Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although he was seven-eighths white and only one-eighth Cherokee, John Ross devoted his lifelong energies to the advancement of his tribe. Electa Clark’s Cherokee Chief: The Life of John Ross examines his adult life, from his participation in an 1812 battle against the Creeks until his death soon after the Civil War. The chapters proceed chronologically, interweaving events in Ross’s life with details of the widespread struggle of Native Americans to retain their land and their most basic rights. Of primary concern is the hostile maneuvering by both federal and state governments to claim tribal land.

Cherokees in Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia were subjected to injustices and their property was taken from them in a series of coercive treaties. Eventually, the state of Georgia seized all of their land. Although Chief Justice John Marshall overturned this law in the Supreme Court, President Andrew Jackson re-fused to enforce Marshall’s decision, and Georgia proceeded to give away all Cherokee land in a giant lottery.

Thousands of Cherokees were thus routed, including the educated, gentle Ross, by then a wealthy man. Many white Georgians were horrified about the treatment of the tribe. Ross counseled his people to cling to their land but never to seek reprisal. Disagreements divided the tribe into two factions: Ross’s followers versus those who believed that the best course of action was immediate westward...

(The entire section is 552 words.)