Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Daughters of the Seminaries: Re-Landscaping History through the Composition Courses at the Cherokee National Female Seminary

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Daughters of the Seminaries: Re-Landscaping History through the Composition Courses at the Cherokee National Female Seminary

Article excerpt

Prologue: Locating Our Writing in Dusty Boxes

Driving down a rural, dusty road on my way to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, dur- ing the waning daylight of oranges, pinks, and purples was at once a familiar drive from my youth as well as a trip motivated by that familiar research itch. That motivation compelled me to spend the next few days buried in the archives of the library at Northeastern State University researching the his- tories of the Cherokee National Female and Male Seminaries. Like so many other Cherokee, my family had been removed from their homes in Tennessee and Georgia, relocated west to Indian Territory, and eventually settled in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation. When I was a kid in Oklahoma, summer days meant traveling back to these places, spending time fishing, driving down country roads, wandering around the ghost town of Centralia, where my grandparents grew up, and listening to their stories. During these times, I learned about my relatives, my heritage, and Cherokee history and our connection to the seminaries. If we weren't fishing or sitting around the house during a hot summer day, we were visiting museums. As I roamed through the Cherokee Heritage Center, gazing up at the last three remaining pillars of the original seminary building in Park Hill, Oklahoma, I would search for my fam- ily 's roots in the museum corners. Beyond the museum displays, what I knew of the seminary was grounded in the stories about my great-grandmother, who had been a student there. Each time I saw her faded diploma and other papers from the seminary, I understood that documents like these were kept long after she had passed as a source of pride for our family. These moments and stories kept coming back to me as I made this particular drive. With the stories of my great-grandmother close at hand and the famil- iar landscape out the windows, I came to the archives with a desire to research hints of a story that spoke to the histories of rhetoric and composition as well as challenged the historical narratives in our discipline that have structured our familiar locations of writing today.

As I walked into the archives and special collections that hot, Oklahoma morning, I came to listen to the stories that still remain of a place of Indigenous education and writing during the nineteenth century-the Cherokee Female Seminary. Despite the forced erasure of these Indigenous histories, these stories and documents still remain and still speak to us. My story falls into such categories as revisionist history, disciplinary landscaping, and archival research; however, given that this story is also steeped in Indigenous teachings, locations, and culture, my aim is not only to tell a story of composition teach- ing in the Cherokee seminaries but also to practice the act of storytelling as an indigenously situated research method approach to archival research. Our locations of writing have been landscaped by the annals of history. As we listen to these landscaped locations buried in the archives with our minds attuned to the cultural locations as well, we can turn our labors to re-landscaping what has been pruned away. The story I am going to tell here sits at the intersections of colonization, acculturation, and erasure, but also opens up the spaces of disciplinary history. This story offers an often-overlooked counternarrative to the available narratives of current-traditionalism and Harvard that appear to be the prominent history of nineteenth-century composition history.

The changes in educational philosophies and rhetorical theories in nine- teenth-century America occurred alongside the political upheavals and con- tinued colonization of Native Americans through broken treaties, forced removals, assimilation, and cultural erasure. Situ- ated at these intersections is the Cherokee Female Seminary, whose history is tied to political history of the Cherokee Nation. Af- ter the actualization of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 with the Trail of Tears, the relo- cated Cherokee Nation began the process of rebuilding in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). …

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