Monday 15 April 2024

The Ridges face a heart-wrenching decision: to stand against discrimination, resist the forces of land greed, and remain on their people’s ancestral land, or to sign a treaty that would uproot an entire nation, along with their family.

 Yellow Bird’s Song
By Heather Miller 

Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Publisher: Historium Press
Pages: 370 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rollin Ridge, a mercurial figure in this tribal tale, makes a fateful decision in 1850, leaving his family behind to escape the gallows after avenging his father and grandfather’s brutal assassinations. With sin and grief packed in his saddlebags, he and his brothers head west in pursuit of California gold, embarking on a journey marked by hardship and revelation. Through letters sent home, Rollin uncovers the unrelenting legacy of his father’s sins, an emotional odyssey that delves deep into his Cherokee history.

The narrative’s frame transports readers to the years 1827-1835, where Rollin’s parents, Cherokee John Ridge and his white wife, Sarah, stumble upon a web of illicit slave running, horse theft, and whiskey dealings across Cherokee territory. Driven by a desire to end these inhumane crimes and defy the powerful pressures of Georgia and President Andrew Jackson, John Ridge takes a bold step by running for the position of Principal Chief, challenging the incumbent, Chief John Ross. The Ridges face a heart-wrenching decision: to stand against discrimination, resist the forces of land greed, and remain on their people’s ancestral land, or to sign a treaty that would uproot an entire nation, along with their family.


John Rollin Ridge, Mount Shasta Gold Mines, California, 1851

In the many dawns that followed, I took great pains for numbness. Lit the candle mount on my hat with clay-stained hands. Followed my lantern underground, tracing lingering sulfur air singed from blasts of dynamite. I followed the stench willingly, hand braced against embedded veins of iron ore. Work too brutal for shale so brittle.

With pickaxe supine, I heaved the miner’s tool in relentless rhythm against ribs of bedrock. Amidst such brainless work, my memory sparked in flashes against the limestone and gneiss. 

Tragedy struck. 

I woke again that dawn, heard the banging of the door, the clank of the broken lock, the scuffle of men’s feet across the wooden floor. Overlapping cries, some in anger, some with fear. Papa’s “Wait.” Mama’s “No.” And in drops like the sweat down my back, the warriors steadily spit their threats. “Treaty,” they said. “Traitor,” they said. “Trail,” they said. “Tears.”

Man against nature, in tedious monotony, I rose, hands sliding to grip, overlapping, and thwack. Axe teetering at the fulcrum point then, the collapse. First, a chink, then, the fall of sharp severs that buried my boots. Rocks rang as I bellowed, “Let him go. Leave him be.” No one heard me then; no one heard me now. 

I threw my axe underfoot and grabbed the drill rod and hammer. Shadows and sunlight. Men against man, the war party carried him outside. Mama’s hands held me behind her. Mask and kerchief kept her from him. 

Beat and turn. Arms pound and burn. They stabbed. Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. The arrowhead on the bowie knife. Twenty-nine. They stole his breath, walked single file across his body. Mama in blood-soaked white. Papa raised himself to speak. Air escaped. No words.

This man warred against his thoughts. My mind couldn’t separate Papa’s visage in life after seeing him pale with death. His blood oozed through a winding sheet and fell, drop by drop on the floor. By his side sat my mother, with hands clasped in speechless agony. Bending over him was his own afflicted mother, with her long, white hair flung loose over her shoulders and bosom, crying to the Great Spirit to sustain her.8 I lost time to such futility. With buckets in tow, I surfaced, tracing limestone serpentine toward the sun, sonless.

At the time, we scarcely knew our loss.9 The same day Papa died, Grandfather was ambushed, shot in the back. Uncle Elias’ head was beaten in by lying men.

After so many voiced condolences and unvoiced threats, Mother sent me away. And my life sped behind never-ending coach windows, taking me to my grandparents’ house, the Northrups in Massachusetts, to study Latin and Greek in Great Barrington’s classrooms. Years later, another coach returned me, much slower, to Arkansas, to Washbourne’s lawbooks, to Lizzie and her mountain lion. Canoe rides. Our wedding. Holding Alice. Erecting cabin walls. Planting corn, wheat. Killing Kell. Papa’s letter. Mama. I hacked through it all. But more rock lay ahead, despite all my efforts to touch the golden reprieve on the other side.

Inside my mind, their faces remained, not the books I’d read or the places I’d lived. Papa’s letter said he wished to live for his own sake, his wife and children’s sake, and for the sake of his race. He’d said the sacrifice of his life was the consequence of his choices; he had already put his life in danger and contingently given it up. Must I learn the same lesson, realize the same, and die searching for repose and refuge? My pan was still light, even after sifting endless piles of rock for specks shining under the muted earth. 

Pick up your copy of
 Yellow Bird’s Song

Heather Miller 

As a veteran English teacher and college professor, Heather has spent nearly thirty years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, with empty nest time on her hands, she’s writing herself, transcribing lost voices in American’s history.

Connect with Heather:

#AmericanHistory #NativeAmericanHistory #TrailOfTears #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub


  1. I am really looking forward to hosting this tour on the 19th.

    1. I shall look out for it on the 19th. Yellow Bird’s Song is such a fabulous book.

  2. I hope you are enjoying your book tour, Heather. Your book sounds amazing, congratulations!

  3. A beautiful picture for a beautiful book!

  4. Your book sounds very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It really does sounds amazing. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Thank you so much for featuring Yellow Bird's Song by Heather Miller today.

    Take care,
    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

  6. Thank you for sharing, I have not heard of this book.

  7. Congratulations on your new release. I do so love the cover.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx