Little Bits of History

Pen vs. Sword

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 21, 2015
Cherokee Phoenix, then and now

Cherokee Phoenix, then and now

February 21, 1828: The Cherokee Phoenix is first published. The initial issue was the first paper published in a Native American language. The newspaper was printed in both English and Cherokee. Published in New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, it continued printing until 1834. In the early 1800s, the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole) were living as autonomous nations in what is today called the American Deep South. The lands they occupied were valuable for farming and hunting and the new US government was being pressured into removing them so that whites could take over the lands.

The Cherokee were being pressured to move from Georgia to lands west of the Mississippi River. The General Council of the Cherokee Nation began the newspaper with the help of missionary Samuel Worcester, who cast the type for Cherokee syllabary (similar to an alphabet). Elias Boudinot was the first editor. He was a member of a prominent Cherokee Nation family born in 1802 as Gallegina Uwati and also known as Buck Watie. He was educated at a missionary school in Connecticut and came to believe in acculturation as a means to assure Cherokee survival. The paper planned to showcase Cherokee achievements as well as build unity within the Nation.

The first issue was four pages, each with five columns. Translation between Cherokee and English was slow, so at first they would only print three columns in Cherokee each week. This first issue contained praise for the creation of the syllabary by Sequoyah as well as an editorial by Boudinot criticizing white settlers coveting Cherokee lands. The idea of Tribal removal gained speed and so the paper arranged a fund-raising publicity tour. New subscribers were attracted from all areas of the US and Europe. Eventually the paper went to a completely English publication in order to attract a wider readership. The paper was renamed in 1829 as the Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate.

Boudinot believed removal was inevitable and felt protection by treaty would be beneficial. He was not in the majority of Cherokee citizens. He was removed from his post as editor. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed with the help of Andrew Jackson. The Cherokee were put into forced marches and between 2,000 and 6,000 of the 16,543 displaced Cherokee died of exposure, disease, or starvation while traveling what came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Boudinot had championed the Treaty of New Echota of 1835 but John Ross, Principal Chief would not sign it. Boudinot’s wife died in 1836 and he and his children moved to Indian Territory after her death. He and three other Treaty Party leaders were assassinated in June 1839 by the National Party, followers of Ross.

News is history shot on the wing. – Gene Fowler

The flood of print has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring. – Warren Chappell

In the spider-web of facts, many a truth is strangled. – Paul Eldridge

A newspaper consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not. – Henry Fielding

Also on this day: The Washington Monument – In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.
Karl Marx – In 1848, The Communist Manifesto was published.
Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz – In 1931, Miles Laboratories introduced Alka-Seltzer to the world.
Incas – In 1918, the last Carolina Parakeet died.
Candid Camera – In 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated a new type of camera.

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