My Reading List: 18th and 19th Century Treaties and Culture Clash

A few people have asked if I had any resources regarding the treaties between Native American (or First Nation) nations and the English, French, Spanish, and U.S. Governments. People want to understand what’s going on regarding land today from a historical context. I am not a historian, but I love to read, so I made this list of books that I found helpful. I also think it’s important to study issues from the inside out, and not only from dominant culture looking in. In the words of Dragging Canoe from 1775:

“Whole nations have melted away in our presence like balls of snow before the sun, and have scarcely left their names behind except as imperfectly recorded by their enemies and destroyers.”

Let’s dive in! The plan is to go from a broad understanding to a more specific area of study (Cherokee Nation, 1700s-1800s), and so get more of a first-hand perspective. This is not an exhaustive list and is mostly based on history because that is my area of study right now. Please remember that Native Nations are very much alive today and that issues over land and culture continue for each Nation. Let us know of more modern resources AND books regarding other nations in the comments!

Continue reading

Who is Joaquin Murieta and Why Had I not Heard of Him?

Joaquin Murieta's drawing
Do we even know if he had a wild eyed look?

It’s a real question. Why is this bandit, who terrorized people throughout 1850s California, a new discovery for me? Murieta is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He hides behind the tale of Zoro. He lived on somewhat fictionalized in plagiarized magazine and radio serials. Countless westerns used his life as a model for their honorable bandits. But he himself is lost to time.

Did I not pay attention in school? Did I simply miss a museum display? Are the street names I pass every so often just generic? Is Rancho Murieta named after him? That would be ironic; a gated community named for a man who illuded all capture and fences.

I set out on a quest this year to read more books by people of color. I want to know what’s out there and to support their voices. The difference between speaking up for somebody and supporting somebody who is already speaking is a whole nother story, but an important one. And yet I get stuck, stuck in this endless loop of wanting to read really old books. So I bought some books by people who are alive (next on my list) and then I set out to read the 1854 novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta by John Rollin Ridge (definitely dead).

What drew me to this book

I studied the political factions of the Cherokee Nation for my writing and I knew a signer of the Treaty of New Echota had a son who wrote a novel. I didn’t care what it was, I wanted to see it, and to see how the events of his life crept into his writing. Ridge’s father knew he would die for signing that treaty and he did, supposedly right in front of the children, so you know…already there is tension.

Continue reading