… was full-blooded Cherokee and my mother has always told me that that bloodline is wherefrom I get my high cheekbones. A little over a year ago, my mother told me how, when she was growing up in Tennessee, she used to see an old Indian woman walking along the road from time to time, and that that was her great grandmother, though my mother never met her.
She was married to a full-blooded Frenchman, and my mother has always told me that that bloodline is where I get the slight colorization under my eyes. I believe these were the parents of my great grandmother, Maw, who I knew, but I’m not sure. Sometimes, I think they may have been Papaw’s parents, but I don’t think so. From what I know of it, the rest of my blood is mixed Scotch, Irish, British, and German.
However, growing up in Mississippi, one is for the most part defined as either white or black. When I first moved out of the South, I was surprised by how many people asked me upon meeting me, “What are you? Irish?” simply because, culturally, I’d never defined myself as anything other than American and Southern. Racially, I had only ever defined myself as Caucasian and Cherokee, although the Cherokee roots were more an anecdotal thing than anything else. I think, more or less, I’ve always been amazed that I look so very Irish / German, yet my strongest direct, unmixed bloodline comes from the Cherokee / French union of my great great grandparents. But, again, this type of typification isn’t common in the South. “What are you?” wasn’t a common question until I moved North where everyone seems hyper-aware of all their small differences from all the other slivers of culture surrounding them.
Anyway, Wired‘s latest issue arrived last night, and there is an article about Black Cherokees and Creeks who used to be considered part of the Nations, but who have, since the boom in wealth from the gambling casinos, been removed from inclusion. It’s an interesting read for me, because I have the same amount of Cherokee blood that should allow me inclusion in the tribe, although my ultra-white appearance (as well as my lack of any real cultural connection to my ancestors) would most likely prevent it, as it prevents it for these black Native Americans, some of whom are much more culturally Cherokee than more “Indian-looking” Cherokees.
In any case, it’s an interesting article that has had me thinking quite a bit about my roots…