Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cherokee's First Printing Press...!

Many things that we take for granted, like books and newspapers and such, were late in coming to some Native Americans. The main reason...they had no written language.

With the creation of a written alphabet, the printing press could help to teach and inform the people of current events.

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.

I can imagine just what an impact this must have had on the Cherokee people. Imagine the first moment that the people were able to see their own language in print!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!


Baby Sis said...

I can't imagine our world without the written word, can you? We would surely be a lot poorer in spirit, wouldn't we?
Big hugs

linda m said...

I can just imagine, as I remember how excited I was when I first learned to read. Haven't stopped reading since then. Rain has finally stopped. Now for the "lake" in my backyard to dry up.

Momlady said...

There is a place in the world where people communicate by whistling. I'd be hard pressed to try that. As for the Cherokee, it was a sad day in history when the Trail of Tears took place.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sis...
I know my world would be a much less enjoyable place without the printed word.
Thanks, sis, for stopping by this morning!

Hey Linda...
I know what you mean. A special treat for us when I was younger was when Mom took us to the library. What fun!
Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Momlady...
I've heard of that, but I don't think I could do it. I reckon you do what you have to, though.
Thanks for the visit today!

JO said...

Its just to sad to read about how these people were forced to go places and so many die along the way.

Dizzy-Dick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HermitJim said...

Hey Jo...
Not a pleasant chapter in our history, for sure.
Thanks for dropping by, sweetie!