JSNH&B home • Fall 2010 • vol. 3 no. 2

The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit

John Rollin Ridge

John Rollin RidgeBorn in New Echota, Georgia, John Rollin Ridge (1827–1867) was a scion of the Cherokee Nation’s elite. Both his father and grandfather were prominent tribal leaders, as well as signatories to the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded to the United States all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River, ultimately leading to the 1838-1839 Trail of Tears. Ridge came to California during the gold rush and here published what is believed to be the first novel by a Native American, as well as the first novel written in California: The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit (1854). Ridge died at age forty in his adopted hometown of Grass Valley, California.

The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta is based on true events although compiled from stories involving many separate individuals named Joaquín. Consolidating these different characters into one heroic figure, Ridge’s story is a rollicking adventure but also a powerful consideration of cultural and political loss. The novel is generally considered by folklorists to have inspired the Zorro stories.

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Gary NoyRead by Gary Noy, Director, Center for Sierra Nevada Studies, Sierra College