Cherokee Chief Critical Essays

Electa Clark


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Clark presents Ross’s story with an understated admiration that allows his accomplishments to speak for themselves. Ross’s methods of nonresistance and honesty are the themes that are underscored throughout Cherokee Chief. While presented as strictly a history text, the book nevertheless reveals a slight bias in favor of those Native Americans who were willing to assimilate themselves at least partially into white culture, as opposed to those who retained a fully traditional or, as Clark says, “primitive” way of life. The book is laudatory in tone toward those who adopted the Christian religion, received modern education, learned trades, and pursued white-collar professions.

The trickery of white officials is exposed, but Clark resists easy labels of hero and villain, citing General Winfield Scott’s kindness to the tribe as well as occasional violence on the part of some Cherokees. Young adult readers may be surprised to find that complicity against Native Americans existed even at the presidential level. Jackson and Martin Van Buren emerge as manipulative, unfair heads of state, whereas James Knox Polk and Lincoln treated Ross and his people with courtesy and equality.

Clark presents the hardships of the Trail of Tears without editorial commentary, allowing the facts themselves to reveal the inhumanity that the federal government and troops displayed to the tribe: The Cherokees were driven from their cabins without time to...

(The entire section is 482 words.)