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Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the…

Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (original: 1988; edição: 1988)

de John Ehle

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The moving, searing story of the betrayal and brutal dispossession of the Cherokee Nation.
Título:Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation
Autores:John Ehle
Informação:Anchor Books Doubleday (1988), Paperback, 424 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
Etiquetas:Native American, First Nations

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Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation de John Ehle (1988)


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Exibindo 4 de 4
So informative and so heartbreaking! Fascinating story which highlights the worst and best of our human nature.
( )
  redbird_fan | Jan 13, 2020 |
This entertaining historical novel has sowed confusion among readers with a sincere interest in Cherokee history. That's because the author has dotted his text with footnotes, and the publisher has labeled it "American history" rather than (what it is) historical fiction. Dear reader, do us all a favor. Don't cite this book in your blog posts, much less your formal research on Cherokee history. If John Ehle's notes lead you to read what he red, then great. But Trail of Tears is not a history book. It's a work of fiction.
2 vote Muscogulus | Mar 19, 2011 |

Cherokees called it The Trail Where We Cried.

One of my forbears was a Cherokee abandoned as a baby along the Trail of Tears. After the Indians had all passed by, the family heard the wailing of an infant who had been left on their wood stack. They took him in and raised him as their own. So this is a subject of interest to me. After reading this book, the conclusion I reached is: my previous ‘knowledge’ was skewed.

In grade school, I ‘learned’ about the mean old white folks’ treatment of Indians. Later, I ‘learned’ about Andrew Jackson’s treatment of Cherokees. Indeed, if you pass your flash light over the picture of the Cherokee Removal, you would see some of each. But, this book illuminates the whole picture.

It is a careful illustration of the life of the Cherokee people, the author picking up the story beginning about 1770. He discusses treaties, the parties involved, what they meant to each group; numerous were the treaties between the various Indian tribes, between the Indians and the whites, and how the government did not keep the spirit of the treaties. The political climate of the time, the players in the government of Georgia and in Washington, some wanting autonomy for the Indians, and others desiring their removal. The rise of the Cherokee nation’s leaders. You hear the stories of their shamans, their battle chiefs, and their later leaders, who actually led them into prosperity.

Not written like a historical novel, with flowing narrative, nor like a strict listing of dry facts, but rather something in between. The author puts flesh on the facts. Exhaustively researched, he weaves the source documents chronologically through his story. With many original letters and speech transcripts inserted into the narrative, it sometimes reads disjointedly, but I don’t know how he could have done this any differently, for the correspondence between the major parties are crucial to the story and its timeline.

My first thought was that the book was misnamed. Pages covering the actual trail of tears were comparatively few. On reflection though, I wondered if the author was inferring that the Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation WAS their Trail of Tears. The documents presented show that the tribe essentially imploded from the results of the actions of one faction of the tribe. And this same faction caused The Trail to become one of tears.

Their two main leaders during the time of the Cherokee Removal were John Ridge and John Ross. Two Cherokees, both, at first, earnestly striving to lead their people in the best way. When it became apparent that the state of Georgia WOULD have them forced out, John Ridge advocated for acquiescence, John Ross for avoidance. When Ross wrangled the removal contract from the government for the enrichment of his own family, mismanaged the job, and insisted on a long land route, rather than the shorter water route, simply to increase his own take, he consigned his own people to hell on the trail.

In the end, it was a history of a people who wanted to believe the hope held out to them by an unscrupulous leader. Through the whole ordeal, they kept following him, because he was one of them. And they never saw how destructive that path was, even as their own society crumbled around them because of it.



Both Ross and Ridge had often been to Washington, meeting with Indian Affairs, and with the President, himself. Both worked toward an end which would allow their people to remain. In the end, it became apparent that it was a losing fight. The whites, by sheer number and force of law and military, could not lose. Whenever they came back from Washington, Ridge would urge the people to get ready to leave for the land set aside for them in the west. Ross told them to stay put. During this time that the Cherokees needed national debate, Ross abolished elections. The Cherokees were wedded to the land; they wanted to stay. So, most of them listened to Ross, because they hoped that would be the outcome. Even after the ratification of the treaty of the 23rd of May, 1836, which gave them two years to make ready, Ross still told his people to wait.

Some, though, listened to Ridge. Four to five thousand had already made their own way to the new lands. Then, when the government began its removal program, about a thousand pro-Treaty people were moved, going in three groups. The government provided a fleet of keel boats for their journey. Ridge and his family were among one of the first three groups; their trip, using the government run water route, took 24 days.

Major Ridge’s son John Ridge and friends decided to travel themselves via horseback and carriage; their trip took 49 days. Upon arrival in their new lands, John Ridge said, “I have traveled extensively in that country [the new Cherokee lands] … and every evidence of prosperity and happiness was to be seen among the Cherokees as a people.”

All the way to the last moment, Ross kept his people from preparing. When the actual removal began, soldiers were sent door to door to accompany the Cherokees to the gathering places, telling them to gather up what they wanted to take. “The Indians asked why it had to be decided now, all in an hour. Two years and a month and an hour, the soldiers said.”

Ross, finally seeing that the end was inevitable, went back to Washington, and negotiated the contract for the rest of the removal (about eleven thousand Cherokees still in the east), the contract to be given to the Cherokees, and then he awarded that contract to his brother. “Ross wanted more than twice the budgeted amount to move the remaining Indians and slaves. He wanted $65.88 per head, with eighty days expected on the land route. … The land route would take longer by many weeks, it’s true, but Indians prefer the land.” A negotiator tried to get him to agree to the water route – safer, better and faster. But Ross negotiated a contract that gave him more money if the trip took longer than expected.

“Questions about the advisability of land travel in winter were shunted aside. As to use of the federal boats tied up at the three river ports, they would not be needed. … They refused clothing and blankets and other aids.” The first of the Ross managed groups was to leave about Sep 1, the last about Dec 5.

The Indians learned that Ross was in charge, that the removal was now Indian-led. The general in charge “saw that the attitude of the Indians had improved under their own leadership … Let the Indians take themselves to the West; let them decide how they wanted to go…”

Altogether, there were 16 groups of Cherokees removed from the east, 3 government run, and 13 Ross managed. The book did not give the number of days on the trail for each of the 13 detachments. I would like to have seen an appendix with a table of numbers. Three groups specifically noted in the narrative were 189 days, 5 months 3-1/2 weeks, and 5 months. John Ross chose the water route for his own family.

“The Trail of Tears … was a trail of sickness, with Indian sorcerers as doctors.” One of the contingents was accompanied by a white doctor, who left records of the trip. He tried to do what he could, but found that the Indians preferred to be attended by their own, so could not stop them from courses that led to more deaths.

Regarding the Ross brothers contract – he received $776,394, and was asking for another $86,940, and then for even more, totaling an extra half a million. Finally, in Sep. 1841, “Pres. John Tyler, needing to settle the Cherokee matter, consented to pay to John Ross his claim. He had John Ross’s assurance that any dollars left over after full settlement of [incurred removal related] debt would be paid into the Cherokee treasury. None was left.”

“Lewis Ross [the brother of John Ross] took some of the profits and played a hunch. In the West, the backbreaking work of clearing and constructing and planting would create an excellent market for black slaves. He bought a supply of slaves in Georgia and sent them out there. He sent them by water. He sent five hundred.”

The Cherokee society in the west was peaceful, and well run by the “old settlers”. When Ross’s contingent arrived, “law and order on all counts broke down; even theft became commonplace, theft of slaves and everything else of value. The Cherokee men and women from the East became devourers of their own society.“ Through machinations and duplicity, Ross and his faction took over the government in the western lands, murdered Ridge and his faction, and enacted laws giving amnesty to those involved. “The federal agents informally accused John Ross of complicity in the murders; unable to prove it, they denounced him for refusing as chief to assist in bringing the guilty to trial. He continued to refuse, and worked to protect them. The agents and Washington officials called on him to resign as head of the Cherokee government, but he declined.” ( )
2 vote countrylife | Aug 15, 2009 |
Excellent history of the Cherokees and the removal of the tribe to Oklahoma.
  grannynani | Dec 30, 2007 |
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to Marshall De Bruhl
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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 tear-stained faces and beautiful, waiting children.
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[Choctaw chief, after ceding their lands:] The man who had said that he ‘would plant a stake and draw a line around us, that never should be passed, was the first to say that he could not guard the lines, and drew up the stake and wiped out all traces of the line.'
[Major Ridge (re: Georgians):] They think…the President is bound by the compact of 1802 to purchase this country for them, and they justify their conduct by the end in view. … I know the Indians have an older title than theirs. We obtained the land from the living God above. They got their title from the British. Yet they are strong and we are weak. We are few, they are many. We cannot remain here in safety and comfort. … any forcible effort to keep them will cost us our lands, our lives and the lives of our children. There is but one path of safety, one road to future existence as a Nation. That path is open before you. Make a treaty of cession. Give up these lands and go over beyond the great Father of Waters.
[John Ridge:] Mr. Ross is using his influence to defeat the only measure that can give relief to his suffering people … He says he is doing the will of the people, and he holds their authority; they are opposed, and it is enough. The will of the people! The opposition of the people! This has been the cry for the last five years, until that people have become but a mere wreck of what they once were; all their institutions and improvements utterly destroyed; their energy enervated; their moral character debased, corrupted and ruined. The whole of that catastrophe … might have been averted, if Mr. Ross … had met the crisis manfully as it became him to do, and unfolded to his confiding people the sure termination of these things; they might now have been a happy and prosperous community, a monument to his forecast and wise administration as an Indian chief. But, no sir, he has dragged an ignorant train, wrought upon by near-sighted prejudice and stupid obstinacy, to the last brink of destruction.
[Written by an English geologist traveling amongst the Cherokees in 1837:]
This spectacle insensibly led me into reflection upon the opinion which is so generally entertained of its being impossible to civilize the Indians in our sense of the word. Here is a remarkable instance which seems to furnish a conclusive answer to skepticism on this point. A whole Indian nation abandons the pagan practices of their ancestors, adopts the Christian religion, uses books printed in their own language, submits to the government of their elders, builds houses and temples of worship, relies upon agriculture for their support, and produces men of great ability to rule over them, and to whom they give a willing obedience. Are not those the great principles of civilization? They are driven from their religious and social state then, not because they cannot be civilized, but because a pseudo set of civilized beings, who are too strong for them, want their possessions! What a bitter reflection it will be to the religiously disposed portion of the people, who shall hereafter live here, that the country they will be so proud of and so blest in was torn from the Aboriginals in this wrongful manner.”
[Letter from commissioners in the Cherokee Agency, Washington:]
We have long since been convinced that many of you are laboring under a dangerous error, and that you have been duped and deluded by those in whom you have placed implicit confidence. In the 16th article of the Treaty of Dec. 29th, 185, it is stipulated that the Cherokees “shall remove to their new homes within two year from the ratification of the treaty” – and this having occurred on the 23rd of May, 1836, you have now, after wasting opportunities, only the short period of less than five months for the settlement of your affairs here, and the preparation for your removal to your new homes. Do not deceive yourselves into a belief in the false hope held out to you that longer time will be given. The treaty will be executed, without change or alteration, and another day beyond the time named, cannot or will not be allowed to you. Your own safety, your own interests, require that you should abandon all idea of change, and set at once about the settlement of your affairs, and make your arrangements for speedy emigration. Rely no longer on the specious promises of delegations at Washington – they have known for more than a year that no exertion or artifice of theirs could effect the slightest change in your position – and even if they have entertained a hope heretofore, on the subject, they can now be no longer in doubt. The Government has distinctly informed Mr. Ross that no alteration whatever would be made – and that the Cherokees must abide by the terms of the treaty of 1835… Mr. Ross, in his zeal upon the subject, may have deceived himself – but he is now fully convinced of his error; and in a letter written by him to Col. Mason, an agent of the Government, dated at Washington the 6th of the present month, he says “we have nothing now to do but patiently to submit ourselves” to the requirements of the government.”
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The moving, searing story of the betrayal and brutal dispossession of the Cherokee Nation.

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975.00497 — History and Geography North America Southeastern U.S.

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