Reimagining Cherokee Identity

Migration, Culture, & the Law, 1866-1889
Center for American Indian Studies Programs
American Indian Studies Seminar Series
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5:30 - 6:30 pm

B-91

Gregory Smithers, Virginia Commonwealth University

This paper analyzes how the leaders of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory struggled to come to terms with the socio-legal implications of Cherokee migration. In the decades after the Civil War, levels Cherokee migration not seen since the Trail of Tears raised new questions about Cherokee identity. In communities as geographically diverse as Marietta, GA; Ballinger, TX; Coffeyville, KS; Paris, AR; Buffalo Gap in Dakota Territory; and Yuma County, CA, individuals, families, and whole communities petitioned the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory for recognition of their claims to Cherokee citizenship, and thus, legal recognition of their Cherokee identity. At stake was the meaning of Cherokee identity, an issue that touched at the very core of whom the Cherokee imagined themselves to be.

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