Back in 1991 i moved to Chattanooga from Minneapolis. Two years later i was invited to join in the founding and development of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association (CITA). Recently (ca.1997) an education graduate student at the local university told me that there was a local 'tribe' of Cherokee and Blackfoot over in the Cleveland, Tennessee area. I was amazed, given that the Blackfeet are a tribe from the Montana and Alberta, Canada area and the Cherokee from the Tennessee, Georgia and Carolinas area, and that these two very different Native nationalities were represented down here about 40 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
This was not the first time i had heard of this mix: back around 1994 a member of CITA had said that he was Cherokee&Blackfoot. I was puzzled by the fact that these two nations are separated by over 2,000 miles and at least ten Native nations in between (not to mention the differences in language and culture), and that these two nations have never shared any geographical proximity before or after the racial cleansing of this area (euphemistically referred to as "The Removal" or "The Trail of Tears"), ie, not here in the southeast United States or in Oklahoma or Texas. Moreso than simply puzzled, i became suspicious that the claimed incidences of Cherokee&Blackfoot mixing could be better explained by something other than a statistical anomaly.
So i've been wondering how this mixture of nationalities took place. Part of this curiosity is fueled by my own mixed-blood Native heritage - Blackfoot & Hunkpapa Lakota of Standing Rock. Among the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nation, Blackfoot is a clan that i've never heard anybody refer to apart from history and cultural texts. Another part of the mystery is the term "Blackfoot" itself: the tribe up north is called "Blackfeet", but most people claiming this mix with Cherokee blood refer to themselves as "Blackfoot" -- is it the same? or different? I haven't found "Blackfoot" people who know much - if anything - about the Blackfeet up north. What does this mean?
I've come to the conclusion, albeit based on personal observations, the following information and stories and my growing knowledge of Cherokee history, that for the most part, the claim to Cherokee and Blackfoot blood is actually a story intentionally designed by people's ancestors to cover up the African ("Black") bloodline in their past, and to disguise it as a racial group more commonly accepted in White majoritarian society - American Indian. Hence "Black" becomes "Blackfoot", and thereby more tolerable to White relatives.
Granted that there certainly are actual instances in which Blackfeet and Cherokee people have met and intermarried - i readily accept this. But down here in the South, and the Chattanooga area specifically, where Whites are now so ready to cite their Native American ancestors, there still exists a very deep racial prejudice among Natives and Whites against having African/Black ancestors. I hear about it all the time -- the bad-mouthing by Native full-bloods and mixed-bloods alike of a local full-blood Indian Commissioner who's reputed to have Black blood, fully intended as a racial slur; the active ignoring of the local African American community whose various members have, by far, more Native blood than their White counterparts; the attempts to cheapen the Indianess of another state official involved in American Indian politics by saying she's Black, not Indian, because she looks more Black; the self denial of any Black blood by a Native American very active in Tennessee Native politics who appears to have African ancestors. These incidents tell me that Black/african blood will be denied in most every person's genealogy.
In sum, my argument is based entirely on the philosophical principle of Occam's razor (see the bottom of this page for a more complete explanation) -- that when faced with differing explanations for an event, rational simplicity is best. So when given the concept of Cherokee & Blackfoot marriages and their general lack of explanation, i deduce from their geographical separation that it is unlikely that such a preponderance of marriages actually occurred between Blackfoot people of the Northwest and Cherokee people of the Southeast, and that a simpler, more logical explanation is that "Blackfoot" became a way of disguising African/"Black" relatives and ancestors.
I'm interested in what you think about this theory, especially if you offer proof to debunk or support it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
the Northern blackfeet or Siksika
see also the Blackfeet Nation's history webpage at http://blackfeet.3rivers.net/history.htm
Society of the Blackfeet
(Centre for Social Anthropology, University of Kent, Canterbury) "The Blackfeet Indians of the United States and Canada were divided into three main groups: the Northern blackfeet or Siksika, the Kainah or Blood, and the Piegan. The three as a whole are also referred to as the Siksika (translated Blackfeet), a term which probably derived from the discoloration of moccasins with ashes (Mooney 1910: 570)." The blackfeet Language
(Sean McLennan and Leah Bortolin, Teleport.net) "Blackfeet is an Algonquian language spoken by about 5000 people of the Blood, Peigan, an Siksika tribes in southern Alberta and Northern Montana. Its closest sister within the Algonquian family is Cree. There is no native or standard blackfeet orthography although
D.G. Frantz has developed one in order to write the Blackfeet Dictionary."
Spirit Talk Magazine
blackfeet Sacred Lands
(Pikuni) spiritual leaders. We formed as an official group in 1986 in response to a series of ongoing threats to the continuation of our traditional heritage and culture."
The Cherokee Indians
(Smokymtnhall.com) "The Cherokee Indians, a branch of the Iroquois nation, can trace their history in North Carolina back more than a thousand years. Originally their society was based on hunting, trading, and agriculture. By the time European explorers and traders arrived, Cherokee lands covered a large part of what is now the southeastern United States."
The Lakota (Teton) group of Sioux were the most numerous of the Sioux tribes, and the strongest. Bands/clans within the Tetons included the Oglala, Brule, Sans Arc, Sihasapa (Blackfeet), Two Kettle, Hunkpapa and Minnekonju.
When time began, there were seven Tribes that comprised the Lakota Nation: the Oglala, Sicangu, Minniconjou, Hunkpapa, Sihasapa [Blackfeet], Itazipco, and the Oohenunpa.
see also http://www.drivinghawk.com/today.htm
Subj: Drum Talk: Cherokee & Blackfoot lineage
Date: 97-11-15 08:19:42 EST
From: email@example.com (tom kunesh)
Drum Talk -
there seem to be a lot of people down here in Tennessee and about that are Cherokee & Blackfoot. i'm interested in finding out more about this mix. if any of your readers have information about their Cherokee & Blackfoot lineage, i'd like to learn more about it -
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-FLINT
The Project for Urban and Regional Affairs
THE NATIVE AMERICAN DATABASE
For further information call Pat Sayers at (810) 239-6621.
[a few listings, focusing on tribes and their admixtures]
The following is a list of Native American Prisoners incarcerated in prisons throughout the United States.
Digging For The Red Roots; by Mahir Abdal Razzaq El
[document not found 14 june 1998]
My name is Mahir Abdal Razzaq El and I am a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian who is Muslim. I am known as Eagle Sun Walker. I serve as a Pipe Carrier Warrior for the NorthEastern Band of Cherokee Indians in New York City. There are other Muslims in our group. For the most part, not many people are aware of the Native American contact with Islam that began over a thousand years ago by some of the early Muslim travelers who visited us. Some of these Muslim travelers ended up living up among our people.
Article Taken from:MESSAGE, July 1996 (Copyrights Message Magazine as long as proper acknowledgement has been stated, it can be reproduced)
Blackfoot / Cherokee info?
Helen Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fri, 6 May 1994 12:13:03 -0400
Next in thread: William Shelton: "Re: Blackfoot / Cherokee info?"
Hello fellow native-l subscribers. I am new to the network. This is my
first communication using the network. My Paternal Great Grandfather was Cherokee, and my Paternal Great Grandmother (not my Cherokee Great Grandfather's wife) was Blackfoot. As you can imagine, I know very little about either Cherokee or Blackfoot Indians and am literally dying for knowledge. Can anyone direct me to a source of good accurate reading material and activities that I can participate in.
Helen Easterling Williams Counselor
Bill Clearlake http://mindstation.com/me.html#MIXED
I'm African American, but I'm also 1/8 Cherokee. My Great-Grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee. My Grandmother used to show me an old photograph of her with her long flowing black hair and smooth, dark skin. Her name was "Singing Bird". We are of the Blackfoot Cherokee Nation. I'm still learning about my native American cultural heritage. I haven't found much information about the Blackfoot Cherokee - but I'm looking. I've actually found some intriguing things about Black Indians. As I learn more, I'll share it with you.
I was reading a description of the Cherokee people and they were described as being somewhat aloof, self-centered, almost arrogant in their attitudes towards others. I see it as being self-contained, or self-posessed. Yet there was a quality of gentle humor, wit, and sarcasm that reflects my own. When I read about the Cherokee people, I see myself amoung them. It amazes me that so much of their character and temperment has found its place in me. Being of mixed race must mean more than physical appearance. It must also mean taking on the character and personality traits of each race. While I have characteristics that are both African and Cherokee, my personality is more typically Cherokee. I'll go into more detail on this another time.
*Reginald K. Gee http://www.scultura.com/gee/gee.html
Outside Art is the fastest growing segment of collectible art today. Collect Outsider Art or Self Taught Art by well exhibited emerging artist, Reginald K. Gee. He works with craypas on brown paper grocery bags. He does vignettes of contemporary life in Clementine Hunter style. Categories include: romance, sports, entertainment, fantasy, the dinosaur age, and more-- abstract and/or figurative.
Reginald K. Gee was born to parents of Nigritic and Blackfoot/Cherokee Indian descent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At an outdoor arts festival in 1986, he was able to show a few pieces of his work. Soon, an admirer shot a set of slides of his work and gave him two extra sets. Galleries and museums also became interested and he rediscovered that people are grateful to see colorful images reflecting life, or fictional scenes done with taste.
The desire to create his art comes from curiosity, pleasure, boredom, anger, desperation, and all human emotion. Gee is blessed with an ability to make someone think, giggle, or at least smile. This is his genuine reward and the priceless fuel that drives his art.
Robert Taylor Blackfoot-Cherokee
Previous Exhibitions: "Invitation to the Soul"
This Exhibition of New and Recent Works by artist Robert Taylor (Blackfeet-Cherokee) explores the deep spirituality of all peoples and encourages us to look within
About the Artist http://www.indart.com/gallery/taylorbi.htm
A Blackfeet/Cherokee native of Tulsa, Ok, Taylor continues to reside in the area. He attended Central Missouri State University. æHe works primarily in acrylics but also produces some watercolors and pen and inks. æHe frequently uses the technique of distortion to draw the viewer into an emotion or human process he is trying to convey. Large bodies, large hands or small heads are often used for emphasis. æ
Taylor is a frequent and consistent award winner in shows at the Cherokee National Museum, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, the Eastern Trails Art Show and the Inter-Tribal Ceremonial in Gallup. æHe has also shown at the New York City International Art Fest, the Los Angeles International Art Festival, and the Jane Goodall Foundation Art Exhibition in Dallas.
OKLAHOMA INDIAN ART GALLERY
In business since 1965 and at this location since 1979. Features the finest in contemporary Native American and Southwest art.
You may contact The Oklahoma Indian Art Gallery at 1-800-585-6162 mailto:email@example.comæ
Posted by Sonia Thacher on December 06, 1996 at 03:47:55:
In Reply to: Re: Pretenders posted by WendyLee on November 27, 1996 at 08:15:18:
I am not blessed with the personal knowledge of anyone in that category, but am working on a paper with a similar premise, and can offer research suggestions:
-Wendy Rose's "The Great Pretenders" in -The State of Native America- edited by M. Annette Jaimes
some relatively famous examples of such people (often called whiteshamans) are: authors Jamake Highwater (actually a white guy named Jay Marks, but he says he's a "Blackfoot/Cherokee") Carlos Casteneda Gary Snyder, kind of (he never CLAIMS to be Indian, but he borrows from indigenous culture in a way which many activists say is very irreverant, and he's very into the "shaman" motif) spiritual leaders Lynn Andrews, "Mary Summer Rain"
and many more whose names elude me. for a twist, you may want to check out Sun Bear and H. Storm (-Seven Arrows-); they're native people who have disregarded the wishes of their communities and made quite cushy livings selling indigenous spirituality to the masses
good luck- hope this is somewhat helpful.
BEADED ART WORK BY MACILE REEVIS
THE ARTIST MACILE REEVIS (BLACKFOOT/CHEROKEE) AND MORE OF HER ART
WORK. Macile and her husband Steve Reevis in full traditional regalia. The artist Macile.
http://www.vplus.com/~jungle/tribalt2.html - tamaöo 1656 bytes - 19-Feb-97 -
The IUPUI Sagamore / Indian University Purdue University Indianopolis
March 25, 1996
Multicultural extravaganza focuses on racism in society http://evolutionv.iupui.edu/pasteds/3_25_96/news.html
Event displays diversity and multicultural events for student and faculty participants
By Marlon Riley
The first floor of the Student Activity Center was decked out in an array of colors to set the mood for the First Annual Multicultural Student Affairs Extravaganza, sponsored by the Multicultural Advisory Board.
Hi you! http://www.wow97.com/jsmith/secrets.html
Well, I hope you've enjoyed what you've already seen. I'm assuming you want to know more about me and I think I can accomodate you. The life story of Julie Smith...
I was born on August 18, 1967. I am half American Indian, Blackfoot and Cherokee, and half German. My dad was a Colonel in the army, so I spent the first 6 years of my life in Europe. I grew up with 3 younger sisters, Shannon, Tiffany, and Nicole...no brothers. After Europe, we moved to upstate New York. I went to a private Catholic school and saw no boys!!! I was a young rebel, and got spanked on the knuckles with a ruler many a time!!!
not checked [server not responding 14 june 1998]:
Lou's Custom Frames & Gallery, Artists' Bio Page
Free Shipping and No Sales Tax. Member of the Internet Link Exchange. Proud Member of BannerSwap. Artists' Bios. Robert Hilliard. Robert , a self taught...
http://22.214.171.124/artists.html - tamaöo 6092 bytes - 15-May-97 -
> Holy shit, and I've been using Highwater's THE SUN, HE DIES (until it
> went out of print) as an Indigenous view of the Spanish conquest in
> one of my classes. Could some one PLEASE send me more info on this,
> esp. a more complete citation of Adams' article.
http://bioc09.uthscsa.edu/natnet/archive/nl/9202/0030.html I can only conclude from this information that Jamake Highwater is who he says he is - a man of mixed Blackfeet, Cherokee and white heritage who spent his early childhood at Blackfeet reservation schools in Alberta, Canada. He was adopted around the age of seven by a non-Indian family friend by the name of Marks, and for a time used the pen name "J. Marks" in tribute to his foster father. Probably someone put together the similarity between "J. Marks" and "Gregory J. Markopoulos", coupled with the fact that both men went to the same high school for awhile, and fabricated this story. However, if he was so anxious to keep his "real" identity a secret, why bother to use such a similar name? Why not simply call himself Jamake Highwater and be done with it? At any rate, by 1970 he was back to using his real father's name, and I have original editions of both "Rock and Other Four Letter Words" and a 1973 biography he wrote of Mick Jagger, which were published under the name "J. Marks-Highwater" and state clearly on the jacket that "J. Marks-Highwater is the pen name for Jamake Highwater".
[Sat, 15 Nov 1997]
My Blackfeet Grandma, My Afro-American Relatives--and Me, in Between
My My Blackfeet Grandma, My Afro-American Relatives--and Me, in Between By Francine Mathews, Blackfeet and Black Woman
My intent here is just to express what is on my mind, as well as in my heart. I needed someone to talk to, and I thought of all the people I know (as much as one can know another via computer) your (Brooke Craig's) heart seemed as close to mine as is possible.
These last few years I have felt much like an old coat or shoe that had been lost for ages, just sitting in an old lost and found closet waiting for someone who recognizes me to pick me up and take me home.
I have mentioned to you that I am of Indian (black feet) and African American descent. Since childhood I have been teased quite badly by other children because of my skin color, or hair. Even my own brothers teased me (and at times still do to this day) and told me that our parents found me as a baby and adopted me. I believed this for awhile, because my brothers are dark in color, and I am a light caramel, and my hair (back then) was very long and straight, where theirs was very coarse
One day my mother sat all of us siblings down, and pulled out some old photographs that she had. I was in awe. There were only three pictures in all, but they made a big inpression on me. They were of my Great Grandmother and her sister. My mother said to me, "This is was your grannie Phoebe and her sister Eva. They were black feet indians of pure blood."
(Back then I had no idea what "pure" blood meant. Neither of the women in the photo could have been an inch over 4 feet 11 inches tall. To this day, I cannot tell you where those photos are. They have gotten lost in the shuffle I remember how breathless I was at seeing grannie's photo. When things got rough for me as a child, I used to pray and ask my grannie (not God, who I was raised to believe in) to help me, and show me how to be strong. When I would be punished and sent to me room, I never seemed to mind much, I'd talk to grannie, and feel much better inside.
As I got older, new problems arose for me, I decided to pay more attention to my African American heritage. I was very afro-centric after I saw the movie "Roots" by Alex Haley. I remember once going to school in my newly brought African garb. Some friends (or so I thought they were at the time) laughed at me so hard that by the time I ran out of the school, the halls were full of laughing people.
What one of my "friends" said to me was this.:
"Girl, what do you know about being African. You're not a real African! Look at you, your not even Black, you're too light! If you did have an ancestor that was a slave, they probably had life real easy. I'll bet your ancestors were house nigga's! I'll bet they worked in the big house all day, and serviced their masters all night! They weren't real slaves. The real slaves were the ones who worked the fields and got beat all the time! What do you know about real African Slavery?!"
I'll never forget those horrible words or the sound of my black sisters' and brothers' laughter at my expense. I cried and cried for days.
I have been told even as an adult, that I am not considered a true African American. How horrible, to be judged by your hair, skin, or eye color. How unfair.
As an adult, I have come to realize that what others believe me to be, or do not believe me to be does not change what I truly am. When I attend family reunions on my father's side of the family, I hold my head high when the photographs are taken. Though I and 2 distant cousins are the only ones of all the people there with this light complexion, I am certain most know which one is me in the pictures.
I wouldn't be surprised if someone looking at one of those family photos would think "Oh, her, she always look like she's proud of something".
At the age of 15, I decided that I would write a book. In this book I would bring together two people of different cultures. Indian, and African American. For years this was only a dream, but one day I came across a very moving, very touching letter posted on the Cultures BB on Prodigy.
[Note: This was a letter from Cherokee Brooke Craig, whose story "Death of an Eagle" appears here.]
The letter was about two women of different cultures who had become sisters of the heart and spirit. Though I cannot say for sure what it was, something drew me instantly to the author of this beautiful letter. My heart began to beat faster, as tears rolled down my cheeks. I read the letter over and over, and even copied it on my printer.
Finally, I felt compelled to write this author and tell her how touched I was by her letter.
[Brooke encouraged Francine to write a book. No one in her family, nor her husband of 11 years, has ever believed she could do anything like that.]
Since that day (which has not been long ago at all) this woman has been a sort of life line, if you will. She has taught me so much about my grannies people (I do not speak of Black Feet, but of all Indian people). She has taught me about wholeheartedly accepting others even though they are different.
She has been completely open, completely honest, and sincere in all that she has said.
I searched most of my life for something. I have always felt left out, as I said earlier, like I was lost, but thanks to the wonderful person she is, I feel deep within my spirit that by finding out so much about such a wonderful people, and culture, that I have finally been found!!!
Though grannie is gone, and I cannot see her or sit silently at her feet and listen to her every word, I feel as though she has sent me to the next best thing, a woman as kind, strong, and honest as I dream my grannie was.
Thank you Brookie for being who you are, and thank you for helping me to feel the love that flows from your people, whom I now consider to be "my people" as well.
Though I do not understand yet, about spirit guides and the like, or who you consider directs your life, I believe in Almighty God with all my heart, and ask him to bless you always.
Grace and Peace,
Francine Matthews CXXK80B@prodigy.com
EMAIL to Francine & her Kids--
CREDITS: The modern-style deer dancer was drawn in black-and-white india ink by an unknown artist for Akwesasne Notes in 1975. When I was doing my "salvage Notes art" project a couple of years ago, I somehow felt very strongly there should be a double-reversed mirror image--dancers with colors (black, white and greyscale) intrchanged, as well as back-to-back. Somehow that image perfectly fits in my mind Francine's story. I colored my FreeHand digitization black-outside-red-inside for one deer dancer, and red-outside-black-inside for the other. Eyes and outlines of both are the color of sunlight and they dance on the blue of my twilight or dawn sky, day changing to night, night to day. But I framed this picture in white. Think about why, why I did that, what it means about racism in the Americas.
Copyrights to the stories are held by their respective creators. This story copyright Francine Mathews, 1995.
Last updated: Thursday, June 29, 1995 - 7:47:29 AM
A Letter from Perry Singleton
The purpose of this letter is two fold. First, I would like to introduce myself and give some insight to who I am. My name is Perry Singleton. I am of Cherokee/Blackfoot descent. I have always been proud of that heritage and have always been attentive to native issues.
I began attending local pow-wows, but it was not long before I recognized that very little was to be learned about my heritage. It was not until I met a Western Cherokee at a pow-wow, who had lived in both Oklahoma and North Carolina, that I found out how little I really knew and how great the need for me to go home. . Although I have been some what accepted, I still feel a separation in the heart. I know it is indirectly, if not directly, caused by the removals. I have also felt the need to return to our ancestral home-lands by way of the Trail of Tears. I know that this may sound a little excessive, but I have always been an adventurous person. I have been on several outdoor treks, but I have never attempted one of this magnitude. However, I believe that the potential benefits far out weigh the possible hardships.
I started work on this over a year ago for the reasons mentioned earlier. I began by casually talking to people about my idea. The responses I received were very positive. Late last year, I started looking seriously into the feasibility of such an undertaking. I found that the National Park Service had designated the Trail of Tears as a national trail. They have a wealth of information with maps, site identification etc..
There is also a national organization:
Trail of Tears Association
My goal is not to re-enact the trail but to symbolically undo. We want it to be more recreational. As the schedule indicates, we have planned events; pow-wows, arts and craft festivals, and similar events, at major stops along the trail. These events will be used to promote awareness, educate the public, and fund raisers for the organizations promoting the event.
I would also like to take the time to point out that I see myself as a facilitator and a participant only. I do not intend or pretend to represent anyone. But, I do believe that I am obligated to set an example. One thing I have learned is that we have three true priorities in life:
1. Love and respect for the Creator.
2. Love and respect for others.
3. Love and respect for oneself.
I am only trying to fulfill that obligation. I am grateful and honored that you have taken the time to read this letter.
Perry D. Singleton
Letters of Question & Comment to NASCSwan@aol.com. If you can answer any of these questions - please write directly to the person with the inquiry. http://members.aol.com/Tursiops45/DrumTalkMainPage
Subj: Black Feet Indians
I am trying to find information on my paternal grandmother who I was told was of Black Foot decent. Her name was Mary Wilkerson and she supposedly came from Knoxville Tennessee. She had a sister who at one time lived in Virginia. I can not find out anything else and need help.
Date: Sun, Nov 30, 1997 16:11 EST
From: Oops HAR
Grandfather was Lumbee, found out Grandmother was Blackfoot from NC. lastname of Troy any info would be great Thanks
Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 22:08:55 -0500 (EST)
THANK YOU!! Where did this come from? I have a family legend and nothing more to substantiate. I won't bore you with the legend, but it is perpetrated in various branches of the family which were not closely associated so the legend MUST be true. That in the 1830's a former Rev War Vet went to "the Dakotas" and brought back a Blackfoot woman he couldn't marry at first, but did eventually marry......she was the mother of my great great grandmother. In various censuses she is listed with last names which are different, so I know she was with various men---some of them rather old men----but did eventually marry the man who supposedly brought her to Alabama. Lisa
Occam's Razor :
William of Occam (1284-1347) was an English philosopher and theologian. His work on knowledge, logic and scientific inquiry played a major role in the transition from medieval to modern thought. He based scientific knowledge on experience and self-evident truths, and on logical propositions resulting from those two sources. In his writings, Occam stressed the Aristotelian principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary. This principle became known as Occam's Razor, a problem should be stated in its basic and simplest terms. In science, the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected.