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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 1
March, 1942


Page 55

The Cherokees' desire for the white man's education prominently manifested itself soon after the middle of the eighteenth century, certain of the Cherokees recognizing the value to their people of the white man's learning.

As the whites continued to push their way into the Cherokee country, old customs were gradually abandoned. The educational customs and traditions were based largely on the training which a young Cherokee needed in preparation for the inter-tribal warfare and the hunt. The appearance of the whites changed the situation. The whites had superior numbers and fighting equipment, so that physical resistance proved futile. When warfare was engaged in, the gun began to replace the bow and arrow. In hunting, too, the gun began to supplant the bow and arrow. But game was becoming scarce—also because of the whites. To train youth for warfare and the hunt was becoming an increasingly useless indulgence in sentiment. By the close of the eighteenth century the practical value of such training had very, largely disappeared for most of the Cherokee people. Although the problem was not yet a clear-cut one, a numerically small but progressive element in the population had for some time realized that, to survive as a people, they would need a new economy and education for that economy.

The Bethabara [Carolina] Diary of the Moravians for April 9, 1763, contains an entry concerning the reported desire of the Cherokee Chief Altakulla-Kulla, or The Little Carpenter, for "better instruction" for his people. The Little Carpenter intended to ask the Government for a minister to the Cherokees.1

On the occasion of their trip to England in 1765, several Cherokees evinced a desire for the white man's education while trying to have arrested the white man's encroachment on their lands. In an interview in London with the Board of Trade and Plantations to complain against the white intrusion, the Cherokees also employed the opportunity "to express their surprise, that, having often heard of learned persons being sent to instruct them in the knowledge of things, none had appeared; and to entreat, that some such men might soon be sent among them to teach them writing, reading, and other

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things."2 The Cherokees were assured that their requests would be conveyed to the king.

Although the plea of the Cherokees for education brought no direct results from the British government, the account of their request as printed in the papers attracted the attention of a German missionary, John Daniel Hammerer.3 A Lutheran, born in Alsace, Hammerer had left his native country because of civil and religious oppression, and had been living in England for more than a decade when he published a plan for "civilizing" the North American Indians.4 He advocated a scheme by which they the Indians might be made acquainted with, and enabled to obtain and enjoy, the Conveniences and Benefits of a social Life, taught Agriculture, and some of the most useful Arts, and instructed in the Principles of sound Knowledge; by which their Manners might be humanized, a rational Submission to wholesome Laws and Regulations introduced, and their Minds prepared for the Reception of moral Virtues and Christian Doctrine; by which, in fine, they might be fitted to intermarry with our Planters, and become profitable Members of the British Commonwealth, and faithful Subjects to his Majesty and the Laws of these Realms.5

Hammerer laid down a few general principles to govern the civilizing process: the work should be carried on among the Indians themselves, especially since the fondness of the Indians for their children would keep the parents from sending a sufficient number of children away from home to make the undertaking a success; the missionaries should be intelligent, able and above reproach; and the process itself should be progressive, "setting out from plain and easy Beginnings, and proceeding, as these seem to answer or promise Success, to greater Objects."6

Hammerer's plan, it should be noted, laid great stress upon vocational education, a feature which was to be widely adopted by the various mission boards in the Nineteenth century, and which was to be the core of the Indian education policy of the United States government. For his plan, Hammerer was probably largely indebted to the German Realschule, which during his lifetime had developed the idea of practical training. Whether he had taken another of his ideas from Comenius or not, one finds in Hammerer's plan something which his German predecessor had advocated a century before—the philosophy of education by progressive stages.

According to Hammerer's plan, after the groundwork had been laid by the teachers, each was to have a young man as an

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assistant, and in addition, a number of skilled tradesmen, such as a smith, carpenter, mason and husbandman, each capable of teaching his trade to the young Indians. Included in the plan was instruction for girls also, with competent women to be employed to teach needlework, home management "and other Employments fit for Women and Girls." Finally, some boys and girls were to assist as apprentices, "to supply Deficiencies, and to lead on and tame the rude and undisciplined Minds of the Indian Youths."7

Originally, Hammerer had planned to pursue his experiment with the Creeks,8 and was preparing to sail for the colonies when he read of the desire of the Cherokees for instruction.9 When the Cherokees embarked for home on March 2, 1765,10 they were accompanied by Hammerer. En voyage, Hammerer learned some Cherokee, and succeeded also in teaching the Indians to write a fair hand.11

Before he left, a subscription had been promoted to assist Hammerer in beginning the experiment, and further assistance had been promised from influential sources if the experiment should show signs of success.12

Of significance is the indication that the Cherokee desire for instruction seems to have been as strong on the part of some of the) ordinary people as it was on the part of the leaders. This appears to be the case from the remark by Hammerer that "these Indians [whom he had accompanied from England], one of which had passed in England for a Chief and a Man of Authority in his Nation, were People of little Account."13

In view of the lack of authority of the Cherokees with whom he had come, Hammerer awaited The Little Carpenter, the Cherokee chief who was scheduled to arrive shortly at Williamsburg. The missionary's plan was encouraged by the Governor of Virginia, who bestowed upon Hammerer a bounty of forty pounds and recommended him to the Cherokee chief, since it was known that The Little Carpenter was seeking instruction for his people. Ham-

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merer was recommended also to Alexander Cameron,14 deputy to the southern superintendent of Indian Affairs, and a man of great influence among the Cherokees.15

In 1776, in reply to the United Brethren's query about a possible Moravian mission among the Cherokees, Hammerer, who had already been among them for a year, wrote that he expected a number of youths to live with him soon, presumably as students under his tutelage. In the meantime, Hammerer had been applying himself to the mastery of the Cherokee language.16 Whether Hammerer pursued his plan any further is unknown, since accounts are missing of his subsequent activity.

Unrest among the Indians as a repercussion of troubles between the French and English led to a postponement of the Moravian plans for the Cherokees.17

Although the Moravians and later missionaries were primarily interested in spreading the gospel, the Indians were chiefly concerned with obtaining education for their children, and were willing to tolerate missionary activities in exchange for instruction. In 1775 the Brethren were assured by a Cherokee chief stopping in Salem that their missionaries would be welcome, if the Brethren would also provide instruction for the Cherokee children.18 The Revolutionary War intervened to halt the plans of the Moravians. Although further attempts were begun soon after the end of the war,19 it was not until 1801 that a mission was actually established in the Cherokee country.

There are other evidences of the Cherokee striving for education before the Revolutionary War. In 1822 Daniel S. Butrick, Cherokee missionary, was told by an old woman, the wife of a Cherokee chief, that "when she was a child, the old people used to say, that good people would come to instruct the Cherokees at some future period and that perhaps she and others of her age would live to see the day."20

Just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the Cherokees are reported as wishing to have educated for leadership

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among them, the Cherokee half-breed child of Alexander Cameron, deputy Indian agent stationed in their area.21

Before the Revolution, also, schools in the neighboring colonies were attended by some of the Cherokee boys, and a few of the chiefs had, as youths, received some education in the white man's schools.22 For example, Charles Renatus Hicks, patron of the mission educators, had in his youth received some education in Carolina, using his education later to good advantage and maintaining a "choice little library."23

Influence of inter-married whites. An important factor working in favor of education was the presence of a number of influential whites and mixed-bloods among the Cherokees. The whites who had married into the tribe, and who had adopted the Cherokee people as their people, were anxious to give their mixed-blood children what they considered the advantages of education, and therefore encouraged sentiment in its favor. They began to set an actual example by hiring their own private teachers.

Daniel Ross, a white merchant married to a mixed-blood Cherokee, is credited with having started the first school in the Cherokee Nation.24 Eager to educate his large family, Ross planned to remove to a place in Georgia where he had purchased land, then gave up his plan and decided to establish a school on his existing premises. He traveled six hundred miles from his residence to Maryville, Tennessee to employ a Mr. George Barbee Davis as instructor to his children.25

However, for any white person to enter the Cherokee country, the permission of the native council was necessary. In debating Ross's petition, some of the council members expressed opposition to any of the customs of the whites, while others argued that it was now necessary for the Cherokees to have interpreters and others among them who were acquainted with the improvements to be found among the whites. The latter point of view prevailed, and, towards the close of the eighteenth century, Daniel Ross opened the nation's first school, the school which was to lay the educational foundation for John Ross's long and eventful career as a

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leader of the Cherokee people, and which has been described as "the beginning of a new era in the history of the American aborigines."26 Later, John Ross and his brother Lewis were sent for advanced study to an academy at Kingston, Tennessee.27

External Influences. Several groups outside the nation in addition to the Moravians were interested in the encouragement of education in the Cherokee Nation, after the Revolutionary War. Dartmouth College planned in 1799 to educate a number of young Cherokees without expense to them, and to have the instruction given, not at Dartmouth, but in the Cherokee country, so that the youths might "not entirely forget the simplicity of their own manners nor inculcate the depraved habits of bad white people."28 The plan proposed the teaching of the vocational arts—"the useful branches of education"—and also "the finer arts and religion."29 Although the Cherokees agreed,30 the Scotch Mission Society, whose funds were to be used, suspected the financial integrity of President Wheelock of Dartmouth, and the school was not established.31

The Quakers during this decade urged the Cherokees to abandon their ancient ways, including hunting, and instead, "to employ themselves in tilling the ground, learning useful trades, and get proper schoolmasters to teach their children, that they might be brought up to love and obey the great and good Spirit who made them."32 A copy of the Quaker message, delivered when they visited the Quakers in Philadelphia on February 19, 1792, was forwarded to President Washington before its deliverance to the Cherokees. Tobias Lear, the President's secretary, assured the Quakers that the contents of the proposed message were approved since the talk "contains the same friendly sentiments with which he Washington has himself endeavoured to impress these people."33

Indeed President Washington had sought to impress the Indians with the desirability of changing their habits, and of becoming a "civilized" race. This policy was not only Washington's, but it was to constitute the policy of the whole government of the United States for a long time to come. Even before the government began urging them to adopt certain features of the white civilization, many

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Cherokees had themselves expressed a wish for them. Before the Revolution they had already learned some of the handicraft and mechanical skills of the whites, and had expressed a desire for further instruction, as indicated elsewhere in this study. The United States government, with its own purpose well fixed in mind, lent a willing ear.

Conclusion. The Cherokees during the eighteenth century manifested a desire for the white man's education, the initiative coming partly from the inter-married whites and the more progressive Cherokees, and partly from the persuasions of the missionaries and the government. The successive cessions to the whites of large sections of land, and the encroachments of the border whites on the rest of the land, brought about the depletion of the game supply, the most important source of sustenance and clothing. The Cherokees, beginning to realize that a change in the basic economy must eventually be effected if they were to survive as a people, sought to have their children educated in preparation for a new economy. In this way they were encouraged by the inter-married whites, who sought the advantages of education for there own children, and by the missionaries and the government, whose motives will be discussed presently. Although several attempts were made to establish mission schools in the Cherokee Nation, the efforts proved unsuccessful. A private school was finally established at the close of the century despite opposition, the school providing the entering wedge for the many schools which were to be opened in the nation during the following century.

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