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Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Novel From An Afro-Cherokee Perspective

Although I don't normally read Christian fiction because I don't like novels that are too overtly didactic, I am very interested in books that deal with Afro-Natives.  That's why I chose to read and review Abraham's Well by Sharon Ewell Foster which is the story of an Afro-Cherokee woman who was born a slave in a Cherokee family.


Armentia, the central character of Abraham's Well was brought up among the North Carolina Cherokees believing herself a part of the Cherokee nation.  When  most of the Cherokees were expelled from North Carolina and forced to walk The Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, Armentia and other Afro-Cherokees endured the same privations as full-blooded Cherokees.  I should have realized this.  I knew that the Cherokees were a slave-holding people and that there were Afro-Cherokees among these slaves, but  I had never previously read or viewed any portrayal of the Trail of Tears that depicted Afro-Cherokees.  When a minority is written out of history, no one imagines that they participated in events.

 I did a search for Afro-Cherokees on the Trail of Tears, and found an article dealing with the subject on CNN's blog by historian Tiya Miles  Pain of the Trail of Tears.  Tiya Miles co-edited the anthology Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds which I reviewed on this blog in June 2012 in an entry called "Is There A Place For Afro-Natives?"

This book also made me aware of a group of Cherokees called the Keetoowah. In this novel, Sharon Ewell Foster portrays the Keetoowah as a politico-religious organization of Cherokee Christian abolitionists.  After coming across an article by David Cornsilk  on The History of the Keetoowah Cherokees from The Cherokee Observer,  I had to conclude that this is not an authentic representation of the Keetoowah .  They have had a long and complex history that included various factions.  There have been many Cherokee traditionalists among the Keetoowah who followed the ways of their ancestors.  They also did establish an alliance with white Christian missionaries for political reasons in 19th century Oklahoma after the Trail of Tears.  Today the Keetoowah are a recognized band of the Cherokee nation.

Despite the inaccuracy I discussed above, I'm glad that I read Abraham's Well because of its Afro-Cherokee perspective.  I also found the novel moving at various points, but I now want to read history on this subject.  I expect to read Ties That Bind, a study about an Afro-Cherokee family by Tiya Miles in the near future.


1 comment:

  1. Wow. Very true about people being excluded from history... Thanks for sharing. I'm not into Christian fiction either but I may try this.