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Reviewed by:
  • Voices from the Trail of Tears
  • Ginny Carney (bio)
Vicki Rozema . Voices from the Trail of Tears. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 2003. 240 pp.

This work, like Cherokee Voices, is a compilation of letters, newspaper editorials, journal excerpts, church records, and military documents, written by a diverse group of Cherokees and Euroamericans. As the title suggests, Voices from the Trail of Tears is a moving account of the forced removal of thousands of Cherokees in the 1830s; Rozema does a remarkable job of "re-creating this tragic period in American history by letting eyewitnesses speak for themselves."

The author's introduction is a comprehensive synopsis of historical events leading up to Removal, her notes at the beginning of each chapter provide readers with a concise context for the documents that are to follow, and a number of appendices and several pages of bibliographic references serve as useful tools for researchers, teachers, and so on. [End Page 102]

Many of the letters and documents included in Rozema's work shed light not only on the tribulations of Cherokees who were removed from their ancient homeland, but also on the sufferings of missionaries and other white sympathizers who dared protest the injustice being waged against Indians. In an "Excerpt from the Reverend Samuel Worcester's account of his second arrest by the Georgia Guard," for example, Worcester (a missionary serving with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) dispels any notion that pro-Cherokee religious leaders may have been given preferential treatment during the months just preceding Removal (54-55). In his account, Worcester suggests that the two men responsible for his arrest, Sergeant Brooks and Colonel Nelson, are especially hostile to ministers and missionaries. Worcester describes how a Methodist circuit rider is compelled by Nelson to dismount from his horse and walk, and by Brooks, to "keep the center of the road through mire & water threatening to thrust him through with the bayonette if he turned aside" (56). Worcester adds:

In the meantime [Brooks] was heaping upon all our heads a load of tremendous curses & reviling missionaries and all ministers of the Gospel in language which for profanity and obscenity could not be exceeded. The words of our Savior he turned into ridicule—Fear not—said he tauntingly, Fear not, "little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."


Rozema uses an array of documents to illustrate personality differences among the military officers in charge of various detachments of Cherokees during the long march from Tennessee to Oklahoma. The records of one military physician (Dr. Morrow), for instance, portray him as emotionally and physically detached from the Cherokees; Captain B. B. Cannon's journal entries, on the other hand, reveal a compassionate man who seems to know the name and age of every Cherokee in his detachment who succumbs to death during this arduous journey (143, 81-82). The powerful words of several Cherokees are recorded here, too, and for those readers who may have believed the myth that most Cherokees just "went along to get along" when the Removal Act was passed, Voices from the Trail of Tears is sure to hold some surprises.

Ginny Carney

Ginny Carney (Cherokee), a native of East Tennessee, holds a PhD in English from the University of Kentucky. She is a past president of ASAIL, an Executive of MLA's Division of American Indian Literatures, and a member of MLA's Committee on Community Colleges. She is currently chair of the Arts and Humanities Division of Leech Lake Tribal College in Northern Minnesota. She has published essays and short stories in several anthologies and journals. Her book, A Testament to Tenacity: Cultural Persistence in the Letters and Speeches of Eastern Cherokee Women, is forthcoming from the University of Tennessee Press.



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