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Re: "Tell Them They Lie"
On Sun, 7 Jan 2001, Dennis wrote:
> *Tell Them They Lie: the Sequoyah Myth* by Traveller Bird, Los
> Angeles CA: Westernlore Publishers, 1971, promotes an alternate view
> to history's accepted view that the Cherokee Native American Sequoyah,
> essentially by himself, invented a syllabary for the writing of his
> native language. Instead, "Tell Them They Lie" said that the Cherokee
> syllabary had been in use for hundreds of years by a clan of scribes.
> The white man wanted to completely destroy the script. Sequoyah was
> the last of the scribal clan;
since all of the other members of the Scribe Clan had been massacred by
> he only managed to save the syllabary from utter destruction by
> cooperating with missionaries who used a form of it modified for the
> printing press to disseminate Christian religious literature.
oooo, I was with you till there; I'd end it, instead, with the explanation
that, being the last, he saved it by relaxing the requirement that you had
to be of the lineage of a minor tribe who joined them hundreds of years
ago from the north, bringing the writing with them. By relaxing the
restriction, members of the main Tsalagi tribe were allowed to learn to
write -- which they did amazingly quickly and en masse.
> I saw this book in the Muskogee, Oklahoma, library, along with other
> Cherokee material.
I've read the book fairly closely, and beyond that, being part Cherokee
myself, they're relatives of mine. And beyond THAT, after 30 years with
Turtle Islanders I can only say that I would take a book like this
seriously no matter what tribe it was from; indigenes don't sit down to
write books for the Invaders unless there's a really good reason.
> I looked at the book only very casually. The librarian there told me
> that many people had expressed skepticism about "Tell Them They Lie".
No doubt. Especially when it implies that the writing system brought from
the (Algonkian?) north was on golden sheets later stolen by Brigham Young
and made the basis of the new gospel of Mormon. A few yrs ago some insider
said the golden tablets were inscribed in a "primitive script" and
contained a primal history of the Americas.
> I think that the best argument against this book comes from the
> consideration of analogous developments in Africa. Scripts from many
> different origins were used in that vast continent, due to many
> different situations and intercultural contacts.
> Some Africans wrote their languages in Arabic script due to the
> acceptance of Islam. Others used scripts of Semitic origin, as in
> Ethiopia. However, some indigenous scripts for African languages
> developed in the early 1800's when European colonization of the West
> African coast was beginning. This last situation is analogous to the
> case of Sequoyah. I will present some examples of these West African
For me personally, this logical argument pales compared to my relatives
trying to set the historical record straight by writiing down the
experience of family oral history.
> Ethiopia had been acquired millennia ago, in much the same fashion as
> groups in the Middle East. Arabic script in inner Africa was acquired
> from the Arabs during peaceful trade contact. The West African coastal
> scripts listed above seem little like Semitic scripts, or European
> ones for that matter. As Murphy noted, they were unknown before
> European contact. As Sequoyah had, the West Coast Africans saw the
> hostile, acquisitive plans of the Europeans. As Sequoyah had, the West
> Coast Africans saw from the Europeans that the writing of spoken
> language was possible and then devised systems from the images of
> their own cultures. As Sequoyah had, they saw that writing would be a
> powerful weapon against the white man's designs.
This assumes that which is in dispute, siding with the Invaders' cultural
> So these native African writing systems - phonemic, syllabic, and
> ideographic - all developed in a manner quite analogous to that of
> what Sequoyah did. We've even have the name of a possible inventor of
> one script, D. Bukele for the Vai syllabary of Liberia. In light of
> the differing situations seen in Africa, the traditional view of a
> sole man, Sequoyah, inventing a writing system for his people seems
> quite tenable.
Sure, it's tenable; it's possible and even plausible -- but is that
enough? Tell me: did any relatives of D. Bukele publicly object to the
story that he developed it from scratch by writing a book to set history
Has anyone ever found examples of Mormon "golden tablet" writing on the
web? I'd love to compare it to Cree.
warm regards, moonhawk
Come the millennium, month 12, In the home of greatest power,
the village idiot will come forth to be acclaimed the leader.