Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Real People: Cherokee Talisman by Michael-David Harding

David-Michael Harding has written a very interesting historical novel of the Cherokee Nation spanning the time of the colonial era of the United States until the Native Americans were systematically removed from their homelands. Many times treaties were signed on colonial "leaves" promising peaceful coexistence with the Cherokee people (and other tribes) in exchange for sections of their homeland. The documents were like leaves in the wind as white settlers moved west from the colonies and the new "American" nation grew encroaching on Native American land. While colonists were engaged in battling British, French, and Spanish enemies, Cherokee and other nations were able to fight off the relatively weak westward push with merciless violence directed at settlers. As the colonies began to dominate and then form agreements with their European competitors, Native American support from these countries in the form of food, guns, and ammunition dwindled. The market for trading scalps and booty from slaughtered settlers and battles with tribal enemies all but disappeared. Everyone knew that treaties with the "Indians" were not worth the paper they were written on, but they did bring some short term peace in the native lands.

The novel follows the lives of a host of interesting characters from 1775 to 1821. The reader gets an intimate look at the culture of a people forced to submit gradually and then quickly to colonial and "American" westward expansion. The portrayal of Colonel (and later General) Andrew Jackson and his role in the destruction of Native American culture in general is surprising. He was ruthless in his war on the Indians and his military occupation of their land. The Cherokee leaders were violently resistant at first to Jackson and other American military units, but realized they would have to increase their efforts at acculturation in order to survive. Often Native Americans were convinced by their progressive tribal leaders that by identifying with the aggressor they would be able to maintain some of their own land and traditions.

In this historical context, the story of well-developed characters unfolds. From a spiritual point of view, Cherokee shaman and warrior Totsuhwa (Redbird) sees the inevitable destruction of his culture. Learning spirituality from his grandmother, and warrior strength from his legendary Cherokee leader and adoptive father, Tsi'yu-gunsini (Dragon), Totsuhwa vows to stay in his tribe's homeland even if it is occupied by "Whites" and the original way of life is modified. He has years of happiness and tears as a respected Shaman living a traditional Cherokee family life and a separate warrior life of battling other tribes and the army of the new American nation. He attempts to to preserve the Cherokee homeland and culture while his tribe is forced to change through violence and submission.

This is an excellent historical novel. I was completely engrossed in the history, characters, and action of the ebook. The pace varies allowing the reader to get a good understanding of the long proud history of the Native American Nations and the relatively quick demise of the tribal cultures. The story of Totsuhwa brings joy, heart pounding excitement, and tears of sadness to the reader. The novel is reminiscent of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans (Bantam Classics), with a less formal but consistent writing style and voice. I highly recommend this novel to readers ranging in age from young adolescents to seniors.  

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