Nuances in ancestry


As a Cherokee wannabe, I would like to comment in support of Ginger Brown’s recent letter [“Seek truth about Cherokee” (Vol. 30, No. 18)]. I fully agree with her. Having Cherokee ancestry is not the same as being a member of a federally recognized tribe. It’s a little like having German ancestors, but not living in Germany as a German citizen. So, if you’re a German-American, you might join an Oompah Band or a German-American Club for the purpose of expressing your cultural heritage.

But, in my mind there is a distinction.

I have been told that community and a sense of belonging to each other is almost universal in the Native American world, and central to a person’s identity. I don’t believe I’ve been misled on this point.

I cannot prove my blood quantum, nor my grandmother’s full-blood status. In fact, she died before the Baker Roll was completed in 1924, her maiden name lost in the missing records of three southern states. But I have photographs of my father and his sisters and family stories that leave no doubt. Their heritage and mine is written on our faces and in our hearts.

So what do we do, we Cherokee wannabes?

We join those who would have us, as I did when I enrolled in the Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation, S.C. – Piedmont American Indian Association. They accepted the documents I could provide and welcomed me.

There is no doubt that there is a flourishing trade in phony Cherokee this-and-that, tailor-made for the gullible. I applaud the efforts of the legitimate Cherokee nations to expose the hucksters and preserve the truth.

I just wish they wouldn’t paint with so broad a brush.


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