W. Julian Fessler
“The Story of the Cherokees,” by Dr. W. R. L. Smith of Norfolk, Virginia. Published and copyrighted by the Church of God Publishing House, Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1928, with an introduction by Mr. Joseph B. Thoburn, Curator of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Anyone who has read “John Ross and the Cherokees,” by Eaton, has already a fair knowledge of the essential groundwork for the above historical sketch. “The Story of the Cherokees” is a straightforward, interesting story of tribal history from the time of their first appearance as members of the Iroquois stock, dwelling in what is now New York state, down to the year 1922. Though it is not embellished with copious footnotes (a list of authorities is cited) and it is not as detailed as the reader might desire, it is meritorious in that it presents a unified picture of tribal history down to the present, carefully solicitous to historical data. The author never once permits the central story to become overshadowed with purely biographical material relating to important Cherokee personages at the various crucial stages of Cherokee history.
The thesis is put put forth that, although the whites were harsh in their dealings with the Indians to obtain their lands, possibly if the Indians had not been brought into contact with the white men and their culture, the Indians themselves never would have been able to have made the rapid rise from utter savagery to a fair degree of civilization in the short span of years, as was the case with the Cherokees. There seems to be an abundance of material to support the author’s views; at any rate, it is an eloquent tribute to the high order of intelligence possessed by the Cherokee Nation that it did beat its way from savagery to the civilized estate which it enjoyed from 1820 on to the time of the removal from Georgia.
The last chapter is devoted to an interesting exposition on the “Eastern Cherokees,” or those who fled to the mountain fastnesses at the time of the enforced removal by General Scott, and never were ferreted out for removal, subsequently being confirmed in a land grant in North Carolina which is known as the Qualla Boundary.
The author contrasts the static condition which these remained in with the progress made by those who came to Oklahoma. The underlying purpose of this chapter seems to be an attempt to show that the Indian policy pursued by the United States, though blundering and without any definite aim until after the Civil War, eventually worked out for the mutual benefit of the Indian and the white man.
This work gives an accurate prospectus of Cherokee history, but the careful and exacting student will have to search elsewhere for details with which to fill in the broad outline presented. Mr. Joseph Thoburn in his introduction pays this tribute to the author, “His spirit of fairness is so evident as to command the confidence of the reader. It seems doubly fitting that such an undertaking should have been projected and brought to a successful issue by a son of the commonwealth which, nearly a century ago, almost ruthlessly insisted upon the eviction and exile of the Cherokee people from their ancient and much loved haunts.”
W. Julian Fessler.
Y. M. C. A.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.