Cherokee Newspapers, 1828–1906: Tribal Voice of a People in Transition

Nov 8th, 2015 | By | Category: Media Reviews, Online media reviews, Web Exclusive

Cherokee-Newspapers-1828-1906By Cullen Joe Holland, revised and edited by James P. Pate
Cherokee Heritage Press (2012)
569 pages

Review by Herman A. Peterson

This is a book about Cherokee literacy. Originally a dissertation which Holland completed at the University of Minnesota in 1956, it was posthumously put into final book form over 50 years later by James P. Pate for Cherokee Heritage Press.

There were two newspapers published by the Cherokee Nation during the 19th century: the Cherokee Phoenix (1828–1834) and the Cherokee Advocate (1844–1853 and 1870–1906). Both papers were written in English and, using Sequoyah’s syllabary, Cherokee. Holland examines the “civilizing” influence of these newspapers and of the literacy that they spread, both from the point of view of the dominant culture and of the Cherokees themselves. Probably more than any other tribe, the Cherokees saw partial assimilation as the way to acceptance by the dominant culture. Both newspapers led this movement toward assimilation, but it never truly worked. The Cherokee Phoenix went down with removal and the Cherokee Advocate died with allotment and Oklahoma statehood.

The book is organized chronologically. There are a number of helpful illustrations, maps, and an extensive index. However, the bibliography has not been updated from the original dissertation. The editor freely admits that this is not the “definitive” work on the topic, but insists that it is still a classic. Several other dissertations have been written on Cherokee newspapers since 1956, but no other books have been published.

While the assumptions and methodologies are somewhat dated, this work remains a careful study in Cherokee literacy and the historical beginnings of the American Indian press. It is heartily recommended to all tribal colleges and their libraries.

Herman A. Peterson, Ph.D., is the college librarian at Diné College and the author of The Trail of Tears: An Annotated Bibliography of Southeastern Indian Removal.

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