October 20, 2012

Take Me Away Saturday: Cherokee Culture

Take Me Away Saturday

This week we are visiting the Culture of the Cherokees:

The Cherokee, who refer to themselves as Tsalagi, are a Native American people whose origins can be traced back to the Southeastern U.S., principally Georgia, the Carolinas, and east Tennessee. There are three federally recognized tribes today, two out of Oklahoma and one in North Carolina.  Among other things, the Cherokee are famous for being one of the "Five Civilized Tribes", the Trail of Tears, and being a matrilineal culture.   Learn more about the Cherokees here and through the books below.

(There is a list of  the countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts at the bottom of this post. Check them out and discover some good books to read and recommend some, too!)


Travelling west of the colonies with a small party in 1756, Shannon O'Shea loses her way in the wilderness, soon drenched by driving rains and forced by powerful winds into the shelter of a cave. Stripping quickly, she is drawn to the flickering warmth of a fire deep within, but she stops cold - surely she must be dreaming. Before her stands a Cherokee brave, tall and broad-shouldered, scarcely clothed. Storm Dancer whispers that she knew him once...long ago. He vows to keep her safe. By morning, he seems to vanish, yet Storm Dancer will remain with Shannon, in every way a flesh-and-blood man who awakens her every womanly longing. For their spirits call to each other. Storm Dancer's vow is kept. He is more honourable by far than the white man Shannon must wed, and time will prove that only he can save her from violence and treachery...and that he is the only man she will truly love. 

Discovering his missing girlfriend, Heather Richmond, on his doorstep with a baby was a shock for Michael Elk. The stunning blonde had sent his tortured heart to hell when she'd vanished eighteen months ago. Now she was suddenly asking him to claim her brother's baby as his own....
In order to protect her nephew, Heather had to depend on the only man she'd ever loved...and betrayed. But sharing a roof with irresistibly magnetic Michael Elk soon had her yearning to share his bed. Could they become a family for real, or would Heather's dark secret destroy their love once and for all? 

In another 19th-century venture, the author of the National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain dispatches a 12-year-old boy named Will on a man-size mission. Given only a horse, a key, and a map, this callow youth is sent alone into Indian country to run a trading post. Thrust into a frontier society where everything is uncertain, Will places his allegiance on the side of the embattled Cherokees and his love in the elusive hands of a young woman he won in a card game. A love story set in a fully imagined borderland world. 

Acclaimed novelist Robert J. Conley once again mines the history of his people, the Cherokee. In a fascinating and compelling novel, he explores the life of Dragging Canoe, the last great war chief of the united Cherokee tribe. In the late eighteenth century, as the English settlers begin steadily encroaching upon the Cherokee lands, the Nation—split up amongst several towns and many chiefs—unites in a series of battles under the war chief Dragging Canoe.  But the united front is not one that lasts: Dragging Canoe’s belief that they must fight the settlers to preserve their lands and their culture is far from universal. 

The author of numerous plays and film scripts, including Green Grow the Lilacs, later made into the hit musical Oklahoma!, Lynn Riggs (18991954) is recognized as one of America’s most engaging dramatists and was the only active American Indian dramatist during the first half of the twentieth century. An elegant leatherbound collector’s edition, The Cherokee Night and Other Plays, features his never-before-published play Out of Dust, as well as The Cherokee Night and Green Grow the Lilacs.
A mixed-blood Cherokee, Riggs wrote about the people, places, and events of the Oklahoma he knew so well. A cattle rancher’s son, Riggs was born in the Verdigris Valley south of Claremore in Indian Territory. He first gained recognition as a poet in the early 1920s while attending the University of Oklahoma and later moved to New York, where he worked on and around Broadway. In 1927 Riggs was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, and while in France on that fellowship, he began writing Green Grow the Lilacs, which Rodgers and Hammerstein made into the Broadway musical Oklahoma! in 1943. By the end of his life, Riggs had written some thirty plays and scripts for fourteen films produced between 1930 and 1955. 


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."

Walking on the Wind: Cherokee Teachings for Harmony and Balance by Michael Tuanusta Garrett
 In the spirit of the highly acclaimed Medicine of the Cherokee, coauthored with his father J. T. Garrett, Michael Garrett shares with us the delightful, all-ages stories passed down from his great-grandfather and other medicine teachers. Blending his background as an Eastern Cherokee with his skills as a counselor, Michael reveals through these tales how to make sense of our experiences in life, see beauty in them, and be at peace with our choices.

In this priceless and engaging collection, native Cherokee and professional storyteller Lloyd Arneach recounts tales such as how the bear lost his long bushy tail and how the first strawberry came to be.

Al Herrin is a living Cherokee national treasure, based on his knowledge of the Cherokee bow, its use and construction. This book gives the reader a great insight into the thinking of the Cherokee people. If you wish to make your own bow or just want a better understanding of Native American bows ... this book is a must read. (via twowalks) 

Indian Bead-Weaving Patterns is written for beginning and advanced beaders. It contains over 200 instructional illustrations and photographs of 47 beadwork pieces. Emphasis is on the use of traditional Native American beading techniques. The major portion of this book covers chain-weaving patterns, examples of which include multiple strands, 6-bead and 8-bead daisy chains, "Ogalala Butterfly," ladder weaves, "Peyote Stitch," fancy tubes, "spider" designs, "Apache Leaf," "Zig-zag" variations, 5- and 8-bead diagonals, "Potawatomi Weave," "Wide Net," "Lakota Chain," beaded braids, and beaded dolls. Also included in this book are notes on supplies, knots and threading and an illustrated section on How to Make and Use an Indian Bead Loom. With this new, enlarged edition, come two additional sections, TRIANGLE BASE has illustrated directions for making this very popular pattern for pendants and ear-drops; and BEAD EMBROIDERY includes detailed instructions for Rosettes and Applique work. Additional descriptions and illustrations are also given for other patterns of sewn beadery.  


If You Lived with the Cherokee by Peter and Connie Roop
This book reveals what it was like to grow up in a Cherokee family long ago. Full-color illustrations by a Cherokee artist complement facts about Cherokee games, language, dwellings, medicine, names, and more.

Help young readers gain an appreciation for the American Indian nations of North America and the roles they played in the history of the United States and continue to play today.

In Soft Rain, a 9-year-old Cherokee girl finds herself in the same situation as Sweet Leaf as soldiers arrive one day to take her and her mother to walk the Trail of Tears, leaving the rest of her family behind. It all begins when Soft Rain's teacher reads a letter stating that as of May 23, 1838, all Cherokee people are to leave their land and move to what many Cherokees called "the land of darkness". . .the west. Soft Rain is confident that her family will not have to move, because they have just planted corn for the next harvest. Because Soft Rain knows some of the white man's language, she soon learns that they must travel across rivers, valleys, and mountains. On the journey, she is forced to eat the white man's food and sees many of her people die. Her courage and hope are restored when she is reunited with her father, a leader on the Trail, chosen to bring her people safely to their new land.

The story of Sequoyah is the tale of an ordinary man with an extraordinary idea—to create a writing system for the Cherokee Indians and turn his people into a nation of readers and writers. The task he set for himself was daunting. Sequoyah knew no English and had no idea how to capture speech on paper. But slowly and painstakingly, ignoring the hoots and jibes of his neighbors and friends, he worked out a system that surprised the Cherokee Nation—and the world of the 1820s—with its beauty and simplicity. James Rumford’s Sequoyah is a poem to celebrate literacy, a song of a people’s struggle to stand tall and proud. 

This is, of course, just a sampling of books on the Cherokee life for you to read. Do you want to recommend/share books that are about the Cherokee? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for our next trip in books! :)

Here is what is coming up next:
The European country of France
The country of Australia 

Where we've been and the books that take us there:


  1. This is a wonderful list, Rebecca. I really want to read Thirteen Moons, partly because I love Cold Mountain.


  2. Ooh, what a great list! I have gotten very interested in Native American history and culture recently, so this will be a great way to deep dive into one in particular.

  3. He's not Cherokee, but you might like Turning the Feather Around by George Morrison.

  4. Yay! I really like reading about the Cherokee. Possibly because I have been to the Eastern Band Reservation, which was only 2 hours from where I first went to university.

  5. I am glad you found something to add to your TBR, Stephanie!


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