The Education of Little Tree

by Forrest Carter

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In relation to The Education of Little Tree, what is the "Cherokee way"?

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The Cherokee Way is to live in harmony with nature and within one's self.  It is expressed beautifully in the poetic excerpt between Chapters 2 and 3 - "Learn the wisdom of Mon-o-lah (the earth), and then you'll know The Way and touch the soul of all the Cherokee". 

In Chapter 2, Little Tree goes with Granpa on the high trail, and gets to see and appreciate the land on which they live.  They watch the rising sun give life to the mountain, and observe as a hawk catches and kills a quail.  Little Tree learns that in the way of nature, the weak do not survive, but the strong do, and live to create more strong members of their species.  He learns that the Cherokee only take what they need from the land, and they never take the strongest - thus ensuring that the living creatures will survive and grow more hardy, and will always be there for them.  Granpa tells Little Tree that those who take more than their share are doomed to have it taken from them, and that men will fight wars and die because some want more than their share.  In the Cherokee Way, if someone treats you badly, it is because he does not have the inner peace that comes with being one with the natural world.  That's why, when the bus driver was rude to them, Granpa was able to ignore him, saying, "That's a burden for him to tote around...nothing for us to burden our heads about".

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