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A Cherokee Abroad: The Transnational Writings of Will Rogers

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Abstract:

Throughout 1926, Will Rogers telegrammed his “Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to His President” to the _Saturday Evening Post_ and the _New York Times_ from all over the world. While touring Europe for the _Post_, for example, he met with Benito Mussoulini, and in late 1926 he visited Russia. It was from there that Rogers published what has become his best-known quote: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” That the Cherokee political pundit wrote this about Leon Trotsky, however, has gone largely unnoticed by cultural historians.

This series of writings was not the first Rogers published on domestic and international situations. His earliest writings on international affairs come from his hometown newspaper, published while he toured with Texas Jack’s Wild West in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. And in 1922, while a star on Broadway and in film, he was hired by the McNaught Syndicate to publish daily articles that ran in newspapers across the country. By the time of his death in 1935, he toured the world several times, reporting back to the U.S. public the whole time. While his writing is at times sugarcoated with his Territory dialect and humor, they are at other times steeped in the complex realities and prejudices embedded with the Cherokee Nation’s past.

The numerous examples revealing Rogers’ understanding of himself as an American and an American Indian add complexity to a man whose overlooked ties to his tribe offer a new method for interrogating his writings on the United States’ roles in both American Indian and international affairs. Examining Rogers’ connection to his Cherokee roots and his encounters with U.S. governmental policies exposes not only transnational tribal borderlands extant within the United States, but also how these overlapping spaces affect our understanding of a broader U.S. national identity.

Will Rogers’ writings on U.S. international and domestic affairs place him alongside other Native intellectuals of the period who held that U.S. policies were shaped by the country’s ongoing struggles with Native Americans. Further, this presentation will show that his feelings toward U.S. governmental and militaristic intervention at home and abroad were filtered through a local—indeed Cherokee—perspective. Rogers’ maintained close ties to the Cherokee Nation, where he was born in 1879, and he followed affairs affecting all Native Americans throughout his life.

This presentation will do more than broaden scholarly understandings of Rogers: it will expand traditional notions of transnationalism. Rogers’ commentary connecting U.S.-Indian affairs to U.S. international policy opens an interrogative space in which to renew scholarly approaches to American Indian identities and the ways colonialism within the United States affects both American popular culture and governmental policy.
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Name: The American Studies Association
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186683_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Ware, Amy. "A Cherokee Abroad: The Transnational Writings of Will Rogers" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186683_index.html>

APA Citation:

Ware, A. M. , 2007-10-11 "A Cherokee Abroad: The Transnational Writings of Will Rogers" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186683_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Throughout 1926, Will Rogers telegrammed his “Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to His President” to the _Saturday Evening Post_ and the _New York Times_ from all over the world. While touring Europe for the _Post_, for example, he met with Benito Mussoulini, and in late 1926 he visited Russia. It was from there that Rogers published what has become his best-known quote: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” That the Cherokee political pundit wrote this about Leon Trotsky, however, has gone largely unnoticed by cultural historians.

This series of writings was not the first Rogers published on domestic and international situations. His earliest writings on international affairs come from his hometown newspaper, published while he toured with Texas Jack’s Wild West in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. And in 1922, while a star on Broadway and in film, he was hired by the McNaught Syndicate to publish daily articles that ran in newspapers across the country. By the time of his death in 1935, he toured the world several times, reporting back to the U.S. public the whole time. While his writing is at times sugarcoated with his Territory dialect and humor, they are at other times steeped in the complex realities and prejudices embedded with the Cherokee Nation’s past.

The numerous examples revealing Rogers’ understanding of himself as an American and an American Indian add complexity to a man whose overlooked ties to his tribe offer a new method for interrogating his writings on the United States’ roles in both American Indian and international affairs. Examining Rogers’ connection to his Cherokee roots and his encounters with U.S. governmental policies exposes not only transnational tribal borderlands extant within the United States, but also how these overlapping spaces affect our understanding of a broader U.S. national identity.

Will Rogers’ writings on U.S. international and domestic affairs place him alongside other Native intellectuals of the period who held that U.S. policies were shaped by the country’s ongoing struggles with Native Americans. Further, this presentation will show that his feelings toward U.S. governmental and militaristic intervention at home and abroad were filtered through a local—indeed Cherokee—perspective. Rogers’ maintained close ties to the Cherokee Nation, where he was born in 1879, and he followed affairs affecting all Native Americans throughout his life.

This presentation will do more than broaden scholarly understandings of Rogers: it will expand traditional notions of transnationalism. Rogers’ commentary connecting U.S.-Indian affairs to U.S. international policy opens an interrogative space in which to renew scholarly approaches to American Indian identities and the ways colonialism within the United States affects both American popular culture and governmental policy.

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