Cherokee Dragon

Robert J. Conley, Author
Robert J. Conley, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-20884-4
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
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Three-time Spur Award-winning Cherokee storyteller Conley (The Peace Chief) dramatizes the life and exploits of Tsiyu Gansini, the last of the great Cherokee war chiefs, in this stark historical novel. Conley spans more than 100 years in describing his protagonist's life and legacy, beginning with the birth of Gansini, better known as Dragging Canoe, in 1737 and ending when his people endured the infamous Trail of Tears in 1838, nearly five decades after his death. Surviving smallpox as an infant and named, at age 11, when he tries to drag a war canoe into the river to join his father's war party, Dragging Canoe grows to manhood amid the turmoil of the American Revolution as the English, French and American colonists take every opportunity to exploit the Cherokee by making and breaking duplicitous treaties. From his teen years on, Dragging Canoe spends his life fighting to stop the British and Americans from violently reneging on their solemn pledges not to steal his ancestors' lands. After the 1730 Articles of Agreement, the narrative chronicles treaty after treaty, infamy upon infamy and battle after battle, through the heartbreaking dissolution of the proud Cherokee nation. Central to the story is Dragging Canoe's disagreement with his famous cousin, Nancy Ward, whose life Conley chronicled in War Woman. In graphic and sinuous but sometimes meandering prose, this fictionalized biography rings of realism, admirably devoid of ""eagle feather and war dance"" cliches and indeed any romanticization--despite the author's clear sympathy with the Cherokee--of this brutal period of American history. (Mar.)
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