Lessons in Cherokee Courage:
Cultural Recovery and Renewal

A Grades 9-12 Core Text Website Based in Cherokee/American History, Art, and Culture

This Introduction contains:

Sponsors and Purpose of Lessons in Cherokee Courage Project

Summary of the Lessons In Cherokee Courage Project

Unit and Lesson Structure

A Suggestion on the Complex Narrative Arc of all the Units

SPONSORS AND PURPOSE OF LESSONS IN CHEROKEE COURAGE PROJECT: The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) is an (inter)national association of universities and colleges dedicated to the improvement of liberal education through the use of core texts. In cooperation with the Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC) near Tahlequah Oklahoma, and with the logistical support of Northeastern State University, ACTC was awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities a national, professional development workshop grant for a project for high school teachers under the “Landmarks of American History: Workshops for Teachers” initiative: “Wiping Away the Tears: Renewing Cherokee Culture and American History through the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Trail of Tears.” “Wiping Away the Tears” was designed to use a significant American Landmark, the Cherokee Heritage Center, as a site to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Cherokee/American history and culture.

Lessons in Cherokee Courage: Cultural Recovery and Renewal is a website that seeks to provide, as far as possible, to a national and international audience, an experience similar to that of the professors and teachers who joined together in Tahlequah in 2005 for our Wiping Away the Tears seminars. Lessons in Cherokee Courage, too, has been funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Moreover, Lessons in Cherokee Courage provides for
high school students an opportunity to experience a college course which is not aimed at multiple-choice test questions, but, rather at thoughtful examination, discussion, and writing assignments about texts from the ancients to the moderns of
two cultures (Cherokee and Western). Lessons in Cherokee Courage provides eight units with many lesson plans, lectures, original source materials, discussion questions, and assignments.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

While these Unit Lessons have been targeted at secondary education, teachers and students will find that they are reading and working with higher education level materials, but in a way that is accessible and guided to fit the learning needs and learning opportunities of high school education.

The Association for Core Texts and Courses is deeply grateful to the Cherokee Heritage Center and to the Cherokee Nation for the cooperation, essential materials, and vital contacts with scholars of the Cherokee, Native American, and majority cultures who made these Unit and Lesson Plans possible. Ours special thanks goes out, particularly to Mary Ellen Meredith and to the eight scholars, listed below, who wrote our Unit and Lesson Plans. ACTC urges all who have a chance to visit the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah Oklahoma to further their studies of the historical and current, diverse life of the Cherokee: http://www.cherokeeheritage.org

SUMMARY: The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) is an (inter)national association of universities and colleges dedicated to the improvement of liberal education through the use of core texts. In cooperation with the Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC) near Tahlequah Oklahoma, ACTC is providing a national, high school (9-12) materials-development, website-based project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project is modeled after the NEH Edsitement project which provides useful materials development and lesson plans to teachers across the nation. Lessons in Cherokee Courage: Cultural Recovery and Renewal complements the already considerable educational resources of the Cherokee Heritage Center and extends ACTC’s commitment to core texts liberal education to providing original source materials to secondary teachers and their students on a nation-wide basis.

Lessons in Cherokee Courage presents Cherokee history, letters, archival works, exhibits and artifacts, art, literature, and culture materials from pre-contact times to the present day. These primary sources and documents are located in Units of study with introductions by leading scholars, thoughtful questions for teachers to stimulate their students’ discussions, and suggestions for papers and other projects to build high school research in the form of using core texts and primary sources. Users will notice that extensive website links, bibliography of online and library materials, and supplemental questions that link Units together are found in each of the eight (8) Units. The story that emerges from these materials, while undoubtedly documenting a deep tragedy, is also one of hope and, indeed, success because of the efforts by the Cherokee nation, as exemplified by the Cherokee Historical Society, toward integration and renewal in America. This is a story which is, at its core, about education, for central to the cultural recovery and renewal was the construction of a Women’s Seminary – a cross between a high school and college – that the Cherokee nation built after the Trail of Tears. This same Seminary was the foundation for Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, site of the original seminar on which these Lessons are based. Finally, the centrality of education is deeply embedded in this program, for not only is ACTC an international educational organization, but the Cherokee Heritage Center, through which were made available so many of the lecturers and original materials, is located on the original site of the Women’s Seminary, takes as its symbols the three remaining, standing columns of the original Women’s Seminary building, and is a vital educational center through which the Cherokee Nation and the larger majority culture of the United States meet and come to know each other better.

ACTC seeks to advance education at the collegiate and secondary level in line with principles of humanistic education: i.e., it seeks to foster and encourage pedagogies of discussion and reading, reflection and discovery which allow students and faculty, alike, to probe deeply the mysteries of human history, culture, art, and science. The Association brings educators from all levels together in order to provide to students the advantages of core text curricula and their associated materials. The association advocates making available to students and faculty “world classics and texts of major cultural significance”. Without question, Lessons in Cherokee Courage provides a unique educational history of curricular materials drawn from the primary textual and artistic sources of Cherokee culture and history and the world classics of Western European heritage. As has Cherokee-American history, the project brings together Cherokees, Native Americans from other Indian nations, majority culture teachers and scholars of Cherokee, Native American, and Western Civilization cultural histories.

Readers and users of this website should understand that the readings and lectures are opinionated, based on extensive factual materials, and that opinions may vary and are not necessarily those of ACTC, the Cherokee Heritage Center, the Cherokee Nation, nor the National Endowment of the Humanities. The issues are complex and sometimes passionate (even though well in the past), so readers will need to think about statements, evidence, and conclusions to arrive at their own judgments.

While Lessons in Cherokee Courage includes for American high school teachers and students materials on the forced removal, known as the Trail of Tears, of the Cherokee from their southeastern U.S. home in the 1830’s, this project supplies to educators the fascinating story of pre-removal encounters and adaptations by Cherokee culture to the arrival of European settlers, and post-removal renewal and recovery -- a story which deeply involves humanistic, liberal arts education and which is often neglected. The “pre-quel” to the Trail of Tears shows the remarkable synthesis of Cherokee and Enlightenment cultures that before and during the Trail of Tears enabled the Cherokee to establish a constitution and to protect protect themselves with skills of oratory, diplomacy and governance. In the sequel to the removal, these ways of life allowed the Cherokee to prevail against the devastating effects of the Trail of Tears, to preserve much of their traditional culture, and, yet to integrate and reach out to the majority culture in ways that enrich the American past and present. As we will see, this post-removal sequel depends deeply upon what can only be described as a humanistic, liberal arts culture so extensive that during the period until between 1851 and 1907 the Cherokee “graduated more students from college than in Texas and Arkansas combined,”vii while during the 20th Century that same culture worked conscientiously to build institutions to support Cherokee art and heritage and to advance Cherokee culture within the broad patterns of American history and life.



UNIT 1: History and Culture of the Cherokee Before Removal and the Subsequent Place of Removal in the History and Culture of the Cherokee

Lesson I, Two parts: History and Culture of the Cherokee before Removal
Reappraising Cherokee Removal

Lesson II, The “Ancient Village” at the Cherokee Heritage Center and Pre-contact Ways of Life

This Unit is an overview of the Cherokee Place in American History and the many voices of the Cherokee Story. Dr. Raymond Fogelson, Professor of Anthropology in the College of the University of Chicago, one of the world’s foremost researchers on the ethnology and ethnohistory of Indians of the Southeastern United States, offers the first, two-part Lesson I of this unit. Mr. Robert Gardner, Saint Mary’s College of California, an experienced anthropologist in Plains Indians, has written Lesson II on the Pre-contact ways of life of the Cherokee. The Ancient Village at the Cherokee Heritage Center is featured as an illustration of those ways of life.

UNIT 2: Cherokee Story-Telling Traditions

This unit explores the story-telling traditions of Cherokee people, reaching back to pre-contact with European civilization eras and extending to the present day. The aspect of tribal “oral traditions” is central to the development of cultural identities, and serves as an important means of answering questions of ultimate concern such as “Who are we?” “Why are we here?” “Where do we come from?” “What is our purpose here?” “How should we live?” Assistant Professor of Humanities/Native American Studies at Tulsa Community College and former Director of the Cherokee Heritage Center’s Clemente Humanities Course, Steven Woods has designed these lessons.

Lesson 1 – Cherokee Story-telling Traditions: Forming Identity, Building Community

Lesson 2 – Cherokee “First-Fire” Stories

Lesson 3 – Cherokee Origin Stories

UNIT 3: Religious, Philosophic, Political, and Historical Views that the Colonists Brought to North America and to the Revolution, and Cherokee and Native American Responses to the Colonists and early formation of the United States.

Dr. Blue Clark, Distinguished Professor of American Indian Studies in the History Department at Oklahoma City University, is a legal and historical scholar equally at home in the documents of Cherokee and U.S. history. Creek by heritage, he wrote this unit’s introduction. His lecture contains the following parts:

Introduction to The Encounter Between Native Americans and Europeans.
European Background
Native American Background
Natural world
Liberty and freedom
Encounter Between Native Americans and Europeans

Students and teachers will find textual selections from the Bible, Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, and Tecumseh’s call for “red men to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land” as well as a rich selection of other sources.

Unit 4: The Trail of Tears, Prologue.

This Unit is divided into two parts:

Lesson 1: 1721-1832 Legal and Political Struggles Over Cherokee Removal.

Lesson 2: Events Leading up to the Trail of Tears

This unit is based on a Dartmouth College history course developed by Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith, now further developed by the Instructional Designer (and Member) of the Cherokee Nation, Dr. Julia Coates. Dr. Coates has written the introduction and lesson plans to these materials drawn from the legal and political documents and archival letters leading up to the removal. Selections from de Tocqueville, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Marshall’s Worcester v. Georgia decision, and Ross family letters surrounding the ratification of the Treaty of New Echota are among the many documents made available for lessons in high school classes.

UNIT 5: The Trail of Tears and Aftermath: Contemporary Testimony.

Dr. Blue Clark has also written this introduction and the lesson plans for this unit. Though there are relatively few Cherokee accounts of the Trail, there are such accounts of the months leading up to departure and there are contemporary accounts from U.S. government and military officials (including correspondence between the Ross government and Gen. Winfield Scott), as well as sympathetic accounts from missionaries traveling with the Cherokee, including 19th Century journal entries from Rev. Butrick as he traveled day-by-day with the Cherokee.

UNIT 6: The Women’s and Men’s Seminary Education and Cherokee Cultural Recovery.

This unit explores the educational efforts by the Cherokee to rebuild their society post-removal to Indian Territory. The focus of these efforts is on the documentation and stories surrounding the building of the Women’s Seminary and the recollections, particularly of women students, of the Seminaries’ place in Cherokee life and the development of Cherokee leadership, into the 20th Century. Introductions and lesson plans were made by Dr. Brad Agnew, Professor of History at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. A feature of this unit is a film interviewing former female students and narrating the history of the Women’s Seminary.

Unit 7: Cherokee Renewal Through Literature.

Too painful for the Cherokee to discuss among themselves for years, the Trail began to be the subject of ethnographies, histories, and, finally, literature during the late 19th and early and middle 20th Century. Robert Conley, a Cherokee novelist, introduces students and teachers to Cherokee literature with a brief overview of the rise of Native American and Cherokee literature. Conley provides selections from his Trail of Tears novel, Mountain Windsong, and he has selected several poems from a Tahlequah Writer’s group publication of the 1980’s, Echoes of Our Being, for use on our website.

Unit 8: Contemporary Cherokee Art in Oklahoma (1900- 2006)

Lectures and Lesson Plans are by Dr. Mary Jo Watson, the University of Oklahoma. Contents include five lessons:

Lesson 1: Understanding Indigenous Arts of the Americas;
Lesson 2: Basketry;
Lesson 3: Pottery;
Lesson 4: Carving and Sculpture;
Lesson 5: Painting.

This Unit will introduce Cherokee contemporary art in relation to the Trail of Tears and mainstream folk art, particularly basket weaving. Extensive links to online sources of Cherokee art are provided.

Beyond giving credit to the lecturers above, we would like to recognize the various officers and staff of the Cherokee Heritage Center who have helped this project over time and who not only gave of their time, but provided source materials out of the CHC’s collection for use in this project. These special individuals include: Mary Ellen Meredith (Cherokee Historical Society Chair) and Rick Fields (former CHC Executive Director), Tom Mooney (archivist), and Tonia Hogner-Weavel, education specialist.

While the order of the units is chronological, the development of each unit will be modular. While a whole story does emerge from the entire set of units, teachers will be able to choose which units to use, perhaps occasionally referring to the other units’ introductions for background or subsequent outcomes. Linking questions between the units are provided as supplemental suggestions for further work at the end of each unit. The reason for a chronological order is, of course, that this is a history project. Texts, artworks, and examples from exhibits were chosen to permit high school teachers and students, alike, to have a “seminar” experience – examining primary core documents of history, philosophy, religion, literature and art that deeply reflect and shape Cherokee American history to this day.

A Suggestion on the Complex Narrative Arc of all the Units:

The Units of Lessons in Cherokee Courage will be best used if the following advice is read and followed for each unit:

Notes to Teachers and Students:

The Lectures or introductions, like all source materials on this website, are meant to provide background, to help tie units together, and to provoke thought among students on how to use the documents to construct their own “histories” of the Cherokee story. Teachers should advise students that they may treat each lecture as another “text” – that is, they may ask what seem to be the lecture’s most fundamental assumptions and arguments, what is the purpose of the lecture, what has been included or excluded from the lecture? Students should be aware that each lecture represents what one scholar thinks, and they are free to agree or disagree responsibly, or to refer to the lecture or not. Another way to contrast the lectures to the texts might be to ask students whether these lecture arguments seem political, legal, artistic, historical or perhaps of another kind. The teacher may also wish to make certain that the students make clear to themselves and to others when they are using an argument from the lectures, from one of the many texts provided by this website project, or when they are using their own argument.

There are three basic reasons for this advice: ACTC and all the lecturers want students to think for themselves and to discuss among themselves what they have read and thought about. ACTC wants students to interpret the texts and to synthesize or put together each student’s own arguments, using texts drawn from the Unit being focused upon or, perhaps, from other Units or other outside sources. There are better and worse writers and thinkers about the Cherokee. Part of the student’s – not the teacher’s work – is to figure out what are the better and worse arguments and texts for purposes of understanding Cherokee-American history. And the main reason for ACTC to encourage thought, discussion, reading and individual formulation of arguments is that the Cherokee-American-human history presented by these Units is so complex that the only path to appreciation is understanding.

The entire story of the Trail of Tears and Cherokee Cultural Recovery is a far more complicated history -- one that relies deeply on education -- than is usually presented in the popular press or history textbooks of high school. While both kinds of sources remark on the adaptation of Cherokee culture to Western ways, rarely are there any explanations or examples of Cherokee culture that existed prior to that adaptation and prepared the way for it. Though high school textbooks will acknowledge the amazing Cherokee achievements of Sequoyah’s syllabary, widespread literacy, established homes, and active press before removal, we rarely see a continuation of the Cherokee story past the removal of 1838-39. The press, concentrating largely on current affairs, offers, at best, spotty historical context for the most recent developments. And, neither offers much of the rich complexity of voices that have shaped Cherokee-American history from first encounters to this very day.

It should be said that both textbook sections and popular press articles convey some sense of the misery of the Trail of Tears. Textbooks are accurate and occasionally quote briefly from historical sources: e.g, quotations from the Rev. Evan Jones, from the Baptist Missionary Magazine, give some indication of the hardships males and “`females who have been habituated to the comforts and comparative affluence’” faced as they were “`driven [from their well-established homes] on foot before the bayonets of brutal men’.” All sources acknowledge the indifference, greed, hatred, and racism that Cherokees faced from some white populations which drove them out of their lands and regarded their suffering on the Trail without mercy or charity. And the terrible loss of life is also well known and documented; 4000 out of 16,000 souls perished on the Trail between the Southeastern U.S. and Indian Territory.

Yet, high school history curricula are far too often taught from historical summaries found in textbooks, and a recent study found that in a dozen U.S. History textbooks examined, only three of these could be considered “above average” in the accuracy of their “cultural information” about Native Americans.i In the absence of extended primary sources by authors who witnessed the Trail of Tears, it will be even harder for our young people and even our high school teachers to grasp the misery. Moreover, in the absence of sources and documents from myths, history, the Cherokee press, and archives -- both before and after the Trail experience -- it is practically impossible to convey the proportions of loss that were suffered and felt by the Cherokee. Without historical primary sources it is difficult to convey how deeply the entire peoples of the American continent were all involved in this tragedy, including some who fought hard against the removal and others who were very sympathetic to the Cherokee. And with the near absence of any reference to Cherokee reconstruction, it is impossible to see how the Cherokee relied on education to rebuild and renew.

What might this project, Lessons in Cherokee Courage, bring to history for high school teachers (and, ultimately, their students) that a textbook does not? Textbooks rarely give the historical, political, and social background of Cherokee history and life that preceded the removal. Textbooks almost never mention the traditional cultural features of Cherokee life – particularly the role of oratory and the decision-making powers of women -- at the time of contact with white settlers, which were to play such a prominent role in later development of Cherokee culture as it adapted to European culture.ii Cherokee war councils had a rich development of songs, ritual war dressing, and elaborate oratory which prepared the community for battle and decided issues of war and peace. Cherokee war practices included women in war councils who had the power to decide “the fate of prisoners” and to counsel on “strategy, time of attack, and other weighty matters related to war.” Chiefs and headmen orated “for hours” in front of an entire town’s population before taking decisions.ii

Further, textbooks miss the complexity of story, intentions, and voices that results from the intertwining of substantial core texts (indirectly indicated by italics in the paragraphs, below) that will be made available for lesson plans and class discussion on the website of this project. Recorded Cherokee myths indicate the different relation that Cherokee traditionally had to the land, compared to European settlers, as well as the importance of traditional deliberations and voting in Cherokee councils; these sources make the Cherokee’s democratic 1827 constitution’s provisions on land ownership and governance seem understandable – and an adaptation, not an imposition. Their considerable skills at oratory and democratic governance made them adept at lobbying in Washington, as well as petitioning Congress, but such skills also meant that differing points of view within the Cherokee on the best course of action were nearly inevitable. Not quite united in the means of opposition to forced removal, there were many different positions on the adoption and adaptation of modern ways and on the place that the Cherokee should occupy in U.S. land and politics. While white men’s avarice played a real part in driving Cherokees from their land, there were important religious, philosophical, and national conceptions about natural rights to the use of land derived from Bible and the Enlightenment, which informed both the U.S. and Cherokee constitutional policies.

Textbooks rarely have space to present evidence of conflicting motives, the views of “losing” sides, or the complex forces at work in historical events. Future President Andrew Jackson had led men into battle against Indians, but he had led Cherokees in those battles. Later, at Jackson’s urging, The Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The policy the Act enshrined was successfully overturned, at least with respect to the Cherokee, in the U.S. Supreme Court, but Jackson refused to enforce Marshall’s opinion. These facts are widely chronicled in textbooks and articles, but there is serious evidence in Jackson’s letter to the Cherokee that he was convinced that Indian removal was a policy to preserve Indian culture and populations, not to decimate them.iii Further, the Act, which passed the Senate by only one vote, was hotly contested in widely published speeches by powerful Senators such as John Freylinghuysen. Thoughtful contemporary observers such as de Tocqueville found hope and hopelessness in the Cherokee situation as they strove to “civilize” their culture while facing white settlers’ demands on their lands.iv Through this website, teachers can hold discussions with students that bring real, historical evidence to bear, yet produce deep thought about the choices and alternatives that peoples faced.

Finally, we can note how complex the actual Cherokee, U.S. Government, and white population responses were to the actual removal. The Cherokee press which lobbied for Cherokee removal, offered to conduct a national debate on the issue, while the Principal Chief Ross-led government closed the press to forestall disunity on a refusal to remove. There is little question that the vast majority of Cherokee opposed removal and supported Chief Ross. But evidence and scholarly judgment appears to be that the Major Ridge party, which was the main opponent of the Ross faction and whose members included the editor of the Cherokee press, Elias Boudinot, when it signed the treaty of New Echota, did so with nothing but the Cherokee Nation’s welfare in mind. The Treaty was considered fraudulent by majority Cherokee opinion, then, and is so regarded now, but in hindsight, the signers may have been correct that removal was the only viable policy. The misery and usurpation of lands and deaths on the Trail are well-documented and the pain and agony of this usurpation is conveyed in 20th Century Cherokee novels. General Winfield Scott was the messenger and the military enforcer of the Government’s decision to remove the Cherokee. However, he also appears to have been motivated by the disease and death rates in the collection camps, as well as the separation of families, to agree to a request by the Ross government to take over the management of the march. After the initial evictions and confiscation of Cherokee land and property, there is ample evidence in contemporary journals that the Cherokee government, U.S. command, soldiers, and missionaries worked hard to alleviate Cherokee suffering, but traditionalists’ beliefs that conflicted with practices of removal that protected other Cherokee and rough-hewn families of whites along the trail – particularly at the frontier’s edge – contributed considerably to the suffering.v The Cherokees lost farms, substantial homes, and, except for those who retreated into back hills, the entire society was uprooted. Though surviving Cherokee arrived at land which was fertile and supported agriculture, grazing, and, eventually, the establishment of substantial towns – e.g., Tahlequah -- they were unable to overcome the bitterness of internal divisions and engaged in fratricidal murder of leaders until 1846.

Rarely do textbooks or the popular press venture beyond the early 19th Century, Cherokee cultural achievements and the Trail of Tears. Yet, Cherokee recovery in politics, education and art mark a story of revival and rejuvenation which all can learn from and admire. These later efforts are a new story for Americans and humanistic, liberal education is the centerpiece. After the disaster of the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation established a public school system in 1841 and made the public education system compulsory. A decade later, the Cherokee established the Men’s and Women’s Seminary. The Women’s Seminary was a liberal arts college-high school (the Seminary had graduates of about age 18 or older, but was, later, the foundation of a college in Tahlequah) and had a board composed of Cherokee, with William Ross and David Vann traveling to Mount Holyoke to recruit Ellen Whitmore and Sarah Worcester for a cross-country journey to become the administrators of the Seminary, while the Nation invested $ 80,000 of tribal money in the two separate facilities near Tahlequah for men and women. The buildings built, the four-year curriculum of liberal arts (not mechanical skills) education for women opened in 1851. The educational plan of the Women’s Seminary was to qualify Cherokee as teachers and, “in time, there were very few teachers from outside the Nation” as a consequence of these efforts (Foreman, 414). Upon later destruction by fire of the original seminary, the Women’s Seminary was reconstituted in Tahlequah.vi Some measure of the accomplishment in using the Women’s Seminary to advance the interests of the Cherokee nation may be gained by recognizing not only were the Cherokee the most literate of Indian tribes, but during the period until between 1851 and 1907, as we noted earlier, they “graduated more students from college than in Texas and Arkansas combined.” vii Primary sources of letters and journals, compilations of first person narratives, and a video taped recording made available by one of our scholars to this project, “Legacy of the Cherokee” by Brad Agnew, testify to this extensive effort.

In treating more recent cultural accomplishments of the Cherokee the popular press not only tends to gloss over the 19th Century history of recovery, but it fails to recognize the nearly two centuries of educational, humanistic institution-building through which the Cherokee have accomplished much of what makes their current renewal possible. In September of 2004, National Geographic Magazine ran a feature story on “The Indian Renaissance: Countering Centuries of Oppression and Neglect, American Indians Travel the Road to Renewal.” The Cherokee are one of a half-dozen featured nations. The discussion of the Cherokee follows a brief overview of the deleterious effects of the 19th Century Carlisle School upon teaching Indian culture and language, for Native Americans in that famous program were removed from their homes and cultures to try to “`kill the Indian and save the man’.” Oddly, the Women’s Seminary, an educational product within the tribal areas of the Cherokee, founded, financed, and, ultimately, run by the Cherokees, goes unmentioned. The article’s narration of Cherokee renewal begins with Cherokee language immersion classes held by the Nation “to help preserve Cherokee culture.” The rest of the opening paragraph briefly touches upon the considerable Cherokee achievements in culture and politics before removal in 1838-39 and concludes the historical overview of the Cherokee sufferings by noting “the periodic landgrabs and neglect of the U.S. government, and a litany of other injustices. . . .” And, then, the article observes that “today, in a clear sign of renewal, the Cherokee are again showing their gift for cultural and political sophistication,” noting the political work the Nation has done in league with 155 other nations on Capitol Hill (92-93).

The observations within the article are true, but what happened – culturally, historically, and educationally – within Cherokee society between 1839 and 2004? The article misses the continuity of efforts by Cherokee to renew and their substantial contributions to the new state, Oklahoma, which their lands came to be incorporated into. The Women’s seminary was not an institution whose work of renewal or hopes for the future ended when Oklahoma became a state. The Seminary became Oklahoma’s Northeastern Normal School, and, ultimately, the State of Oklahoma’s Northeastern University in Tahlequah. Later in the 20th Century, like the phoenix, the Women’s Seminary came to life again in the form of the Cherokee Heritage Center. Emerging out of a co-operation between the U. S. Government and the Cherokee nation in 1967, the Cherokee Heritage Center’s educational intentions could not have been clearer: “the site was selected because it was the original location of the Cherokee Female Seminary,” upon which three columns of the original, burned-down seminary building still stand. With its site recognized by the U.S. Park Service as the terminus of the Trail of Tears, the Center contains an 1800-seat amphitheatre, exhibits of Cherokee history and art, archives of Cherokee newspaper articles, letters, and historical documents, and the Center advances Cherokee culture and heritage through a full body of art shows and classes.

As Blue Clark, one of the Native American scholars in this project remarked to the project director, “the Trail of Tears is formative to the Cherokee experience.” But, perhaps surprisingly, there are almost no post-removal narratives written by Cherokee in the 19th Century about this disaster. There are no published letters within family correspondence about Trail experiences. As Robert Conley -- Cherokee author and another participant in this website project -- in addressing this absence said to the project director, “I suppose it was just too painful.” ix Yet, in the 19th Century C.C. Royce and James Mooney, ethnographers working for the U.S. Bureau of Ethnography and Smithsonian Institution, not only published accounts of the Trail with sources mined from U.S. and Cherokee government papers, Cherokee pre-removal publications, and public accounts of the Trail, but Mooney interviewed participants and their descendants for reminiscences of the Trail of Tears experience (p. 131). Later, in a 1930’s WPA historical recovery project and in separate projects in the late 70’s, interviewers recorded on tapes the stories passed-on by word of mouth, and now enhanced by reading late 19th Century accounts such as Mooney’s. After mid-century, artistic practices and cultural institutions began to form that focused on the Trail of Tears and, later, on the breadth and activities of Cherokee culture.

An important moment in this artistic, cultural resurgence was the establishment of the Cherokee Heritage Center, described above. Not only has the Center provided a locus for individuals to practice their arts in a process of recovery and renewal and an educational platform for Cherokee and Americans alike in the renewal of Cherokee culture, but it has been an active agent in building and renewing the humanistic bridge and dialogue between these two cultures. Beyond the sources that the CHC has provided generously to this project and its two, week-long precursors at Tahlequah, the Center’s dedication to education has created humanistic, liberal arts courses upon which this project has drawn. The Center’s Cherokee (Clemente) Humanities Course forms one unit basis for this project. (The other is Principal Chief Chad Smith’s legal history of the Cherokee nation, first taught at Dartmouth, and admirably developed by Julia Coates.) The course is an expression of Cherokee traditions of education and culture and is a direct outgrowth of the Center’s, the Cherokee Nation’s, and Earl Shorris’ national Clemente course cooperative efforts. The course has been a conscientious attempt to bring the Cherokee heritage to bear on humanistic thought, to “explore the classics, to compare Western great books to the American Indian sources, and to teach and revitalize the American Indian languages” x :

The basic concern of the Cherokee Clemente Humanities Course comes directly out of … reflections on various aspects of the material and intellectual culture symbolized at the Cherokee Heritage Center. The humanities exist in the gap between the contemporary world and the historical world. The experience, interest, and discourse developed in the Cherokee Humanities Course of study, as well as those of generations over the ages, defines these [aspects] for the present. (The Cherokee Humanities Course, 20)

The net result of persistent educational transmission and the construction of institutions for preservation, research and development by the Cherokee is that in important respects, Cherokee history has become a part of the mainstream of American history.xi

With gratitude for the cooperation and help of the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Cherokee Nation, and in light of this complex history, the Association for Core Texts and Courses proudly offers to educators and students in secondary education, Lessons in Cherokee Courage: Cultural Recovery and Renewal : A Grades 9-12 Core Text Website Based in Cherokee/American History, Art, and Culture.

J. Scott Lee, Ph.D.
Project Director and Executive Director
The Association for Core Texts and Courses’
Liberal Arts Institute
Saint Mary’s College of California
Moraga, California
May 2008

Supplemental Questions for use after reading this Introduction and using any one of the Units:

The Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC) is an educational center where the arts, history, and cultural life of the Cherokee intersect with the arts, history, education, and cultural life of American culture. Visit the CHC website, http://www.cherokeeheritage.org/, go through it, and write an essay or have a class discussion on the following questions:

What is a cultural center, for the Cherokee and in general? What roles or purposes do such centers serve?

Why is it important, or not, to have such cultural centers available to the public?

i Sanchez, Antonio R. “The Depiction of Native Americans in Recent (1991-1998) Secondary American History Textbooks.” An ERIC document, ED434865, 1999.

ii Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees. University of Oklahoma Press, 1963, pp. 40-44.

iii Jackson’s attitude toward Indians and Cherokees, in particular, is widely disputed by recognized scholars and historians. Wilkins, in Cherokee Tragedy, writes, Jackson “had a frontiersman’s point of view, but it was that of an enlightened frontiersman. He believed he had the interest of the Cherokees at heart He wished to see them neither debased nor destroyed. However, their only salvation, in his opinion, was removal beyond the reach of the whites” , p. 223. This observation comes after narrating a chance meeting among Cherokee, Jackson, and Georgians in 1831, just before the Marshall decision, in which Jackson said to the Cherokee, “you can live on your lands in Georgia, if you choose, but I cannot interfere with the laws of that state to protect you.” Ehle, in his Trail of Tears narrates the same meeting in nearly the same words, with the same closing comment by Jackson. Ehle, whose history is written in an imagined ‘vernacular’ (supported by sources for the narration), however, has little use for such niceties of distinction. But, earlier, Ehle does offer an unsubstantiated characterization of Jackson’s Tennessee-days’ views of the Cherokees which contrasts sharply to Wilkins: Jackson “shared the white Tennessean’s common opinion of Indians. As he saw it they were the festering sore that afflicted the settlers and limited the colonization of this great land, … He was convinced that Indians could not become civilized. He cherished all of his convictions, but most of all that one. The Cherokees were a roadblock in the way, isolating Tennessee….Cherokee: a blob of forest burnt off fields, and raging streams with savages robbing travelers and, often enough, torturing them to death. That was Cherokee to him” p. 243 and 107.

iv Possibly, no greater contemporary appreciation of the cross-currents of culture, civilization, avarice, principle, hope and hopelessness can be found in 1830 than de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America analysis of the Cherokee and Creek situation during this period – a text which our high school teachers will read.

v See Fogelson’s lecture Unit 1 [link 1 and link 2]. James Mooney in Myths of the Cherokees discusses the persons that provided him accounts of the round-up for the Trail, but provides little verbatim transcription by Cherokees or soldiers, 131 note. Many of these accounts, particularly of the shooting of Tsali by Winfield Scott’s troops, Ehle later calls into question (392), noting their transcription and elaboration long after the event during periods when various factions of Cherokees or interests of individuals might be served by less than believable “first person” accounts.

[link 1] I find it significant that we have so few Cherokee personal accounts of the Removal experience; this despite the fact that many Cherokee elite were highly educated and that traditionalists had access to Sequoyah’s syllabary to record these events. In contract, we have a plenitude of first-hand accounts by accompanying soldiers and attendant missionaries, as well as written impressions from White witnesses as the sad procession wearily trudged westward. I grant that many Cherokees recollections were transmitted orally, but these memories are subject to much distortion and the kind of secondary rationalization that we usually apply to bad dreams.

[link 2] The highest mortality rates of the Removal occurred among the traditionalists, especially those who traveled overland in the dead of winter. They suffered from lack of medical care, insufficient supplies, a shortage of wagons, rotten meat and spoiled flour provided by corrupt government contractors, two few blankets, and unsatisfactory shelter from the inclement weather. Those who left early, including most members of the Treaty Party, made much of the trip by boat and suffered few deaths. The earlier detachments led by Federal troops fared somewhat better than the later Cherokee-organized contingents conducted by local town leaders. Boats were not a preferred mode of travel for traditionalists, since rivers were pathways to the chaotic underworld, an area filled with deadly monsters. Their fears about boats received indirect confirmation when it was observed that the ill and infirm were transferred to river boats to continue the trip westward.

vi The contribution of the seminaries to local, state, and national leadership is documented by Ida Tinnin and continued until the seminaries were absorbed into Northeastern State Normal, at the simultaneous demise of Cherokee government and its replacement by the new Oklahoma State government, in “Education and Cultureal Influences of the Cherokee Seminaries,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, xxxvii, no. 1, Spring 1959, 59-68. Interestingly, the editor of the Chronicle traces the origins of the seminaries back to the New Echota treaty provisions for funding of education – the Ridge party faction. The absence of Cherokee traditional culture represented in the curriculum and the Seminary’s degree of discrimination toward full-blooded Cherokees has been called into question by Devon Mihesuah in Cultivating the Rosebuds (e.g., 2-3; 80-81) , but the school was never segregationist and as Wilma Mankiller has written, “The establishment of a school exclusively for Cherokee women was thought of as quite radical because most white Americans at that time regarded females as intellectually subordinate to men. Generally, nineteenth-century women were afforded few, if any, educational opportunities” Mankiller: A Chief and Her People (122-123).

vii Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller: A Chief and Her People. NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1993; 122, 133. “The Cherokee had a better common school system than either Arkansas or Missouri.” Grant Forman, The Five Civilized Tribes, University of Oklahoma Press, 1934; 410.

viii The Columns: Cherokee National Historical Society Newsletter, March 2003.

ix An assertion repeated in Conley’s lecture Unit 7 [link 1]. And even today, not all Cherokee have sought or pursued cultural recovery through the Trail. For example, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently published a book called simply, The Cherokee, by Joyce Dugan and J. Lynn Harlan in 2002. In the chapter called "The Trail Where They Cried" there is a blank space on the page with a "photo caption" underneath. The caption reads, "Cherokee Removal: no photo included. Images cannot portray the great sense of loss experienced."

x Shorris, Riches for the Poor, Norton, 2000; 248. In order to make core texts of the humanities available to underserved sectors of the American populace, because such texts and courses “were the seed bed for democractic institutions,” while at the same time bringing the study of the textual sources of Cherokee cultural and historical traditions into contact with Western sources, the Oklahoma Humanities Council invited Shorris, the Center’s Director, Mary Ellen Meredith, and the Nation’s Principal Chief Smith to support the construction of the course, The Cherokee Humanities Course, Anita May, ix-xi, Cherokee National Historical Society, 2003.

xi. The other course foundation for this project is Chad Smith’s Indian Law and Cherokee Legal History course, originally taught at Dartmouth College. The course is now taught by the Nation, under the directorship of Julia Coates, one of this project’s seminar discussion master teachers. The Director of the CHC Humanities Course at the time of this project’s initiation, Steven Woods, is another of this project’s master teachers.