Thursday, December 21, 2006

Emissaries of Peace: 1762 Cherokee & British Delegations

Exhibit Poster From the University of Tennessee's Frank H. McClung Museum
I just wanted to let everyone know about a really fantastic museum exhibit that I visited today on a whim, much to my pleasure. The exhibit is all about British attempts to forge alliances with the Cherokee people against French-allied nations while simultaneously exploring the Tennessee, Wautaga, Clinch, and Holston river valleys in east Tennessee. The exhibit centers around the experiences of a British Officer by the name of Henry Timberlake and three Cherokee leaders, led by the well-known warrior Ostenaco, juxtaposing their experiences. Timberlake spent an extended time living with the Overhill Cherokee, whereas Ostenaco and his peers spent an extended period in England, even meeting with King George III. That said, the exhibit avoids overemphasizing the trivial - quite the contrary, it uses the experiences of Ostenaco and Timberlake to highlight the international politics of age, a time when the native American nations still were major players on the continent, when the England's hold over the Thirteen Colonies remained in doubt, when the military and political figures who would play an essential role in the American war of secession cut their teeth, and when the northern native American nations created such enmity amongst the British-American colonists that their permanent enmity was assured. Not to mention the cultural artifacts, civilian and military.

Well, I've said enough - I certainly don't want to spoil the exhibit for you. But I do want to drop you some knowledge and a few relevant links.

First, the show is no longer (as far as I can tell from their homepage) available at the primary sponsor, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Cherokee, North Carolina), but considering its quality, I wouldn't be surprised if it made a return trip. If you care to see it, then, you're either going to have to hit Knoxville's McClung Museum on the campus of the University of Tennessee (the show will be up through February of 2007) or the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History (Spring of 2007).

Second, I want to point you to a great book (I'm tearing through it since I bought it at the exhibition): Memoirs by Henry Timberlake (annotated by Samuel Cole Williams, LL.D.), republished by Mountain Press. This travelogue and memoir is not only a fascinating look at the Cherokee and pre-European settlement Appalachia, it is a great read, good literature for the sake of good literature. Mountain Press is selling the book for $20, which may seem a little pricey, but remember, you're supporting a small press, and that in and of itself is a good thing. I'd say make it a Christmas/Hanukkah present, but it is a little late in the game. So, make it a New Year's present. Yeah. That.

No comments: