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Cherokee Phoenix

Among the many accomplishments of the Cherokees was the publication of the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, from 1828 to 1834. Soon after the adoption of the Cherokee Constitution in 1828, the National Council provided for the establishment of an official federal newspaper. Published in what is now New Echota, Georgia (the first capital of the Cherokee Nation), the Phoenix served as a vital link between the Cherokees living in Tennessee and their sovereign government.

Beginning with the inaugural issue of February 21, 1828, the Phoenix was printed in parallel columns of English and Cherokee syllabary, thereby serving Cherokee citizens of all backgrounds and reaching the broadest possible audience, from traditional full blood Cherokees, who neither spoke nor read English, to European-influenced Cherokees of mixed descent.

Rather than simply reporting Cherokee national news, the Phoenix served as a primary medium of communication; frequently, it addressed questions of tremendous social, political, and economic importance. Perusal of issues reveals not only the distribution of official documents, such as the Cherokee Constitution in the first issue, but also information on progressive animal husbandry and agriculture. Front page articles included heated discussions of the international slave trade and the Indian Removal Act that eventually resulted in the Trail of Tears.

The success of the Phoenix in distributing information was ultimately its downfall. When the Phoenix provided detailed information about the impending removal of the Cherokees to the West, the Georgia militia confiscated and destroyed the newspaper's presses in 1834. While the Cherokee Phoenix never rose from the ashes of its destruction in Georgia, the tradition of a national newspaper reemerged in Oklahoma in 1844 as the Cherokee Advocate. From 1828 to the present over two thousand Native American newspapers and periodicals have followed in this tradition.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010