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After reading, “The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale,” and many other Cherokee legends and folktales, I began to wonder about my own connections to the Cherokee tribe. I grew up listening to my aunt share stories and photographs of relatives that carried the Cherokee bloodline to our family. As a child I was always puzzled as to why the people in the photographs did not match the images in my own mind of what Cherokee Indians should look like. They did not wear feathers, nor did they wear clothes made from animal skins. Although my aunt and the rest of my father’s ten brothers and sisters grew up in Oklahoma and were exposed to the Cherokee Indians of the area, I wasn’t sure that I really trusted the family stories. It wasn’t until my research for this project that I began to understand more about the Cherokee culture. This has sparked an even greater interest for me to learn more about my family’s heritage.



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Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend
Book Jacket
Bannon, Kay T., and Robert H. Bushyhead. Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend. Illus. by Kristina Rodanas. 2002. 32p. Marshall Cavendish. $16.95 (978-0761451136)

As old age falls upon Chief Sky he feels it is time for a new leader to replace him so he gathers three young men for a test. He asks them to go to the top of the mountain and return with what they find. Each set out to do so and the first two return without climbing to the top. The first returns with sparkling stones, while the second returns with medicinal herbs. After seven days, Soaring Eagle returns empty handed with torn clothes and bleeding feet. He brings only a story from the mountaintop of seeing a smoke signal from a neighboring tribe pleading for help. After hearing the young man's story,Chief Sky removes his turkey feather robe and places it on his shoulders declaring him the new leader. It was Soaring Eagle's vision to see beyond yonder mountain to others in need that led to Chief Sky's decision.

The legend of Yonder Mountain is one that has been passed down in the oral tradition of the Cherokee tribe by one of its elders, the Reverend Robert H. Bushyhead. As noted in the forward of the book, this story, unlike many others was not included in the 1900 volume, Myths of the Cherokees, by James Mooney which contained stories recorded in the late 1800s. This alone speaks to the authenticity of the story. The story was first told in the Kituhwa dialect of the Cherokee language, one that Reverend Bushyhead worked to restore for the children. The author, Kay Bannon, first heard Reverend Bushyhead tell Yonder Mountain in English and Cherokee in 1996 as part of an interview after he received the Folk Heritage Award the same year. Dr. Bannon serves as an educational consultant for the Eastern Cherokee Language Project and worked closely with Reverend Bushyhead and his daughter, Jean.

Rodanas' illustrations rendered in colored pencil and watercolor provide rich details with autumn tones. True representations of clothing, hairstyles, headdresses, and shelter transport readers to a place in history that is culturally accurate.

The only reviews found for this book were from Amazon.com. This book does not appear on the Wilson Web database.
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The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story
Book Jacket

Bruchac, Joseph. The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story. Illus. by Anna Vojtech. 1993. 32p. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. $6.99 (0803713312)

After returning from a day of hunting to find his wife picking flowers instead of preparing a meal, the husband of the woman grows angry at his wife, who was only picking the flowers to share their beauty with him. After having her feelings deeply hurt by his angry words, the woman leaves her husband and sets out across the plains walking west, never to return. Unable to catch up with his wife to apologize, the husband finds help in the form of the sun who tries to distract the woman by having berries grow instantly near her feet as beams of sunlight shine down. Her anger dwells inside and she walks past the raspberries, blueberries, and even the blackberries. The sun tries one last time to slow the woman's stride as it shines the strongest beam of light right in front of her feet to make strawberries appear. Glowing like fire, the woman cannot resist and she stops to pick one to eat. The sweetness reminds her of her husband and his love so she gathers the strawberries to share with him only to find him standing behind her asking for forgiveness. Together they eat the sweet strawberries that symbolize the need for kindness and respect for one another. According to the Cherokee, this is how strawberries came into the world.

The author's note mentions the origin of this story being found in James Mooney's Myths of the Cherokee, published in 1900. Bruchac first heard the story from Mary and Goingback Chiltoskey, Cherokee elders from North Carolina. The story is simple and clearly written with no indications that it would be a story specific to the Cherokee culture other than the source notes from the author.

The soft watercolor illustrations present few motifs of the Cherokee cultures. Noticeable motifs include the clay pottery, basket shapes, and the rectangular mud hut dwelling.



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The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale
Book Jacket

Bruchac, Joseph, and Gayle Ross. The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale. Illus. by Virginia Stroud. 1995. 32p. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. $16.99 (978-0803717374)

Corn was a vital commodity for the villagers and many relied on it to keep from going hungry in the winter months. When an elderly couple noticed the cornmeal from their storage bin was being stolen, they were distraught at the thought of a thief stealing from the elders. Their grandson becomes determined to stop the thief. He stands guard outside the couple's log cabin and watches over the cornmeal bin at night in hopes of catching the thief. To his surprise, the only thing he sees is a mass of small lights in the shape of a large spirit dog eating cornmeal from the bin. After the dog took his fill of the cornmeal he returned to the woods. The boy told the villagers of this sight and together they consulted the Beloved Woman, a leader among their people for advice. After looking at the tracks left by the spirit dog she told each of them to gather drums and turtleshell rattles. As the villagers hid in the dark, they watched the spirit dog return to the bin for more cornmeal. Waiting for the wise woman's signal, they charged the full-bellied spirit dog while beating their drums and shaking their rattles. The thunderous noise frightened the spirit dog as he ran with cornmeal spilling from his mouth. At the top of the hill he leaped into the sky and continued to run, leaving traces of cornmeal behind which turned into sparkling stars. The great dog never returned to the village and "the place where the dog ran" is now known as the Milky Way.

Bruchac and Ross both share messages relating to the origin of the story in the author's notes section of this book. Although the story does originate from the James Moody collection, Ross also had access to the story as it was told by her grandmother, Anne Ross Piburn, a Cherokee storyteller, and direct descendent of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation during the "Trail of Tears." Bruchac's numerous Cherokee friends have shared the story with him as well.

Illustrator, Virginia Stroud, who is Cherokee-Creek by birth, and later adopted by a Kiowa family, includes her background knowledge of the culture through the illustrations that are authentic to the time period. The book is set in the early 1800's prior to the "Trail of Tears" when the Cherokee were adopting some non-Indian culture such as their clothing which is depicting in these illustrations. The Cherokee had moved from wearing buckskins to woven cotton fabrics including calicos and stripes. Also authentically respresented in the illustrations is the move from living in mud huts to log cabins.

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Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story
Book Jacket

Keams, Geri. Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story. Illus. by James Bernardin. 1995. 32p. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Pub. $14.95 (0873585976)

Living on the dark side of the world, the animals gather together and make a plan to bring light to their side of the world. Led by the traditional trickster coyote, the animals determine who would be best to steal a piece of the sun which is heavily guarded by the sun gods. Possum's attempt to tunnel to the sun and hide an ember in his beautiful bushy tail only results in a hairless, skinny tail which exists even today. Buzzard is next to try to steal a piece of the sun, but after hiding it in his feathery crown, he becomes bald, just as he is today. Next, Grandma Spider takes her turn after much resistance from the animal crowd. She slowly forms a clay bowl before disappearing with it to the other side of the world. With the bowl on top of her head, filled with a growing ember of light, Grandma Spider returns to place the sun in the once dark sky. Each day thereafter, the center of her webs are shaped like the sun.

The author, Geri Keams, does not state the original source of this version of the spider story. She was born in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and is a storyteller sharing stories from all Native Americans. While researching this story, I discovered several versions of spider stories. All are connected to the Cherokee tribe and the same three animals are sent on the task to capture a piece of the sun. The consistency of the story leads me to believe that is an authentic tale from the tribe. I was unable to locate an original source for any of the variants I researched. The only reviews I located for this book were from Amazon.com. This book does not appear on the Wilson Web database.

Bernardin's illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil show signs of authenticity to the culture by means of the patterned blanket wrapped around Grandmother Spider's shoulders. The symbols and the shape of the clay pot in which she gathers the light reflect those made by Cherokee women.



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How Turtle's Back was Cracked: A Traditional Cherokee Tale
Book Jacket

Ross, Gayle. How Turtle's Back Was Cracked: A Traditional Cherokee Tale. Illus. Murv Jacob. 1995. 32p. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. $15.99 (0803717288)

Best friends, turtle and possum always enjoy eating persimmons together. On one outing they are joined by a clever wolf who takes turtle's persimmons without his knowledge. The wolf pays the ultimate price as he chokes on the persimmon and dies. Turtle quickly claims the death of the wolf for himself and cuts off the wolf's ears as a customary tribute to the capture of the animal's spirit. After making wolf-ear spoons, turtle begins to visit everyone and enjoy traditional corn soup reserved for visitors which is made only sweeter by the use of his wolf-ear spoons. Soon the marvels of his great hunting skills make their way back to the wolf pack who finds his boasting an insult to their fallen brother. They decide he must face his death and sentence him to a pot of boiling water which turtle cleverly avoids by claiming that the worst death would be a drowning in the river. As turtle is forcefully thrown into the river his plan goes awry as he lands on a rock before splashing into the water. His smooth shell is cracked into pieces which he later stitches together. Although his shell has grown strong over time, it still bears the lines where it was once cracked.

Author, Gayle Ross, a direct descendent of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation during the "Trail of Tears", shares that the source of this variant is found in James Moody's Myths of the Cherokee, published in 1900 by the Bureau of American Ethnology. Source notes in the book on the Cherokee Nation state that their clan was one of a strong hunter-warrior tradition. This hunter motif is displayed through the actions of the turtle in the story.

Murv Jacob is of Kentucky Cherokee and European heritage and resides in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the home of The Cherokee Nation. Jacob uses acrylics on watercolor paper to produce the brightly colored patterned drawings incorporating Cherokee motifs in the page borders, fringed belts, buckskin clothing, and pottery that is authentic to the Cherokee culture.

Book Review Sources:
TWU Databases:
Wilson Web - Book Review Digest Plus
Amazon.com

Works Consulted

Booklist. “Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend (Book Review).” Amazon.com 6 July 2010

Fader, Ellen. "The Story of the Milky Way (Book Review)." The Horn Book 71 (1995): 611. Article Citation. Web. 6 July 2010.

Green, Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop. “How Turtle’s Back was Cracked (Book Review).” School Library Journal 41 (1995): 128. Article Citation. Web. 6 July 2010.

Lempke, Susan Dove. "
How Turtle's Back was Cracked (Book Review)." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 48 (1995): 213. Article Citation. Web. 6 July 2010.

Persson, Lauralyn. "
The First Strawberries (Book Review)." School Library Journal 39 (1993): 222. Article Citation. Web. 6 July 2010.

Phelan, Carolyn. "
The First Strawberries (Book Review)." Booklist 89 (1993): 1969. Article citation. Web. 6 July 2010.

Scanlon, Donna L. "
The Story of the Milky Way (Book Review)." School Library Journal 41 (1995): 190. Article Citation. Web. 6 July 2010.


School Library Journal. “Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story (Book Review).” Amazon.com 7 July 2010

School Library Journal. “Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend (Book Review).” Amazon.com 6 July 2010

Southwest Children’s Review. “Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story (Book Review).” Amazon.com 7 July 2010