The Cherokee leader Elias Boudinot first came to Connecticut in the 1820s to seek a formal western education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall. Born as Gallegina Uwati into a prominent Cherokee family in 1802, he was sent north with the permission of tribal elders in hopes that his western education would help the Cherokee successfully interact and negotiate with the United States government. During his journey from Georgia to Connecticut, Gallegina befriended Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, then president of the American Bible Society and former president of the Second Continental Congress. Gallegina asked the elder Boudinot for permission to use his name as his own, and after enrolling in the Foreign Mission School, the young Cherokee formally adopted the name Elias Boudinot.
Cornwall’s Foreign Mission School was founded in 1817 to educate young men from “heathen” (non-Christian) communities and convert them to Christianity in hopes that they would return to their homelands as missionaries. Over a hundred young scholars from Hawaii, south Asia, east Asia, and several Native American tribes attended the school between 1817 and 1826. Students endured a rigorous curriculum including classic languages, astronomy, physics, geography, and theology, alongside practical skill training like coopering and blacksmithing.