Friday, August 12, 2022

A Poet of the Cherokee Nation

Cabinet photograph of Dewitte DuncanWhen Dewitte Duncan was nine years old, the United States government forcibly removed him, his family, and the Cherokee Nation from their ancestral lands in Georgia. The discovery of gold near Duncan's hometown of Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828 led to the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Over the next decade, numerous Native communities were subjected by the US authorities to what is known as the Trail of Tears, a brutal march west from the Deep South to what is now Oklahoma.

Duncan survived the ordeal and, after gaining an initial education at the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation's new capital, he was admitted to the class of 1861 at Dartmouth College. Duncan was the oldest member of the class at the time, graduating at the age of 39, and possessed great intellectual strength and physical presence. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went on to be an educator in Lisbon and Littleton, New Hampshire, before returning to Oklahoma and serving as a lawyer for the Cherokee Nation. In addition to his legal acumen, he was also a prolific poet who published under his Cherokee name, Too-qua-stee.

Unfortunately, we don't have any of his works of poetry here at Rauner, but we do have an alumni file that contains more information about his life. To examine it, come visit us.