Free E-texts from Graphic Classics
John Rollin Ridge (Cheesquatalawny)
illustration ©2012 Daryl Talbot
John Rollin Ridge (1827–1867) was a Cherokee journalist, poet, and novelist. He often published as Yellow Bird, the English translation of his Cherokee name. His grandfather, an influential Cherokee leader, together with Ridge’s father and other family members, signed the 1835 New Echota treaty. This agreement sold Cherokee land in the East for land in what is now Oklahoma, a move that was seen by some Cherokees as the cause of the Trail of Tears. The Ridge family relocated from Georgia to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. When Ridge was twelve, assassins from the faction of Chief John Ross, who had opposed the treaty, stabbed his father and grandfather to death in front of his family. The memory tormented Ridge for the rest of his life. Fearing for their safety, the family moved to Arkansas. In 1843 John enrolled in Great Barrington Academy in Massachusetts. After graduation he returned to farm in Indian Territory, but in 1849 he killed a member of the Ross faction in an altercation. John fled to California where he mined for gold and wrote for various newspapers. In 1854 he published the first novel ever written by a Native American, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit. His poem appears in Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22.