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Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation Paperback – Sep 22 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (Sept. 22 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385239548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385239547
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #156,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

One of the many ironies of U.S. government policy toward Indians in the early 1800s is that it persisted in removing to the West those who had most successfully adapted to European values. As whites encroached on Cherokee land, many Native leaders responded by educating their children, learning English, and developing plantations. Such a leader was Ridge, who had fought with Andrew Jackson against the British. As he and other Cherokee leaders grappled with the issue of moving, the land-hungry Georgia legislatiors, with the aid of Jackson, succeeded in ousting the Cherokee from their land, forcing them to make the arduous journey West on the infamous "Trail of Tears." Popular history for public libraries. Mary B. Davis, Museum of American Indian Lib., New York
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

The fascinating portrayal of the Cherokee nation, filled with Native American legend, lore, and religion -- a gripping American drama of power, politics, betrayal, and ambition.

B & W photographs


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First Sentence
Investigations were made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to determine whether the American Indians were the lost tribes of Judah; and it was pretty well proved both yes and no, and unprovable either way, which made it an excellent topic for study and exploitation, one populated by warm bodies and tearstained faces and beautiful, waiting children. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
The title "Trail of Tears" brings to mind a simple, dramatic outline. Cherokees adapt to the coming of white men by borrowing "civilized arts," but in the end are cruelly and uncivilly displaced from their homes to reservations in the West. This book does tell that trajedy. But Ehle gives more of a social and sometimes anthropological history, not a melodrama or sermon. He describes Cherokee customs, tells the story of two leading Cherokee families, and also offers a series of snapshots of contemporary American culture (or cultures): frontiermen and missionary, statesmen and black slave. Both Indians and whites come across as more complex and varied than any derivative of either the John Wayne or the Noble Savage stereotype: Ehle is a historian, not a historicist, and allows facts, events, and letters to speak for themselves without undue manipulation. The details he selects are usually interesting, and my net impression is of meeting real human beings.
The contrast between missionaries and full-blooded Cherokees could easily descend to hagiography or satire, but Ehle manages instead to show something of the nobility, and the blindness, on both sides of that particular conflict. Georgia legislators and frontiersmen come across a bit more negatively, but appear to have no one to blame for that but themselves. Ehle does not press the point, but there is a lot of food for thought and fruitful national soul-searching here.
author, Jesus and the Religions of Man
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As much as we'd like to pat ourselves on the back these days by saying we are the nation that is holding up the true ideals of civilization, we should always be aware that this wasn't always the case. While I believe we are the best nation on earth, we had our growing pains as much as any other group of people. Slavery is a permanent black eye. And while we condemn Sadaam Hussein for killing his own people, our country has to remember that at one time doing everything we could to eliminate the people who were here before the Caucasians was virtually government policy.
"The Trail of Tears" is only one of these incidents. History is loaded with them, including the government policy to almost make the American bison extinct, for the sole purpose of removing the food source of native Americans. "The Trail of Tears" deals with the "relocation" of the Cherokee people. No, it is not the definitive story. However, it is well researched, and presents one point of view. It is recommended that this work be read, but others also, to get a well-rounded view of a piece of history that more Americans should be aware of.
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Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle. Highly recommended.
In Trail of Tears, John Ehle (who is, as far as I can tell, non-Native) sketches the people and events that led to the infamous Trail of Tears, the removal of the Cherokee Nation to "Indian Territory" (primarily Arkansas and Oklahoma) where they would "never" be bothered by whites again. The focus is on the "Treaty Party," consisting of Ridge, his son John Ridge, and his nephews Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie, along with Moravian, Methodist, and other missionaries sent to convert the Cherokees to Christianity and who are caught up in Cherokee/state/federal politics.
Ehle's bias is evident in the title; the "rise" of the Cherokees is the effort, not wholly embraced by the Nation, of adapting to European-American culture, language, religion, and even livelihood (e.g., Cherokee hunting is uncivilized, whereas the adoption of American farming is preferable). The story begins with some background and the birth of a Cherokee man named Ridge not too long before the American Revolutionary War. The white impact has already begun to be felt, as one of Ridge's forebears is white, and he and his family are driven into the wilds by the war.
After the war ends, the new Americans have one craving-land and more land. A gold strike in Georgia adds to the fever. The Cherokee, along with the Choctaw, Creek, and other southern tribes, are perceived as "wasting" land that their white counterparts should be entitled to. From this point on, it is clear that the Juggernaut of American expansionism and greed will displace the Native peoples. The question is only how and when.
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Until Sequoyah's praiseworthy invention of the Cherokee Syllabary in the early 19th century, Cherokee history - like other Native American tribes - was orally transmitted, with only a small fraction of the past preserved for posterity. Most of what was preserved were customs, traditions, and societal ways of life. Ehle's book attempts to give the reader a feel for what Cherokee life was like down through the centuries, describing the food, the houses, the matriarchal structure of society, the athletic contests, and many other aspects of their existence. He even comments on the outdated, yet amusingly mistaken notion that the Cherokees were one of the lost tribes of Israel. From this reconstructed general history of the past, he moves into the era of written history, eventually arriving at the famous saga of the Trail of Tears in the late 1830s. He researched his work thoroughly and tried to give a balanced approach by voicing alternative viewpoints, avoiding the overly simplistic "poor red man/bad white man" impression that seems to be so politically popular nowadays. What the reader will find is that there were both scoundrels and heroes among both whites and Cherokees. Sadly, when one speaks of victims, most of them seem to be the average Cherokee family (and some Caucasian missionaries). Indian life was slowly and inexorably subsumed by overwhelming numbers of Caucasian settlers, forcing the Indians to give up their lands, possessions, and livelihood to the very people they were trying to emulate. (This emulation included among other things farming methods, a bicameral government, newspaper production, clothing styles, housing architecture, and in many cases the Christian religion.Read more ›
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