From the Author
Tsi'yugunsini ("Dragging Canoe") was one of the greatest Native Americans to have ever lived. His home was in the Smoky Mountains of current-day Eastern Tennessee. He was a highly skilled Cherokee war chief who lived, loved, fought, and died during a time when the United States was still struggling in its infancy. We look back at our nation's history during the latter part of the eighteenth century as a time of expansion, perseverance, and strength of American character. Tsi'yugunsini looked at the colonials as invaders, thieves, and terrorists.
Britain's King George was an invader as well, but he was four thousand miles away while the American settlers were pushing for expansion into Cherokee territory. When the Revolutionary War broke out in earnest Tsi'yugunsini sided with the British, choosing the devil at a distance over the one at his door. This may explain why he is not remembered and how victor's justice has clouded our past.
Tecumseh, another tremendous Native American, from the Shawnee Nation, also sided with the British, most predominantly in the War of 1812. For reasons as simple as timing and the sound and spelling of their names or as complex as their travels and influence, Tecumseh is recognized and commercialized while Tsi'yugunsini is less than a footnote. In the years following the Revolution the two men fought together against the new Americans in the Chickamauga Wars. They believed the total unification of all Native American nations against the new country was the only way to salvage their unique way of life. They were right, and Tecumseh championed the philosophy until he died in battle in 1813. His dream never came to be. If it had, a map of the United States may look decisively different.
However, over two hundred years after Tsi'yugunsini's death, one notion of the great chief remains. It is well documented from the 1775 treaty negotiations at Sycamore Shoals that Tsi'yugunsini, in absolute opposition to any land succession, boldly proclaimed that the names of the indigenous nations and their people would be forgotten or mispronounced by the expansion-minded colonies and their history. Today, of the over five hundred distinct nations that once comprised the United States, less than a handful are remembered. The same holds true for the men and women of those lands who served their people with distinction.
Interestingly, a vast number of our states, cities, and rivers still carry Native American names and while these are repeated countless times a day, the pronunciation is often scrambled and the origin forgotten, just as the great chief predicted. His own home region of Tennessee is derived from the Cherokee word tanase. Even the most widely visited national park in the United States, The Great Smoky Mountains, owes its name to the Cherokee who referred to the range as shaconage (shã-con-ã-gee) "place of blue smoke." Perhaps a greater, and sadder, testament to his tremendous foresight is that his declaration applies to his own name.
The chief's name has been written several ways -- each one of which impacts its spelling and pronunciation for English speakers. I have attempted to present the Cherokee (Tsa-la-gi) names as accurately as possible and suggest the English reader sound them out as written. The historical representations are accurate as a reflection of recorded history; however, there are gaps filled from my own pen as is the nature of historical fiction. I am certain my adaptation is consistent with the time, events, intent, and outcome. My respect for the Tsalagi nation and others referenced in this novel are such that I sincerely apologize if I have unintentionally misrepresented any person or event.
I would like to credit the Cherokee-English Dictionary by Feeling, Pulte, and Cowen, © 1975 by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees and Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney from his material collected in the late nineteenth century originally published by the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1891 and 1900.
From the Inside Flap
FOREWORD by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tahlequah, OK
There are few places more beautiful than the Cherokee homeland, in the fall of the year. It is during the fall that our Creator paints the leaves on the maples and oaks, making the forests a colorful display of beauty. It was also in these same forests that many Cherokees lived, loved and died. Our history as a people was so affected by the Trail of Tears that many historians begin the telling of our story at the Trail of Tears moving forward, and those who walked through those forests of maples and oaks are all but forgotten.
David-Michael Harding, in his novel Cherokee Talisman, takes the reader to our homeland in the fall of the year, in such a way that the reader can almost smell the earth and see the beautiful colors of the leaves. It is a glimpse of oneness with the land that Harding conveys to the reader so that the love of our homeland, and the desire to protect it, can be felt by the human spirit and understood. Cherokee Talisman brings to life characters from our history and through a flare for fiction and historical research, Harding tells their story. Cherokees that might be painted by racist misconceptions as blood thirsty savages are humanized by Harding, making them heroes of a very real time in our history forgotten by man, and preserved by few. History is written by the victorious, but when almost forgotten historical characters are brought to life, and their stories told, they are preserved for the ages, and in this preservation David-Michael Harding has succeeded.