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The Rise and Fall and Rise of Civilizations: Indian Intellectual Culture during the Removal Era

Exercise 3

During the removal era, many Native American seized on schooling and intellectual exchange as means of resistance and empowerment. Challenging stereotypes, indigenous leaders touted their people’s achievements in education. At the vanguard of the public schooling movement, the Choctaw Nation democratized access to education in the 1840s, developing an extensive network of schools that ranged from elite academies to weekend schools for adult learners.

Why did Choctaw leaders such as Israel Folsom and Peter Pitchlynn decide to establish schools for girls and women? What role did schools play in postremoval nation building? How did these leaders engage with the idea of “civilization”?

Israel Folsom to Peter P. Pitchlynn, Sept. 13, 1841

Why did the Cherokee Phoenix publish in alternating columns of English and Cherokee? Interestingly, a bilingual reader would have noted that these were not mere translations—the newspaper sometimes published differing content for Cherokee and English audiences.

The editor Elias Boudinot responds to an inquiry from Professor Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a linguist, explaining the Cherokee syllabary to English speakers: http://neptune3.galib.uga.edu/ssp/News/chrkphnx/18280806b.pdf

The Cherokee Phoenix demonstrates that indigenous people took part in conversations well outside their tribal boundaries. Read the famous English writer Charles Dickens’s account of meeting the Choctaw diplomat Peter Pitchlynn. What intrigued Dickens about Pitchlynn? What stereotypes or expectations did Dickens carry into the encounter? How did Pitchlynn deal with those expectations?

Charles Dickens’s American Notes for General Circulation (London, 1855) (pages 114–15)

Pitchlynn gave Dickens a copy of this lithograph, which is mentioned the passage above: http://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.72.64