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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Only the Names Remain: The Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

By Alex W Bealer
Illustrated by Kristina Rodanas
4.5 Stars

This book also resides in my children's homeschooling library, again part of the Sonlight history curriculum. It caught my attention mainly because I have several good friends that are part Cherokee. Most prominent would by Kitty Sutton who writes historical fiction related to the Cherokee Nation. I've already reviewed the first two of her books and will probably review the third book at some point as well.

Only the Names Remain is short, 76 pages and the font is not small. There are illustrations sprinkled through it. It is easily read in one sitting. The prose for the literary amoung us, isn't anything to get excited about, but it isn't boring. The subject and the content is riveting enough.

I think the book succeeds in its mission, which is to give a brief concise history of the Cherokee and what happened to this still proud American tribe. My only objection to the book is that it gives the impression that the Cherokee Nation has been completely destroyed by betrayal. The betrayal and cruelty is real but my Cherokee friends still know they are Cherokee. I know they have many leaders who work hard to make sure the next generation knows who they are and about their history.

The book begins in Georgia pointing out place names in what was once the territory of the Cherokee Nation. It briefly mentions what is known of their ancient history and then deals more with the period where they adapted to the arrival of Europeans. It outlines their alliances and enemies both native and European. From there it pinpoints the events that lead up to their forced relocation. Finally it deals with the infamous Trail of Tears itself where one in four died en route. It is a sad and shameful event in American history and I think all Americans should learn about it. I'm not American and never studied American history in school except as it touched on Canadian history. The fact that this was part of Sonlight curriculum, an American based program, makes me think that maybe it is taught extensively. I do wish it discussed where the Cherokee are today but it doesn't take the reader significantly past the Trail of Tears.

As a Canadian I don't believe I'm in any position to hate America for what it did to the Cherokee. All they would have to ask is where the Beothuk are today. We didn't march them anywhere. We just hunted them to extinction.

I do highly recommend the book for anyone.