Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 30:1 (Winter 2010)


Copyright 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Fay Yarbrough's Race and the Cherokee Nation adds to recent literature, including Tiya Miles's Ties That Bind (2005) and Celia Naylor's African Cherokees in Indian Territory (2008), that reexamines racial ideology among slave-holding American Indians. Through the use of Cherokee statutory law, marriage licenses, newspaper articles, court records, and WPA interviews, Yarbrough argues that nineteenth-century Cherokee politicians adopted racial laws to serve "as a demonstration of sovereignty" and reconfigured Cherokee identity by intermingling "blood, race, and legal citizenship." Matrilineal clan descent no longer provided the principal claim to Cherokee identity; race increasingly replaced clan identification to determine those who could be Cherokee. Adoption and intermarriage continued to provide secondary paths to inclusion, but through the passage of marriage and citizenship laws "legislators recognized that marriage was not solely a private matter of personal choice but an institution that had much larger consequences for the continued existence of the Nation as an independent political and cultural unit."