Wednesday, September 3, 2008

See, how folks try to push the Cherokee Around

Who’s appropriating?

Editor, Daily Press:

Possibly I was the only person in attendance at the Friday session of the State of Sequoyah Conference who neither possesses nor claims “Indian” or Cherokee ancestry. But this intertribal warfare comes to us Scots-Irish backwoodsmen, and some of the topics promised were of personal and professional interest. The Cains’ presentation on “Hunting and Gathering in the 21st Century” was useful and interesting. Then, things went south.

Without doubt, the actions of Murv Jacob were disruptive. But later I wondered: What is an appropriate response to racism, slander and ignorance? For those who suck on the teat of the Cherokee Nation, the response is likely to be silence. But some of the artists, historians and writers who engage with and learn from Cherokee history and folkways will never be tribal members or employees of Cherokee Nation. We are free to comment and critique.

Shortly after Jacob was hustled out of the ballroom [at the Friday session], Dr. Richard Allen said into the open microphone, “That was a local artist without any Cherokee ancestry.” That struck me as a remarkably arrogant and ignorant statement, and perhaps a libelous one. Can Allen prove Jacob has no such ancestry? Does his job as “policy analyst” at Cherokee Nation provide him ample time to investigate the lineage of local citizens and cultural workers? Next, Dr. Carol Morrow presented a talk on the “Missouri Cherokee” and although she stated she is not a historian and it was not her field of expertise, she told the audience what she had been paid to tell them, and she was greeted with applause.

The last session, “Fraudulent Tribes and Individuals,” was part Klan rally and part self-congratulation. If Troy Poteete believes “the federal government could save millions by not awarding grants to dubious claims for tribal recognition,” he could go a step further and say the feds could save hundreds of millions by instituting a blood quantum, releasing from membership hundreds of thousands of “white” Cherokees. But Poteete is not interested in saving anyone money. He is interested in keeping Cherokee casinos up and running, unopposed, in his own 19th-century, racial ideology.

Even whiter than the 1/32-degree Poteete, the 1/256-degree councilor, Carol Cowan-Watts, complained of Ward Churchill’s “appropriating Cherokee culture.” I do not claim to be an expert on Churchill’s work; I’ve only read eight or 10 of his books. He writes sourced history and extreme political commentary, but I remember nowhere in his books where he deals with Cherokee culture. From this I can only infer Cowan-Watts is a bit clueless. More interesting is the astounding delusional and racial worldview required for a 1/256-degree Cherokee to accuse anyone of “cultural appropriation.”

There is some appropriation going on, and it’s more perverse than “new-agey” white people taking Indian names and wearing feathers. It is the Cherokee Nation appropriating discredited 18th- and 19th-century ideologies of “citizenship by blood.” These concepts, retrieved from the ash heap of history, were learned from the white man. Nowhere do they exist in the traditional Cherokee worldview. Now, they have returned under the guise of “sovereignty.” These ideologies were learned from white colonialists, but the “white” Cherokee “elite” have learned these lessons well. White Indians, like Cowan and Poteete, mistake race for culture, blood for community, and exclusion for strength.

James Murray


(Once again an example of how a non-Cherokee is telling the Cherokee, who is or is not a Cherokee and then telling us what to do or what we should be...Mr. Murray, we know who we are, we don't need your definition of who we are and certainly don't need your advice or thoughts on what to do. And based on what credentials does he claim to know the traditional world-view of the guess anyone can have an opinion, even if it is wrong....sounds more like he's caught up in the blood quantum issue...we have no blood quantum really needs to BUTT OUT!

Come to think of it, perhaps he is part of that One Nation group, trying to get rid of the Indian Tribes in Oklahoma...hmmmm...Scot-Irish by the way, married into the Cherokees way back in the early 1800s....

I just can't get over how folks misunderstand the importance of that Cherokee Ancestor; makes my Scot-Irish blood wonder whether or not he's Scot-Irish)