Set against the tragic events of the Cherokees' removal from their traditional lands in North Carolina to Indian Territory between 1835-1838, " Mountain Windsong" is a love story that brings to life the suffering and endurance of the Cherokee people. It is the moving tale of Waguli (Whippoorwill") and Oconeechee, a young Cherokee man and woman separated by the Trail of Tears. Just as they are about to be married, Waguli is captured be federal soldiers and, along with thousands of other Cherokees, taken west, on foot and then by steamboat, to what is now eastern Oklahoma. Though many die along the way, Waguli survives, drowning his shame and sorrow in alcohol. Oconeechee, among the few Cherokees who remain behind, hidden in the mountains, embarks on a courageous search for Waguli.Robert J. Conley makes use of song, legend, and historical documents to weave the rich texture of the story, which is told through several, sometimes contradictory, voices. The traditional narrative of the Trail of Tears is told to a young contemporary Cherokee boy by his grandfather, presented in bits and pieces as they go about their everyday chores in rural North Carolina. The telling is neiter bitter nor hostile; it is sympathetic by unsentimental. An ironic third point of view, detached and often adversarial, is provided by the historical documents interspersed through the novel, from the text of the removal treaty to Ralph Waldo Emerson's letter to the president of the United States in protest of the removal. In this layering of contradictory elements, Conley implies questions about the relationships between history and legend, storytelling and myth-making.Inspired by the lyrics of Don Grooms's song "Whippoorwill," which open many chapters in the text, Conley has written a novel both meticulously accurate and deeply moving.
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(215mm x 140mm x 15mm)
University of Oklahoma Press
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
The tragedy of the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their homes in the Southeast to unknown lands west of the Mississippi in 1838, vividly interwoven into a classic love story with glimpses of modern Indian life. The saga of the faithful Oconeechee and her Whippoorwill unfolds slowly, as the tale told to an eager Cherokee child spending the summer with his beloved Grandpa. One of a community relatively untouched by the whites, Whippoorwill comes to consult with Oconeechee's father, a friend of President Andrew Jackson's who went to Washington to intercede on behalf of his people. The young man learns that all efforts to stop the impending removal, even rulings by the Supreme Court, have failed, and that Cherokee opinion is sharply divided - with a minority willing to sign a treaty and sell their lands, bowing to what they see as inevitable. Whippoorwill returns home with the news, but not before falling in love and promising to return to marry Oconeechee. The soldiers surround his village before that can happen, and as a rebel he is among the first to be forced along the Trail of Tears. Dispirited and alone, he turns to whiskey for solace, while his beloved escapes the roundup and hides in the hills with others, seeking news of him at every opportunity. She prevails on an old white friend of her people to find Whippoorwill and bring him back, and he succeeds in returning the man safe and sober to her even though he dies in the process. Using actual documents and song lyrics to add texture to his narrative, Conley (The Witch of Goingsnake, etc. - not reviewed) has shaped a touching, powerful vision of Indian life past and present, of abiding love, and of a national disgrace. (Kirkus Reviews)
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