InstructorsStudentsReviewersAuthorsBooksellers Contact Us
Access Author Profile Pages by:
 Resource Centers
Textbook Site for:
The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Elias Boudinot (Cherokee)
(c. 1802-1839)

Buck Watie, who was later to adopt the name Elias Boudinot, was born about 1802 in the Cherokee Nation in Georgia, the oldest son of Oo-watie and his wife Susanna Reese. Buck, or Gallegina, grew up during a time of rapid and sometimes violent change in the Cherokee Nation. Instead of the traditional Cherokee upbringing, Gallegina was sent to a Moravian mission school at Spring Place, Georgia, in 1811, where he received an education in the practices and values of the white society. There, the young Cherokee was taught reading, writing, arithmetic, religion, geography, and history in addition to vocational skills such as farming in the manner of white settlers.

In 1817, Buck was one of a group of Indian students chosen to attend the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions school at Cornwall, Connecticut. On the way to the school, the party stopped at the home of Elias Boudinot, president of the American Bible Society and a supporter of the Cornwall School. Buck Watie enrolled as Elias Boudinot, after the Cherokee custom of adopting the name of a benefactor. Boudinot remained at the school until 1826. In that year, he married Harriet Ruggles Gold, a white woman, of Cornwall.

In spring, 1826, Boudinot was sent on a tour of the eastern United States by the General Council of the Cherokee Nation to solicit donations for a national academy and for printing equipment. It was during this tour that he delivered his famous Address to the Whites. The trip was successful, and after a brief stint as teacher at the Hightower mission in the Cherokee Nation, Boudinot was asked to become the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper published by American Indians. Publication of the newspaper was made possible by the acquisition of a press and types in both the Roman alphabet and the Cherokee syllabary paid for with funds raised on Boudinot’s tour. It was also supported by the American Board, which was convinced by Samuel Austin Worcester to do so. Worcester was a missionary with whom Boudinot collaborated in translations of the New Testament and a Cherokee hymnal. After its first appearance in February, 1828, the newspaper was distributed not only in the Cherokee Nation, but in the eastern United States and in Europe as well. While some parts of it were printed in Cherokee, much of the content was in English and dealt with news of Cherokee progress in farming, education, and industry.

While the Phoenix was a news medium to inform its local readers, it was also a propaganda tool used to persuade the larger society of the strides toward civilization, that is, assimilation, being taken by the Indian nation. The Cherokees needed such persuasion in 1828, too, because of the encroachments of whites from Georgia on Indian lands, especially after the discovery of gold there. A special militia group, the Georgia Guard, had been started to patrol the Cherokee land claimed by the state. The Guard engaged in a policy of harassment of the Indians designed to encourage their emigration to the West. Georgia had a strong ally in their cause, the federal government, which passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Provisions of the Act called for the removal of eastern Indians to lands west of the Mississippi. Like most of the Cherokees, at first Boudinot resisted such a move, arguing that the Cherokees had adapted to white civilization and should be allowed to remain on their lands and preserve their political integrity.

But as pressures from Georgia and the federal government continued, Boudinot concluded that the only way the nation could be saved was to remove to the West. Accordingly, he and other Cherokees with similar views signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, providing for the trade of Cherokee lands in the East for land in Indian Territory. The treaty was opposed by the majority of Cherokees, many of whom continued to refuse to move. When the government sent soldiers to enforce the treaty, the result was the Trail of Tears, the mass migration of the Cherokees in the winter of 1838–39, which resulted in death for many and suffering for all. On June 22, 1839, a group of Cherokees killed Boudinot at Park Hill, Indian Territory, in revenge for his having signed the treaty. On the same day his relatives Major Ridge and John Ridge, both of whom had signed the New Echota Treaty, were killed as well.

Boudinot was an eloquent speaker for his people. The rhetoric and persuasive language of his Address are a forecast of the propagandistic style of his editorials in the Cherokee Phoenix. His greatest significance in Cherokee letters rests in his editorship and in his work as a translator of English works into Cherokee.
James W. Parins
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

In the Heath Anthology
An Address to the White (1826)

Other Works

Cultural Objects
There are no Cultural Objects for this author.
Would you like to add a Cultural Object?

There are no pedagogical assignments or approaches for this author.


Elias Boudinot: A North Georgia Notable
Brief biography focusing on Boudinot's effect on the Cherokee Nation.

Native American Authors
Information about and links to Boudinot's writings.

Secondary Sources

Ralph Henry Gabriel, Elias Boudinot, Cherokee, and His America, 1941

Handbook of Native American Literature, 1996

Frankie Hutton and Barbara Straus Reed, eds., Outsiders in 19th-Century Press History: Multicultural Perspectives, 1995

Letters and Other Papers Relating to Cherokee Affairs; Being in Reply to Sundry Publications Authorized by John Ross, 1837

Theda Perdue, ed., Cherokee Editor: The Writings of Elias Boudinot, 1983