The 2017 Native American $1 Coin commemorates Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee Syllabary. The reverse (tails side) design features a profile of Sequoyah writing “Sequoyah from Cherokee Nation” in syllabary along the border of the design. Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “$1” and “Sequoyah” written in English in the field of the design.
Sequoyah adapted writing to the Cherokee language by devising symbols for each syllable. His achievement is one of a handful of examples in world history regarding the development of an original writing system. After 12 years of work, Sequoyah unveiled the alphabet in a demonstration with his daughter Ah-yo-ka. News spread quickly and Cherokees flocked to learn the system. In 1821, the Cherokee Nation adopted it as its own. Within months, thousands of Cherokee became literate.
The Cherokee Syllabary gave birth to Native American journalism. The first American Indian newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, included editorials which embodied the Cherokees' determination to retain their lands, news on activities of the Cherokee government, as well as relations with the federal and state governments. This written language helped create a dialogue between Cherokee Nation and the United States Government, and assisted in the preservation of interests, hopes and struggles of individuals during a unique time in our history.