- Ned Christie: The Creation of an Outlaw and Cherokee Hero by Devon A. Mihesuah
Devon A. Mihesuah offers readers a detailed history of Nede Wade "Ned" Christie; it is an important historiographical statement on the study of so-called outlaws in the American West and a much-needed intervention vis-à-vis how scholars generally make sense of notorious historical figures. Consistently and convincingly, Mihesuah invites readers to compare the Christie of Wild West lore against a reinterpretation that situates him in a Cherokee context wherein outlaw becomes hero. The book thoroughly unmasks how previous writers merely repeated existing accounts of Christie's life and sheds light on how these reiterations have often been misleading and occasionally completely fictional.
The monograph begins with a description of the murder of Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples in May 1887. Charley Bobtail, Ned Christie, Looney Coon, Nede Grease, John Hogshooter, John Parris, Bub Trainor, and Steve Vann were all seen near where Maples was shot while en route to contend with whiskey-related challenges in Tahlequah, Indian Territory. In part because Christie refused to appear before Judge Isaac Parker at the U.S. Court of the Western District of Arkansas at Fort Smith—as some of the aforementioned men had—he emerged as the primary suspect. Christie spent the next five years under constant watch for the state-sponsored posse he and his family assumed would come. In 1892, using dynamite to oust him from his log cabin, U.S. marshals shot and killed Ned Christie.
The chapters that follow investigate Christie as a full person—not as a sensationalized criminal. The first chapter examines his family history and the impact of removal and the Civil War on the Cherokee Nation broadly and on Christie's Keetoowah family specifically. The second chapter describes Christie's politics (as a traditionalist and nationalist who was pro-Native sovereignty and against allotment, Oklahoma statehood, and the further incursion of settlers and railroads on Native land) as well as his role as a politician (he was a member of the Cherokee National Council). Chapters 3 through 5 discuss the men present at the murder of Maples, Christie's experience of being "on the run," and the final confrontation between Christie and the party who killed him (p. 76). Chapter 6 poignantly addresses the fates of Charles Hair and Arch Wolfe, ages twelve and eighteen, respectively, who were at the raid and were charged with assault and intent to kill one of the U.S. lawmen. As a result of his young age, Hair spent three years at the Illinois State Reformatory. Wolfe lived for years in institutions, ultimately dying in 1912 at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians in South Dakota, where he had been alienated from his family (by the institution) despite repeated written pleas to have word from or about him.
The final two chapters make a case for the actual murderer's identity and further establish how and why, during his lifetime and after his death, Christie was portrayed as a figure of fantastic violence: a dangerous drinker, thief, and murderer. Here the author reminds readers that "the libelous stories told about Christie were, and still are, told without fear of reprisal" (p. 5). Indeed, it is this lack of concern for its subjects—people both dead and alive—that has [End Page 475] historically plagued (some) Native American history and the study of alleged bandits in the American West. In the instance of Ned Christie, to simply repeat what others have written permits an unexamined narrative of settler laws and logics to triumph into the present and perpetuates an erroneous accounting of the past. This book successfully resolves both problems.