Many may be surprised to learn that there were Native American newspapers as early as 1828, but The Cherokee Phoenix started publishing in 1828 and continued until 1834. The first issue was written partly in Cherokee and partly in English. It included a copy of the Cherokee Nation Constitution as well as general interest stories and opinion pieces.
Chronicling America has within its collection fourteen Native American newspapers covering most of the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Each of the Native American newspapers has an “About the Newspaper” page showing the dates of publication, any succeeding titles and links to all of the front pages available through Chronicling America. In addition, some of the “About” pages contain essays that discuss the history of the newspaper, topics or events typically covered by the newspaper, the ownership of the paper, and the political leanings of the paper.
Ask students to:
- Choose a newspaper and read one of the issues. What are some of the important topics covered in the paper? How much of the paper is written in a Native American language? What can they learn about life in the community from reading the newspaper? Who owns the companies advertising in the paper? If the paper has a historical essay, encourage the students to read it. What in the description surprises them?
- Choose two different newspapers and look at issues published on the same day or during the same week. What similarities and differences do they see in the reporting and coverage of stories? Do the newspapers cover just local activities or national events ? How do they cover the events? What would students expect them to cover that they don’t?
- Compare one of the Native American newspapers with another from the same state. What similarities and differences do the students see? If a major event took place how does each newspaper cover it? Where is bias or a specific point of view evident in the reporting? Try this with another newspaper representing a different population. What differences do they see in the reporting or coverage of specific topics or events?
For more Native American Heritage Month resources, explore the heritage month portal.
How will you and your students commemorate Native American Heritage Month? Share your ideas in the comments.