by Joseph Bruchac
In 1838 in Tennessee, the Cherokee Nation is on the brink of being changed forever as they face the Removal -- being forcibly moved from their homes and land, in part because of a treaty signed by a group of their own people. Sixteen-year-old Jesse Smoke has been studying at the Mission School, but it has been shut down and turned into a fort for the ever-increasing number of soldiers entering the territory. Now Jesse has returned to his home to live with his widowed mother and two younger sisters. All hope lies on the Cherokee chief, John Ross, who is in Washington, D.C., trying to delay the Removal. Then one night, family members are suddenly awakened, dragged from their homes, and brought at gunpoint to a stockade camp. From there, Jesse and his family are forced to march westward on the horrifying Trail of Tears during the long, cold winter months. It's a difficult journey west, and Jesse's not sure if he and his family can survive the journey.