Ned Christie was born December 14, 1852 in Rabbit Trap, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, now known as Wauhilla, Oklahoma. He was born into the Bird Clan, and growing up around his father, became very interested in Cherokee Nation politics. He also became 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.
He was known on the legislative floor as a staunch advocate for Tribal Sovereignity, as agreed to in treaties with the United States, and was against the railroads entering Cherokee Nation jusridiction, 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 free education to young Cherokee women, he traveled to Tahleqauh (the Capitol of the Cherokee Nation) to attend a special council meeting regarding the fire.
While in town, on May 4, 1887, a U.S. Deputy Marshal named Dan (or Dave) Maples was killed. Because Christie was seen in the vicinity, as it was common to camp and visit around the Town Branch creek where Maples was camped, he was accused by John Parris as having been the shooter. Ned immediately, upon learning of the accusation, approached several important people in the Cherokee Nation, including his father Watt who was an former Senator, and decided to return to Wauhilla and attempt to garner evidence in his defense.
Judge Isaac Parker, Fort Smith Federal Judge known as the "Hanging Judge," assumed jurisdiction since it was one of his white Marshals who had been killed. For five years, scores of possemen were unable to apprehend Christie although he never left his home. His home, however, was eventually burned to the ground.
Ned and his wife Nancy and other members of his family, along with neighbors and members of the Keetowah Society (traditionals) built a new home. This was a double-walled home...a cabin with another cabin wall around it and filled with sand in between. He was continually harassed by Marshals, shot at, his women and children feared for their lives, and was even blinded by the possemen throughout those five years. Ned continued to stand up for the sovereignity of the Cherokee Nation and vowed to never speak English again -- only his own native tongue, Cherokee.
During this time, Ned Christie became known as the most hunted outlaw, and was accused of every unsolved crime in Cherokee Nation, and in the vicinity of the Cherokee Nation/Arkansas border. On December 14, 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 setting of the dynamite prompted Christie to run from the house in front of the officers, only to be shot to death.
He became a Cherokee martyr. The possemen tied his dead body to a plank door, and traveled to Fayetteville where people posed for pictures with the "notorious outlaw." The body was then taken to Fort Smith, AR so that the deputies could collect their rewards. There, Ned's body was put on public display, with a rifle propped in his arms. The chilling picture is unfortunately used in many publications. If you look closely, you can see the smile on his face. He died standing up for the rights of his people.
The body was then shipped by train to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory where his father Watt and brother James 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 the early 1900's, a witness came forward and Ned Christie was cleared of any alleged involvement in the shooting. Even though Cherokee People regard Ned Christie and a martyr and patriot, and even though he was cleared of any involvement for a crime which he was never convicted of or tried for, many history and reference books continue to refer to Ned as a notorious criminal, gangleader 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