Ned Christie: The Creation of an Outlaw and Cherokee Hero, by Devon Abbott Mihesuah, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, $29.95, 2018
Nede Wade “Ned” Christie is mostly remembered today as a Cherokee outlaw, although the blood and guts stories in newspapers, magazines and books down through the years have usually played loose with the facts. In more recent years writers have pointed out that Christie was also, among other things, a Cherokee legislator, proud homeowner, family man, gunsmith, blacksmith and victim of injustice. After being accused of killing Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples in May 1887, Christie spent the last five years of his life evading capture. “Details of those years are still being told with embellishments, fictional scenarios and missions of facts,” author Devon Abbott Mihesuah, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, writes in her introduction. “Murders and robberies committed by others in the territory were attributed to Christie, and his reputation as an outlaw spread across the country.” In the late 20th century Philip W. Steele and Bonnie Speer wrote books in which they declared Christie innocent of killing Maples, and while Mihesuah agrees with them after her own extensive research, she also criticizes the way they used sources and data and manipulated facts.
Mihesuah’s book is no doubt the best (most accurate) portrayal of Christie’s amazing life, though even she admits it isn’t the complete story. “Christie,” she writes, “remains in large part an enigma because of his silence in written records.…Christie did not leave behind letters or journals.” The author does a good job of relating Christie’s story in the context of his times in the 19th century Cherokee Nation. Up until authorities accused him of killing Maples, Christie had lived a busy social and political life as a traditional Cherokee who valued his people’s culture and sovereignty and stood against Oklahoma statehood (and thus sometimes butted heads with the progressive faction). Christie’s last shootout in 1892 (see the related cover story and Editor’s Letter in the October 2018 Wild West) was loaded with enough drama, action, manliness and rugged individualism to please any fan of the real or legendary West. “Christie’s story resonates with Cherokees and other peoples whose history includes oppression and persecution,” Mihesuah writes. It will, too, with peoples whose history does not.