STILWELL -- The Cherokee Nation has published a new book titled "Cherokee Nation: A History of Survival, Self Determination and Identity" to allow readers to understand and appreciate the challenges and opportunities that have shaped the CN.
Spanning more than four centuries, the book emphasizes individual leadership, the struggle for internal unity and the fight against the forces that tried to destroy the Cherokee Nation's sovereignty.
"We have been extremely pleased with the acceptance of the book. I did not anticipate that. So far, the only criticism has been by a couple of people who thought their relatives did not get enough coverage. That, I really anticipated. I thought there would be a great deal of that," said Dr. Neil Morton, who helped write the book and spoke about it on Oct. 18 in Stilwell at an Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association meeting.
He said the book came about because he and others saw the need for a Cherokee history book that "would be appropriate for public schools or college work." He emphasized the book is a survey of Cherokee history that people can use to be introduced to parts of that history.
"And then if something peaks your curiosity or you'd like to learn more about it, then there are ample books to select and read," he said. "We hope the book causes people to get involved, before it is too late, in writing their own community histories."
Morton said the book is selling well even without the benefit of many reviews. It is available on Amazon.com for $39.95 (hardcover) and can be purchased at CN Gift Shops, the Talbot Library in Colcord and from the Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association in Stilwell.
Morton said he encourages people who buy the book to read the authors' pages because it explains what they hoped the book would be.
"It's not a detailed history of the Trail of Tears. It's not detailed history of the Civil War or of those things that happened from statehood to now, but at least there's a survey of those things that happened from statehood to now," he said.
CN citizen Roy Boney Jr. provided the book's design, graphics and layout. The cover artwork is of "Going Snake's Trail" by CN citizen Daniel HorseChief. Additional artwork and images were provided through partnerships with Gilcrease Museum, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Cherokee National Historical Society.
"One of the things I like about the book, from being a teacher, is the maps and the illustrations. Actually the layout and design is better than the writing. It really does tie it all together," Morton said. "Roy was the stabilizing influence."
Boney said he began working on his part of the book later in the process.
"They (the authors) wanted a book that would be appealing to the general public. We got access to the archives at Gilcrease Museum, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Cherokee National Historical Society and the NSU (Northeastern State University) library. They were gracious in allowing us to use these images. Some of these images had never been printed before. So you get to see part of Cherokee history that has been in archives for such a long time," he said.
Boney said by using the maps, the idea was to create a visual cohesion for all of the chapters.
"Putting the book together was a very long process. You're going through different drafts and then one of the authors passed away, which was a big challenge to deal with, but we were fortunate to have a good enough draft of his portion completed," he said. "It was an honor to be a part of this project. I didn't really expect to be a part of it, so I was really pleased to work on it."
The late Dr. Duane King and Dr. Bob Blackburn collaborated with Morton to write the book.
According to notes in the book, King was responsible for compiling Cherokee history up to the Civil War, Blackburn compiled history from the Civil War to present day, and Morton compiled Cherokee history and tribal government.
"This is the first book of its kind to have the full support of the Cherokee Nation," said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "Our Cherokee values have enabled us to withstand every dark chapter and celebrate every positive milestone throughout time, and we are stronger today than ever before. That history is an important part of who we are as Cherokee people, and this book provides an unprecedented opportunity to share our story."
King was the former director of the Gilcrease Museum and formerly worked for the Smithsonian Museum and the Cherokee Heritage Center. Blackburn is the OHS executive director and played a critical role in CN's reacquisition of Sequoyah's Cabin in 2016 near Sallisaw. Morton is lifelong educator in northeast Oklahoma and serves as CN's Education Services senior advisor.