Friday, May 28, 2021

A Cherokee Address to the Whites

Title page of Boudinot's printed addressOn May 26th, 1826, Elias Boudinot stepped to the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia to deliver a speech titled, "An Address to the Whites." Boudinot was a young man of twenty-six, and was a writer and newspaper editor from Georgia. He was also a leader of the Cherokee Nation whose birth name was Gallegina Uwati [ᎦᎴᎩᎾ ᎤᏩᏘ]. He was the first editor of the first Native newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, which was ostensibly created to inform Europeans about the advanced nature of Cherokee culture as well as to unify Cherokee people who lived in the Southeastern United States of America (i.e., their rightful land).

Boudinot was a member of a political faction within the Cherokee Nation that believed that integration of their culture into Euro culture was inevitable if their people hoped to survive. He was also initially a strong voice against the proposal to remove Native people from their lands, a position which was strongly supported by President Andrew Jackson and the Georgia legislature. In his address from the Philadelphia church pulpit, Boudinot emphasized the similarities between Natives and Europeans and the ways in which Native cultures were adopting aspects of white culture. Boudinot's goal was to raise funding for a Cherokee seminary and for printing equipment for the newspaper, which likely included a set of Cherokee typeface. With that in mind, he had his address printed soon after its delivery as a means of circulating his message to potential donors while raising awareness about his people.

Although Boudinot's efforts to raise money were successful, Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, signed on this very day in 1830, dashed any hopes of cultural integration or peaceable separateness for the Cherokee Nation. Soon after, the US Army began violently displacing many Native tribes from their homelands and forced them to travel over five hundred miles on foot to what is now Oklahoma. Approximately a third of the population of some of these displaced Nations died along the way or soon afterwards from disease, exposure, and starvation. The motivation for this racist eviction was the discovery of gold on Cherokee land in Georgia as well as white farmers' desire to grow cotton on the twenty-five million acres of land that belonged to the Cherokee and other Native people, including the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole.

To read Boudinot's address from 1826, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare E99 .C5 B65.