In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt sought to honor a man who he felt had made an immense contribution to his country. So, after much deliberation and research, he decided that the first American Indian who would be honored on a U.S. stamp should be Sequoyah of the Cherokee tribe.
In 1842, Sequoyah created a writing system for the Cherokee language from scratch. Prior to this invention, Native Americans could only read and write in English or Spanish. His alphabet is different than the Latin-based one used by Western Europeans because it was modeled after symbols from Cherokee pictographs. It’s been said that before his creation of their written language, there were 100 dialects among various tribes who spoke languages otherwise mutually unintelligible!
President Roosevelt honored him with an appearance on U.S. Postage stamp number 2391 on January 12th of 1907 as part of its “Famous American Indians Issue” series which celebrated native people who had made significant accomplishments in life like Sequoyah did.
He also holds distinction being one of four Americans whose likeness has appeared on a U.S. stamp more than once! Sequoyah’s vivacious spirit and quest for self-determination was honored not just by the United States, but also in his native Cherokee country where they named him “the man who made us free”
He died on March 17th 1843 at age 68 after a full life of service to his people. Sequoyah would be proud that he has achieved this dream of one day speaking freely with others through writing because it is what had always been close to his heart.
This story is about how an illiterate farmer became the first emblematic Indian to be featured on a US Postage Stamp that would make this then fledgling nation’s commitment to equality clear. The Famous American Indians Issue series which celebrated Native people who had made an impact on America’s culture, history and society.
An interesting detail is that it took three years for the letter “A” to be created by Sequoyah because he didn’t know how to make them so someone taught him while he drew letters in sand with a stick. The man who helped was his friend George Guess or Gist who later went back home and became one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians as well as a textile mill owner! So if you’re looking for a story about friendship between two very different people from completely separate worlds then this is your read!
The Famous American Indians Issue series which celebrated Native people who had made an impact on America’s culture, history and society also contained another special stamp that was a good example of how the U.S. Government has always been making efforts to honor Native Americans who have had an impact on America’s political and economic development:
This year marked 50 years since the first woman from any minority group in US history became honored with her own commemorative postage stamp- Dr Mary McLeod Bethune! She is most famous for being one of the key figures in the founding of Bethune-Cookman University.
She was a woman who came from very humble beginnings and became an educator, civil rights activist, suffragist, author and advisor to President Franklin D Roosevelt during World War II. Born on July 17th 1875 she grew up near Mayesville (now known as Sumter) South Carolina where her father was a slave owner until he freed his slaves before dying when she was just six years old.