Of the Sequoyah families living in Indian Territory in 1869, the families had 9 male children listed.  It would be very interesting to see if any of Sequoyah’s descendants, if any are known, or the descendants of these 1869 Sequoyah families, were they to DNA test, would match the Gist family.  If so, it would confirm the father of Sequoyah and that these families were his descendants.

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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13 Responses to Sequoyah

  1. I am wondering whether you could point me in the direction of primary sources on Sequoyah. I don’t know which institution, if any, holds the bulk of papers related to Sequoyah. Do you perhaps? I had thought somewhere in DC or NC or perhaps Oklahoma. Before I started digging elsewhere thought I would ask you, in case you (or someone you know) have any ideas… Thank you for your help!

  2. leslie says:

    I just discovered I am a descendant of the Gist family and first cousin 7x removed of Sequoyah, very interested in documenting my native ancestry and also curious if testing my dna could help confirm whether Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father and also whether Nathaniel Gist was half cherokee?

  3. Nora says:

    My Grandmother was John Gists great granddaughter. She lived from 1902 to 1992. They changed the name to Guess in the spelling. That is why it is hard to trace. We just want to know if there is any way to DNA test to see if it can be proven. Not to be on the tribal roll because we are not 1/8 like I have heard you have to be now. Do you have any suggestions for r how to do the research? I now am a grandmother myself and would just like to be able to put all this in writing. No legible proof exists as proof one way or another that I am aware of to prove or disprove lineage. Do you have any ideas?

  4. Brian says:

    Why don’t we all start a DNA Heritage project to establish if Sequoyah is son of Nathaniel. There are some records that mention Sequoyah visited Nathaniel Gist family seeking out his white kin during his lifetime. So it would seem they are related. Why not prove it. Furthermore some historians agree that Nathaniel’s Gist was most likely Sequoya’s father no one seems to make the connection between Nathaniel’s Grandfather OR Father Christopher ( Their is some debate on if Christopher is Nathaniel’s Father or Grandfather) and George Washington (First President of the United States) who share the same Grand Father Lawrence Washington. Sources –

    http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v015/v015p003.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Gist and http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89062867569;view=1up;seq=68

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Washington_(1602%E2%80%931653)

    ***
    I am descended form Sequoyah, my Great grandmother is Margaret “Betty” Toney, Mother of Redbird Baker, Father of David Baker, Father of Brian Baker (Me). I would not be opposed to a DNA test for the Sequoyah side.

    Sequoyah Genealogy Link to Margaret “Betty” Toney from Sequoyah
    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nativeamericangen/sequoyah.html

  5. Superjock says:

    https://www.geni.com/people/Sequoyah-George-Gist/6000000002703667463
    This is a great resource. Sequoyah is the grandson of explorer, and surveyor, Christopher Gist, who is credited by George Washington in his Mount Vernon official papers with not once, but twice… saving his life. We are all related, like it not!

  6. Justin says:

    I have never had enough money to hire a professional to help but I’m on the same mission. My name is Guess and all the men on my father’s side carry the same name as far back as I can trace. I’ve always been told that we were direct descendants but can’t trace back far enough to prove it. If I can provide you with any information about my family that might be useful, I would love to help.

  7. Michael says:

    Yes. I am a descendant. My mother was a Guess. Her father was also named Seqouyah in Jay Oklahoma

  8. Jason Gist says:

    I am a descendant of Christopher Gist, Mordecai’s great grandfather. If anyone is researching this family line I am happy to purchase and submit a DNA test to any interested parties.

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