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Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


This thesis is concerned with the relationship between Elias Boudinot, a mixed-blooded Cherokee, and the missionaries to the Cherokee Nation. Elias was born into a culture undergoing significant changes as the Cherokee struggled to modify their cultural practices to resemble those of the United States in a bid to maintain their territorial sovereignty, changes collectively known as the acculturation movement. This thesis begins its study by looking at the developments in the Cherokee Nation that led to the rise of the mixed-blooded Cherokee whose lineage descended from European and Cherokee stock. The mixed-blooded Cherokee led the tribe through the significant developments of the acculturation movement including permitting missionaries to teach in the Cherokee Nation. Elias Boudinot’s close relationship to missionaries is traced through his education in mission schools in Georgia and Connecticut to his role as editor of the Cherokee Phoenix. As the sole editor of the Phoenix, Boudinot’s work often kept him working all hours and although he resided in the Cherokee Nation with his tribal brethren, his workload was such that he was rarely able to engage in cultural practices of the tribe, instead becoming closer to the missionaries such as Samuel Worcester who aided him in the publishing of the Phoenix. This cultural divide between Boudinot and his fellow Cherokee, whom he diligently served and advocated for in the pages of the Phoenix, is at the heart of the thesis as it examines how this separation from his fellow tribesmen and his closeness to the missionaries influences his decision regarding Cherokee Removal. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court case of Worcester v. Georgia, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the most prominent missionary organization in the Cherokee Nation, withdrew their support for the Cherokee remaining on their tribal homeland and instead advocating a removal to west of the Mississippi . As many of his professional contacts and personal friends were members of the ABCFM, Boudinot’s confidence in the Cherokee’s position wavered and he was forced to decide between allying with his tribe or with the missionaries.

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