William L. Anderson, editor,
Cherokee Removal: Before & After
(Brown Thrasher, 1991)

Cherokee Removal: Before & After is an unusual book because it was the first to take a broad, interdisciplinary approach to evaluating the forced removal of the Cherokees from their homeland in the Southeast to Oklahoma. The analysts include historians, a lawyer, a sociologist and a geographer, three of whom have Cherokee blood.

This book was written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Tears in 1988. It contains six essays. William L. Anderson penned the introduction and bibliographical essay.

Douglas C. Wilms, professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, wrote "Cherokee Land Use in Georgia." He relates what Cherokee life was like before the whites arrived, how fur traders affected their culture and land use, what the missionaries' did and how the Cherokees made every attempt to adopt the white ways.

Ronald N. Satz, dean of graduate studies, director of research and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, evaluates what Andrew Jackson said and did in "Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Indian Policy of Andrew Jackson." Satz includes the debates from a variety of angles.

"The Conflict Within: Cherokees & Removal" by Theda Perdue, professor of history at the University of Kentucky, describes how the wealthy Cherokees came into power within their nation and kept their middle and lower classes from advancing. The middle class negotiated the removal treaty, but their ploy backfired.

Russell Thornton, professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, recalculates the numbers in "The Demography of the Trail of Tears Period: A New Estimate of Cherokee Population Losses," while John R. Finger, professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, looks at an isolated segment of the Cherokee population in "The Impact of Removal on the North Carolina Cherokees."

Rennard Strickland, director of the American Indian Law and Policy Center at the University of Oklahoma, and William M. Strickland, who was the acting head of the department of speech and theatre arts at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, explain the six distinct stages of the Cherokees culture following the Trail of Tears in "Beyond the Trail of Tears: 150 Years of Cherokee Survival.

These essays provide a strong understanding of the cultural effect of the forced removal. They draw a more accurate picture of the Cherokees than many previous publications and analyze the Cherokee situation from diverse angles.

These authors brought out some interesting points and fresh perspectives. The only thing that I questioned was in Thornton's work. If he took the census figures as the absolute truth about the Cherokee population, he was way off base. This is the same mistake many researchers have made in the past. The reality is that many of the Cherokees hid their identity from the census and claimed to be that rare and elusive critter, the "Black Dutch." He did not mention that.

Cherokee Removal: Before & After is an interesting and informative read. It offers a fresh, different look at the Cherokee culture and how the forced removal affected it. These authors definitely break new ground with their analyses. If you are interested in Cherokee culture and history, by all means, read this book.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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