New Echota, Cher. Nation
March 15, 1830
Mr. Wm. S. Coodey
Dear Sir:- I cheerfully comply with your request, that I would forward to you a statement respecting the progress of improvement among your people, the Cherokees. Whatever might be said of the propriety or impropriety of Missionaries' discussing the question of the removal of the Indians, it can hardly be doubted that it is proper for any one to give a statement of what passes under his observation, in regard to the present condition of the tribes interested in that question. I shall not say any thing in this communication, which I shall be unwilling to have come before the public, accompanied with my proper signature, if occasion require.
Whatever deficiencies there may be in my statements, I shall use my utmost endeavour (sic) that nothing colored, nothing which will not bear the strictest scrutiny, may find a place.
It may not be amiss to state, briefly, what opportunities I have enjoyed of forming a judgment respecting the state of the Cherokee people. It was four years last October, since I came into the nation, during which time I have made it my home, having resided two years at Brainerd, and the remainder of the time at this place. Though I have not spent very much of the time in travelling, yet I have visited almost every part of the nation, except a section on the Northeast. Two annual sessions of the General Council have passed while I have been residing at the Seat of Government, at which times a great number of the people of all classes and from all parts are to be seen.
The statistical information which has been published respecting this nation I hope you have on hand, or will receive from some other source; goes far towards giving a correct it (sic) view of the state of the people. I have only to say, that, judging from what I see around me, I believe that a similar enumeration made the present year would show, by the comparison, a rapid improvement since the census was taken.
The printed constitution and laws of your nation, also, you doubtless have. They show your progress in civil polity. As far as my knowledge extends, they are executed with a good degree of efficiency, and their execution meets with not the least hinderance from anything like a spirit of insubordination among the people. Oaths are constantly administered in the courts of justice, and I believe I have never heard of an instance of perjury.
It has been well observed by others, that the progress of a people in civilizations is to be determined by comparing the present with the past. I can only compare what I see with what I am told has been.
The principal chief is about forty years of age. When he was a boy, his father procured him a good suit of clothes, in the fashion of the sons of civilized people; but he was so ridiculed by his mates as a white boy that he took off his new suit, and refused to wear it. The editor of the Cherokee Phoenix is twenty-seven years old. He well remembers that he felt awkward and ashamed of his singularity, when he began to wear the dress of a white boy. Now every boy is proud of a civilized suit, and those feel awkward and ashamed of their singularity who are destitute of it. At the last session of the General Council, I scarcely recollect having seen any members who were not clothed in the same manner as the white inhabitants of the neighboring States; and these very few, ( I am informed that the precise number was four) who were partially clothed in Indian style, were, nevertheless, very decently attired. The dress of civilized people is general throughout the nation. I have seen, I believe, only one Cherokee woman, and she an aged woman, away from her home, who was not clothed in at least a decent long gown. At home only one, a very aged woman, who appeared willing to be seen in original native dress; three or four, only, who had at their own houses dressed themselves in Indian style, but hid themselves with shame at the approach of a stranger. I am thus particular, because particularity gives more accurate ideas than general statements. Among the elderly men there is yet a considerable portion, I dare not say whether a majority or a minority, who retain the Indian dress in part. The younger men almost all dress like the whites around them, except that the greater number wear a turban instead of a hat, and in cold weather a blanket frequently serves for a cloak. Cloaks, however, are becoming common. There yet remains room for improvement in dress, but that improvement is making with surprising rapidity.
The arts of spinning and weaving, the Cherokee women generally, put in practice. Most of their garments are of their own spinning and weaving, from cotton the produce of their own fields; though considerable northern domestic, and much calico, is worn, nor is silk uncommon. Numbers of the men wear imported cloths, broadcloths (sic), 'c. and many wear mixed cotton and wool, the manufacture of their wives; but the greater part are clothed principally in cotton.
Except in the arts of spinning and weaving, but little progress has been made in manufactures. A few Cherokees, however are mechanics.
Agriculture is the principal employment and support of the people. It is the dependence of almost every family. As to the wandering part of the people, who live by the chase, if they are to be found in the nation, I certainly have not found them, nor even heard of them, except from the floor of Congress, and other distant sources of information. I do not know of a single family who depend, in any considerable degree, on game for support. It is true that deer and turkies (sic) are frequently killed, but not in sufficient numbers to form any dependence as the means of subsistence. The land is cultivated with very different degrees of industry; but I believe that few fail of an adequate supply of food. The ground is uniformly cultivated by means of the plough, and not as formerly, by the hoe only.
The houses of the Cherokees are of all sorts; from an elegant painted or brick mansion, down to a very mean log cabin. If we speak, however, of the mass of the people, they live in comfortable log houses, generally one story high, but frequently two; sometimes of hewn logs, and sometimes unhewn; commonly with a wooden chimney, and a floor of puncheons, or what a New England man would call slabs. Their houses are not generally well furnished, many have scarcely any furniture, though a few are furnished even elegantly, and many decently. Improvement in the furniture of their houses appears to follow after improvement in dress, but at present is making rapid progress.
As to education, the number who can read and write English is considerable, though it bears but a moderate proportion to the whole population. Among such, the degree of improvement and intelligence is various. The Cherokee language, as far as I can judge, is read and written by a large majority of those between childhood and middle age. Only a few who are much beyond middle age have learned.
In regard to the progress of religion, I cannot, I suppose, do better than to state, as nearly as I am able, the number of members in the churches of the several denominations. The whole number of native members of the Presbyterian churches is not far from 180. In the churches of the United Brethren are about 54. In the Baptist churches I do not know the number; probably as many as 50. The Methodists, I believe reckon in society, more than 800; of whom I suppose the greater part are natives. Many of the heathenish customs of the people have gone entirely, or almost entirely, into disuse, and others are fast following their steps. I believe the greater part of the people acknowledge the Christian religion to be the true religion, although many who make this acknowledgment know very little of that religion, and many others do no feel its power. Through the blessing of our God, however, religion is steadily, gaining ground.
But, it will be asked, is the improvement which has been described, general among the people, and are the full-blooded Indians civilized, or only the half-breeds? I answer that, in the description which I have given, I have spoken of the mass of the people, with out distinction. If it be asked however, what class are most advanced- I answer, as a general thing- those of mixed blood. They have taken the lead, although some of full blood are as refined as any. But, though those of mixed blood are generally in the van, as might naturally be expected, yet the whole mass of the people is on the march.
There is one other subject, on which I think it due to justice to give my testimony, whatever it may be worth. Whether the Cherokees are wise in desiring to remain here, or not, I express no opinion. But it is certainly just, that it should be known whether or not they do, as a body, wish to remain. It is not possible for a person to dwell among them without hearing much on the subject. I have heard much. It is said abroad, that the common people would gladly remove, but are deterred by the chiefs, and a few other influential men. It is not so. I say, with the utmost assurance, it is not so. Nothing is plainer, than that it is the earnest wish of the whole body of the people to remain where they are. They are not overawed by the chiefs. Individuals may be overawed by popular opinion but not by the chiefs. On the other hand, if there were a chief in favor of removal he would be overawed by the people. He would know that he could not open his mouth in favor of such a proposition, but on pain, not only of the failure of his re-election, but of popular odium and scorn. The whole tide of national feeling sets, in one strong and unbroken current, against a removal to the West.
Your sincere friend,
SAMUEL A. WORCESTER.