Saturday, March 2, 2013

Are There Cherokee in Kentucky Today?, Part I

Are there Cherokee in Kentucky Today?

I have thought long (many years) and hard (as I have shown, my family lived there for a time, as well) about the possibility of there being bands of Kentucky Cherokee. This is a topic that has torn me asunder. The task of discovering these things will be time consuming, and will take the entire month of March I suspect, maybe more. There is no easy solution. I will have to cover i.] The stories of Cherokee in Wayne, Pulaski, Clinton, Whitley, and McCreary Counties  in Southern Kentucky.  ii.] A band of folks calling themselves “Southern Cherokee Nation” in Henderson County, Kentucky. There are pros and cons for both groups.
I have to provide criteria, limits, boundaries, et cetera, that will explain my reasoning. It is your right to use other criteria, but I have to think mine is the most scientifically sound. Feel free to disagree.
My personal belief (and that is all it is) is that YES, there are mixed race Indian people, some mixed Cherokee, in Kentucky and there probably have been since about the time of the American Revolution. But NO, there are no continual communities since those days, of families that maintained a tribal identity amongst themselves and with the American government. I suspect they assimilated hoping that by assimilating and mixing, they would provide a better life for their children, and assimilation has probably done that. However asimilation alone disqualifies us for federal recognition.
I don’t know enough about the law to know if states have the right to recognized people of mixed race as an Indian tribe or not. That is over my head. Many states have done this, and it can be a means for states to recognize some persons are of mixed race, and allow the mixed race community a means of self-identity. I am speaking of American Indian mixed with anything else.
My research in the next month or two will use the following criteria, writings, and websites, and perhaps we shall discover others.

i.] In all cases, show documentation of the things you put down on paper, back to the primary source of the material, if possible. By “primary” I mean the original. If the primary source is a family story, say so. If it is something some early explorer of the early frontier said, quote HIM or HER and not just what someone said about that early explorer, or else provide a reference to where the writings of that early explorer can be found.
ii.] What does the Cherokee Nation say? What does the Eastern Band say? What does the Keetowah Band of Cherokee say? Since these are federally recognized, their opinions should be respected as well.
iii.] Follow the “Occam’s Razor” approach. That basically says the simplest solution is usually the correct solution. A more complex explanation requires MORE evidence UNTIL IT BECOMES the simplest believable explanation. [note: Webster’s Definition of OCCAM'S RAZOR: A scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.]

Several writings will be studied and researched, and several websites reviewed. Amongst these are the following:
i.] A HISTORY OF THE DANIEL BOONE NATIONAL FOREST, 1770 – 1970; By Robert F. Collins,  U.S. Forest Service – Retired, Winchester, Kentucky; Edited by, Betty B. Ellison, Lexington, Kentucky; 1975; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Region.
ii.] South Fork Country, by Samuel D. Perry, @ 1983, 2002, 2003; 1st Books. Also a small paper he wrote and gave me permission to use.
iii.] “Legion of the Lost Mine” by Thomas H. Troxell.

Websites of Interest to this Study
with the following chapter of interest:
Do an internet search for “Tankersley” and “Red Bird” and you will come up with many, many websites. Here are a few:
Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedi
Retrieved 2008-05-02. ^ a b Kenneth Barnett Tankersley. "Red Bird (Dotsuwa) and the Cherokee History of Clay County, Kentucky".
Sequoyah Was Here - Archaeology Magazine Archive
"It's likely that Sequoyah would have visited the cave at some point to pay respects to Red Bird," says Tankersley. "We also know that he visited caves for ...
The Rising Tide: Aaron Brock, Sr., "Chief Red Bird" Tsalagi ...
May 26, 2011 – Dr. Kenneth B. Tankersley was shown as a boy the burial place of Aaron Brock - Chief Red Bird by his great-grandmother Elizabeth Saylor ...
Cherokee: Chief Red Bird by K. B. Tankersley p. 3
Jan 25, 2008 – Chief Red Bird by K. B. Tankersley p. 3 · Chief Red Bird by K. B. Tankersley p. 3. Posted by Tsila at 12:06 PM ...
Chief Red Bird by K. B. Tankersley - PopScreen
VINTAGE 1927 PHOTO CHEYENNE NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN CHIEF RED BIRD ... Chief Red Bird by K. B. Tankersley p. 3 · Chief Red Bird by K. B. ...
Re: TRAIL of TEARS leaving Fort Payne Alabama
Jun 28, 2011 – Dr. Kenneth B. Tankersley was shown as a boy the burial place of Aaron Brock - Chief Red Bird by his great-grandmother Elizabeth Saylor ...
There are other websites, but this is enough for now.

I have a great deal of interest in these things Dr. Tankersley has written as he says “Sequoyah was here” meaning Southern Kentucky. Since I descend from the Gist family who ALSO lived in Southern Kentucky, I do have a great deal of interest in what he says about Sequoyah. I haven't read what he has said online about Sequoyah being in South Kentucky -- but I will when I get the time.
He and I once emailed back and forth, arguing, with him saying Sequoyah was only 1/4th Cherokee and me saying he might have been 3/4ths based on the “Cherokee Phoenix" article. A writing during Sequoyah’s lifetime which he undoubtedly read himself, saying that said Sequoyah’s paternal GRANDFATHER was White, not his father. Years back, Tankersley was also saying Sequoyah’s mother was only half-Indian and that her father was a Watts, ignoring most researchers who said that she was a full-blood. I also found a “Red Bird” killed in Southern Kentucky in 1797, not 1811 as he had on his website, and I referred him to those documents. He has since changed his websites to state the accurate year, 1797. But I got the impression he never understood my argument, that there is a difference between “evidence” for a thing, and “proof” of it. My feeling at the time was that he seemed to be dancing around my arguments, dismissing them out of hand as the word and work of a simple paesant who just knew no better. But he should have confronted them, and showed me my error. Maybe I overlooked something . . . Dr. Tankersley, please show me my error. I will post it here.
Well . . . I’ll be writing on this topic for the next few weeks. Oh, one more thing – he used to speak of a “Jesse Brock" as well as an Aaron. I don't know if Jesse is still on his websites or not. Jesse was another of his relations that lived near mine – my Nevil Wayland was a neighbor of Jesse Brock, and they both lived in one of the best known of Melungeon Communities, where Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church was located. But Lewis Jarvis, when he wrote of these Melungeons said (he mentioned the Stoney Creek community) saying these people were Indians, spoke English very well and had lost their own language before the year @ 1800. That alone says they were NOT Cherokee, as the Cherokee have NEVER completely lost their language. But they could have been remnants of disappearing tribes such as the Cheraw, Eno, Waccamaw, Wateree, et cetera, lost bands of the Eastern Siouans, also known to have been called “Piedmont Catawba” by at least one author. These people were decimated by small-pox, constant warfare from the Northern Iroquois tribes, slave-hunters, and simple assimilation into Colonial culture when and where possible.
I will start this discussion with what the Cherokee Nation has on their website. They say:
           Oppose Kentucky's State Recognition Bills
           Contact your Kentucky State Legislators to oppose House Bill 44 and House Bill 50 and 51; State Recognition of American Indian Tribes.
           Call Toll Free TODAY- 1-800-372-7181
           HB 44 -definition of“American Indian”
           HB 50- recognition of American Indian tribes by State
           HB 51- pertaining to human remains and burial objects (historic preservation)
These bills will harm the sovereignty of all tribes. The Cherokee Nation supports the existing federal recognition process and strongly opposes state recognition of any fake group. Please take a few moments to learn about what is happening in Kentucky and actively join the fight to oppose state recognition.
What is federal recognition? Cherokee Nation and other federally recognized tribes have inherent sovereign powers recognized by the U.S. government, much like a separate country. The federal government has a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized American Indian nations based on a long history of treaties, legislation, executive orders and the U.S. Constitution.
Pursuant to federal law, the United States already has a legitimate process in place for granting official recognition to American Indian nations. The Federal Recognition Process requires extensive documentation, including verification of continuous existence as an Indian tribe since 1900, and generally takes considerable time to complete.
            States do not have such a relationship. Historically and legally, states have been excluded from dealing with Indian nations. The foundation for state exclusion is rooted in the Constitution of the United States, effectively making state recognition unconstitutional.
There are over 200 groups across the United States claiming to be Cherokee. These groups cannot meet the requirements set forth by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Federal Acknowledgement and Research.
There are only three legitimate, federally recognized Cherokee entities: The Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (both headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma), and the Eastern Band of Cherokees in Cherokee, North Carolina.
The Cherokee Nation does not question anyone’s claims of heritage or ancestry, but merely points out the significant difference between claiming heritage and having citizenship in a federally recognized Indian tribe. The Nation encourages people of Cherokee heritage to take pride in and become active in heritage and cultural organizations even if they are not eligible for citizenship.
            Contact the Kentucky State Legislators at: 1-800-372-7181
            HB 44 -definition of“American Indian”
            HB 50- recognition of American Indian tribes by State
            HB 51- pertaining to human remains and burial objects (historic preservation)
            For more information please contact , Tribal Relations Officer Paula Ragsdale
    or (918) 453-5676.
I believe the opposition of the Cherokee Nation in the comments above is to the organization located at the website below. This is a different community from the one Tankersley talks about. They are a group from an organization found in Henderson County, Kentucky, on the opposite side of Kentucky. Whereas Tankersley says his Cherokee have been in Kentucky since ancient times, the Henderson County groups says they only arrived in Kentucky after the Civil War.

             The organization at the website above says:
             Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky
             Welcome to the official site of the Southern Cherokee Nation. We are Cherokee citizens of the Great Hill located in Henderson Kentucky. Since our conception as The Treaty Party in 1835, we've been a nation of mixed-bloods. We are however no less Cherokee than our Tahlequah brothers in the West, or our Qualla brothers in the East. We further proclaim our rightful freedom, celebrate our independence, and maintain our sovereignty guaranteed by a viable treaty ratified in 1866.
            My Intentions
I have EVIDENCE we are related to Sequoyah. I have NO PFOOF of it. I expect others to use the same criteria for PROOF of them having Cherokee blood as I use for myself. If they say they have proof they descend from members of the Treaty Party, I hope they can provide evidence from the signatures on the treaty itself, census records, and other documents they might have on hand, up to present day birth certificates. All these things must agree for them to have PROOF. Evidence is another story. Evidence can have gaps in it, but it still has to match up. And documents can also exist that PROVES your ancestors were NOT part of the treaty party -- census records showing your family was elsewhere. Alternately, documents might exist as evidence that your family was NOT part of the Treaty Party, but doesn't prove your ancestors were not treaty Party members. Folks, to get it right, well is a little tricky.
I would hope Dr. Tankersley can provide PROOF that his ancestor WAS the Aaron “Red Bird” Brock, and that “Red Bird River” in Kentucky, which was named after a Cherokee hunter killed in 1797 in the region (the Cherokee are supposed to have had hunting rights in the region at that time, per treaty stipulation). I expect Dr. Tankersley to be able to i.] tie this unfortunate hunter to his Brocks and ii.] tie that unfortunate hunter to the same Red Bird who signed those treaties of which he speaks. He needs to provide this "Red Bird" was not just a simple hunter trying to feed his family, but a chief who signed treaties. For nstance my g-g-g-grandpa was named "John Brown" -- this proves NOTHING! It doesn't mean he was the same John Brown that was Cherokee (and there were several), but it is evidence that he might have been one one of them, although admittely still unlikely. I can NOT prove we are related to Sequoyah but we have EVIDENCE that we might be. I will apply the same reasoning to the two organizations or persons mentioned above. That is, does the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky have EVIDENCE that all of their members descend from the Treaty Party, or do they possess PROOF of this relationship? The same criteria is needed by Tankersley – does he have EVIDENCE, or does he have PROOF?

Here is where I found the refrences saying Red Bird had died in 1796 and 7, and NOT in 1810 or 1811 as he, Dr. Tankersley, used to say on his website. Once I showed him where it was online he changed many of his websites to agree with this, but I have noticed just today he uses both dates, someties one, sometimes the other.
Go here -- and log on as a guest. Scroll down to # 86, Native American documents, and click on it. Under "Search for a single word or phrase" type in "Redbird"  There are 5 or so references to to the redbird kiled in 1796 or 7 -- I forget which year, but you can read it and see for yourself. You can even look at the original *.jpg image. I did a quick search on Dr. Tankersley's website and I didn't see anywhere that he mentioned where he obtained those transcriptions. Well, I'm the person who showed him where to get them.



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  2. There might be descendants of mixed-blood Cherokee who settled in southern Kentucky in the 1780s, before the Revolution ended. A lot of wannabe hunters claim that there were no Cherokee living in Kentucky since the Cherokee were a social people and all kept in touch with each other before the Removal. Now, do I think they are 100% right. No. But I do think that a major part of their attitude is due to the fake Cherokee Tribes.
    What I do believe is that there might have been a few white men with Cherokee wives who settled in Southern Kentucky before the Revolution, but not many. A woman who was half Cherokee in Kentucky probably downplayed it and claimed to be an orphan, and remembered her father's name but not her mother's.

  3. I agree, I suspect the same to be true. Remember that there were wars with the Cherokee, off and on, until about 1794 or 1795 or 6. Any Cherokee living perminantly in Southern Kentucky would have been in constant danger as settlers would have thought him/her to have been a member of a war party. An Indian wife might have been safer, so long as she always travelled with her husband or stayed home. But a male might have been killed on the spot.