By Victoria LaPoe
Recently, I reviewed a book that may be helpful for a class addressing race, gender and history. Voices of Cherokee Women Ed. Carolyn Ross Johnston is an excellent compilation of gender history fit for those interested in gender, historical, and/or Native issues. Voices of Cherokee Women unfolds historically how Cherokee women had societal power, lost it, and are now regaining it again socially, economically, and politically. From the Trail of Tears to the Civil War, women petitioned that the preservation of land equated the preservation of family and of culture; this is another very symbolic moment in the book as it is women who also preserve a tribe through child-birth.
As a Cherokee person, the greatest insight I had from this book was the historical accounts from the Civil War. Perhaps this was my ignorance, but my eyes opened as I read the historical first-hand accounts of what Cherokee and other Native people went through as they were essentially trapped by the North and South.
The government forced Cherokees from their land and then the Cherokees had almost no resources to protect themselves as this same government fought. The book details how Cherokee women were refugees and many were raped and robbed. At the same time Cherokee women had to go on and provide for themselves and their children. Cherokees were literally in the middle of this war geographically and because many had slaves. As far as geographically it was also a lose-lose situation. The South had forced Cherokees from their homes and the Union wanted the Nation’s support, but didn’t offer any protection. In terms of slavery, the South had interest in the Cherokees’ slaves and the North rightfully wanted people freed, however, at the same time the North was pillaging Cherokee families. Overall the book is very strong and includes important voices for everyone to read. These historical accounts provide deeper perspective on the past several hundred years.