On this day in history, the inaugural issue of “The Cherokee Phoenix,” the first Native American newspaper in the United States, was printed in New Echota, Georgia, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Both English and Cherokee language articles appeared in the Phoenix, with approximately 30% of the column space devoted to articles written in the Cherokee syllabary.
The mission of the paper, according to the formally educated Cherokee editor Elias Boudinot was set forth in October, 1827 in a detailed prospectus for the paper. The New Georgia Encyclopedia reports that mission as:
…to print the official laws and documents of the Cherokee Nation, local and international news items, columns on the Cherokees’ progress in the “arts of civilized life,” and tracts on temperance and Christian living.”
The paper also occasionally included short works of fiction, and columns reprinted from other newspapers.
In 1829 the name of the paper was changed to the “Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate” to reflect the expanding scope of the publication, especially in light of the impending removal of Cherokees from Georgia. Boudinot supported voluntary removal, but the Cherokee General Council, led by John Ross, did not. In August 1832 Boudinot was forced to resign, and Elijah Hicks, an anti-removal Cherokee, became the editor of the paper.
The “Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate” continued to be published weekly until May 1834, when the Cherokee annuity was not paid by the U.S. Government and the presses came to a stop. In 1835 the Georgia Guard, a militia unit organized to police the Cherokee territory that the state claimed, confiscated the printing press to prevent anti-removal sentiments from being voiced. That same year Elias Boudinot was one of several Cherokees who signed the New Echota Treaty (1835). Under its terms, the Cherokee Nation relinquished all remaining land east of the Mississippi River.
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