Sound Of Cherokee

Produced by Erwin Productions

SOUND OF CHEROKEE is a documentary of authentic sounds of the Cherokee Indians living through history... In the present... and with a glimpse of hopes for the future - singing, speaking, working building, dreaming and worshiping in this land which has been their home for five hundred years or more. This composite recording presents some sounds which have not varied with hundreds of changes of season - some sounds, like the Cherokee language, which are rapidly disappearing from their heritage - and some sounds that hold promise for the future for these quiet, peace-loving people.

EARL WYNN brings to his narration of Sound of Cherokee and The John Burnett Letter his love of the Cherokee people and the mountain land that is their home. With the experience of more than twenty years as professor Wynn lived the summers of 1958 and 1961 in Cherokee, North Carolina, playing the role of Chief Drowning Bear (Yonaguska) in the outdoor drama Unto These Hills and began to tape the sounds about him. During the 1964 and 1965 seasons he returned as Assistant Director of the drama and to play the roles of Daniel Webster and Reverend John Schermerhorn. A Cherokee preacher introduced Mr. Wynn to his congregation as a "A Chapel Hill Cherokee." He continued to collect more sound on tape. On many personal trips to visit Cherokee friends and enjoy the seasonal changes of the Smokies, he continues to be welcome in their homes and churches. So he brings to his narration of Sound of Cherokee a knowledge and love of the people and a rich and understanding voice.

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Performed by


Native Words



Trail Of Tears Recounting John Burnett The historic first-person description of the Cherokee forced removal to Oklahoma is read from the letter of John Burnett, a Private in Captain Abraham McClellan's Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, "American Army", who was an interpreter and soldier in the Smoky Mountain country in 1838 and accompanied the Cherokee on their journey of hardship known for all history as the THE TRAIL OF TEARS.

In this letter written to his children on his eightieth birthday John Burnett tells how he was acquainted with the Cherokee when as a youth he hunted and fished in the area, learned to speak their language, and was accepted in their villages, which makes even more poignant his account of the Removal - a torturous journey of hunger, sleet and snow, disease and death from October, 1838, to March, 1839.

Grateful acknowledgement is given to the Cherokee Historical Association for permission to narrate and record the John Burnett Letter which is displayed in The Museum of the Cherokee Indian.
Sound Of Cherokee Here are sounds of Cherokee... sounds the visitor to the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina will want to keep for later recollections:
• Drumming and the jangle of bells from Cherokee dancing in simple rhythms at points along the thoroughfare...
• The almost hushed flow of the Oconaluftee River - cold clear water that invites casting a line for mountain trout and a shocking cold swim in summer...
• The voice of a Cherokee girl in the Council House of the Oconaluftee Village.

Here also are the sounds of the Cherokee language seldom heard by a visitor:
• Sung in a Baptist Church, and by a woman as she cooks bean bread, weaves baskets, and beads moccasins...
• Spoken by an old Cherokee woman in her home...
• Read from the Bible by a Cherokee man in Sunday School...
• Preached by a Cherokee minister in Birdtown.

Her, too, are:
• The story of The Eternal Flame told by Arsene Thompson who with a small band of other Cherokee men retraced the Trail of Tears and brought back coals from Salisaw, Oklahoma, to Cherokee.
• The voices of Cherokee boys who tell what they want to be when they grow up.
• A Cherokee man working with young men to build a better and more lasting future.
• A Cherokee mother telling of her son's plans to be a doctor.
• The story of Sequoya and his invention of the Cherokee Syllabary (alphabet) making the Cherokee the only American Indian tribe to have their own writing language - to exchange letters - and print their own newspaper.
• Cherokee words for boy, girl, woman, man medicine, screech owl, great owl, fax, house, hello.
Cherokee Syllabary Pronunciation of each of the eighty-five symbols of the Cherokee Syllabary (shown below) by a man who speaks only his native tongue.