The Education of Little Tree: how linguists can help expose fake Indians
The other day I picked up a copy of The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter; it’s a well-known fraud.
Let me show a linguist’s small contribution to the question of its authenticity.
Here are <Carter’s “Cherokee” words>, with actual words from the Cherokee Nation’s website in “phonetics” and Tsalagi syllabics.
spring [of water]: <lay-nah> (p.5)
little deer: <awi usdi> (p.5)
quail-hen: <min-e-lee> (p.5)
crow: <kagu> (p.5)
hawk: <tal-con> (p.9)
bee: <ti-bi> (p.9)
turkey: <tel-qui> (p.10)
(Mother) earth: <mon-o-lah> (p.12)
Only two of these (deer and crow) show much resemblance to the Cherokee Nation words.
Granted, I’m not a student of Cherokee and I haven’t bothered locating additional resources to evaluate the words Carter throws around.
But this preliminary view of the evidence inclines me to think Carter knew a couple of words of Cherokee that someone had told him — and then maybe he made up the rest.
So on the basic forensic linguistic evidence (totally aside from the facts of Carter’s white-supremacist life!) it seems pretty safe to assign The Education of Little Tree to the “Indian literary hoaxes” category, along with the Walam Olum and other inspired foolishness.