The Journal of Jesse Smoke, a Cherokee Boy, also known as On This Long Journey, is the twelfth book in Scholastic'sMy Name Is America series. It was written by Joseph Bruchac and first published in June 2001. It was republished with a new title and cover art in January 2014.
"In beloved memory of Wotkogee/Louis Littlecoon Oliver and Gogisgi/Carroll Arnett, two elders whose teachings touched so many hearts."
"October 15, 1838 Rode back and forth all day to see progress of other detachments ahead and behind. Just as in our party, they find it hard to rouse the people each morning from their blankets. It sometimes takes all of the morning to get everyone upon the trail again, moving forward in a slow shuffle. People turn and look back at our mountains with tears in their eyes. Each day at least one person does not rise from their blankets and a grave must be dug by the roadside."
""On we went, on toward the darkest dawn I have ever known." Sixteen-year-old Jesse Smoke and his family are in danger of losing everything after a small group of Cherokees signed a treaty ceding their land to the U.S. government. In exchange, the Cherokee Nation has been offered land to the west of the Mississippi as a new home, and the pressure from the government to start the relocation grows every day. All hope lies with Cherokee chief John Ross, who is in Washington, D.C., working to undo the treaty. But then one night Jesse's people are suddenly awakened, dragged from their homes, and brought at gunpoint to a stockade camp. Given almost no time to prepare, the Cherokee are told they are to start their relocation. With little choice, Jesse and his family begin the horrifying journey westward on the Trail of Tears during the unending winter months. It's a desperate and nearly impossible trip, crossing rivers and mountains while weathering brutal storms and bitter temperatures, all with inadequate supplies. As winter drags on, death takes its tolls on the Cherokee people, and Jesse isn;t sure they'll ever reach the Indian Territories. Within the pages of his journal, Jesse weaves together the incredible stories and history of his people with the tragedy of their journey as they walk the long miles toward their new lands."
"Although I began writing this book in 1998, this story is really the result of many years of learning about Cherokee history and culture. It is impossible for me to fully acknowledge the generosity that has been shown to me over the past four decades by so many Cherokee people whose words and work have helped me better understand the many meanings of "the Trial Where the People Cried."
I owe a particular debt of gratitude to my Cherokee friends Gayle Ross, Robert and Evelyn Conley, Tom Belt, Murv Jacob, Rayna Green, and Geary Hobson. Not only have they read my work and helped me correct my mistakes (on this and other projects), they have always reminded me that Cherokee history neither begins nor ends with the Trail. And then there is my late friend Carroll Arnett, whose poems and stories first led me to start walking the Trail. Brother, I remember the paths we walked and the day we stood together to place flowers on the grave of John Ross. We miss you.
I also need to express my gratitude to the National Geographic Society for commissioning me to write a book about the Trail of Tears of the Cherokees and the Long Walk of the Navajos. The travel and research I did for that book, Trail of Tears, Paths of Beauty, helped prepare me for this project.
In terms of scholarship, my entry into the study of Cherokee history was the work of James Mooney. His two volumes, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (1891) and Myths of the Cherokee (1900), are still vital and important. In many ways, the care and respect he showed with the Cherokees and other native nations, Mooney transcended his era. But, good as Mooney was for his time, his work is only a point of departure. Today, anyone interested in the history and culture of the Cherokee owes a deep debt of gratitude to the work being done by modern Cherokee scholars. Here again, there are far too many people for me to name them all, but I have to mention the incredible work of Duane H. King and Rennard Strickland and the marvelous Journal of Cherokee Studies published by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in cooperation with the Cherokee Historical Association. All that I can say is that I am continuing to read and to listen and I am in awe of their brilliance and devotion. And I wholeheartedly agree with Rennard Strickland that when you get to know the Cherokees, you cannot help but love them.
More than anyone else, though, I have to thank Louis Littlecoon Oliver, a Creek Indian elder whose deep knowledge of the Muskogee, Yuchi, and Cherokee cultures was only matched by his humility and gentle sense of humor. I will never forget the times we spent together on Tahlequah. I was Grandfather Louis who placed a Cherokee Rose in my hand and then burned cedar for me on the mountaintop. Wado, wado."