This Day in World History
February 21, 1828
The Cherokee Phoenix Begins PublicationOn February 21, 1828, the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, began publication. Editor Elias Boudinot explained the paper’s purpose—to promote anything that will be to “the benefit of the Cherokees” and to prevent the tribe from “dwindl[ing] into oblivion.” Boudinot concluded his opening editorial by declaring his hope “for that happy period, when all the Indian tribes of America shall arise, Phoenix like, from their ashes.”
The newspaper was part of the cultural movement called the Cherokee Renaissance that included the writing of a tribal constitution and Sequoyah’s development of a Cherokee syllabary, or written form of the tribe’s language. The tribal government had authorized publication of an official tribal newspaper in 1826, and page one of the first edition reproduced in full the Cherokee constitution. The paper published articles in both English and Cherokee.
That cultural renaissance lasted only a few years, however, as the Cherokee — like the other Civilized Tribes of the Southeast — came under increasing pressure to yield their lands to whites and move west. The paper reflected Native Americans’ growing difficulties not only through its articles and editorials but also by a name change. A year after its founding, the paper was renamed the Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate.
In 1832, Boudinot changed the paper’s position on the relocation issue and began advocating moving west. Upset by this shift, principal chief John Ross forced Boudinot to resign. He named his brother-in-law, Elijah Hicks, as editor, and Hicks continued the anti-removal stance of the tribal government. On May 31, 1834, however, financial difficulties forced the paper to close. Four years later, the Cherokee were forced to leave their homes in Georgia and take the long, painful trip west to present-day Oklahoma that is remembered as the Trail of Tears.