Moving Around the Room: Cherokee Language, Worldview and Memory

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Museums and Memory: Proceedings from the Southern Anthropological Society Annual Meeting






For the past year we have been examining aspects of Cherokee language and worldview as they relate to health and native understandings of well-being. As a part of this work we have previously described the system of well-being encoded in Cherokee language and how Cherokee speakers view the processes of history (Altman and Belt 2009, Altman and Belt 2008). In brief, Cherokee speakers view the proper state of the world as being tohi, or operating according to the processes and pace of nature. In addition, the proper state of individual people in the world is osi, which is conceptualized as upright, forward-facing, and existing on a single point of balance. In order for the world to be in its proper state, individuals must also be properly balanced. Much of Cherokee traditional medicine, healing, and wellness is centered around processes designed to return people and the world to these interrelated states. These ideas extend beyond the personal, however. Cherokee views of history also try to understand past events within this framework and then try to determine the proper course for the future.