White Indigenes: Evan Freeley, White Cherokees on Red Earth: Blood and Belonging, MA dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 2021


Abstract: In this thesis, I address White Cherokee identity, the historical trajectory it emerges from, and some of its political consequences. White Cherokee identity comes from social arrangements, place relationships, and governmental policy in the United States of America, each part of settler colonialism’s ongoing effects. White Cherokees are not unique in the fact that
other tribes certainly have White members. Instead, they are a specific example for exploring membership, place relationships, cultural practices, identity, race, ethnicity, and subjectivity. My family serves as a case study for my analysis, and I supplement it by engaging with other scholars. I focus my research on Oklahoma because the formation of Indian Territory, and subsequently the State of Oklahoma, is key to the building of White Cherokees. Beginning with the role of place-relationships, I establish that they are fundamental to developing White Cherokee identities. They help develop personal and familial histories closely tied to Indigeneity, oftentimes stories of removal. Furthermore, the social and cultural changes in thinking about identity from the 19th century to the present have also made a White Cherokee identity possible and coherent to claim. This is partly due to the ways biological race was understood in the past and how those viewpoints were written into scientific practices and public policy. Race’s legislation through blood quantum and technological advancements in genetics have allowed for new personal ethnic explorations for American consumers. While the changes in this thinking are essential, looking at them and the ways Indigenous identities have been politically and legally defined by both Indigenous and nonIndigenous people, a more robust understanding of White Cherokee identity is achieved

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