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‘Searching for Sequoyah’ details the life of a Cherokee legend on a personal level

His painstaking process of converting a complex language to writing, extensive travels to try to unite a displaced people and mysterious end in a country far from home are just a few facets of the story of Cherokee visionary Sequoyah.

Those who know the Cherokee tribe had a written language have almost certainly heard of or seen a likeness of its inventor, but until recently, there has been little widespread information about his personal life.

“Searching for Sequoyah,” a newly released, hour-long documentary airing on PBS, explores the individuality and intellect of the man who invented a syllabary and then distributed that 86-character system to a nation that had become far-flung.

Sequoyah traveled extensively to introduce his system and to encourage unity among the Cherokee people — a group that had endured the Trail of Tears and traveled from their homelands in the Southeastern United States to Oklahoma and even into Mexico.

As James Fortier, the project’s producer, director and cinematographer, points out, before the documentary, there had been no nationally distributed depiction of Sequoyah’s life, and the story of his personhood, not just his accomplishments, was “long overdue.”

“What we wanted to do was take viewers on a journey to replicate his journey … That’s what we attempted to do in one hour,” Fortier says.

A team taking shape

LeAnne Howe

LeAnne Howe, a writer and producer for the project, is a Choctaw Nation citizen with Cherokee lineage. She is a professor of English at the University of Georgia at present, and she and Fortier began discussing the possibility of a documentary about Sequoyah back in 2002 while working on another documentary for PBS, “Indian Diaries: Spiral of Fire.”

That project centered on the Eastern band of Cherokees today, but they realized as they ran across references to Sequoyah again and again that his story hadn’t been fully told and widely distributed. As Fortier recalled in an email to the Rome News-Tribune, “... that just seemed plain wrong, considering his accomplishments and his standing, not only in the Cherokee world, but sort of the larger ‘Indian Country’ world as well.”

Howe later moved to Georgia from a teaching position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, and she and Fortier picked up their Sequoyah discussions again in 2015. Vision Maker Media, a production company that provides support for American Indians, among other peoples, in making content for public broadcasting, provided research and development funding.

Joshua Nelson

The film crew began their travels, visiting descendants of Sequoyah, who also went by the English name of George Guess, in Oklahoma. The next four years saw them documenting the search for his grave in Mexico and backtracking to Venore, Tennessee, to film at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum among other locations.

Joshua Nelson, a Cherokee Nation citizen and an associate professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, lent his voice to the project as narrator and joined the physical search in numerous other locations for clues about Sequoyah’s journey.

A more detailed picture

So much of the earlier part of Sequoyah’s life is immortalized in recognitions of his achievements that the mysteries of how and exactly where he died often take a back seat.

“There is so much that was not known,” Howe says. “He was so mythologized.”

The production crew’s trek led to revelations that will likely be new to their viewership — details previous searchers had not been able to uncover, says Nelson.

As they made these discoveries, the team was able to put together a more detailed picture of Sequoyah’s character, and his tendency toward diplomacy became clearer.

Sequoyah likely traveled to Mexico to try to persuade Cherokee people — who had begun relocating there even before the Trail of Tears — to reunify with the larger Cherokee Nation, Nelson explains. The search for his burial place and confirmation of his travels became like following a path of breadcrumbs.

“There was all of this evidence of tribal activity. We were on the right trail,” Nelson says.

‘The stature that he deserves’

The documentary is also frank about a fact that is well-known within the Cherokee nation: Sequoyah’s intellect likely put him on the level of genius.

James Fortier

Sequoyah’s conversion of the sounds of the Cherokee language to written form consumed 12 years of his life, according to GeorgiaHistory.com. And accompanying that ability was the drive that led him to distribute the syllabary.

“We’re breaking a lot of stereotypes about people on a tribal scale,” Howe says, pointing out that genius within tribal communities isn’t always immediately recognized by the larger population.

Fortier says the documentary will help further Sequoyah’s historical standing as an individual.

“(It will) give him his rightful due, which didn’t really happen outside the Cherokee community,” he says. “He deserves much more than to be a footnote. This film is one part of the process of elevating him to the stature that he deserves.”


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Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force finds pounds of meth, silencers at Daniel Road home

Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force agents found “multiple pounds of methamphetamine,” digital scales, marijuana, gabapentin tablets and two silencers at a Daniel Road residence, reports stated.

According to jail reports, the items belonged to 55-year-old Ralph Edward Harris. Harris is charged with the felony trafficking methamphetamine, possession of meth, possession of meth with intent to distribute, possession of dangerous drugs and possession of suppressors.

He’s also facing misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and drug-related objects. Harris was being held in jail Wednesday with no bond set.

The arrest was one of several made by the task force this week:

♦ Jimmy Dewayne Towe, 55; Bobbi Lynette Jones, 50; and Tyson Voils, 46, had meth and smoking devices with meth residue at an East 20th Street residence.

All three individuals are charged with felony possession of meth and misdemeanor possession of drug-related objects. Towe’s bond was set at $5,700. Jones and Voiles were being held without bond Wednesday on probation violations.

♦ Dawson Trey Hall, 21, is accused of selling Oxycodone to Floyd County Sheriff’s Office informants on Oct. 21 and Nov. 4. He also had methamphetamine.

Hall is facing nine felony charges connected with the possession, intent to distribute and sale of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances. He’s also charged with misdemeanor possession of drug-related objects. He remained in jail Wednesday with no bond set.


Charles Wright, a first-grader at West End Elementary School


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Rome News-Tribune, others, suing tech giants Google and Facebook

Times-Journal Inc., the company that publishes the Rome News-Tribune, has filed a lawsuit against Google and Facebook stating that the tech giants have violated federal antitrust and monopoly laws.

Citing a 2020 U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee report concerning competition in digital markets, the lawsuit contends an agreement between the two companies to monopolize the market has had “a profound effect upon our country’s free and diverse press, particularly the newspaper industry.”

“Google monopolizes the market to such extent that it threatens the extinction of local newspapers across the country,” the complaint filed in U.S. District Court stated. “There is no longer a competitive market in which newspapers can fairly compete for online advertising revenue. Google has vertically integrated itself, through hundreds of mergers and acquisitions, to enable dominion over all sellers, buyers, and middlemen in the marketplace.”

Times-Journal Inc. also publishes the Marietta Daily Journal, Calhoun Times and Polk Standard-Journal alongside a group of newspapers primarily located in north Georgia.

The attorney generals in more than 40 states have also filed lawsuits against Google and Facebook, the filing states.

The primary focus of the suit is a deal between the two companies codenamed “Jedi Blue” in which Facebook agreed to not offer advertisers an opportunity to bid for prominent placement on its pages but use a Google ad server. In return, Google agreed to give Facebook preferential treatment.

“Google and Facebook, archrivals in the digital advertising market, conspired to further their worldwide dominance of the digital advertising market in a secret agreement codenamed ‘Jedi Blue,”’ the filing stated. “The two archrivals, who are sometimes referenced as operating a duopoly in the market, unlawfully conspired to manipulate online auctions which generate digital advertising revenue.”

That agreement, the lawsuit states, is just one of the many ways smaller media companies have been harmed by the tech giants’ actions.

The lawsuit joins at least 15 more filed by media companies around the country, according to a Law.com article. Those lawsuits also accuse Google and Facebook of monopolizing the digital advertising market to the detriment of multiple smaller local news companies.

According to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee report titled “Stacking the Tech: Has Google Harmed Competition in Online Advertising?” newspaper ad revenue dropped from $49 billion in 2006 to $16.5 billion in 2017.

At the same time, Google’s ad revenue has increased by approximately the same measure.

As a result the existence of the newspaper industry is threatened, the filing states.

Nearly 60% of newspaper jobs disappeared — approximately 30,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — between 1990 and 2016.

“And almost 20% of all newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, and countless others have become shells — or ‘ghosts’ — of themselves, according to the recent report by the University of North Carolina,” the filing states.

“There is a clear correlation between layoffs and buyouts in the newspaper industry with the growth in market share for the duopoly — Google and Facebook,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit states the companies’ family of products, including Facebook Blue, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp have “harmed the quality and availability of journalism.”


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3 found guilty of murder in killing of Ahmaud Arbery

All three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

The convictions for Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

The case was prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s office.

Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.

Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.

“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged the men with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.

The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley soon after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.

Jurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again to the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.

The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.

On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”

He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.

The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men.

Defense attorneys contended the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.


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