Sequoyah was born in 1776 near what is now Monroe County, Tennessee. His mother was Cherokee and his father was Nathaniel Gist of Virginia. He is thought to have been lame.

He served with the U.S. Army in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He is famous for his invention of the 86 letter Cherokee Alphabet. This unique accomplishment enabled the Cherokee to write and publish a newspaper in their own language.

By 1821 many thousands of Cherokee were literate. He died in 1843 in what is now Texas, having achieved the unique distinction of being the only person ever known to create an entire written language.