In Cherokee symbols, many colors play an important role in their life. Particular colors have been adapted to items such as medicine wheels (like the one pictured) and Cherokee artwork like baskets and pottery red, black, blue, white, yellow, brown, and green. Red symbolized the East (where the sun came up) and vitality. Black symbolized the West (where the sun went down) and death. Blue represented North and loss or failure. White represented South and peace or happiness. The colors of green, yellow, and brown represented other directions. Yellow symbolized the Upper World, or just up, and brown symbolized the Lower World or down. Green denoted the In-Between or here in the center.
Perhaps the most prized Cherokee symbols are those that govern the organization of the Cherokee clan society itself. The numbers three, four, five, and seven were considered to be symbolic numbers, because many plants with multiple leaves and petals usually had them in groups of three, four, five or seven. Seven was considered to be the most sacred of these numbers because it was the highest level of organization in nature, and the Cherokee expressed this number in the levels of spiritual growth, the number of clans in their tribe, and even the number of sides to their council buildings. These sacred numbers also became prominent in the Legend of the Cherokee Rose as told by the Cherokee Nation:
The Cherokee were driven from their homelands in North Carolina and Georgia when gold was discovered in their land. The journey was known as the "Trail of Tears." It was a terrible time for The People - many died from the hardships and the mothers wept. The old men knew the mothers must be strong to help the children survive so they called upon the Great One to help their people and to give the mothers strength.
The Great One caused a plant to spring up everywhere a mother's tears had fallen upon the ground on the journey. He told the old men that the plant would grow quickly, then fall back to the ground and another would grow. The plant would have white blossoms, a rose with five petals and gold in the center for the gold the white man wanted. The leaves would have seven green leaflets, one for each Cherokee clan. The plant would be strong and grow quickly throughout the land along the Trail of Tears. The thorns on the stem would protect it from those who try to move it, and it would spread and reclaim the Cherokees homeland.
The next morning, the women saw the beautiful white blossoms back on the trail. When they heard what the Great One had said they felt their strength return and knew they would survive and their children would grow and create a strong Cherokee Nation.