Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears by Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green

For several years, I have had updating my library's American Indian history section in my selection goals, but I have not found enough recent material to fill the shelves. I was glad to find The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears by Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, which is the first of eight books in The Penguin Library of American Indian History. A second book, The Shawnees and the War for America by Colin G. Calloway, is also now available.

Like in other series from Penguin, these books are compact accounts of their topics, aimed at students and general readers. The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears is 164 pages of text, which is followed by notes that would help in further study and an index to the book. I am particularly glad to see the index, as indices have been absent in the books in the Penguin Lives series, reducing their reference value.

Perdue and Green present a chronological account of Cherokee history in their book, telling first about the origins of the tribe and then its relations with the Spanish explorers and the English settlers who moved into the southern Appalachian mountains. Much of the book is about the struggle of the Cherokee to keep their homeland in Georgia and surrounding states and the political and military maneuvers of the U.S. government and the state of Georgia to oust them. The story of the Trail of Tears takes about 25 pages near the end of the book. The final chapter is about the problems of establishing the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

The authors make some interesting points that may not be widely known.

  • Many other tribes experienced similar forced removals from their homelands. The Cherokee story is the best known because of the sophistication of Cherokee public relations efforts.
  • U.S. citizens did not uniformly support the actions of the Jackson Administration, which acted in defiance of Supreme Court rulings in favor of the Cherokee people. Some northeastern newspapers decried the forced removal of the Cherokees.
  • Treaties were sometimes signed by individuals who had no authority in the Cherokee government.
  • The U.S. government failed to fulfill ration and financial support promises during and after the removal. Agents allowed fraudulent contracts.

Readers may find food for thought about more recent U.S. actions in this text. History writing is often a reflection of the time in which it is written.

School and public libraries will want the books in the new Penguin series.

Perdue, Theda and Green, Michael D. The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears. Viking, 2007. ISBN 9780670031504


Maggie said...

Thanks Rick, I went ahead and ordered the Shawnee book, too. :D

The People History said...

Is History a reflection of society at the time or just those in political and economic power who govern these things