An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears
By Daniel Blake Smith
Henry Holt and Company | 324 pp | $17.74
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Join the Discussion of this Book »
The story of the removal of five tribes, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole, from the southeastern portion of the United States is collectively known as the Trail of Tears.
While this is true, many people think the term as applying to only the Cherokee's removal. Perhaps, this is because the Cherokee lost 4,000 people along the way. Over a quarter of the 15,000 removed to Oklahoma.
Through the years, there have been many books written about the Cherokee's removal. The latest book, "An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears," provides a well-researched historical account of the removal and relocation of the Cherokee.
"An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears," was written by Daniel Blake Smith the coauthor of "The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown" and the author of "Inside the Great House: Planter Family Life in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Society". Previously, he served as a professor of colonial American history at the University of Kentucky. He is a screenwriter and filmmaker.
"An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears," discusses how several United States presidents have different approaches in dealing with American Indians. Reaching all the way back to the first president, George Washington, who in 1789 said that Indian lands could no longer be taken without the "free consent" of American Indians.
Smith writes that Thomas Jefferson, who viewed African Americans inferior to whites, thought American Indians were equal to whites. This same Jefferson, who called Indians "merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions," also wrote elsewhere: "I believe the Indian to be in body and mind equal to the whiteman."
Smith writes in "An American Betrayal": "Thinly disguised behind Jefferson's enlightened rhetoric about the malleability of native peoples stood the bedrock determination to acquire their lands."
Even within the examination of the various presidents, Smith discloses the inherent greed of non-Indians to obtain American Indian lands.
By 1829 when Andrew Jackson assumed the presidency, he quickly determined to force as many Indians as he could west of the Mississippi River. He clearly wanted the United States to have Indian lands. For this reason, American Indians refer to the greedy man who graces the twenty dollar bill as the "removal president."
Smith's point of view, in his words, of the Cherokee during the time of removal:
"the Trail of Tears takes us into the hearts and minds of those Cherokee who fought each other just as fiercely as they took on Jackson over what they saw as the very soul of the Cherokee people. What they were fighting over in Cherokee country and beyond in the 1820s and 1830s was nothing less than what it meant to be a good Cherokee, a patriot, amid the crucial struggle over removal."
His treatment of a time of grief should make Cherokees today proud to be part of a heritage of people who survived in spite of a concerted effort by the United States government to strip them of their land and culture.
posted January 21, 2012 9:20 am est
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