Cherokee Women in Crisis: Trail of Tears, Civil War, and Allotment, 1838-1907 / Edition 1

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Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 2003 Soft cover 1st Edition New. No Jacket (softback) Book. 8vo-over 7?"-9?" tall. The trials and tribulations of the southern Indian woman had been ... almost completely ignored until this book came along. Free tracking numbers for domestic (USA) customers. Read more Show Less

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Explains how traditional Cherokee women's roles were destabilized, modified, recovered, and in some ways strengthened during three periods of great turmoil.

American Indian women have traditionally played vital roles in social hierarchies at the family, clan, and tribal levels. In the Cherokee Nation, specifically, women and men are considered equal contributors to the culture. With this study, however, we learn that three key historical events in the 19th and early 20th centuries—removal, the Civil War, and allotment of their lands—forced a radical renegotiation of gender roles and relations in Cherokee society.

Carolyn Johnston (who is related to John Ross, principal chief of the Nation) looks at how Cherokee women navigated these crises in ways that allowed them to retain their traditional assumptions, ceremonies, and beliefs and to thereby preserve their culture. In the process, they both lost and retained power. The author sees a poignant irony in the fact that Europeans who encountered Native societies in which women had significant power attempted to transform them into patriarchal ones and that American women struggled for hundreds of years to achieve the kind of equality that Cherokee women had enjoyed for more than a millennium.

Johnston examines the different aspects of Cherokee women's power: authority in the family unit and the community, economic independence, personal autonomy, political clout, and spirituality. Weaving a great-grandmother theme throughout the narrative, she begins with the protest of Cherokee women against removal and concludes with the recovery of the mother town of Kituwah and the elections of Wilma Mankiller and Joyce Dugan as principal chiefs of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokees.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The major success of the book . . . is Johnston's refusal to portray the Cherokee women as victims. Through every strife and struggle, these women were agents of their own power, adapting to the changing times. Walking the Trail of Tears, watching their homes plundered by Union soldiers, being forced to give up their sacred land, the Cherokee women persevered with a quiet strength, channeling their energy into what’s most important: cultural survival."
—ForeWord Magazine

"If the precise connection between historical events and cultural change cannot always be drawn clearly, Johnston's engaging narrative, based on solid research, brings to life many remarkable Cherokee women whose stories provide broader insights into gendered lives."
—Journal of Southern History

Johnston probes the minds and lives of Cherokee women from the days of early contact with persons of European origin to 1907, with a few references to Cherokee women today. Euro-American writers who originally observed Indian culture "...assumed that one of the reasons the Cherokees were uncivilized was because the women had so much power. ...The Cherokee and Euro-American worldviews differed dramatically regarding appropriate gender roles, marriage, sexuality, and spiritual beliefs.... Cherokee women were farmers and Cherokee men were hunters, Their society was matrilineal and matrilocal, which meant that the women owned their residences and the fields they worked...[They] were healers, producers, warriors, traders, wives, and mothers." While the book has plenty of analysis of Cherokee women's roles and culture, their rituals, roles, and ways of thinking and acting, this information is interwoven with history. Johnston focuses first on their lives in Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, where in 1819, "seventeen thousand Cherokees were surrounded by approximately one million whites." When the whites wanted more land and gold was discovered on Indian land in Georgia during Andrew Jackson's presidency, no amount of pleading or even accommodation by the Cherokees and their white supporters could dissuade the government from uprooting them and sending them west. Their trek, in winter, known as The Trail of Tears, is a black mark on US history. The account of this journey alone would be an excellent reason to add this book to native American collections. Johnston goes on to explore the Cherokee experience (always with the emphasis on women) as the Civil War swirled about them. Shefollows with a sensitive description of the disruption that ensued when the government endeavored to allot plots of land to individual Indians. This forced changes in established residential patterns and violated the tradition of communal ownership in painful ways. Johnston is always aware of the Cherokees' contact with whites who worked among them, especially missionaries, and how missions, schools, and intermarriage changed lives and thinking. Archival photographs, most of them showing Indians in Western clothing, speak as loudly as the text. Johnston combines thorough formal scholarship and good writing to inform Native Americans and general readers alike. This will be of interest to teachers and advanced high school readers. Include it in the bibliographies of both women and Indian studies classes. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Univ. of Alabama Press, 227p. illus. notes. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
—Edna Boardman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817350567
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Series: Contemporary American Indians Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I Crisis of Gender
1 Cultural Continuity 11
2 Early Catalysts for Change 36
3 The Trail of Tears 56
Pt. II Crisis of the Civil War and Reconstruction
4 The Civil War 81
5 Reconstruction 106
Pt. III Crisis of Allotment
6 Allotment 127
Conclusion 145
Notes 159
Bibliography 197
Index 213
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