Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Booknotes: Cherokee Civil Warrior

New Arrival:
Cherokee Civil Warrior: Chief John Ross and the Struggle for Tribal Sovereignty by W. Dale Weeks (OU Press, 2023).

From the description: "The son of a Scottish father and mixed-blood Indian mother, John Ross served the Cherokee Nation in a public capacity for nearly fifty years, thirty-eight as its constitutionally elected principal chief. Historian W. Dale Weeks describes Ross’s efforts to protect the tribe’s interests amid systematic attacks on indigenous culture throughout the nineteenth century, from the forced removal policies of the 1830s to the exigencies of the Civil War era. At the outset of the Civil War, Ross called for all Cherokees, slaveholding and nonslaveholding, to remain neutral in a war they did not support—a position that became untenable when the United States withdrew its forces from Indian Territory. The vacated forts were quickly occupied by Confederate troops, who pressured the Cherokees to align with the South."

Horizons have expanded a bit of late, but, as often mentioned, the Cherokee experience still fairly dominates the scholarship addressing the Civil War in Indian Territory. In the popular literature, the Watie faction opposing Ross, particularly Watie himself, has received more attention. It's about time for a modern reexamination of Stand Watie's place in the war, too, but I've long yearned for a new book specifically focused on Ross's Civil War years. Cherokee Civil Warrior appears to offer just such a thing.

Weeks's study presents the story of Ross and the Civil War "as part of the history of U.S. “Indian policy,” failed foreign relations, and the Anglo-American conquest of the American West." I will also be interested to read the author's opinion of the relationship between Lincoln and Ross. In the book, Weeks "clarifies President Abraham Lincoln’s acknowledgment of the federal government’s abrogation of its treaty obligation and his commitment to restoring political relations with the Cherokees—a commitment abruptly ended when his successor Andrew Johnson instead sought to punish the Cherokees for their perceived disloyalty."

"Centering a Native point of view," Cherokee Civil Warrior "recasts and expands what we know about John Ross, the Cherokee Nation, its commitment to maintaining its sovereignty, and the Civil War era in Indian Territory." Looking forward to learning about it.

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