In 1808, a young Gallegina Watie (he dropped the “u” from “Uwati”) began studying Christianity at a local Moravian missionary school. In 1818, Watie was selected to attend the Foreign Mission School, a school established in Cornwall, Connecticut for the purpose of converting young Indigenous men to Christianity in the hope that they would, in turn, spread the religion and Western culture to their people.
Gallegina Watie converted to Christianity in 1818. Shortly before his conversion, he changed his name to Elias Boudinot after meeting the New Jersey congressman for whom he named himself.
In 1824, Boudinot worked on a translation of the New Testament into Cherokee printed in the syllabary - written symbols that represent syllables - created by Sequoyah in 1821. Middlebury owns a copy from 1860.
Four years later, in 1828, Boudinot co-founded the Cherokee Phoenix a bilingual Cherokee and English newspaper (and the first to be published by a Native American nation) that still publishes today.
Boudinot was one of the signers of the Treaty of New Echota, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (present-day Calhoun, Georgia) in 1836, which ceded all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi River.
In the years that followed, the United States Army enforced the Removal Act, forcing the Cherokee west into present-day Oklahoma. This journey, made by the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, as well as thousands of enslaved Black people, is known as the Trail of Tears.
For his role in the New Echota Treaty, Boudinot was assassinated by a group of unknown Cherokee in 1839.
Our bookish celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day started on Instagram. Check out Leslie Marmon Silko’s Sacred Water here.
Visit go.middlebury.edu/special to view more posts in our Indigenous authors series.
We end this series today with Elias Boudinot, one week before the National Day of Mourning in New England.
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