Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Summer 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 244.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Native American art history concerning Southeastern and Oklahoma Indian art is enhanced by Susan Power's ambitious book on Cherokee art. Its wide historic and artistic focus spans from the sixteenth century through transitional phases including European contact, removal, revival, and contemporary art. Power locates the Cherokees within the older Mississippian mound culture throughout the Tennessee Valley and North Carolina and provides examples of early sites where surviving pottery, beads, gorgets, rattles, painting, weaving, and sculpture indicate an interest in both utility and aesthetics. Early Cherokee arts demonstrate concern with color, form, design, patterns, and symbolism; and there is evidence that Cherokees had a sustained interest in acquiring exotic materials from far distances that became part of their artistic expressions, as did the introduction of European goods.

All Native history and art history is influenced by the arrival of Europeans, which Power covers in a chronological progression with period paintings, maps, and fine color plates. Contact meant an exchange of goods, including glass beads, which the Cherokees applied to animal and cloth clothing. Exquisite bead work applied to trade fabric on sashes includes older iconography such as the double scroll pattern. Power carefully explains the world view of the Cherokees, including sacred landscape, a relationship among humans, plants, and animals, and the mythical woman, Selu, who brought the people corn. Their entire way of life was interrupted by land reduction through treaties and, after a long struggle, the removal of a large number of Cherokees from Georgia into Indian Territory.