Monday, January 4, 2010

Walking the Trail: One Man's Journey Along the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Jerry Ellis

In 1838, the Cherokee Nation thrived in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. The eighteen thousand Indians had their own newspaper; they raised corn, cotton, hogs, and cattle: they lived in peace. But in that same year, U. S. soldiers rounded up the Cherokees and forced them to walk nine hundred miles across eight states to Oklahoma, where they were put on reservations. Along the way, thousands of them died, and this haunted path became known as the Trail of Tears.

I enjoyed Jerry Ellis's story about his 900 mile walk retracing the Cherokee Trail of Tears, following the route of his ancestors. Jerry was born and raised in the old Cherokee Nation in Fort Payne, Alabama. He made his walk to honor those who had died along the trail. Along the way, he encounters the modern day people living in the small southern towns (who many times told him their own stories), slept in a tent in woods or meadows, fished the streams, built campfires, and tried to understand the rich, tragic history of the Cherokee people. It is a book that is filled with insight, but I think I have to agree with Terry Johnston, a western author who wrote on the back cover of this book "What Jerry Ellis does best is to magically touch the wanderer down deep inside all of us with his eloquent prose."

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