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Primary Source of the Month

Front page of the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia.

Front page of the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia.

The widespread use of Sequoyah's syllabary gave the Cherokee Nation the opportunity to create a newspaper in its own language. More than 260 issues of the paper were published between 1828 and 1834 under the names The Cherokee Phoenix and The Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate. The paper was bilingual, with articles appearing in Cherokee adjacent to their English counterparts. It was published out of a small printing office in the Cherokee Nation's capital of New Echota, Georgia, but had a national and even international reach.

As talk of an Indian Removal became more prevalent, The Cherokee Phoenix was a source of nationalistic pride and a voice for the rights of the Cherokee people. Accordingly, the first issue, published on February 28, 1828, contained the first part of the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation. The paper was named the "Phoenix" after the mythical bird that rises from the ashes to live again, expressing his faith in the resilience of the Cherokee Nation. The motto "Protection" on the masthead also speaks to this sentiment.

By 1834, the newspaper had run out of money and was shut down. It has recently been revived and publishes daily online at www.cherokeephoenix.org.

This lesson was written by Marianne Esposito, Key West, FL, and Kim O'Neil, Liverpoole, NY.

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