Blog: Shawnee elder translates Baptist newspaper
"For a minute, this looked like a thrilling journalistic discovery: two surviving pages of the Shawnee Sun, which had a sporadic run between 1835 and 1844, making it the first periodical published in Kansas (before Kansas was even Kansas) and -- wow -- the first in the United States written entirely in an American Indian language!

Such illusions scattered as soon as I started reading James K. Beatty's article. As it turns out, of course, the Sun was nothing but a tool for missionaries trying to bring the Natives to Jesus.

Beatty's article, "Interpreting the Shawnee Sun: Literacy and Cultural Persistence in Indian Country, 1833-1841," is still interesting, even if Kansas History isn't exactly light reading. A Cliff's Notes version: In 1833, a Baptist missionary named Jotham Meeker hauled his printing press across the Mississippi River. Armed with "a sincere desire to translate Native languages into script," Meeker came up with a writing system -- an "esoteric orthography," Beatty calls it.

Helping Beatty decode the old writing was George Blanchard, an elder of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. This was the first time anyone had actually translated the newspaper into English."

Get the Story:
Kansas' first journos: Indians? (Pitch.Com 3/4)