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What are Cherokee tribes colors?

What are Cherokee tribes colors?

The Cherokee are one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, with over 300,000 enrolled members. Cherokee culture and traditions are deeply rooted in nature, symbolism, and spirituality. Colors play an important role in Cherokee culture, representing directions, seasons, elements of nature, and human values. The main Cherokee tribal colors are red, black, yellow, and white. These colors hold symbolic meaning and are incorporated into traditional clothing, art, ceremonies, and tribal seals. Understanding the significance of Cherokee colors provides insight into their worldview and cultural identity.


Red is considered the primary color of the Cherokee people. It represents the Red Land, the direction East, and the element of fire. In Cherokee cosmology, the world was divided into four primary directions, each associated with a color. Red symbolizes the rising sun in the East, the start of a new day, and new beginnings. As the color of fire, red signifies energy, passion, strength, and courage. Warriors would paint their bodies and weapons with red clay before battle. Red appears prominently on Cherokee baskets, pottery, and other crafts. It conveys vitality, boldness, and bravery. In healing practices and ceremonies, red connects to stimulating energy and life force. Red is still used to represent the Cherokee Nation today, along with black and yellow.


Black is the second most important color for the Cherokee tribes. It is linked to the West, thunder, and water. As thunder clouds gather in the West, they turn the sky black and bring rain, which nourishes the crops and wildlife. Therefore, black symbolizes water, rain, crops, provision, and peace. It also represents the setting sun and the end of the day. Black conveys introspection, spiritual wisdom, and calmness. Cherokee warriors would apply black clay during times of peace. In healing rituals, black absorbs negative energy and gives protection. Elders, practicing traditional Cherokee spirituality, will face west with offerings or prayers wearing black clothing. The color appears on pottery, baskets, and beading. Black complemented red well and was a staple color for Cherokee clothing.


The color yellow is associated with the North, the earth, and sustenance. As yellow corn nourishes the Cherokee people and animals, the color symbolizes provision, food, and health. Yellow represents the fixed direction North on the Cherokee compass, where the Pole Star resides at night. Maize, squash, beans, and other yellow crops are staples for the Cherokee diet and culture. When harvested in the autumn, these crops provide nourishment through the winter months. Yellow foods are offered during the annual Green Corn Ceremony to give thanks and ensure future abundance. In healing, yellow connects to the stomach, digestion, and energetic balance. Yellow also signifies brightness, happiness, and hope. This sunny color adorns Cherokee artwork, clothing, and tribal emblems.


White represents the South, rain clouds, wind, and the mind. As white clouds blow in from the South, they bring rain to nourish the crops. Thus, white symbolizes water, rain, wind, clouds, and thought. It connects to mental clarity, focus, and learning. White represents the clouds that drift in from the horizon before revealing their purpose and contents. It is the color of potential and mystery. In ceremonies and rituals, white conveys openness, purity, and transmutation. Shamans wear white to represent the transparency between the spiritual and earthly realms during healing. Cherokee artists leave white spaces on their works to symbolize the unseen world.

Meanings in Cherokee Symbols and Arts

The main four Cherokee colors hold deep symbolic importance and appear prominently on tribal art and handicrafts. Here are some examples:

Tribal Seals

The Cherokee Nation seal displays a seven-pointed star with black, yellow, and red elements. The red seven-pointed star represents the seven clans of Cherokees. The yellow border signifies nourishment and medicine. The black background conveys spirituality, calm, and protection.


Cherokee baskets feature woven red, yellow, black, and white patterns. Red symbols bravery, new beginnings, and vitality. Yellow represents nourishment and prosperity. Black conveys introspection and tranquility. White signals spirituality and purity.


Traditional Cherokee pottery showcases red clay etched with black, yellow, and white designs. Red clay from the earth is a living, grounding material. Black symbols completion, yellow signifies sustenance, and white represents potential.


Qualla arts and crafts feature beaded jewelry in red, yellow, black, and white patterns. Red beads give strength, yellow provides energy, black absorbs negativity, and white conveys spirituality.

Ceremonial Dress

During sacred rituals, Cherokee shamans wear white to represent spirit, while ceremonial practitioners wear red, black, and yellow garments to symbolize qualities like courage, calm, and nourishment.

Use in Today’s Cherokee Culture

While traditional Cherokee lifestyles and practices have evolved over time, the symbolic colors remain an important part of Cherokee identity and culture today:

– Flags – Cherokee flags and emblems display red, black, and yellow to represent essential qualities of the tribe.

– Clothing – Cherokee artists and seamstresses incorporate red, black, yellow, and white into clothing, ribbon shirts, and tear dresses.

– Arts – Contemporary Cherokee paintings, sculptures, and crafts feature the traditional four colors.

– Ceremonies – Many Cherokee still practice sacred rituals and ceremonies using clothing, tools, and elements with symbolic colors.

– Teachings – Elders and educators pass down the knowledge of Cherokee color symbolism to youth to preserve culture.

– Homes – Some Cherokee families maintain traditional dwellings with red, black, yellow, and white colors on walls, roofing, and decorative elements.

The timeless meanings behind Cherokee colors remain an invaluable part of sharing their worldview, oral history, and traditions into the future. Though customs change over generations, the essential cosmology and values encoded into their symbolic colors live on.


The main Cherokee tribes colors – red, black, yellow, and white – carry deep cultural symbolism and spiritual meaning. Red represents the east, fire, and bravery. Black signifies the west, water, and calm. Yellow connects to the north, earth, and sustenance. White conveys the south, wind, and purity. These colors arise from the Cherokee relationship with nature and correlate to the four cardinal directions, seasons, elements, and stages of life. Cherokee artisans and weavers incorporate colored patterns into their baskets, pottery, clothing, and jewelry. The timeless colors also appear on ceremonial dress, tribal seals, flags, and homes. Cherokee colors remain an important part of preserving their worldview, cosmology, values, and cultural identity. Though traditions adapt over generations, the underlying meanings encoded in their sacred colors endure as a continuing connection to ancestors, spirituality, and ancient wisdom.

Color Direction Element Meaning
Red East Fire Energy, bravery, passion
Black West Water Calm, introspection, wisdom
Yellow North Earth Nourishment, sustenance, prosperity
White South Wind Purity, spirituality, potential