The peace and prosperity of Nancy Hilderbrand’s existence on the banks of the Tennessee, the ancients’ Giver of life, is disrupted by the Removal of 1838, when native peoples are stripped of their lands by Federal powers greedy for gold and fertile soil. “The finest seamstress outside New Echota,” Nancy, widowed, with child, and awaiting deportation from the miserable internment of the stockade near Ross Landing, joins forces with Kaquoli Hicks, a devoted teacher left without students, and Sara Colaquee, a young girl left without parents. Their talents and strengths make them a formidable assemblage.
Nancy had determined: “The men in blue might strip them of their heritage and steal from them their home, but they could not taint the color of their blood, the nobility of their character. Their big knives were no match for the long, gleaming, razor-edged blade of hatred sheathed in her soul. Their big knives could only pierce the body—at worst, setting the spirit free. Hatred could do so much more.”
River Sisters, the Giver is the account of these courageous women, as they escape captivity, make their way back to the river valley, and, ultimately, gain entrance and acceptance into “white” society. Nancy declares: “The future is in our own hands. We must make a way for ourselves. Whether it be white, Cherokee, or something in between—it must be a way that is right and good for us. And I must make a way for the children.” Like the Giver itself, the lives of the “sisters’ take unexpected turns, sometimes churning and with hidden dangers. Motivated by the past, accepting the challenges of the present, and unable to anticipate the future that lies ahead, the “river sisters” preserve the mark of their noble character on generations to follow.