CN continues support of Moravian Archives
An undated map of Springplace, Georgia, where Moravian missionaries documented their daily encounters with Cherokees in the 1800s. The map was used to help find foundations in 2005 with ground-penetrating radar. MORAVIAN ARCHIVES
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Tucked away among many of the German scripts of 18th-century Moravian missionaries at the Moravian Archives are perhaps the earliest and longest-running accounts of daily life among the Cherokees. And since 2008, the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses combined have donated $200,000 to the archives to ensure that those accounts are translated and published.
So far seven volumes in a book series have been published and more are expected.
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Jack Baker, former Tribal Councilor and current National Trail of Tears Association president, recently toured the Moravian Archives and visited with staff about the production of a book series called “Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees.”
According to a CN press release, the two saw the process of translating the German writings to English and visited historical sites that tell the story of early Cherokees and their interactions with Moravian missionaries.
“Anytime the Cherokee Nation has an opportunity to help reveal and preserve the story of our people, we want to do so, and our partnership with the Moravian Archives is a unique opportunity to do that,” Hoskin said. “These diaries, letters and reports made by the Moravian missionaries tell us what it was like among Cherokee communities up through the Trail of Tears in 1838, and further translation could uncover stories from the Civil War era and beyond.”
Hoskin called the records “invaluable” and said it is clear that the Moravians were “supporters of the Cherokees 200 years ago.”
The Moravian Church is a Protestant branch with roots in what is today Germany, where early church members gathered to avoid religious persecution in their native Moravia. By the mid-1700s, they had established mission outposts among Native Americans, with the first mission among the Cherokees in 1801 at Springplace in modern-day Georgia.
Baker said Cherokees allowed the mission largely because they saw an opportunity for their children to receive education from the Moravians.
Baker and CN citizen Anna Smith, a Winston-Salem Moravian, founded the Cherokee Moravian Historical Association in 2005 to bring attention to Cherokee history found within the 200-year-old Moravian recordings.
“The Moravians became great friends to the Cherokees,” Baker said. “They recorded eyewitness accounts of treaty negotiations, of our Tribal Council meetings and of day-to-day life. Their insight gives us a look at these items in our history that we would not otherwise have. The records were written in an archaic— and since then, greatly altered—style of German script, which was later banned from being taught in Germany. The fact that fewer and fewer can read it today adds to the significance of getting these documents translated.”
Moravian missionaries became advocates against the Cherokees’ removal in the 1830s. They traveled ahead of the Cherokees and prepared a “new Springplace” mission north of modern-day Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Danish Lutherans took over the property in 1902 and it survives today as Oaks Indian Mission in Oaks.
“I am so grateful that with the Cherokee Nation’s help we can share new details of the struggles and tragedies that strengthened and preserved the Cherokee identity and community, much of which their friends in the Moravian community sought to avoid, then mitigate and comfort,” J. Eric Elliott, Moravian Archives interim archivist, said.
The Moravian Archives staff has been translating and compiling books that include photographs, maps and other records with the CN’s support and additional funding by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Moravian Historical Association, the Wachovia Historical Society and Friends of Moravian Archives. The series is a publication of Cherokee Heritage Press in Tahlequah and is distributed by the University of Oklahoma Press.
For more information on the Moravian Archives or to buy the “Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees” volumes, visit www.moravianarchives.org