Image from anceintface.com
The Cherokee Female Seminaries were boarding schools opened by the tribal government in 1851. In identical, three-story, brick structures, the Cherokee Nation offered students a high school education. The Female Seminary’s curriculum was academically challenging. Ironically, neither seminary offered instruction in Cherokee language, history, and culture. The men and women they employed from Yale, Mount Holyoke, and Newton Theological Seminary became the first of many educated teachers who traveled to Indian Territory to teach. Prospective students first had to pass an examination, and the successful had their education paid by the Tribe. Most students came from affluent, mixed-blood homes.
The Civil war and lack of resources resulting in closing the seminary, but because of limited tribal resources, students paid for room and board when the seminaries reopened. Children of tribe members unable to pay could enroll in an indigent department. On Easter Sunday in 1887 a fire demolished the school building. Two years later the school reopened just north of Tahlequah and was eventually bought by the state of Oklahahoma to house a state-school for teachers.
As one can see, despite typical impressions of American Indians, many were educated and had the literary training write poetry. It also gave them the training to establish newspapers to record there work and preserve it forever.
By cloud-clapped summit in the boundless west,
Or mighty river rolling to the sea,
Where’er thy footsteps led thee on that quest,
Unknown, rest thee, illustrious Cherokee!
Image from Google Books Alexander Posey: The Creek Indian Poet.
Text from Changing is Not Vanishing (Parker 2011)
Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith who invented the Cherokee writing system. “Ode to Sequoyah” was written in 1899 by Posey and thus a reverence of the written system of the Cherokee language. The image of the poem is from the 1910 Similar to “Our Wreath of rose Buds” by Corrinne there is an eternal quality of the Cherokee language they are reinforcing for example, “The people’s language cannot perish–nay,”. However, the text in the 1910 version of The Poems of Alexander Lawrence Posey excludes one stanza found in Parker’s Changing is Not Vanishing an anthology of Native American Poetry (2011). The missing stanza appears under the image. The poem in the 1910 version ends with the line “Thy genius shaped a dream into a deed,” versus the last stanza in Parker’s version, which discusses the span of influence of Sequoyah’s creation of the written Cherokee. The last line ends with “Unknown, rest thee, illustrious Cherokee!” The significance in the ending of the poems is the implications of each stanza. Where as the 1910 publication ends with an action. The “deed” Sequoyah performs where the 2011 publication is a reflection on the past actions of Sequoyah. This reflects the context in which “Ode to Sequoyah” was published. The 1910 publication reinforces the deed of chronicling act of the bard of Cherokee dreams because of the present need to chronicle and record the stories and dreams of the Cherokee since Native American poetry was beginning to reach a larger audience. However, in the 2011 publication, it ends with reflection of the span of Cherokee language and story. Similar to how the reader is looking back on the creation of this language and its recording of Cherokee “dreams.”
Image from Oklahoma Historical Society Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
Born in 1873 in the Creek Nation Alex Posey was the most widely recognized American Indian poet of his day. Posey’s mother came from a prominent family that was active in Creek politics. At the age of fourteen, Posey’s father required him to learn English and not soon after that Posey was sent to the Creek national boarding school where he was academically successful. This led to Posey’s eventual running of the local newspaper. The Creek nation sponsored his attendance at Bacone Indian University where he studied Latin and Greek. However, his own interests grew in British and American literature that resulted in Poseys venture into poetry. In 1902 he accepted the editorship of the Indian Journal making him the first American Indian editor of a daily newspaper. Posey gained popularity under the alias of Fus Fixico, a traditional Creek who speaks with Creek inflected English. His poetry largely tackles issues of contemporary Creek life as well as conflicts with federal government over land allotment. At the age of 34 (1908) Alexander Posey drowned of the North Canadian (Oktahutche) River. Posey is largely remember for his Fus Fixico letters. In 1910 Posey’s wife Minnie H. Posey publishes a collection of his poems.
The image above is of Alexander Posey and at the age of 34, he died young.
Image from Google Books
Above is the title page for Alexander Posey’s collection of poems published arranged and edited by his wife Minnie H. Posey in 1910 two years after his death. At the top of the image, one sees “Alex Posey, The Creek Indian Poet.” The title given to Posey as “The Creek Indian Poet” classifies him and also identifies the genre of poetry he writes so that any reader picking up the collection knows its from an American Indian writer. In other words, Mrs. Posey decides to identify Posey as an regional poet, more strictly an ethic poet. This immediately recalls stereotypes of what Indian American’s write about and possibly other larger popular culture representations of American Indians. In addition, the title page, says “collected and arranged by” Mrs. Posey. Mrs. Posey in the case of Posey’s collection acts as the editor. The order in which she sets the type for arranges the poetry can dramatically add, remove, or maintain the meaning of what Alexander Posey truly intended. However, not all poems were collected and arranged in this text. One must contemplate which poems and why where they excluded.
Image From SouthernCherokeeNation.com
John Rollin Ridge was born in 1827 into a distinguished Cherokee family in Georgia. His father, John Ridge and grandfather Major Ridge were prosperous farmer and slaveholders. Both grandfather and father were influential leaders in the dispute over how to respond to pressure from the United States to give up Cherokee Lands and move west. John Rolling Ridge and his family moved west with his cousin Stand Watie and Elias Boudinot, editor of Cherokee Phoenix. Cherokee Phoenix was the first American Indian newspaper. In 1839, John Rolling Ridge fled to Arkansas after the death of his grandfather and father because of their advocacy for the voluntary move west. By this time John Rolling Ridge received his education through Cherokee missionary schools. In 1845 he began his attendance at Great Barrington Academy where he studied Greek, Latin and Classical Literature. After that he attended law school and began farming on Indian Territory. In 1849 he killed a member of the Ross Party (those opposing the movement west) and feared the consequences which led to his move to California. In 1950 he worked as an editor and journalist. In 1854 he published the first well known novel by an American Indian, The Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit. John Rolling Ridge often published under Yellow Bird, the translation of his Cherokee name Chees-quat-a-law. He died in 1867 and in 1868 his wife published a collection of his poems entitled Poems.
Image from California Digital News Paper Collection
“Mount Shasta” by John R Ridge was published multiple times. On May 7 1863, The Alta Daily California: San Fransisco published “Mount Shasta.” The poem was printed on the top left corner of the page. Identical to the print text in Parkers Changing is Not Vanishing (2011) the significance comes from its publication in the newspaper. It suggests that Ridge was part of the popular culture to have been published in a non-American Indian specific newspaper or journal. Furthermore, its placement on the top left would logically place it at the beginning of the page where the reader would begin reading left to right. Although that is not a guaranteed starting point, “Mount Shasta” is one of the largest bodies of text on the page. The page is filled with advertisements with short to medium length reports on different topics such as trade reports. However, the last stanza of “Mount Shasta” describes the necessary steps for the success of California. Placing the poem in the newspaper with the recognition of the purpose of the poem could be seen as a strategic move of the editors desire to express the ideas of Ridge to a larger audience to fulfill its goal to help the “Golden state shall thrive, if like/ its own Mount Shasta, Sovereign Law shall lift.” In other words, Ridge’s poem fits the newspaper’s goal of informing the readers with critical perspectives of the status of the state. In this case the what Ridge believes the Soverign Law should resemble, “Its pure administration shall be like/ The snow immaculate upon the mountain’s brow.” Although this pure as snow adminstration seems idea, the coldness of snow reflects other metaphors in the text where human feeling should be removed from the law thus leaving the law as a cold heartless entity.