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Our fire survives the storm: Removal and defiance in the Cherokee literary tradition

Daniel Heath Justice, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study attends to the responses of Cherokees to the symbol, threat, and reality of Indian Removal, through a detailed study of the Cherokee literary tradition, including oral narratives, treaties, personal correspondence, newspaper articles, novels, poems, short stories, personal narratives, and social sciences monographs. Central to this study are Cherokee voices, scholarship, and cultural and historical perspectives, read through a methodology of the culturally-specific “Beloved Path” and “Chickamaugan consciousness,” which are drawn from Cherokee worldviews and intellectual traditions. ^ The project begins by laying the foundation of the Beloved Path and Chickamaugan consciousness, and examining how these two philosophical understandings of traditional Cherokee society are evident in early oral narratives of pre-Trail of Tears removals, as well as in the lives of the eighteenth-century political leaders Nanyehi (Nancy Ward) and her cousin, Dragging Canoe. Arguing that these traditional approaches to Removal have endured through European and U.S. colonization, the author expands the theoretical framework into the history of the Cherokee Trail of Tears and Cherokee responses to the event. The nineteenth-century writings of Chief John Ross engage with the text of the Treaty of New Echota and writings of Elias Boudinot and John Ridge through contrasting Beloved Path and Chickamaugan consciousness expressions. Similarly, the author argues that these culturally-specific perspectives inform the Trail-centered work of contemporary writers Robert Conley, Diane Glancy, and Thomas King. The last section of this study examines the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century expressions of the Beloved Path and Chickamaugan consciousness paradigms, as expressed in the writings of Western Cherokees Will Rogers, Lynn Riggs, and Emmet Starr, during the era of allotment and Oklahoma statehood. Interwoven into this analysis is the concept of Native intellectual sovereignty, which privileges Native intellectual traditions and practices and places them as the interpretive center of this reading. Applying the methodology of the Chickamauga consciousness to lived contemporary experience, the project also includes an examination of the author's family histories of removal in a broader Cherokee context. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Literature, American|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Justice, Daniel Heath, "Our fire survives the storm: Removal and defiance in the Cherokee literary tradition" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3045519.