Fire and the Spirits
Cherokee Law from Clan to Court
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
This book traces the emergency of the Cherokee system of laws from the ancient spirit decrees to the fusion of tribal law ways with Anglo-American law.
The Cherokees enacted their first written law in 1808 in Georgia. In succeeding years the leaders and tribal councils of the southeastern and Oklahoma groups wrote a constitution, established courts, and enacted laws that were in accord with the old tribal values but reflected and accommodated to the whites’ legal system. Thanks to the great gift of Sequoyah-his syllabary-the Cherokees were well versed in their laws, able to read and interpret them from a very early time. The system served the people well. It endured until 1898, when the federal government abolished the tribal government.
The author provides a brief review of Cherokee history and explains the circumstances surrounding the stages of development of the legal system. Excerpts from editorials in the Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Advocate, letters, and tribal documents give added insight into the problems the Cherokees faced and their efforts to resolve them. Of particular interest is a series of charts explaining the complex Cherokee spirit system of crimes (or "deviations") and the punishments meted out for them.