The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokee

Edited by Barbara R. Duncan

Illustrations by Shan Goshorn

144 pp., 6 x 9, 14 illus., 1 map

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5930-8
    Published: November 2008
  • Large Print ISBN: 978-0-8078-8669-4
    Published: June 2010
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8670-0
    Published: November 2008
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8104-5
    Published: November 2008

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Awards & distinctions

A Storytelling World Honor Book

Cherokee people have lived in the Great Smoky Mountains for thousands of years. During all this time, they have told stories to each other to explain how things came to be, to pass on lessons about life, and to describe the mountains, animals, plants, and spirits around them. The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokee collects 27 stories that are great for kids and are still being told by storytellers today.

Presented by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in their own words, the stories appear in free-verse form, like poems on the page, so that if you read them aloud, you can hear the rhythm of the stories as they were originally told. Barbara R. Duncan provides a helpful introduction that describes Cherokee people's past and present ways of life and their storytelling traditions. The book also includes a glossary of key words from the stories, suggestions for further reading, and notes on the storytellers. For young readers, for parents to read aloud to young listeners, and for teachers and libraries, The Origin of the Milky Way provides an excellent introduction to Cherokee culture. (For readers age 9 and up.)


Davy Arch

Robert Bushyhead

Edna Chekelelee

Marie Junaluska

Kathi Littlejohn

Freeman Owle

About the Author

Barbara R. Duncan is education director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina. She collected and edited the original Living Stories of the Cherokee and co-authored The Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook (both from the University of North Carolina Press). The North Carolina Folklife Society has honored Duncan’s contribution to the study of North Carolina folklife with the 2008 Brown-Hudson Award.
For more information about Barbara R. Duncan, visit the Author Page.


"The living stories--because they're still being told, they remain alive--teach in a traditional way what's important in Cherokee culture. . . . Highly recommended."--Multicultural Review

“As a Cherokee scholar, citizen, and mother, I appreciate the contribution Duncan makes to Cherokee children's literature. . . . Teachers, scholars, and parents should welcome this work and its contribution to Cherokee scholarship.”--Journal of Appalachian Studies

"The stories are well chosen, and they are beautifully presented. . . . A model for bringing high quality folklore research to young readers."--Journal of Folklore Research

"The Origin of the Milky Way can be enjoyed as a delightful collection of tales to instruct children, but it is really much more than that. It contains a living history of a proud nation of very gifted people."--The Midwest Book Review

"This is a book for children who are 10 years and older, but any adult who wants to know more about the Cherokees would enjoy its stories and the informational introductions to the sections."--Fayetteville Observer

"Aimed at middle school and junior high school students, this collection of Cherokee stories is of interest to all levels."--KLIATT