Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cherokee Talisman by David-Michael Harding

Cherokee Talisman. David-Michael Harding. Q&CY Books. November 2012. 368 pp.  ISBN #: 9780615652535.

This fictional account is written to break the stereotype of the "savage" Native American Indian, in particular two Cherokee leaders.  Totsuhwa, a Cherokee shaman, is first trained by the leader Tsi'yugunsini, "Dragging Canoe" or "Dragon." The Dragon knows that the white man will return numerous times, each time committing the Indian leaders to sell more and more land and leave behind what is useless or unproductive land.  Worse yet, the land the white man is really stealing is not treated with reverence.  In fact, The Cherokee tribe fails to understand how anyone can "own" land that is a gift from God. When agreement fails, stronger weapons and manipulation through the gifts of material goods and alcohol weakens the Indians into confusion and surrender of all they treasure!

This is a sad but necessary tale to be told.  What the reader needs to see is how the "Dragon" mentors Totsuhwa with a constant attitude of care and compassion, urging war only in self-defense.  While Indians are always depicted as "scalping savages," here we learn that the white attackers often scalped, tortured and shot their Indian victims and burned homes and lands of Indians as well.  An endless cycle of violence is perpetuated on both sides.  General Jackson is portrayed in truth as being no friend of Indians whom he saw as an obstacle to westward expansion of American explorers and settlers.

Totsuhwa is a loving, cherished husband of Galegi and devoted father who trains his child to honor the gifts of nature, in one potent scene punishing his child for ignoring the need to return to the earth something in place of what has been taken.  It is written as a fair, reasonable, and poignant exchange that the son never forgets, even though eventually he must learn to live with the white man who will always be far superior in numbers and whose ways will continuously diminish the dignity of the Cherokee and other tribal members. Forgiveness is too late but truth-telling is sorely due in this 21st Century of a people not only driven from homes but almost completely exterminated.

Cherokee Talisman is a well-written, obviously well-researched, and honest novel to a comprehensive treatment of Indian-American relationships, an excellent addition to a more fair treatment of Native American history and the genre of historical fiction.

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