Back in Time - Talking Leaves

Talking Leaves

Posted by Aaron Morvan on

Historical figures are either revered for what they accomplished, or notorious for their deeds. But, other than the things they did, what’s really known about them? In the case of Sequoyah, not much.


Though the life of Sequoyah remains shrouded in mystery, one thing is certain, he left a legacy to the Cherokee people and remains a towering figure in American history.

The September episode of Back in Time, which premieres at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 13, delves into the mystery, brilliance and influence of the creator of the Cherokee alphabet, Sequoyah.

“Putting this episode together has been fascinating,” said Robert Burch, writer and producer of Back in Time. “It’s rare to have a historical figure that’s so prominent, yet there’s so much we don’t know about him.”

According to Krystan Moser, cultural art coordinator, Cherokee Nation, and direct decedent of Sequoyah, “There was an article written about him in 1829 that was the story of his life, in it, he was compared to Cadmus, who brought the ancient Greek language to the Greeks, he was called the American Cadmus. He was completely illiterate and he was the only person in 5,000 years of recorded history to develop a writing system. We don’t know much about him, but he’s still an important figure in our nation’s history, and, even world history.”

With setbacks that would have made others simply throw in the towel, Sequoyah persisted, and, after 12 years, he completed the Cherokee syllabary. And, nearly 200 years later, technology is taking Sequoyah’s concept to places he would have never dreamed.

“The Cherokee nation has several partnerships with different companies in the technology sector, including Apple, Microsoft and Google,” said Roy Boney, Jr., Cherokee language program manager, Cherokee Nation. “We’ve done some work with Facebook too. Since technology is where people live now, we want our language to be there for them.”

Back in Time is OETA’s Emmy award-winning documentary series that showcases significant people, places and events that helped shape the history of the state of Oklahoma. OETA uses extensive research, archival photographs and film, along with interviews with historical experts and descendants of the people profiled in each program.

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