Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Brainerd Journal: A Mission to the Cherokees, 1817-1823

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Brainerd Journal: A Mission to the Cherokees, 1817-1823

Article excerpt

The Brainerd Journal: A Mission to the Cherokees, 1817-1823. Edited and introduced by Joyce B. Phillips and Paul Gary Phillips. Indians of the Southeast. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, c. 1998. Pp. xx, 584. $55.00, ISBN 0-8032-3718-9.)

Between 1817 and 1838, when the Cherokee were torn from their homes and forced west, an earnest band of northeastern missionaries labored in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, to shed the light of the gospel and European education on the Cherokee Nation. Undertaken with the blessing of the Cherokee Council and the federal government, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions' (ABCFM) "civilizing" mission eventually touched every corner of the nation with its network of schools, blacksmiths, mills, and circuit-riding evangelists. Recorded at the missionaries' home base, named after eighteenth-century missionary David Brainerd, the Brainerd Journal is a priceless chronicle of Cherokee life; American Protestant attitudes, techniques, and struggles; Cherokee-white relations; and frontier development in the early nineteenth century.

In the missionaries' entries, the Cherokees were active participants in their national affairs and the mission project, requesting schools and preaching stations until they were established in locations designated by the Indians. With the Cherokee Council requiring school attendance, prominent chiefs frequently visited to check on students' progress and behavior, telling them what they learn would benefit the nation. While women were still largely in control, fathers played increasingly prominent roles in children's welfare. After years of watching anxious, parents reclaim promising scholars as the Cherokee moved west and assuring principal Chief Pathkiller that the U.S. had the Cherokees' best interests in mind, in 1823 the missionaries heard that U.S. Commissioners had attempted to bribe the Council in order to obtain another land cession. In response, the outraged chiefs sent a delegation to discuss Cherokee grievances with the president. …

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