Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Maria Windell

Second Advisor

Dr. Karen Jacobs

Third Advisor

Dr. Johanna Maes

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Penelope Kelsey


During the height of Indian Removal, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed on cases determining the fate of the Cherokee Nation, among other tribes. To combat the pressures of the federal government, the Cherokee Nation created a new government and a Constitution to legitimize their claims to ancestral lands. Despite the extensive efforts made by the Nation, the federal government seized the land through militarized action and forced the Cherokee peoples out. During the course of removal, a political schism formed and divided the Tribe. Between the Ross and the Ridge faction, they disputed whether the Cherokee peoples could remain a sovereign nation without ownership of land. The Ross faction argued the impossibility of remaining sovereign without their land, while the Ridge faction encouraged the cessation of the land in order to preserve their culture and people. Through a myriad of legal documents and three infamous court cases named the Marshall Trilogy, the Cherokee Nation ceded to the federal government of the United States, and left. Years after removal in 1854, John Rollin Ridge authored the first novel by a Native American writer. Rollin Ridge wove the tale of Joaquín Murieta, a notable California bandit in The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta. Through intersections between law and literature, the Supreme Court cases in conjunction with Rollin Ridge’s novel prove physical ties were not necessary in the preservation of the Cherokee Nation. It is critical to recognize the importance of Native homelands and validate the loss that ensued during removal. It is dually as important to acknowledge the resilience in the Tribe despite removal. The concept of sovereignty shifted during the Cherokee Removal, and the relationship between law and literature demonstrate the Nation's ability to remain sovereign despite the detrimental loss of their land.