From An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United Statesby Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:
“The United States did nothing to halt the flow of squatters into Cherokee territory as the boundary was drawn in the [1791 Treaty of Holston]. A year after the treaty was signed, war broke out, and the Chickamaugas, under the leadership of Dragging Canoe, attacked squatters, even laying siege to Nashville…. The settlers organized an offensive against the Chickamaugas. The federal Indian agent attempted to persuade the Chickamaugas to stop fighting, warning that the frontier settlers were ‘always dreadful, not only to the warriors, but to the innocent and helpless women and children, and old men.’ The agent also warned the settlers against attacking Indigenous towns, but he had to order the militia to disperse a mob of three hundred settlers, who, as he wrote, out of a ‘mistaken zeal to serve their country’ had gathered to destroy ‘as many as they could of the Cherokee towns.’ [John] Sevier and his rangers invaded the Chickamaugas’ towns in September 1793, with a stated mission of total destruction. Although forbidden by the federal agent to attack the villages, Sevier gave orders for a scorched-earth offensive…. In squatter settlements, ruthless leaders like Sevier were not the exception but the rule. Once they had full control and got what they wanted, they made their peace with the federal government, which depended on their actions to expand the republic’s territory. Sevier went on to serve as a US representative from North Carolina and as governor of Tennessee. To this day, such men are idolized as great heroes, embodying the essence of the ‘American spirit.’ A bronze statue of John Sevier in his ranger uniform stands today in the National Statuary Hall of the US Capitol.”
I just finished reading Charles Dodd White’s latest novel How Fire Runs (Ohio UP, 2020) and what a timely read it is. Neo-Nazi white supremacist Gavin Noon sets up in a former mental hospital in a fictional Carter County, Tennessee and attempts to get into local politics after being scolded for leading his cronies in an unauthorized highway cleanup. Noon’s particular brand of evil does not stay banal for long and ruckus ensues. CDW does a great job of dramatizing local politics and reminding the reader that romantic foibles do not abate just because one is involved in making history. How Fire Runs is a page-turner, engages insider-outsider politics and the politics of race in the southern mountains, creates a gallery of well-wrought characters, includes great nature writing, and maintains a lightning pace without abandoning White’s gift for lyricism. How Fire Runs is a good one.