Demanding the Cherokee Nation
examines nineteenth-century Cherokee political rhetoric to address an enigma in American Indian history: the contradiction between the sovereignty of Indian nations and the political weakness of Indian communities. Making use of a rich collection of petitions, appeals, newspaper editorials, and other public records, Andrew Denson describes the ways in which Cherokees represented their people and their nation to non-Indians after their forced removal to Indian Territory in the 1830s. He argues that Cherokee writings on nationhood document a decades-long effort by tribal leaders to find a new model for American Indian relations in which Indian nations could coexist with a modernizing United States.
Most non-Natives in the nineteenth century assumed that American development and progress necessitated the end of tribal autonomy, that at best the Indian nation was a transitional state for Native people on the way to assimilation. As Denson shows, however, Cherokee leaders found a variety of ways in which the Indian nation, as they defined it, belonged in the modern world. Tribal leaders responded to developments in the United States and adapted their defense of Indian autonomy to the great changes transforming American life in the middle and late nineteenth century. In particular, Cherokees in several ways found new justification for Indian nationhood in American industrialization.
"Wonderfully written and an absolute joy to read. Its presentation is direct, detailed, and leaves the reader wanting more. Most notably, the book represents not only a significant addition to Cherokee history but also to studies in print culture."—Gary C. Cheek Jr., American Indian Quarterly
"Denson's study is fresh in its attention to detail and nuance. . . . [The] work is an excellent contribution to scholarship and should be essential for anyone interested in the history of the Cherokees and U.S. Indian affairs."—Steven C. Hahn, American Historical Review
"Denson's study is a powerful reminder that there were realistic and plausible alternatives to the destructive policies of the federal government. As Cherokee politicians recognized, it was entirely possible to construct a federal-tribal relationship in the nineteenth century that preserved Indian sovereignty. It is laudable that Denson has finally given their views serious scholarly attention."—Claudio Saunt, Journal of Southern History
"Andrew Denson does what few historians do in Demanding the Cherokee Nation: He takes Indians at their word, adding much to the short historiography of native intellectual history."—Richard Mize, The Chronicles of Oklahoma
"Well written and rooted in appropriate scholarship, Denson’s intellectual history of Cherokee political thinking makes an important contribution to the study of Cherokee experience and federal Indian policy."—Walter H. Conser Jr., Journal of American History
"A well-written and important work that examines nineteenth-century U.S. Indian policy from the Cherokees’ perspective. . . . Every college library should own this book, and students of nineteenth-century U.S. history and Native American studies should give it a high priority on their reading lists."—Wendy St. Jean, North Carolina Historical Review
"Andrew Denson has admirably pointed the way for future scholars to provide additional enlightenment."—Alice Taylor-Colbert, Georgia Historical Quarterly
"The author has done admirable research that highlights the often ignored literary intelligence of the American Indian, especially that of the Cherokee Nation. His thesis is easy to follow with much new information distributed to the right place for impact. Those interested in Cherokee Nation sovereignty and the American Indian preservation of autonomy should not miss this book."—Southwest Book Views
"Using Cherokee documents, Denson provides new and supporting material to show how the Cherokee walked a thin line between supporting the United States and arguing for autonomy."—Jill E. Martin, Journal of the West
"This well-researched and beautifully written book will be a welcome addition for university courses in Indian history and law and U.S. history, as well as offering an intelligent discussion of Indian issues in nineteenth-century America for a general audience."—Indian Magazine of History
"The author writes beautifully, integrating historic documentation with analysis in a way that moves the narrative forward with grace."—Rennard Strickland, Western Historical Quarterly