One of the books I’m working on is the story of Major Ridge, a Cherokee chief who was involved with the fight against Jackson and congress to remove the Cherokee from their lands. His story took place primarily before the Trail of Tears and is a moving study in civilization and mind changing.
However, I have been worried that my reliance on one book in particular, Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People, by Thurman WIlkins, on Google Books here, might prejudice my novel in light of plagiarism and copyright issues.
Rereading this work, I discovered a reference that clears my mind. The History of the Indian Tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs, by Thomas McKenney and James Hall, is a series of biographies of Native American chiefs prepared by these men during the middle of the nineteenth century, nearly a hundred years before the WIlkins volume.
This History provides much of the content of my novel, accounting for many of the biographical details that are included in the Wilkins book. My mind is reassured for, though I referenced countless books about Cherokee history and culture, Native American history, and the Trail of Tears in writing my novel, I am now assured of freedom from accusation, or at least a positive defense, of plagiarism.
It is something that I think remains a debate among novelists. I remember the copyright case against Dan Brown for The DaVInci Code and the merits of the case that found him innocent of plagiarism. I have also read of other novels that were primarily based on one work of research. Whether those authors took an option on the academic book, like a movie studio does, or simply credited the researcher with inspiration I don’t know.
But my mind is clear. I have thoroughly researched the subject of my novel, his life and times, and the family and places around him. I feel that I can confidently protest my innocence in the face of any accusation. And thanks to the History, which is available on Archive.org here, I can now point to second source for much of the biographical detail.
The image above is a rendering of Major Ridge, the star of my novel, as included in the History.