Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cherokee Printing Press...!

It's hard to imagine what an undertaking this must have been!

To take an ancient language that has always been spoken, create an alphabet for that language for the first time, and then to capture the whole thing in print...what an accomplishment!

Imagine what a job it must have been to learn a newly created alphabet and then learn to read it!

Feb 21, 1828:
Cherokee receive their first printing press

The first printing press designed to use the newly invented Cherokee alphabet arrives at New Echota, Georgia.

The General Council of the Cherokee Nation had purchased the press with the goal of producing a Cherokee-language newspaper. The press itself, however, would have been useless had it not been for the extraordinary work of a young Cherokee named Sequoyah, who invented a Cherokee alphabet.

As a young man, Sequoyah had joined the Cherokee volunteers who fought under Andrew Jackson against the British in the War of 1812. In dealing with the Anglo soldiers and settlers, he became intrigued by their "talking leaves"-printed books that he realized somehow recorded human speech. In a brilliant leap of logic, Sequoyah comprehended the basic nature of symbolic representation of sounds and in 1809 began working on a similar system for the Cherokee language.

Ridiculed and misunderstood by most of the Cherokee, Sequoyah made slow progress until he came up with the idea of representing each syllable in the language with a separate written character. By 1821, he had perfected his syllabary of 86 characters, a system that could be mastered in less than week. After obtaining the official endorsement of the Cherokee leadership, Sequoyah's invention was soon adopted throughout the Cherokee nation. When the Cherokee-language printing press arrived on this day in 1828, the lead type was based on Sequoyah's syllabary. Within months, the first Indian language newspaper in history appeared in New Echota, Georgia. It was called the Cherokee Phoenix.

One of the so-called "five civilized tribes" native to the American Southeast, the Cherokee had long embraced the United States' program of "civilizing" Indians in the years after the Revolutionary War. In the minds of Americans, Sequoyah's syllabary further demonstrated the Cherokee desire to modernize and fit into the dominant Anglo world. The Cherokee used their new press to print a bilingual version of republican constitution, and they took many other steps to assimilate Anglo culture and practice while still preserving some aspects of their traditional language and beliefs.

Sadly, despite the Cherokee's sincere efforts to cooperate and assimilate with the Anglo-Americans, their accomplishments did not protect them from the demands of land-hungry Americans. Repeatedly pushed westward in order to make room for Anglo settlers, the Cherokee lost more than 4,000 of their people (nearly a quarter of the nation) in the 1838-39 winter migration to Oklahoma that later became known as the Trail of Tears. Nonetheless, the Cherokee people survived as a nation in their new home, thanks in part to the presence of the unifying written language created by Sequoyah.

In recognition of his service, the Cherokee Nation voted Sequoyah an annual allowance in 1841. He died two years later on his farm in Oklahoma. Today, his memory is also preserved in the scientific name for the giant California redwood tree, Sequoia.

My hat is certainly off to this gentleman and his vision! This was a major gift to his people, and I'm sure they were very proud!

Coffee on the patio this morning! It's supposed to be back up in the 70s today!


Sixbears said...

One winter my wife and I traveled most of the Trail of Tears. The written Cherokee language is a living language. It's in daily use.

linda m said...

I am very impressed by Sequoyh. He was a gifted person.

Momlady said...

I live where the Trail of Tears began. I have told the spirits of the land that I will do my best to be a good caretaker of it.

JOJO said...

Great Post. Its to bad it really didn't help them in the great greed of the white people. But the fact that they made it just shows there intergents and there power to over come.

Weather seems to be improving.

Dizzy-Dick said...

One of our past post-mistresses here at the local post office had ancesters that survived the trail of tears.

markkfinn said...

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TROUBLEnTX said...

Thx for that HJ. It doesn't tell that they lost their OK land also, to the greedy whites. All put onto a small parcel of reservation.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
That must have been an interesting trip. Probably a good way to see the distances and the terrain that they had to follow!

What he did took a lot of commitment!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Linda...
Certainly was driven by his vision, I'm thinking!

Thanks for coming by this morning!

Hey Momlady...
Good to see you back from your cruise!

Must be a humbling thing to live in a place with such a history!

Thanks, my friend, for coming over today!

Hey JoJo...
Yes, they were and still are a strong people.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

Hey Dizzy...
Lots of history in her family. Probably lots of stories pasted down.

Thanks, buddy, for coming over this morning.

Hey Trouble...
For a fact, they were not treated well by the settlers and the military. Native folks seldom are, no matter what country they are in!

Thanks for the visit today!

Anonymous said...

Imo, if there was ANY group of Americans who deserved reparations, it would be the Native American population. They have been murdered, robbed, raped and done wrong in just about every fashion imaginable. As far as I'm concerned, they earned those casino rights.

No offense intended for anyone feeling differently.

BBC said...

The natives should have had a better homeland security department to keep my trash ancestors out of their country.

Pam and Wayne said...

I was just reading about this the other day because we plan on stopping in Cherokee on our way through the Smokies in April. I also checked out a book on The Trail of Tears that I haven't cracked open yet. My grandmother's grandmother was Cherokee, and I'm looking forward to learning more about their history.