Ned Christie was born December 14, 1852 in the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation. He was born into the Bird Clan, and growing up around his father, became very interested in Cherokee Nation politics. Christie was a renowned blacksmith and gunsmith. Known by the members of his community as a gentleman, he became well known for his Cherokee Marble skills. He was elected a Cherokee Senator (also known as Executive Councilor) in 1885 during the administration of Chief Dennis Bushyhead.
Christie was known on the legislative floor as a staunch advocate for Tribal Sovereignty, as agreed to in treaties with the United States. He was against the railroads entering Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, as well as the impending allotment of Cherokee lands in severalty to the Cherokee People. Upon the burning of the Cherokee National Female Seminary, a beautiful school building which provided education to young Cherokee women, he traveled to Tahlequah (Capitol of the Cherokee Nation) to attend a special council meeting regarding the fire.
While in town, on May 4, 1887, U.S. Deputy Marshal Dan Maples was killed near Town Branch creek, also a common place to camp and visit around. Christie was seen in the vicinity of Town Branch and was accused by John Parris as being the shooter. Parris, along with four other individuals, were also implicated in the murder of deputy Maples. After learning of the accusation, Christie immediately approached several leaders in the Cherokee Nation, including his father Watt, who was a former Senator. Christie decided to return to Wauhilla and attempt to garner evidence in his defense.
The Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith, under Judge Isaac C Parker, also known as the "Hanging Judge," assumed jurisdiction since it was a U.S. deputy marshal who was killed. Fearing he would not receive a fair trial, Christie refused to turn himself in to the federal court. For almost five years, scores of deputy marshals and their possemen were unable to apprehend Christie, although he never left his home. However, during one the attempts to apprehend Christie, his home was burned to the ground.
Christie, along with his family, neighbors and members of the Keetoowah Society (traditionalists), built a new home: a double-walled cabin filled with sand in between. Although Christie and his family were continually harassed by the federal government, he continued to maintain his innocence and stand up for the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation.
During this time, Ned Christie became known as the most hunted outlaw, and was accused of every unsolved crime in the Cherokee Nation and its vicinity. On November 3, 1892, a posse attempted to bring in a canon to blow him out of the house. Being unsuccessful as the home was high above a creek, the deputies resorted to dynamiting the house. The explosion caused Christie’s home to catch fire, and prompted him to come out of the burning cabin, only to be shot to death.
The deputy marshals and their possemen tied Christie’s body to a cellar door and traveled to Fort Smith, AR so they could collect their rewards. There, Christie’s dead body was put on public display at the federal courthouse. A rifle was placed in his arms and deputy marshals posed for pictures with the "notorious outlaw." The chilling pictures are unfortunately used in many publications today.
Christie’s body was then shipped by train to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory where his father Watt claimed the remains. He was taken by wagon to Wauhilla, and laid to rest. As his father said, when Ned was killed, "He was a brave man." In 1918, a witness to the 1887 murder of Maples came forward and Ned Christie was cleared of any involvement in the shooting. Although Cherokee People regard Ned Christie as a patriot, many history and reference books continue to refer to him as a notorious outlaw and murderer.
“He was a very clever man. If he had been a soldier, he would have been one of the greatest of generals. Ned Christie was one of the bravest of the Southwest.”
— Edward Hines, a Christie contemporary
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