Ever since the colonization of the North American continent by the Europeans, Native Americans had to deal with their land being slowly taken from them whether it’s by force or peace. The Cherokees are by far concerned. The excerpt under study is a taken from Mankiller, A Chief and her People, an autobiographic book written by Wilma Mankiller. She was the very first woman in the Cherokee history to be elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee nation from 1985 to 1995. It may be addressed to Native American or more globally to anyone since she mainly talks about the history of her nation. The passage deals with the Cherokees which is a Native American tribe that first settled in southeast of the North American continent. From the moment settlers arrived, the Cherokees have been pushed further west first by the colonists and then through the mean of treaties. They have their own language, traditions, territory and so on. Wilma M.’s quotation expresses a lot the desire to revive the tribe she belongs to, especially after the latest events that occurred. This excerpt may be viewed as interesting since W.M is the first woman to be elected as a Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Her point of view as a member therefore may also be relevant.
Thus, we can ask ourselves, to what extent are Mankilller’s feelings toward the Cherokees in this text relevant of their powerfulness and strength? First, we may take a look into Wilma M.’s wants to revive her nation. Then, we shall explore deeper into the strength of the Cherokees and ask ourselves if they can really be described as a revived tribe regarding what they have been through. Finally, we will study how, even if the culture got weaker, they still managed to keep up.
Wilma M. expresses a strong desire to rebuilt the Cherokee Nation. As a person who belongs to this tribe, Mankiller is sensible when it comes to her people, in fact, in this excerpt, she talks on behalf of all the Cherokees, as indicated by the repetition of « we » throughout the text. Wilma starts off with “We are Revitalized tribe” which means to give a new life to the tribe. It could be a reference to the episode of the Trail of Tears which weakened the Cherokees. Furthermore, Mankiller brings up “After very major upheaval” which could also be a reference to the Trail of Tears. Yet, as upheaval is a great change, especially causing troubles or difficulties, we can suggest that it refers to the treaties that were passed with the United States. W.M uses a lot of lexical fields, for instance, we’ve got the lexical field of “a (second) life” as showed by “revitalized”, “rebuilt”, “continue moving forward” and “sustained” “since time immemorial”. We also have a strong lexical field based on the strength; “upheaval”, “face down”, “continue” and furthermore with a sense of togetherness; “collectively”, “we”, “our”, “community”. All of those lexical fields show pride and optimism as well as W.M’s determination to gather the tribe.
W.M enhances a lot the Cherokee Nation and praise their bravery, saying they can go through thick and thin. as she says; “Individually and collectively, Cherokee people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue moving forward.” We can highlight the fact that slavery was a thing among the Cherokees at the beginning. For instance, there was discrimination regarding them, children of both American and Native American parents wouldn’t be considered as Americans from the United States, only because they were considered half Americans. Wilma Mankiller somehow highlights the idea that the Cherokee’s community and government fell apart (by the use of revitalized and rebuilt). She is saying that, certainly due to events, this community got destroyed at some point. Yet, even if they went through a lot, the Cherokee Nation remained as a single community with a culture, owned a territory, had their own language, traditions and so on. They were and still are a community no matter what. When it comes to the government, it is different, for a long time there wasn’t a “real” chief as they were divided into several groups, each one having a representative. Yet, even if the government was kind of missing, it didn’t prevent treaties and decisions to be made. Some, did mark the Cherokee history, we can take the Trail of Tear that occurred in 1838-39 as an example. First decided by the United States’ government on December 29th 1835, after the discovery of gold on the territory of the Cherokees, the Treaty of New Echota is signed. It leads to the Trail of Tears 3 years later, about 8,000 Cherokees died throughout the long and painful march from Tennessee to Oklahoma. This moment was a real bitter pill in the Cherokee History and was viewed as a catastrophe for them, it weakened them. Once again, the Cherokees were pushed further west. Even though treaties were signed with the U.S government to assure a friendship and peace between the two of them, it didn’t protect them from losing the territory they legally owned. Mankiller especially knows about this since, when she was only 11, her family got moved from Oklahoma to San Francisco.
The Cherokees did have trouble and they society went fragile. As W.M says; “because our culture, though certainly diminished, has sustained us since time immemorial.” However, after the events that weakened the Cherokees, efforts were made for them to keep on living. For example, the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936, which is a law established by the U.S in order to rebuild Indian tribes was signed. It included returning the land to the tribes and enable them to restart a government. Moreover, another law was passed in 1946 owing to World War II (in which the Cherokees lend a hand) that is the Indian Claims Commission. Signed by the United States federal government and Native American tribes, it was a way to thank Native Americans for their help during the war and also a way to apologize for the anxiety and resentment the United States’ caused during the colonization of the continent. To finish off, “Well-kept secret” is greatly interesting here as it says a lot. W.M suggests that the culture of her tribe shall be hidden. Why? Clearly, we can suppose that it simply doesn’t want to be disturb anymore, and supposedly also needs time to show itself again. As the Cherokees first were nice and welcoming toward the colonists, they may have felt betrayed and now simply want to be left alone with their tradition and way of life. I guess there is a desire to restart from scratch and maybe a want to learn from the past so they built a solid future that will keep on.
To conclude, the Cherokees are a powerful nation filled with strength and bravery. Due to its history, the culture got fragile and needs time to recover and have its force back. We could expand the study to the culture’s situation nowadays, museums about the Cherokees’ history were built and heritages are being in the spotlight just like the CherokeePhoenix newspaper’s website is active and provide news on the Cherokee Nation.