Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Diffley, Kathleen

First Committee Member

Round, Phillip

Second Committee Member

Bolton, Linda

Third Committee Member

Folsom, Ed

Fourth Committee Member

Rand, Jacki T.


"The Rhetorics of Sovereignty: Representing Indian Territory in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers and Journals" explores issues of Native American sovereignty in newspapers and journals published in and about places imagined as "Indian territory." Each chapter of this project explores how Indian territories were identified by different reading publics as both "space" and "place," as "empty" places on maps to be filled by ideas about how Native peoples should live, and as places with concrete, local affiliations based on the experience of the Native people who wrote about living in these territories. The project explores connections between publics of readers and ideas about Indian territories through an analysis of The Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper in North America, which was published at New Echota, Georgia beginning in 1828; Copway's American Indian, the newspaper published in New York during 1851 by the Ojibwa author George Copway; Ramona Days, the quarterly publication of the Ramona Indian Industrial school published at Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory from 1887 to 1889; Our Brother in Red, which was published in Muskogee, Indian Territory from 1882 to1899; and the contemporary, online version of The Cherokee Phoenix, published at Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I assess how the journals construct ideas of Indian Territory through the concept of "rhetorical sovereignty," which Richard Scott Lyons (Ojibwe/Mdewakanton Dakota) defines as "the inherent right and ability of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires" and "to decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public discourse." I argue that while the journals articulate Anglo-American ideas about Indian Territory as a location for Native civilization as well as sites for geographic assimilation into the United States, they also reveal "rhetorically sovereign" discourse and imagery, in which Indigenous people construct their own representations of Indian Territory. Because the journals demonstrate that Indian Territory was as much an idea as a geographic place during the nineteenth century, I argue that the nineteenth-century idea of Indian Territory was socially constructed, unstable, and subject to changing geographical, political, and cultural circumstances; however, I conclude that the concept maintains contemporary relevance to Native peoples in North America.


iv, 224 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 210-224).


Copyright 2011 Anne Marie Peterson