March 11, 2007

Did Cherokees fib?

The Cherokee:  Saying No to BlacksMarilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, has long fought racism from both governmental officials and indigenous figures. In this instance, she claims, Cherokee leaders misled voters by insisting "freedmen don't have Indian blood," "the freedmen were forced on the tribe," "the freedmen do not have a treaty right to citizenship," "the people have never voted on citizenship provisions in the history of the tribe," and "the amendment will create an all Indian tribe." Cherokee voters were also influenced by the racist charge "that the freedmen if not ejected, would use up all of the tribal service monies.”

The design of the amendment, Vann points out, is patently discriminatory. It removes membership from descendants of enrolled African Cherokees whose documentation of Indian ancestry was affirmed by the Dawes Commission more than a century ago as well as those without documentation of Indian ancestry. On the other hand it accepts Cherokee members with white blood or even people whose ancestors are listed as "adopted whites."


Rob said...

It would be interesting if the phrase "white lies" came from the white man's propensity to lie. But here's what one website says about its origin:

The earliest quotation the Oxford English Dictionary has for this phrase, contrasting white lies and black lies, is from 1741. The origin is not explained, but whiteness has long symbolized purity and innocence.

Rob said...

This also may explain why Natives got stereotyped as being red-skinned rather than brown-skinned. Red = blood, violence, and savagery.

Rob said...

You're close, but not quite on the mark. Some believe that the Beothuk of Newfoundland, who painted themselves with red ochre and revered the color red, and were called Red Indians by European settlers, are the source of the broader use of red Indian or red man as an epithet for all North American Indians. However, it is difficult to discern as the use of red to describe North American Indians is ubiquitous in the written record. Red man dates from 1744, redskin from 1699, red Indian from 1831, and Red Indian to specifically denote the Beothuk dates from 1955, while the Beothuk were probably first encountered in 1497 (notwithstanding the possibility that the Beothuk are the Skraelings of the Viking sagas). In H. Horwood's Newfoundland (1969), the author states that the Beothuk were "the original Red Men, who, because of their attachment to red ochre, gave their nickname to all the other native tribes of North America."

The term Red Man was common among the early settlers of New England because the northeastern tribes colored their bodies with red pigments, but later this term became a pejorative and insulting epithet during the western push into America.

Rob said...

This doesn't contradict what I said, of course. I wasn't talking about where the "red" name came from, but why it stuck. I mean, the colonists could have called the Indians "long hairs" or "stone faces" as well as "red skins." The question is why the last phrase became the common nickname.

Rob said...

Despite the red-paint origin, I think the name stuck because Europeans thought Indians were savages.