One of the many historical influences on Sonia Gensler’s The Revenant is the Cherokee Heritage, and part of that includes the sad story of the Trail of Tears.
This involved the relocation of Native American nations (including the Cherokee) from southeastern parts of the U.S. to the newly-created “Indian Territory” (now part of eastern Oklahoma, where The Revenant takes place).
Besides being torn from their homes, many Native Americans also suffered during the journey from exposure, disease and starvation. Some 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee died during relocation.
The relocation was made possible under the federal government’s passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Choctaw were the first to be removed in 1831, followed in subsequent years by the Seminole, the Creek, the Chickasaw, and the Cherokee in 1838. By removing the Native Americans from their tribal homelands, the U.S. government freed up 25 million acres for new white settlements in the South.
The book takes place in Indian Territory — the area where the Cherokee were relocated to following the Trail of Tears.
Throughout The Revenant you’ll also notice how this experience has impacted the Cherokee Nation — and the students Willie teaches at the Cherokee Female Seminary.
Here are some links to where you can learn more: