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ISBN 978-0-8101-4141-4

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ISBN 978-0-8101-4140-7
Publication Date
February 2020
Page Count
144 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9


A Play
Mary Kathryn Nagle

Sovereignty unfolds over two parallel timelines. In present-day Oklahoma, a young Cherokee lawyer, Sarah Ridge Polson, builds a Supreme Court case with colleague Jim Ross to restore tribal jurisdiction over a rape trial. Their collaboration is juxtaposed with scenes from 1835, when the Cherokee nation was eight hundred miles to the east in the southern Appalachians. That year, Sarah’s and Jim’s ancestors, historic Cherokee rivals, were bitterly divided over a proposed treaty with the administration of Andrew Jackson.

A direct descendant of John Ridge, Nagle has penned a play that twists and turns from violent outbursts to healing monologues, illuminating a provocative double meaning for the sovereignty of both tribal territory and women’s bodies. Nagle’s ancestor in real life, Ridge attended boarding school in Connecticut, where he fell in love with and married the schoolmaster's daughter, Flora. Sovereignty places him at the center of a bitter schism between two leading Cherokee families—his own and the family of Cherokee chief John Ross—over Jackson’s Treaty of New Echota, which led to the nation’s removal to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears.

Taking as her point of departure the story of one passionate lawyer’s defense of the rights of her people to prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on reservations, Sovereignty opens up into an expansive play about the circular continuity of history, human memory, and the power of human relationships.

About the Author

MARY KATHRYN NAGLE  was born in Oklahoma City and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She studied theater at Georgetown University and law at Tulane University, where she wrote and produced Katrina Stories, To the 7th Degree, Miss Lead, and Welcome to Chalmette, winner of the 2008 TNT POPS Playwriting Contest. She also wrote Waaxe’s Law, which received a Challenge America Grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. Her other plays include In My Father’s Eyes, Sliver of a Full Moon, and Diamonds . . . Are a Boy’s Best Friend.

"Fundamental and revelatory." —Gloria Steinem

“The parallels between the past and present in this play are beautiful and heart-wrenching, often at the same time. It unpacks this world of dualities—Cherokee and White, past and future, Ross and Ridge. It’s an amazing journey.” —Maryland Theater Guide