Johnston, Carolyn Ross. Cherokee women in crisis; Trail of Tears, Civil War, and allotment, 1838-1907

Johnston, Carolyn Ross. Cherokee women in crisis; Trail of Tears, Civil War, and allotment, 1838-1907

Edna Boardman

JOHNSTON, Carolyn Ross. Cherokee women in crisis; Trail of Tears, Civil War, and allotment, 1838-1907. Univ. of Alabama Press. 227p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. c2003. 0-8173-5056-X. $29.95. SA

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. She follows 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. Edna Boardman, Bismarck, ND

COPYRIGHT 2004 Kliatt

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group