How the Removal of Cherokee Children from Tsalagi Speaking Homes Led to a Decline in the Tsalagi Language

A Research Dossier

Essay, 2009
14 Pages, Grade: A





The Missionaries and “Civilisation”

Henry Richard Pratt and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Sequoyah and His Syllabary

Effects and Decline in Language and the Solutions


Between the Franco- Indian War, and the American Revolution, settlers in the United States began to push westward (Green & Perdue, 2005, p6) under the justification of Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that it was the settlers’ divine right to expand westward. (Bailey, 1991, p363) Settlers began to encroach on Cherokee territory which created competition for food. However, the King’s Proclamation of 1763 forbade settlement anywhere west of the Appalachian Mountains. Unfortunately, settlers ignored this proclamation since it could not be strictly enforced by the British Government. Due to this invasion of territory, the Cherokee tribes began to regard these settlers as an enemy. As a result, the Cherokee nation sided with the British during the American Revolution as the British had tried to prevent the colonisation of settlers on Cherokee land. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p6).

The Treaty if Hopewell, signed in November, 1785, was intended almost as a peace treaty, defining the boundaries of Cherokee land to Georgian and North Carolinian settlers. (Jefferson, 2007, p139) However the settlers proceeded to ignore this treaty and continued to encroach on Cherokee land. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p9)

During the summer of 1776, during the American Revolution, the colonies invaded and most Cherokee captives were executed instantly. Treatment of the Cherokees got so brutal during this time that rewards were being offered for the scalps of Indian warriors. By the end of the American Revolution, the colonists had destroyed over fifty towns, Cherokees had surrendered more than twenty thousand square miles of their land, and the Cherokee population had declined dramatically, mainly because of epidemics and starvation. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p7).

The Peace of Paris, signed in 1784, signified the end of the American Revolution and the United States was now independent. This independence presented claims to the land within its boundaries,

including the lands that belonged to the Cherokee Nation. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p7). At the end of the 1780’s the US Government underwent a reorganisation. This reorganisation placed sole authority over Indian affairs and territory in the hands of the President and Congress, (Prucha, 1997, p157) as many felt that people who were “uncivilised” had no right to land. (Perdue & Green, 2007, p12)

The Missionaries and “Civilising” the Indians

Henry Knox, the secretary of war at that time, and President George Washington presumed that Native Americans would assimilate to American society, as equal citizens, once they had been “civilised” (Green & Perdue, 2005, p15). In this context “civilised” meant being a part of the existing contemporary American culture. It was believed by Knox and Washington, that Indians were “uncivilised” because they didn’t know any better. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p11). Racism arose, bringing with it arguments that Native Americans could never be fully “civilised”. This claim was also used during a congressional debate in 1830 to rationalise the removal of the Indians. President Andrew Jackson signed ‘The Indian Removal Act’ on May 28th, 1830 which began the Trail of Tears. [Figure 1] (Perdue & Green, 2005, p15) Jackson claimed the Indian Removal Act to be a compassionate action, but the Cherokee did not see it that way. They challenged the Act in the Supreme Court; however, in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia in 1831, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case as the Cherokee Nation did not embody a sovereign nation. (

“…The Indians do not know what is best for them…like children they have to be guided.” - Andrew Jackson, Public Address on the Removal Act. (Perdue & Green, 2005, p126)

Eventually the term “civilised” expanded to include Christian practises, a formal education and a Republican Government. (Perdue & Green, 2005, p26) Missionaries came and established stations to accomplish these goals. They set up schools for Cherokee children to educate them about the American culture to which they should be adapting. (Green & Perdue, 2005, p45) These missionaries looked to convert the children, and as a later effect, the adults. They found that the mixed blood children were more willing to accept this new culture than the full blooded children were. The full blooded children were unable to understand the words and new concepts. (Ehle, 1988, p136) In order to help the children adapt faster and more easily they had to be separated from their culture, and by direct correlation, their families. They were forced to live in dormitories at the missions, or with mission families. Their activities were very closely supervised; the children all learned to read, write and pray in English. They were instilled with the idea that “civilisation” was preferable to their traditional culture. (Perdue & Green, 2005, p46)

In the early 1800’s, R. J. Meigs recorded a few social movements occurring amongst Cherokees. The first was a spread of Christianity, although the numbers were still fairly small. The second was the nature of white culture challenging the everyday ways of Cherokee culture, especially concerning raising their children. (Ehle, 1988, p94)


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How the Removal of Cherokee Children from Tsalagi Speaking Homes Led to a Decline in the Tsalagi Language
A Research Dossier
University of Southampton
Screenwriting BA (Hons) - Researching and Writing
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ISBN (Book)
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removal, cherokee, children, tsalagi, speaking, homes, decline, language, research, dossier
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Rhianmôr Thomas (Author), 2009, How the Removal of Cherokee Children from Tsalagi Speaking Homes Led to a Decline in the Tsalagi Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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