Tiana grew up learning the magic, spells, and nature religion of the Cherokee. And in a tribe that revered the life force that was female, she became a Beloved Woman—priestess, warrior, healer, teacher.
A reader in Belgium sent this email message: "Thx for your great
books. I have only read the ones in Dutch. I cry when I read
TIANA, this book ain't a book, it was real, it all happened before my
eyes." (What better reaction can a writer ask for?
“A well plotted, authentically detailed historical novel...that relives the Trail of Tears, and the time that Sam Houston as a young man lived with the Cherokees, and the complex feelings between him and Tiana, the beautiful tribeswoman. Has anyone spoken for the hammock this afternoon?” -- The Baltimore Sun
“... recommend, unreservedly and with great enthusiasm, Walk in My Soul." -- Roundup Magazine*
“Her sprawling story grows naturally out of photographic descriptions of the manners, morals, humor, food and language of both whites and Cherokees.... A richly detailed, rousingly good story that portrays Native Americans with dignity.”-- Washington Post*
Or as reader Gloria Keyser put it: "Walk In My Soul!! One of my favorite books of all time!! " Heather McElyea agreed: "Walk in My Soul is my favorite book of all time." An e-,mail correspondent named Richard concurs. "Walk in My Soul was more than I can find words to praise." Thank you one and all.
Walk in My Soul
While minding his family’s store in the Tennessee settlement of Maryville, sixteen-year-old Sam Houston meets two Cherokee/Scottish brothers, James and John Rogers. On a lark he decides to return to their village with them. The three load the Rogers’ wagon and set out, but leaving town is not so easy:
Sam held his breath as they drew parallel to the sagging front porch of the tavern. The three boys jumped when the door slammed open, breaking one of its wooden hinges and dangling askew. A small, filthy man flew backwards through the opening. His momentum carried him, flailing for balance, off the edge of the porch and into the muddy street. He landed on his back with a splash. It was obviously the most contact he’d had with water in a long time. The sow surged to her feet with a grunt and a twitch of her kinked tail. As she walked off with an air of injured dignity, the swarm of flies around her divided, some preferring to stay with the newcomer.
The Wayside’s doorway filled with men hoping for a fight. But the man in the puddle just lay there. He stared serenely at the gray sky and swore steadily at his assailant, Dirty Dutch, a cadaverous fellow who looked down at him from the porch.
(String of expletives deleted), said the man in the puddle. (More expletives).
“Damnation!,” he muttered. He struggled to rise but the mud sucked him back to its bosom. He fell asleep, snoring in little hiccups.
Dutch swayed, steadying himself with one hand on a shifty post. His watery blue eyes, rimmed with red, focused on the wagon. He pointed a finger at Sam and his new friends.
“Injuns,” he shouted. “Little Sammy Houston’s takin’ up with Injuns.”
“Can’t you prod these nags along any faster?” Sam asked John from the corner of his mouth.
“What if they shoot at us?” asked James.
“They have to check their pieces at the door,” said Sam.
“Trunk,” muttered John.
“They are indeed drunk,” said Sam. “How about some more speed?”
John flicked the whip casually. He didn’t want to tuck tail and run from this scum, but he didn’t want to face them either. A dozen men moved off the porch in a pack and followed the wagon on foot. They had not the collective wits among them to mount their horses. Dirty Dutch loudly described the tobacco pouch that could be made from an Indian’s scrotum.
“Either of you boys armed?” Sam asked.
“We aren’t crazy,” said James.
“White men see Indian with gun, shoot first,” added John.
“Just thought I’d ask.” Sam resigned himself to his fate.
“String them along, brother.” James glanced over his shoulder. “Wear them down, draw them away from their horses.”
“Can’t go fast,” said John. “Horses plenty tired.”
“You have an idea, James?” asked Sam.
“Maybe.” James stood up and faced backwards, bracing his knees against the jolting seat. He put one arm up and pumped it, wriggling his balled fist obscenely on the end of it. “That’s what I’m going to do to your mothers and sisters, you barnyard bungholers,” he shouted.
“Are you demented?” Sam put his arm over his head and ducked. With a howl, the mob broke into a run. Rocks hit the back of the wagon.
“How far away are they?” John was concentrating on the mudholes in the road.
“About a stone’s throw,” Sam mumbled to his knees.
“When I give the word, slow down, brother,” said James.
“Slow down?” Sam looked back at the ravening pack behind them. “Oh Lord, whatever I did wrong in this world of care, I’m sorry for it.”
“Now,” shouted James.
John began reining in the horses slyly so they seemed to be tiring. James climbed over the seat and moved toward the rear of the bucking wagon bed. He dodged the few rocks the men had the energy to throw. He pried the lid off the big barrel of plaster by the tailgate.
“Father skin you if they don’t,” John called over his shoulder.
“I’ll take my chances with father.” James freed the barrel from the ropes holding it. He stuck his tongue out at Dutch to encourage him.
Sam realized what James had in mind and he smiled. “It’ll work.” He wet his finger and held it up. “The wind’s right.”
Dutch was almost within reach of the tailgate. With a triumphant gleam in his eye, he grabbed for it. The others were close behind. James braced the barrel against the wagon gate and lifted it from the bottom. Using the tailgate as a fulcrum, he tipped the barrel so its contents poured down on Dutch and the others. The powdered lime rock and horse hair blew into their faces and eyes, setting them to sneezing and coughing. It coated them with white dust before the plaster settled into the mud. The men’s feet churned it into a hardening mass.
James rolled the empty barrel over the edge of the wagon and it rolled into the their path. He laughed as most of them fell in a tangle, with Dutch on the bottom. They thrashed in the white mud until they were thoroughly coated.
“Let’s go home,” said James. He held onto the tailgate with one hand and waved at Dutch.
“Tsi’stu wuliga natutun une’ gutsatsu’ gese’i,” said John.
“‘The rabbit was the leader of them all in mischief.’” James translated.
“Whoo-o-o-ee.” Sam skimmed his tattered old hat back toward their fallen foes. He was filled to bursting with laughter, relief, and joy.
As he watched his hat settle at Dutch’s feet, Sam wondered what kind of reception he’d receive when he returned from his holiday with the Cherokee, but he didn’t worry much. All he could think about was what adventures he would have with the Indians. Folding his arms across his broad chest, he settled back on the hard seat.
“How do the Cherokees say, ‘Howdy-do?’” he asked.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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©Lucia St. Clair Robson 2001 - 2006
Website by: www.Sky-Bolt.com
Roundup Magazine Nov/Dec 1985
Normally, books too large to fit in a pocket or too heavy to lift with ease do not impress me favorably. Some of this feeling, of course, stems from pure laziness, both physical and intellectual, on my part. Some is probably sheer envy of anyone who can hold a story together for more than about 200 pages. At least a portion, though, has some merit. Reading a 700-page novel, requires the same time and commitment that could otherwise be devoted to two or three - or even four - other books. That one monster has to contain something way above average to justify sticking with it. As a poetry magazine once expressed it, "We have no length limitations, but anything longer than a hundred lines had better be immortal."
With all that said, I would like to recommend, unreservedly and with great enthusiasm, Walk in My Soul by Lucia St. Clair Robson. Walk in My Soul is a brilliant historical novel of the Cherokee, beginning in their homeland on the Hiwassee River in Tennessee around 1809 and running through 1839, after their journey on the Trail of Tears. The book is built around the life of Tiana Rogers. Daughter of a Scots settler and a Cherokee woman, Tiana grows and develops through the good years and the bad. As a child, young woman, wife, mother, widow, friend and lover of the man known as Raven to the Cherokee and Sam Houston to the whites, and finally as Beloved Woman - a position of leadership and honor best understood by reading the book - Tiana mirrors the story of her people. By its nature, the story is ultimately tragic, but it is a tragedy enriched by the indomitable soul of Tiana Rogers.
I am not qualified to judge the historical or cultural accuracy of Walk in My Soul as it relates to the Cherokee civilization. Robert Conley's territory. Certainly, though, no book could add much to Robson's picture of the joy in life, the endurance, or unconquered spirit of a gentle and courageous people. On any level, Walk in My Soul is a tremendous novel.
Washington Post July 15, 1985
Tiana Rogers, the central character in "Walk in My Soul," is half Aniyunwiya, a feisty 9-year-old when we first meet her in 1809. She lives with her large family near the Tennessee River in the Land of a Thousand Smokes, in what is now eastern Tennessee south of the Smoky Mountains. Many of her people are abandoning their traditions for the settlers' customs, but the ancient lore runs deep in Tiana.
"'Good morning, Hawk,' Tiana said in a low voice. The hawk screamed its hoarse, piercing call, dipped its wings, and disappeared into the trees. Tiana felt goosebumps that weren't caused by the cold. Her heart thumped faster. She was sure the hawk had called her name. It was possible. Her mother and grandmother said every living thing had a spirit. And sometimes those spirits spoke to human beings."
No spirits speak to 16-year-old Sam Houston, who lives in nearby Maryville. He hears only the clamor of drunken brawls and the customers in the store where he's a bored clerk. Sam runs off with Tiana's older brothers and is adopted by the Cherokees and given the name Raven. He lives happily among Tiana's people for three years until his restlessness pulls him back to the white world.
When he returns after fighting in the War of 1812 he discovers that Tiana has grown into a beautiful, remarkably talented woman. But not even their love for each other can defuse Houston's ambitions. He leaps into the politics of Tennessee, Washington and finally Texas, while Tiana struggles to keep her people from being overwhelmed by the settler's greed for land and the governments' duplicity.
"Walk in My Soul" depicts the anguish of the Aniyunwiya as they're betrayed by Andrew Jackson and Congress, expelled from their homeland , and marched to death on Nunna-da-ult-sun-yi, the Trail Where They Cried.
But author Robson hasn't merely tacked a plot onto snippets of history. Her sprawling story grows naturally out of photographic descriptions of the manners, morals, humor, food and language of both whites an Cherokees during the years 1809 - 1838.
Sam Houston, like the dozen other fictional and historical characters who burst to life in this novel (Davy Crockett, Washington Irving and Alexis de Tocqueville make appearances), is entirely believable. But the tale really centers around Tiana, whom her people eventually call a Ghigau, a Beloved Woman. Warrior, priestess, female - she's an unforgettable character in a richly detailed, rousingly good story that portrays Native Americans with dignity.
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©Lucia St. Clair Robson 2001 - 2010
Website by: www.Sky-Bolt.com