The Singing Bird

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The Singing Bird: A Cherokee Novel, eds. Timothy B. Powell and Melinda Smith (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), American Indian Literature and Critical Studies series, edited by Gerald Vizenor

A rediscovered novel portrays Cherokees in transition.

John Milton Oskison was a mixed-blood Cherokee known for his writing and his activism on behalf of Indian causes. The Singing Bird, never before published, is quite possibly the first historical novel written by a Cherokee.

Set in the 1840s and ’50s, when conflict erupted between the Eastern and Western Cherokees after their removal to Indian Territory, The Singing Bird relates the adventures and tangled relationships of missionaries to the Cherokees, including the promiscuous, selfish Ellen, the “Singing Bird” of the title. The fictional characters mingle with such historical figures as Sequoyah and Sam Houston, embedding the novel in actual events.

The Singing Bird is a vivid account of the Cherokees’ genius for survival and celebrates Native American cultural complexity and revitalization.

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