July 10, 2015

Cornsilk: Smith "is not a Cherokee"

An Open Letter to Defenders of Andrea Smith: Clearing Up Misconceptions about Cherokee Identification

By David CornsilkIt appears the Andrea Smith apologists are doing everything they can to divert attention from the one thing about her that is important right now, whether or not she is Cherokee. They want to make it about her work, not so. They want to make it about her complexion, not so. They want to make it about blood quantum, not so. Some have even suggested it is about jealousy, not so. The factual basis of all grievances against Andrea Smith, and others like her, begins and ends with whether or not she can prove Cherokee ancestry.

These people don’t know real Cherokees, our history, culture, language and genealogies. They cannot speak intelligently to the question of her authenticity because they have no baseline, which is why they use diversionary tactics. Why would they know real Cherokees when all they see are fakes?

In the 1990s, Andrea Smith sought me out as a Cherokee genealogist, on two separate occasions, to see if she had any connections. My research into Smith’s ancestry showed that her ancestry was not connected to the Cherokee people. In the subsequent years, many have challenged her identity including representatives of the Cherokee Nation. In those ensuing years, she has had ample opportunity to come forth with proof of her Cherokee claims. Instead, she has admitted to not being Cherokee or promised to stop claiming Cherokee; but perhaps because the foundation of her work as a ‘woman of color’ depended upon making others believe her claim she would back paddle and like a drug addict, fall off the truth wagon. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed in the evidence of her ancestry that would lead me to believe she is or even might be of Cherokee descent.

Smith’s supporters don't like to be shown so lacking in knowledge of all things Indian; unwilling to admit they got duped by Smith. They are fully invested in her web of lies that they are willing to throw tribal sovereignty and self-determination under the proverbial bus. If they adore Smith's work, more power to ‘em. But do not let your love of one person's work blind you to the dangers false claims of Indian identity carry within it. Andrea Smith and all those like her are nothing more than the latest incarnation of settler colonial violence. Their apologists and collaborators are nothing new either.
And:When I say someone has no Cherokee ancestry, it's not just that they or their ancestors are not enrolled. It's much more complex than that. In my past job as a Cherokee genealogist, I would look at the rolls and documents of course. But I also examine the wider extended family to see if there is any kinship to Cherokees on the roll during the ancestral time frame and in the tribe now.

When Cherokees left the tribe or chose not to enroll, that was a decision at a specific moment in time. They would be on previous rolls. And most importantly, other members of the extended family, aunts, uncles, siblings, parents, grandparents and cousins would be among the tribal members and on the various rolls and records. Just like white Americans find kin in Europe whose ancestors remained, real Cherokees who can't enroll today have relatives in the tribe. Andrea doesn’t. Not a single Cherokee citizen living today claims her or her family. Either she emerged as a fully formed Cherokee Indian and we must recalibrate our creation story; or the reality is, she isn’t Cherokee.

Andrea Smith isn't just missing from our tribe, but every generation back to the genesis of America, all of those relatives I mentioned are also MISSING.

That fact speaks loud and clear that not only is Andrea Smith not enrolled, SHE IS NOT A CHEROKEE!
Not Honoring Her AgreementsDespite her agreements with Richard Allen and Patti Jo King in 2007 and with Steve Russell in 2008 (all Cherokee citizens) to no longer publicly identify as Cherokee, Andrea Smith has continued to accept speaking engagements and PR as a “Cherokee intellectual” and has continued to identify herself in her publications as an Indigenous, woman of color scholar and activist. It is possible that in some cases a host institution, department, or program, or a press, has copied her bio material from an outdated website. But a simple email or phone call from her would have clarified matters. Here are a few of the dozens of examples since 2008.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Andrea Smith Defends Herself and Native Scholars Demand Academic Integrity.

No comments: