Synopses & Reviews
Who was Acorn Whistler, and why did he have to die? A deeply researched analysis of a bloody eighteenth-century conflict and its tangled aftermath, The Four Deaths of Acorn Whistler
unearths competing accounts of the events surrounding the death of this Creek Indian. Told from the perspectives of a colonial governor, a Creek Nation military leader, local Native Americans, and British colonists, each story speaks to issues that transcend the condemned man's fate: the collision of European and Native American cultures, the struggle of Indians to preserve traditional ways of life, and tensions within the British Empire as the American Revolution approached.
At the hand of his own nephew, Acorn Whistler was executed in the summer of 1752 for the crime of murdering five Cherokee men. War had just broken out between the Creeks and the Cherokees to the north. To the east, colonists in South Carolina and Georgia watched the growing conflict with alarm, while British imperial officials kept an eye on both the Indians' war and the volatile politics of the colonists themselves. They all interpreted the single calamitous event of Acorn Whistler's death through their own uncertainty about the future. Joshua Piker uses their diverging accounts to uncover the larger truth of an early America rife with violence and insecurity but also transformative possibility.
As American historians contemplate how best to reintegrate narrative into our work, Piker provides us with a model. Not only is The Four Deaths of Acorn Whistler beautifully written, it also considers the nature and impact of storytelling, suggesting that in the end we are who we are because of the tales we tell to ourselves and to others. Ari Kelman, author of < i=""> A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek <>
Josh Piker follows his superb first book, Okfuskee, with a sharply observed and deeply researched analysis of a bloody conflict and its tangled--and ultimately murderous--aftermath. His examination of the multiple narratives of Whistler's death forces us to consider the nature of documentary evidence and story-telling in early North America. Peter C. Mancall, author of < i=""> Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson <>
Pocahontas. Sacajawea. Sitting Bull. Crazy Horse. Acorn Whistler? This Creek Indian's life will never put him in the pantheon of renowned Native Americans. But it is his death, not his life, that matters--or, rather, it is the stories that colonists and Creeks made up about his demise. Unpacking and untangling those tales, Joshua Piker's fine book reveals nothing less than 'the way life in colonial America worked.' James H. Merrell, author of < i=""> The Indians ' New World <>
Piker is an excellent storyteller, and The Four Deaths of Acorn Whistler is an intriguing tale--told in four different ways--that showcases his dazzling historical detective work. He skillfully uses Creek Indian history as a window into early America. Jenny Hale Pulsipher, author of < i=""> Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England <>
Told by a colonial governor, a Creek military leader, Native Americans, and British colonists, each account of Acorn Whistler's execution for killing five Cherokees speaks to the collision of European and Indian cultures, the struggle to preserve traditional ways of life, and tensions within the British Empire on the eve of the American Revolution.
About the Author
Joshua Piker is Associate Professor of History, University of Oklahoma.
Author's home: Norman, OK