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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

5. Masculine

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Activities: Author Activities

Cherokee Memorials - Teaching Tips

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  • Scholars have noted that the official memorial of the Cherokee Council employs pointed, though unstated, references to the language and logic of the Declaration of Independence. Most powerfully, by appealing to the ideals of independence and of natural human rights, the official memorial effectively points out the disjunction between American rhetoric of freedom and equality and the government's despotic treatment of the Cherokee. Ask students to consider the relationship between the Cherokee memorials and foundational American documents such as the Declaration of Independence. You might have students examine the Cherokee syllabary, and then discuss the way the Cherokee might be considered a culture in transition between oral and written expression. The Cherokee were the first tribe in the United States to develop a complete syllabary--that is, a written script that included characters for the vowel and consonant sounds of their language, thus enabling them to write in Cherokee.

  • In its opening paragraphs, the "Memorial of the Cherokee Citizens" uses less formal language than the "Memorial of the Cherokee Council." It is sometimes characterized as reflecting traditional Cherokee oratorical practices in its rhetoric and language, while the Council's memorial is written in the conventional style of eighteenth-century government documents. Yet, by its closing, the Memorial of the Cherokee Citizens adopts more formal, legalistic language and sounds quite similar to the memorial of the Council. Ask students to consider the shift in tone and language in the Memorial of the Cherokee Citizens. Why might the memorialists have chosen to close their petition on a more formal note? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two different styles at work in the memorial?

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