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Elias Boudinot — Big Name, Big Men

Elias Boudinot, Founding Father of the United States of America.

Elias Boudinot is a name so big it took THREE larger-than-life Americans—two of them major figures in Oklahoma History—to embody it. First was Elias Boudinot, technically the first American President as leader of the first Continental Congress during the War of Independence. A devout Christian, he also founded the American Bible Society, was one of George Washington’s most important and trusted chieftains, and sponsored a gifted young Christian Cherokee named Buck Watie to the Cornwall (CT) Foreign Mission School.


Elias Boudinot (Buck Watie), Cherokee leader and martyr.

Buck Watie—who in a custom of the day took on his mentor and benefactor’s name—blossomed into a leader at Cornwall and caused no small controversy when he wed one of the most sought after maidens in New England, the lovely young white Puritan Harriet Gold. Elias and Harriet returned to his Tennessee homeland to live amongst the Cherokees, and had six children. He co-founded the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, printed in alternating columns of English and Cherokee. He also waged a valiant battle against the sale of liquor by whites that was devastating his tribe. And as one of the wisest and most visionary men in America, he led a minority faction of Cherokees who settled in Indian Territory before the Trail of Tears, presciently recognizing that remaining in the tribal homeland would be the ruin of his people. For this, he was martyred by tribal foes when they arrived in present-day Oklahoma.


Elias C. Boudinot, Oklahoma Boomer and pioneer.

The third man of this great triumvirate was Elias’s (Buck’s) son Elias C. Boudinot. He demonstrated his competence as a young man, distinguishing himself in the Cherokee Mounted Rifles in the War Between the States, then representing his tribe in the Confederate Congress in Richmond. After the war, he controversially led the “Boomer” movement for American settlement in the sparsely-populated Indian Territory, and wrote a famous article entitled “A Call to America” that electrified the nation and helped trigger the massive migration to Indian Territory that prompted the land runs, then statehood. Challenging his fellow Cherokees to, in effect, get out in front of the oncoming railroads rather than get run over by them, he founded the town of Vinita en route to a successful career as a lawyer and entrepreneur.

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