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American BardsWalt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet$
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Edward Whitley

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834213

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899427_whitley

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John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird)

John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird)

The First White Aboriginal

(p.113) Chapter Three John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird)
American Bards

Edward Whitley

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines Walt Whitman's desire to bring Native American themes into his poetry with John Rollin Ridge's own efforts to create a space for Indians in American society. It considers how Whitman distinguished himself not just by repeatedly mentioning Native Americans, but also by presenting his poetry as a form of indigenous expression. The chapter also looks at Ridge's experience of being a “white aboriginal” and his belief that the figure of the white aboriginal was a way to imagine a nation that embraced racial and cultural amalgamation rather than the extermination of Native peoples and the wholesale appropriation of Native culture. It concludes by discussing the challenges encountered by Ridge as he tried to assign the role of representative American bard to a mixed-race Cherokee.

Keywords:   poetry, Walt Whitman, John Rollin Ridge, Indians, Native Americans, white aboriginal, Cherokee, American bard

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