First in an important new series on American Indian history from Penguin.
Nov 15, 2009
Since I was a little boy my dad has talked about the "Trail of Tears". My father has always been sympathetic to the plight of Native Americans and has been generous to their causes over the years. And so when I happened upon "The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears" at my local bookstore I felt compelled to read more about it. Co-authors Theda Perdue and Michael Green are both history professors at the University of North Carolina. They have put together a marvelous little book that provides the background and context for fully understanding the events that took place in the Cherokee Nation during the 1830's. I found that what my dad had tried to impress on me was true. This was indeed one of the most shameful episodes in American history . Removal of Native Americans was certainly nothing new in the 1830's. It had happened any number of times before commencing with the removal of the Acadian people from Northern New England and Nova Scotia to Louisiana in the 1750's. But the Cherokees, under principal chief JohnRoss, had for many years tried to work with and accomodate the American government whenver possible. Time and again the Cherokees were the victims of broken promises from both the federal government and the state governments in Georgia and Tennessee. Seems like the treaties our government signed with the Cherokee nation were not worth the paper they were written on. The State of Georgia and its leaders were particularly harsh in their dealings with the Cherokees. The greed and ruthlessness exhibited by the leaders of Georgia would rear its ugly head again later on over the issue of slavery. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Cherokee leaders became convinced that the best option for survival would be to relocate the tribe to the Western lands the U.S. government had set aside in the state of Oklahoma. And so it was that a group of renegade Cherokee leaders led by John Ridge and Elias Boudinot entered into an agreement with the U.S. Government that would come to be known as the Treaty of New Echota. The treaty was signed on December 29, 1835 and would essentially provide for the relocation of the tribe to Oklahoma. According to the terms of the Treaty the U.S. government would provide "substantial resources" to accomodate the relocation of the tribe. Chief Ross remained opposed to the idea and argued that Ridge and Boudinot were not authorized to enter into such a treaty. But it was too late. Events were now out of control and time was running out for the Cherokee nation in most of the East. Over the next several years the removal of the tribe would occur in waves.
As one might expect our illustrious federal government failed to live up to its part of the bargain in a great many instances. Thousands of Cherokee people died while attempting to make the 850 mile trek to Oklahoma. It was a journey that would take anywhere from 3 to 6 monthsto complete and many individuals would perish along the way due to starvation, disease, exposure and exhaustion. "The Cherokee Nation and Trail of Tears" presents the entire sordid affair for your consideration. Frankly, it is still awfully hard to digest even after all these years. I certainly look forward to other volumes in this brand new series from Penguin. This was definitely time well spent! Recommended!
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Today, a fraction of the Cherokee people remains in their traditional homeland in the southern Appalachians. Most Cherokees were forcibly relocated to eastern Oklahoma in the early nineteenth century. In 1830 the U.S. government shifted its policy from one of trying to assimilate American Indians to one of relocating them and proceeded to drive seventeen thousand Cherokee people west of the Mississippi.
The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears recounts this moment in American history and considers its impact on the Cherokee, on U.S.-Indian relations, and on contemporary society. Guggenheim Fellowship-winning historian Theda Perdue and coauthor Michael D. Green explain the various and sometimes competing interests that resulted in the Cherokee’s expulsion, follow the exiles along the Trail of Tears, and chronicle their difficult years in the West after removal.
“ With a rich sense of Cherokee culture and history . . . the authors . . . recount a human story, not only tragic but also unbelievably heroic.”—Los Angeles Times