Cherokee newspapers digital archives in progress
Sequoyah National Research Center Director Dr. Dan Littlefield looks at boxed copies of Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Advocate newspapers in the SNRC archives. The SNRC is a part of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has worked with an archive company to create digital archives of the two newspapers. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Annette Kikomeko, an Innovative Document Imaging digitizer, scans copies of the Navajo Times newspaper. Her work is part of a project to scan and create digital archives of some tribal newspapers located in the Sequoyah National Research Center archives at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In late 2018, Cherokee Phoenix staff will have access to digital files of Phoenix and Cherokee Advocate newspapers thanks to a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Adam Matthew digital publishing company.
Two digitizers arrived at the UALR in September to scan the newspapers archived by the Sequoyah National Research Center, which is part of the UALR.
For the historic Phoenix, published from 1828-34, Adam Matthew worked with the Newberry Library in Chicago, which has some hard copies of original issues.
“We don’t have the hard copies here. They (Adam Matthew) already did (scanned) that for another project. They are going to include those with the more recent Cherokee Phoenix that we’ve got here,” SNRC archivist Erin Fehr said. “We have the original Phoenix, but only have it on microfilm. We don’t have the hard copies. Those are extremely rare. Because of our agreement with Adam Matthew, we are getting access to those historic ones as well, and with them being available digitally, they will be easier to search.”
She said it’s difficult to search for information on microfilm because one has to search the film one item or article at a time.
The Phoenix is the Cherokee Nation’s official newspaper. It used to be called the Advocate. The Phoenix’s creation in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council was part of an assimilation process by tribal leaders. They believed if they lived like their white neighbors in Georgia – building schools, businesses, government offices, modern homes and having a newspaper – that perhaps they would be accepted and allowed to stay on their northern Georgia lands.
The Phoenix was the first Native American newspaper published in North America on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Georgia. It was also the first bilingual newspaper, printed in Cherokee using Sequoyah’s syllabary, and in English. The Phoenix was silenced on May 31, 1834, after the CN could no longer fund it.
The tribe’s assimilation tactic did not work. In 1830, the U.S. government approved the Indian Removal Act, which forced tribes east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
Following the removal of Cherokee people to Indian Territory in 1838-39, Cherokee legislators approved an act establishing the Advocate on Oct. 25, 1843. On Sept. 26, 1844, the Advocate’s first issue was printed, in Cherokee and English, in the Supreme Court building (still located south of the Cherokee Capital Building in Tahlequah). Advocate production was intermittent between 1853 and 1906 due to a lack of funding.
The Advocate returned after the Cherokee government was re-established in 1975. The newspaper was printed from 1977 to 2000. In 2000, the newspaper was renamed the Phoenix.
Annette Kikomeko, of Innovative Document Imaging in New Jersey, works in the SNRC using a large scanner to scan the Phoenix and other Native American newspapers such as the Navajo Times. She scans the newspapers at a high resolution and saves them as a Tagged Image File or TIF. Adam Matthew has contracted with IDI to scan the newspapers.
“Every week we send a hard drive to New Jersey for processing. They will crop the images, they will TIF them, and they will do stitching if necessary because some of them (pages) are oversized. If text runs over to the next page it has to be stitched into one, so we do that in New Jersey,” Kikomeko said.
She said the scanned color files would be shared with the UALR after scanning is completed and includes 400 issues of the Phoenix and Advocate. Issues scanned span from 1977 to 2014. Those 400 issues include about 8,400 images, she said.
“We have issues for each and every year from 1977 to 2014. We also digitized Cherokee Voices (newspaper, 1976). It’s just a collection of 84 images and six documents,” she said.
Kikomeko said she began scanning the Cherokee newspapers on Sept. 26 and finished on Oct. 16.
She and the other IDI digitizer will work at the UALR through February to scan 180,000 images of tribal newspapers that include the Hopi Action and Indian Trader.
Adam Matthew, based in the United Kingdom, will provide the UALR and the Phoenix, as well as some tribal colleges, access to the digital newspaper files when completed in September.
“It’s going to be very nice to have more access to the actual articles. If you type in something like Veterans Day, for instance, you would be able to look at everything talking about Veterans Day for all of the newspapers,” Fehr said.