Audiobook Review: The Cherokee Nation And The Trail Of Tears

The Cherokee Nation And The Trail Of Tears, by Theda Perdue And Michael D. Green

This began in an extremely disappointing way, but a way that is unfortunately all too common when one is reading or listening to books about America’s first immigrants [1], and that is a rhapsodic account of the heathen worldview of the Cherokee people, something that has no claims to truth on any number of levels.  Once this bit of multicultural tripe is gotten rid of, the book has some solid material about the context in which the Trail of Tears too place, along with the understanding that the Cherokee experience, although better known than most, was neither unique nor representative, and that all of the Eastern tribes expelled from lands so that settlers could take their land had their own stories with unique twists.  So far so good, I suppose, but since this is a book about the Cherokee, it is little surprise that this book chooses to focus on the history of the Cherokee people during the long run-up to removal and at least a few years afterward, and the story is itself a worthwhile story to tell even if the author does not make the Cherokee, especially their leadership under John Ross, look very good.

The book is organized in a generally chronological way and takes about five and a half hours of listening time, which is about three times the length (or more) it would likely have taken me to read the book.  Aside from the extraneous and offensive religious material at the beginning of the book, the material is largely downcast and historical.  What it reveals is that the sustained pressure from the state and federal governments for the Cherokee to surrender their land was accompanied by several philosophical approaches and led to a great deal of division within the Cherokee themselves.  Efforts at civilization (which increased the density of Cherokee and allowed superfluous hunting grounds to be ceded) alternated with racist fears of intermarriage and efforts on the parts of many Southern states to give at best a second-class citizenship status to the Cherokee, and the result on the part of the Cherokees was splintering, eventually into four groups of people, “old Settlers” who voluntarily moved west at the beginning of the 19th century, Eastern band Cherokee and various other outlaws (like some of my own ancestors) who hid out in the mountains, treaty party Cherokee from Georgia whose signing of a contentious treaty at New Echota led their leaders to be butchered by other Cherokee in an act of political terrorism, and the majority led by the corrupt John Ross and his associates.

The book, ultimately, does not make anyone look good.  The Cherokee show themselves as fractious, highly disorderly, and prone to alcoholism and cronyism.  Settlers show themselves as immensely greedy and the United States showed itself as being unwilling to live up to its agreements.  The result was a tragedy, and this book certainly does a good job at framing the nature of that tragedy and pointing out what about removal led to such diffiuclties–like the breakdown of society, despair leading to immense alcoholism, and corrupt political dealing on all sides.  It is striking that the book takes a pro-Ross slant, one that is increasingly tedious and irritating as the book goes on and the Ross group shows itself involved in a great deal of corrupt dealing, but to the authors’ credit there is at least some attempt made to explain the motives of those who signed the treaty of New Echota, even though they realized (correctly) it would probably cost them their lives.  Overall, though, this book trades in far too much in white guilt to be as good as it could be, although there are few historians who would write about the Cherokee without trying to make whites look bad in this day and age.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Cherokee Nation And The Trail Of Tears

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Sequoyah’s Gift | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: America’s Patriotic Trails | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Fauxcahontas Strikes Back | Edge Induced Cohesion

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