July 25, 2011

Man descended from chief = chief?

How am I an Indian chief?  Man's search for birth father reveals astonishing truth

By Steve RobsonA man who put his DNA profile in an internet search engine was stunned to discover he is a chief of an American Indian tribe.

Chris McDonald-Constable, of Clayton-le-Moors, has been told that his great great grandfather was chief of the Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin in the USA.
"Chris found a match for his DNA with Stuart Ackley who was also researching his genealogy from his home in Palm Springs, California." Stuart turned out to be Chris's cousin. Then:Stuart gave Chris his Native American name ‘The Wind from the East’ in reference to their long-distance phone calls. He is set to visit Chris for the first time later this month.

There are only 641 descedants of the Chippewa tribe and Chris qualifies as a tribal elder because he is among the eldest of the surviving members.

Chief Willard Ackley was Chris’s first cousin twice removed. He was chief of the Sokaogon Band of Chippewa Indians from 1929 to 1969.
Comment:  Stuart Ackley presumably is a member of the Sokaogon Band of Chippewa Indians, although the article doesn't say this. But there are a few problems here:

1) Depending on who Stuart is, exactly, I'm not sure he has the authority to give Chris a "Native American name."

2) Similarly, I'm not sure Stuart has the authority to say who's a tribal elder. In most tribes, being a descendant wouldn't be enough to qualify.

3) The article says Chief Willard Ackley was Chris's a) great-great-grandfather or b) first cousin twice removed. Unless the article is referring to two different chiefs, that's a huge discrepancy.

4) The article calls Chris a "chief" twice. Uh, no. Being descended from a chief doesn't make one a chief. Especially in modern times. Chief Ackley probably didn't inherit the position; he probably was elected to it.

For more on genealogy, see Native Genealogy 101 and First American in Europe Was Native.

Below:  "Chris, with a tribal keepsake, and his wife Gillian."


Anonymous said...

Craig Womack wondered where those Cherokee princesses were, and why they only went after white guys.

dmarks said...

An actual legitimate title of "hereditary chief" exists in some situations, but it is not common, and not like the situation described here.

Rob said...

Right, DMarks. Some tribes selected one descendant of an old chief to be the new chief. They didn't say any descendant of the old chief was automatically a chief also.