The Cherokee Phoenix was the first Native American newspaper. The Cherokee syllabary, or alphabet, was invented by Cherokee silversmith Sequoyah (circa 1770−1843) and adopted by the tribal government in 1821. Four years later, the tribal government allocated $1,500 to produce a bilingual newspaper. The Cherokee Phoenix began publication at New Echota (near present-day Calhoun, Georgia) on February 21, 1828. Texts in Cherokee and English were printed side by side. The paper was edited by Cherokee schoolteacher Elias Boudinot (died 1839) with the assistance of missionary Samuel Worcester (1798–1859). Boudinot understood that the issues facing the Cherokees concerned other tribes, and in March 1829, the newspaper’s name became the Cherokee Phoenix, and Indians’ Advocate. At the time, the Cherokees lived in relative prosperity, with solid-frame houses, a well-organized government, and a written constitution. When gold was discovered on Cherokee land, however, the state of Georgia nullified all tribal laws and by 1829 a full gold rush was in progress. White settlers were eager to seize Cherokee land. Following passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee came under increasing pressure to leave their ancestral lands and move to territories west of the Mississippi River. The newspaper struggled to continue publication as ink and printers became sparse. Boudinot was forced to resign in 1832, and the paper’s final editor was Elijah Hicks. Worcester was imprisoned for refusing to swear an oath of loyalty to the state, but he continued to contribute articles to the Cherokee Phoenix until January 1833, when he was forced to resign from the newspaper and leave Georgia. The last issue of the newspaper appeared on May 31, 1834, shortly before the Georgia militia seized the press. In 1838−39, the Cherokees were forcibly removed to Oklahoma along what became known as the Trail of Tears; an estimated 4,000 members of the tribe died on the forced march. Despite losing a quarter of their population, the Cherokee soon began publishing another newspaper, the Cherokee Advocate. Presented here are 82 issues of the Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Phoenix, and Indians’ Advocate, published between 1828 and 1834.
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