Another instructive experience occurred when I came across a slim volume published by Bacone College’s Indian University Press. It was titled A Cherokee Vision of Eloh’, edited by Howard L. Meredith and Virginia E. Milan, with Wesley Proctor, translator. Proctor translated the original English text into the Cherokee language. The tiny book that made such an enormous impact on me is hard to find today. So with the help of friends Richard Mack Bettis and Brian Wilkes, I have here transcribed and published the original English language text. It appeared in the Indian Chieftain, a Vinita, Oklahoma newspaper, in 1892, under the caption “Red Man’s Origin.” Thanks to the Oklahoma Historical Society, images are available on the World Wide Web today.
We do not have anything “more original” or “more authentic” or “anterior” to “Red Man’s Origin”—not in fixed form. No version of the story has been recorded in Cherokee, only what was re-created from the English by Proctor many years later. “Red Man’s Origin” is an English language newspaper article, simply that. We must be content with the form in which it survives, and with the fact that it does survive. It reproduces the words of George Sahkiyah (“Soggy”) Sanders as translated by William Eubanks. Sanders was a fullblood who spoke little English and could only read and write in Cherokee. A friend of Sam Smith, he lived in the Saline District, where he became a senator. He also served as a member of the Cherokee Commission to the Dawes Commission. William Eubanks (1841-1921) was the son of a white adopted father and Cherokee mother. His Cherokee name was Unenudi. Acknowledged as one of the outstanding Cherokee intellectuals of the late nineteenth century, he used the pen-name Cornsilk in his newspaper articles, many of them of a political or anthropological cast. He was a member of the Keetoowah Priestly Society and a translator for the Cherokee Nation until it was dissolved in 1906.
I have made minimal editorial alterations in the spelling and punctuation, and nothing has been left out of the original article by Cornsilk. Since this is our only testimony to Sanders’ original Cherokee, the text is presented as closely as possible to the format in which it was published in 1892. A few explanatory notes have been provided. I thank Brian Wilkes for sharing interpretations of Cherokee words. For any mistakes, however, I bear full responsibility.