published Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Coverage of Cherokees subject of media research

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    Jim Ogden is a ranger and historian with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

When Pamela Dorsett began researching newspaper accounts of what happened to the Cherokee people in the years following the Trail of Tears, she got more than she bargained for.

“What I found was not what I expected to find,” Dorsett told a roomful of journalism experts and professors Saturday at UTC’s Symposium on 19th Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression.

News coverage of the Cherokees from 1839 through 1846 centered on death, the brutality and the “savagery” Cherokees perpetrated on themselves, she said.

“There were assassinations that occurred within weeks of their arrival [in what is now Oklahoma], and [reprisals] continued for years” because of the political factions among the Cherokees.

The divisions all centered around the removal, brought about by the signing of the Treaty of New Echota, which sold native land in the Southeast.

That treaty was signed by members of the Treaty Party, including John Ridge, Major Ridge and Elias Boudinot. It was opposed by members of the National Party, which included Principal Chief John Ross.

When the Ridges and Boudinot were assassinated, “depending on what paper you read, they were executed, or murdered, or they just died,” Dorsett said. “There were, right off the bat, differences in the coverage of these assassinations.”

Arkansas papers, those nearest to Indian territory, sensationalized the violence and “seemed to mirror the images many whites had of Indians as violent, uncivilized savages,” said Dorsett, a psychologist who chose her study subject at Georgia State University because of what she called an unsubstantiated family story of Cherokee blood.

The Arkansas papers ignored stories of profiteering and fraud perpetrated by whites on the Indians, Dorsett said.

Northern papers appeared to provide a more balanced discussion of issues and positions, and they were more likely to be critical of the U.S. government’s treatment of the Cherokees.

Southern papers included accounts critical of the Cherokees’ treatment, but they also often included reports about the states’ dissatisfaction with U.S. protection of citizens from possible Cherokee violence.

Jim Ogden is a ranger and historian with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which will oversee the Moccasin Bend Archeological District.

He told the audience at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that public opinion here was not clamoring for the removal of the Cherokee people, who had become part of the community.

“The state of Georgia had to draft the militiamen to be used in the roundup of the Cherokee in Georgia,” Ogden said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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Haiku said...

The Cherokee didn't exist of just one tribal group with a single thought and idea. There were, still are, different Native American Indians under the heading of Cherokee. Just as there was for the Apache, Navajo and other tribes. Some Cherokee tribes owned slaves, while others didn't believe one man had the right to own another as property. Some fought on the side of the Confederacy. Others didn't. On the story of the Trail Of Tears, we often leave out that part about slaves owned by some Cherokee traveled with them, carrying their belongings to the land where they would settle.

It is no more correct to say Native American Cherokee Indians killed fellow Native American Cherokee Indians, implying they killed one another, so waht?, than it is to say Africans sold fellow Africans into the slave trade. At some point history will say Iraqis massacred fellow Iraqis. None of which is at all true. They were different people with different ideas, ways of life who happened to be living under the same or similar title, from the same continent or had the same skin color. We rarely if ever hear the term used for Europeans killing fellow Europeans in times of war, uprising or during the German occupation of European countries and the holocaust.

November 14, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.
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