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Oblivion's Altar:: A Novel of Courage…
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Oblivion's Altar:: A Novel of Courage

by David Marion Wilkinson

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Oblivion stalks the Cherokee, and great men must rise and slay it at all costs.

Fascinating read! History brought vividly to life. The times, the settings, the people – wow! – the author did it all beautifully. In short, this is a story of courage – of Kah-nung-da-tla-geh, “The Man Who Walks the Mountaintops”, “Ridge Walker”, or “The Ridge”, chief of his clan, along with his son, John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot, both educated in the east.

Georgia was after the rich Cherokee land for their growing population. Jackson, placating Georgia to prevent it from uniting with South Carolina in civil war, chose to sacrifice the Cherokee nation.

Through every American president, the Cherokee had taken their advice: instituted elections and a government similar to the whites, sought education for their children as the whites did, became farmers, craftsmen, merchants and law men. “The Cherokee did everything we could. We exceeded all the American's expectations. We beat them in their own courts. Jackson let us play the game only because he hoped we'd lose it. Now that we've won, things will only get uglier.”

John and Elias, the first truly educated Cherokee, having come to manhood in the east, knowing how the whites think, and speaking both English and Cherokee, being asked to join the delegations to Washington, had a unique perspective on the politics of the time. They tried to convince Ridge that their lands were already stolen; it was just a matter of time before they were forced off. Better to go now. Choose the people over the land. A hard choice, since Cherokee revere their land. But the more The Ridge ponders their predicament, the firmer his realization that there is no alternative. This is the story of the Eastern Cherokee from 1776-1839, of the whites who took advantage of them, of some of their own with ulterior motives, and of these three courageous men who “chose the lesser of two unjust evils”. As The Ridge said, “The soil was never important. It's the Cherokee who are precious. The Ridge laid down his life to see his people endure.”

The only thing with which I found fault was that the story felt a little thin towards the end, even at 376 pages. Having read some of those documents, I found that some of the biggest indictments on the character of the principal chief, especially during the time of emigration, were not introduced into the story line. But even missing those, this was still a very compelling history of the times.

It seems unreal to me that the Cherokee still harbor ill will toward the one, through whose tough decisions, their nation was kept intact. Their website makes much of the chief who actually caused his people to have to march the Trail of Tears instead of taking the faster, easier water route, all in order to divert the government money intended for their transport to himself, and it has very little to say about Chief Ridge, who was actually the means to their nation enduring. The people of the nation that he saved still do not see the big picture. That is sad. ( )
  countrylife | Jan 13, 2012 |
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Epigraph
I admit that there are good white men, but they bear no proportion to the bad; the bad must be the strongest, for they rule. . . . They would make slaves of us if they could, but as they can't do it, they'll kill us.
Buckongehelas, Delaware Chief

For [the Indians'] interest and their tranquility it is best they should see only the present age of their history.
Thomas Jefferson

[The Cherokee] are not inferior to white men. John Ridge was not inferior in pint of genius to John Randolph. His father; in point of native intellect, was not inferior to any man.
Sam Houston

In truth, our cause is your own.
Cherokee Memorial to the United States Congress, December 29, 1835

[Americans] are, in effect, trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Dedication
For my sons,
Dean and Tate,
With love and hope,

And for Kah-nung-da-tla-geb,
With respect and admiration
First words
Prologue: June 22, 1839
Kah-nung-da-tla-geh always watched his backtrail.
Chapter 1:
“We begin and end with the rivers,” the old man said in a fatigued and raspy voice, as if each word would be his last.
Quotations
Oblivion stalks the Cherokee, and great men must rise and slay it at all costs.
Should we put our land above our people?” … “The time has come to choose the lesser of two evils, Ridge Walker. We did not ask for these troubles. The whites built lie upon lie until they've walled us out of our own country. Let's move beyond the sound of their voices and begin again. ...
The Cherokee made this land a home for our people. The land did not make the Cherokee. We've always gone where we had to go and always we've prospered. And now, through lies, treachery, and betrayal, we are faced with the very same decision our ancestors made time and time again before a white man had ever walked a crooked step on Turtle Island.
For all practical purposes, they'd all signed the Treaty of New Echota in their own blood.
The soil was never important. It's the Cherokee who are precious. The Ridge laid down his life to see his people endure.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451205464, Paperback)

From the author of Not Between Brothers, David Marion Wilkinson "brings history to life" (Publishers Weekly) in this epic novel of a Cherokee chieftain's final struggle for freedom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:06 -0400)

Kah-nung-da-tla-geh -- the great Cherokee chieftain known as the Ridge -- had one foot in each of two worlds. The first was that of his ancestors; the second was a new world of forced change, war, and death that arrived with the white man. His visionary leadership led the Cherokee into the future as one nation, with a culture at once unique and adaptable. But as the white tide continued, the Ridge's judgment was flung aside in favor of war, and his contribution to the Cherokee Nation forgotten, until now.… (more)

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